by AKANI CHAUKE
JOHANNESBURG – CHURCHES, youth organisations and advisory organs of the African Union (AU) have called on Western governments to lift sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.
Among the organisations calling for the lifting of the restrictive measures include the Africa Union Youth Organisation, AU’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) and Zimbabwe Amalgamated Churches Council (ZACC), which said the sanctions were hurting the majority poor people.
The calls came at an AU-sponsored conference attended by members of the civic society, business community and youth organisations in Johannesburg on Tuesday (today).
Jimayi Muduvuri, the ZACC Patron, said this was despite claims by the West that sanctions were targeting Zimbabwe’s political leaders.
ZAAC is the largest church grouping in Zimbabwe.
“Sanctions have to be removed in order for Zimbabwe to move forward. We can’t afford the luxury of a debate when the common people are unnecessarily subjected to suffering. The bad economic situation in Zimbabwe can’t be allowed to continue,” Muduvuri said.
The church told the gathering that a majority of politicians and business people on the list of so-called targeted sanctions were dead.
Some Western governments imposed the sanctions in 2002 after alleged human rights violations and electoral fraud by the government of Robert Mugabe, who was president until he was removed from power in 2017.
“What is the point of maintaining these sanctions because most people on that (sanction) list are dead?” Muduvuri fumed.
He maintained that the current administration of President Emerson Mnangagwa should be given a chance to take Zimbabwe forward and must not be punished for the violations under Mugabe.
Muduvuri said Mnangagwa managed to democratise the political space in Zimbabwe since taking over from Mugabe.
“We had peaceful elections, no-one was beaten and people are allowed to protest. Are these not the signs of improvement?” Muduvuri quipped.
Bhongolwethu Sonti, Africa Union Youth Organisation Chairman, also called for the removal of sanctions.
“Sanctions are failing to produce any positive results but instead are hurting the wrong target,” Sonti said at the conference in Johannesburg.
He said sanctions were hurting mostly the youths, who were a majority of Zimbabwe’s 16 million people.
“How can the economy absorb young people coming from learning institutions when the country is under sanctions?” Sonti asked.
“We have a lot of young Zimbabweans who can’t get employed in South Africa mostly because they have no access to work permits,” he added.
Patson Malisa, the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) Deputy Presiding Officer, who chaired the event in Johannesburg, concurred the sanctions were harming the poor.
ECOSOCC, composed of civil society organisations, was established in 2004 as an advisory organ to the AU.
“What can no longer be debated is the fact that the sanctions are hurting the common man in the streets and villages of Zimbabwe,” Malisa said.
He said the resolutions from the meeting would be communicated to the AU at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia next week.
This will be ahead of the 32nd ordinary session of the AU Assembly set for February 10-11.
Calls for the lifting of sanctions in Zimbabwe follow similar appeals by South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, at the recently held World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
– CAJ News