Thousands of Zimbabweans on Tuesday gathered outside the United States Embassy compound in Harare to protest against sanctions imposed on the southern African nation by Western countries over two decades ago. (Photo by Shaun Jusa/Xinhua)

HARARE– Zimbabweans on Tuesday gathered outside the United States Embassy compound in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, to protest against sanctions imposed on the southern African nation by Western countries over two decades ago.

The Southern African Development Community, a 16-country regional bloc, designated Oct. 25 of each year as “Anti-Sanctions Day” since 2019 to show solidarity with Zimbabwe against the sanctions which the government says have caused untold suffering to the people. Wielding placards and singing songs denouncing the embargo, demonstrators — mostly young people — lamented the negative impacts of economic sanctions on their livelihoods. 

Zimbabwe has borne the brunt of economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its western allies led by Britain since 2001 following the decision to reclaim land from white farmers and parcel it out to formerly landless blacks.

Although the U.S. says the sanctions only target certain individuals and entities, Zimbabweans have been pushing for their removal for the past two decades, saying they have eroded the quality of their lives. 

“These sanctions, they pretend as if they are targeted sanctions, yet they are not targeted because they are affecting everyone up to the grassroots.

“Everyone is feeling the impact of sanctions because the wealth of a country is determined by the freedom of a country to trade freely, to manage its own economics,” said Willard Govha, a Harare resident. 

Govha said despite Zimbabwe being a natural resources-endowed country, sanctions continue to spook investors, which in turn affects the creation of employment for the youth. 

“We need investors in this country who can come, we have got several unexplored resources here, but these investors when they think of coming to Zimbabwe, they get intimidated with these sanctions, so the sanctions are just acting in a manner of destroying our country totally,” Govha added.

Martin Zharare, executive director of Citizens Against Sanctions, a local anti-sanctions lobby group, said sanctions continue to wreak havoc on the lives of innocent citizens. 

“Firstly, these sanctions are real and economic, and to those who say they are targeted sanctions, there is nothing like targeted sanctions, that is why you see us here at the American Embassy where we are in our thousands as ordinary people to say, these sanctions must be lifted because they have affected the economy of Zimbabwe for twenty years, and the people of Zimbabwe have suffered,” he said.

“Our industries have been affected, our health system has been affected, our education system has been affected, and the well-being of our people, their health – every sector has been affected by these illegal sanctions.”

In addition, he said no country has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another sovereign country. 

“America has got no right to sanction us, America has got no right to come and stop the development of our country, but with their illegal sanctions, everything is at a standstill, and we are signing a petition to the American government to say remove your sanctions,” he said. 

Tsitsi Manyangaidze, one of the protestors, said sanctions have robbed young people of their future. “We want the sanctions to be lifted so that companies could be opened, so that we can go and find jobs as young people.”

Richman Lobengula, another protester, said due to sanctions, many young people are now involved in illicit behavior since they cannot get jobs to keep themselves occupied. 

“If our children were occupied with something productive, they would be at work most of the time, but because they don’t have jobs, they end up being negatively influenced by peer pressure,” said Lobengula. 

Over the past two decades, Zimbabwe has lost at least 42 billion U.S. dollars because of the sanctions, according to Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube. 

Last October, Alena Douhan, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, visited Zimbabwe to assess the impact of sanctions on the country, and she concluded that sanctions had worsened the pre-existing economic challenges in the country. – Xinhua