COVID-19 and sanctions …NAM stands with Zimbabwe

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A woman has her temperature taken by a Health worker before visiting a relative at a public hospital, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Saturday, March 21, 2020. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a national disaster even before his country confirmed its first virus case on Friday. On Saturday, his country announced the first case in the capital, Harare. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

By Eunice Masunungure 

THE US’ tightening of the economic, commercial and financial blockade policy aimed at bringing Zimbabwe’s economy to its knees has become more inhumane in the COVID-19 pandemic season, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has said.

The NAM is a forum of 120 developing world states  that promote international co-operation and solidarity for the rights of peoples to health, peace and development.

Although there have been statements that no harsh conditions would be attached through emergency funding measures, Zimbabwe has not been receiving assistance from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The World Bank and the IMF, which are viewed with great suspicion across Africa for accompanying loans with anti-poor, pro-market measures of deregulation, slashing Government expenditure and discouraging social spending, halted their debt concept for the purpose of fighting COVID-19 but failed to take Zimbabwe on board.

The World Bank and  IMF have helped other developing countries strengthen their pandemic response, increase disease surveillance, improve public health interventions, and the private sector continue to operate and sustain jobs, yet Zimbabwe is being excluded. 

No considerations have been papered so far in light of removing sanctions on Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe deserves the financial support which developing countries are receiving to protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses and recover economies.

COVID-19 has proven to be a global challenge which goes beyond levels of development and ideologies, allowing no room for perpetuation of sanctions. 

Global solidarity is the way to go against this disease, whose consequences cannot be predicted. 

Continued pressing of the sanctions button on Zimbabwe means trading away values of solidarity and co-operation for profit-making.

It violates Article 41 of the UN Charter that stipulates that, “Sanctions can only be imposed by the United Nations Security Council.” 

Perpetuation of sanctions rides on the worship of the market, which instituted colonialism in the first place, in which value of human life was traded for the colonisers’ aggrandisement.

The COVID-19 pandemic has evidenced fragility of human existence and the need for coming together of humanity to assist one another irrespective of  fame or ability.

Yet,  those who are supposed to act are undetermined. 

It is still the same story, even in this COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sanctions perpetuation in COVID-19 pandemic season must be condemned. 

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s May 4 2020 address at the NAM Virtual Summit under the theme ‘United Against COVID-19’, chaired by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called for global solidarity in the on-going fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and reiterated calls for the removal of illegal sanctions. 

President Mnangagwa argued sanctions against Zimbabwe and other countries are a hindrance to effectively fighting the virus pandemic. 

Said President Mnangagwa: “When the world is confronted by monumental challenges such as the ones caused by this pandemic, global solidarity ceases to be an option.

Rather, it becomes imperative and critical to the salvation of millions.”

COVID-19, coupled with sanctions, worsen the Zimbabwean situation. 

“The country needs international support now, more than ever,” President Mnangagwa said.

Sanctions withhold assistance from the most vulnerable, thus, shatter Zimbabwean Government’s collective pledge to ‘leave no one behind’, as President Mnangagwa vowed.

That is what President Mnangagwa highlighted on another platform when he announced continuation of the lockdown on May 1 2020.

“Whilst most African countries are receiving significant external assistance to fight the coronavirus, Zimbabwe cannot afford such luxury because of lack of resources arising out of sanctions,” he said.

President Mnangagwa revealed that Zimbabwe is actually working on its own meagre package to stimulate the economy.

The fact that Zimbabwe is excluded from benefitting from financing packages from multilateral lenders like the IMF and World Bank is reflective of the deep-rooted hatred for former liberation movements and the West’s unrelenting policy of regime change. 

The fight against COVID-19 can only be successful when there is solidarity and, thus, bringing on board the World Health Organisation (WHO), NAM, IMF, World Bank and every organisation to work together.

The African Union (AU) Chairperson and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also concurred during the May 4 2020 NAM meeting that sanctions should be removed on a number of countries, including Zimbabwe.

Said President Ramaphosa: “We affirm our support for the call on sanctions imposed on Cuba, Sudan, Iran, Venezuela and Zimbabwe to be lifted to ensure their access to essential supplies of COVID-19 test kits, as well as medical supplies and in some cases, as well as food support and supplies to be able reach these countries on whom sanctions have been imposed.

This is time for solidarity and not exclusion or for vengeance or revenge.”

The Chair has since taken the fight against sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan to the premier forum for international economic co-operation (G20 countries).

In retrospect, even a communiqué issued by the Coordinating Bureau of the NAM, March 25 2020, in New York, expressed “…concern over the rapid spread of COVID-19, which poses a major challenge to humanity…” and noted that “…in the face of this type of global emergency, a spirit of solidarity must be at the heart of our efforts.”

Under the shadow of sanctions, Zimbabwe did not benefit from the April 17 2020  World Bank/IMF meeting in Washington where the two Bretton Woods institutions pledged to support individual African countries to fight the pandemic.  

Indeed, for Zimbabwe, assistance from the industrialised North has been scarce. 

The inhumanness of the regime change agenda, politicisation of the COVID-19 pandemic and ‘application of unilateral coercive measures against member-states of the Movement’, or discrimination against humanity and violation of the UN Charter and international law are all underlined in the discussion of COVID-19, sanctions and NAM.

In light of the new dispensation’s determination to develop the economy and have Zimbabwe back into the community of nations through re-engagement, the COVID-19 pandemic is a reality check for the West.

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