IT is now slightly more than a decade since the US slapped Zimbabwe with illegal economic sanctions, but there remains an unsung heroine who stood up to the US Congress in protest against Uncle Sam’s actions.
Her name is Cynthia McKinney who was then a US Congresswoman. She deserves credit for standing up to America for imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe.
The sanctions were imposed on December 21 2001.
Called the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA), the law sought to negate Zimbabwe’s historic Land Reform and Resettlement Programme which had been set in motion in 2000.
The ZDERA Bill was introduced in the US Congress on March 8 2001.
On the day the House of Representatives passed the Bill (Tuesday, December 4 2001), a fuming McKinney stood on the floor of the House and told the assembled men and women that:
“At the International Relations Committee meeting of November 28 2001 which considered the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, I asked a question of my colleagues who were vociferously supporting this misdirected piece of legislation: ‘Can anyone explain how the people in question (Rhodies) claim title to the land?’ my query was met with deafening silence.”
She further stressed that very few, if any people, in the US Congress had the answer to this striking question because they knew that their actions were in violation of international law and that they would result in the unprecedented suffering of the people of Zimbabwe.
Indeed, this point had been made by former US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Chester Crocker on June 13 2001 while calling for the annihilation of the Zimbabwe economy by imploring the US Senate to impose sanctions on the country.
“To separate the Zimbabwe people from that man Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF we are going to have to make their economy scream, and I hope you Senators have the stomach for what you have to do.”
It required guts to imagine the suffering of the people caused by these illegal sanctions.
Yet McKinney put it succinctly when she accused proponents of ZDERA of being racist.
She noted that land was at the centre of the dispute between Zimbabwe and the UK.
The US’ imposition of ZDERA, she said, would continue to marginalise black people who had just got the land that had been stolen from their ancestors.
“Those who knew did not want to admit the truth and those who didn’t know should have known that the land was stolen from its indigenous peoples through the British South Africa Company and any ‘titles’ to it were illegal and invalid,” she said.
“Whatever the reason for their silence, the answer to this question is the unspoken but real reason for why the United States Congress is now concentrating its time and resources on squeezing an economically devastated African State under the hypocritical guise of providing a ‘transition to democracy’ (because) Zimbabwe is Africa’s second-longest stable democracy.”
“When we get right down to it, this legislation is nothing more than a formal declaration of United States complicity in a programme to maintain white-skin privilege. We can call it an ‘incentives’ Bill, but that does not change its essential ‘sanctions’ nature. It is racist and against the interests of the masses of Zimbabweans.”
ZDERA became law (US Public Law No. 107-99) on December 21 2001 after President George Bush appended his signature to it.
The main sponsor of the Bill was the Republican Senator, William H. Frist, who introduced it into the Senate on March 8 2001.
It was co-sponsored on May 24 2001 by another Republican Senator Jesse Helms (who many Zimbabweans will painfully remember for spending most of the early years of his life working against black majority rule in Zimbabwe), and the Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton, wife to former President Bill Clinton, who (became) US Secretary of State.
The bill targets Zimbabwe’s entire socio-economy and the following realities explain why:
- The United States Government, through its executive directors to all international financial institutions oppose and vote against any loans and grants or guarantees to the Government of Zimbabwe.
- The US Government opposes and blocks any debt reduction or cancellation in respect of loans owed to it or to any international institutions by the Government of Zimbabwe.
- The law authorises the US government to mobilise and co-ordinate with the EU and other foreign governments in tightening these illegal, punitive sanctions against Zimbabwe, as well as imposing travel bans and freezing assets of all those who fought for land reforms.
The application of this notorious law on the ground is:
– Zero balance of payment support from IMF;
Zero development finance from the World Bank, IDA, IFC, Inter- American Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency;
- Harsh and unpredictable recall of outstanding loans to all the above international financial institutions and the US Government. In many instances, Zimbabwe has had to redirect its scarce foreign debts earnings away from vital areas like health to repay such debts.
Today, McKinney remains a true heroine of Zimbabwe.
Do I hear echoes of the name Mbuya Nehanda ringing in the ears of Zimbabweans?
Let those with ears listen.