Deputy News Editor

THE emphatic endorsement of the Anti-Sanctions Day by Heads of State  and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is one of the major breakthroughs of Zimbabwe’s engagement and re-engagement policy, which has so far yielded several milestones.

This was said by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo last week as he underscored the successes recorded by the country’s engagement efforts ahead of the October 25 SADC Anti-Sanctions Day.

Diplomats stationed in and outside the country have made a commitment to ratchet up Zimbabwe’s anti-sanctions lobby.

SADC Heads of State and Government last year, declared October 25 as a day of solidarity with Zimbabwe as it fights to have the two-decade-old embargo lifted.

Member states are set to hold a series of events in their respective countries in solidarity with Harare.

President Mnangagwa will deliver a special address to the nation, while a music gala will be held in Bulawayo as part of a series of activities that will take place to mark the growing lobby.

In a statement, Dr Moyo said SADC’s declaration was one of the high-points of Zimbabwe’s diplomatic engagements.

Relations with SADC fall under the pillar of consolidating ties with traditional allies.

“Perhaps the most evident measure of success in this regard has been SADC’s very clearly articulated solidarity with Zimbabwe in its call for the immediate removal of all sanctions and other punitive measures still imposed on our country: and the naming of 25 October each year as Anti-Sanctions Day,” Dr Moyo said.

He said SADC Heads of State
were unanimous in their position that sanctions cause collateral damage on the entire region, hence the need for co-ordinated efforts to have them removed.

Dr Moyo said it was significant that SADC’s call for the immediate removal of sanctions has reverberated to the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement and Caribbean and Pacific countries.

Furthermore, the anti-sanctions lobby has been so successful that the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Hilal Elver, have called for the embargo to be lifted.

Under the pillar of consolidating  relations with long standing partners, Zimbabwe has also strengthened relations with its all weather friends such as China, India, Russia and Brazil.

Other pillars of the country’s diplomatic policy are engagement and re-engagement, which respectively entail boosting relations with countries that Zimbabwe had minor relations with and rebuilding strained relationships with Western countries.

Under the engagement pillar, success has been recorded through enhanced relations with new and returning partners such as Singapore,  the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Australia, France, Oman, Pakistan and the Netherlands.

Re-engagement refers to closing ranks with the West, particularly the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the European Union, where relations had broken down.

“In all cases, doors have been opened to us and we are actively and cordially engaged.

“Of course, divergence remains – especially on the issue of sanctions and continuing punitive measures imposed on Zimbabwe — but the mere fact that we are talking to rather than at the US, UK and EU administrations represents a very significant advance on where Zimbabwe stood prior to November 2017,” Dr Moyo said.

Recently, the Foreign Affairs Minister held productive virtual meetings with US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Tibor Nagy and UK’s Minister for Africa, Mr James Duddridge.

The high-level Zimbabwe/EU ministerial dialogue will resume anytime soon, as it has been affected by Covid-19.

Dr Moyo said Zimbabwe’s ongoing reform programme is home grown and its pace will not be determined by outsiders.

He said several milestones had been recorded in the reform agenda including the repeal of POSA which has been replaced by the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA).

AIPPA will be replaced by successor legislation such as the Freedom of Information Act, Zimbabwe Media Commission Act plus the Data Protection Bill.

Other achievements include alignment of all statutes with the Constitution as well as signing of the Global Compensation Deed to put closure to the Land Reform Programme.

All this progress has however, been ignored by the US, which has in the past been particularly vocal about POSA and AIPPA.

Last week, diplomats from different parts of the world pledged unflinching solidarity with Zimbabwe on October 25.

Speaking to The Sunday Mail, Namibia’s chief diplomat to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Balbina Daes Pienaar, said the Anti-Sanctions Day is “of great significance to Namibia”.

“Namibia is a SADC Member State and subscribes to the collective resolve on the unconditional removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe.

“The reason why SADC was formed is to enable member states to co-ordinate their development programmes in order to serve the citizens of our region properly. We know that sanctions are a brainchild of our detractors doing all they can to effect regime change in our region, targeting mainly former liberation movements. Their focus is to undermine and disrupt programmes aimed at regional development while wanting to continue plundering our resources.”

Speaking during a virtual meeting with President Mnangagwa on Friday, China’s chief envoy to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Guo Shaochun, said the world’s second-largest economy stands solidly behind Harare in calling for the unconditional lifting of the illegal sanctions.

“As always, China is prepared to assist Zimbabwe in whatever way it can to defy the impact of sanctions and realise development. Every country has the right to choose its own path of development which is suitable for its own national conditions. Now more than ever, Zimbabwe needs more respect and genuine support. China will continue to call for the immediate, unconditional removal of sanctions on Zimbabwe,” he said.

Ambassador Guo said the sanctions are affecting ordinary Zimbabweans, contrary to the West’s claims that the measures are targeted.

“These sanctions are claimed to target only very few individuals and entities. But the detrimental effects on the entire Zimbabwean economy and population are there for all to see. It is even more acceptable that these sanctions undercut Zimbabwe’s efforts to tackle the humanitarian challenges brought about by Covid-19.”

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, Zimbabwe’s Honorary Consul to Israel, Mr Ronny Levi Musan, said he is mobilising activities in Israel to commemorate the Anti-Sanctions Day.

“On October 25, I will join in prayer with the heads of the Church in the Holy Land, who will pray for the citizens of Zimbabwe in the Holy Sites. I am convinced that the heads of the churches in Zimbabwe will also hold special prayers on this important day,” he said.

“In addition, we will hold a number of meetings with key figures in the Israeli government to discuss with them ways to help Zimbabwe. It should be noted that we have already sent to His Excellency the President the recorded greeting of the Foreign Minister of Israel and the letter of the Prime Minister of Israel expressing support for deepening relations between the two countries, which will undoubtedly help Zimbabwe internationally in this matter.”

SADC Executive Secretary Dr Lawrence Stergomena Tax said through the SADC secretariat, organisations such as the Organisation of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), the African Union Bureau of Heads of State and Government, and the African Union Regional Economic Communities (RECs) have been roped into the anti-sanctions lobby.

At its 39th summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 2019, SADC passed a resolution to make October 25 the Anti-Sanctions Day.

Speaking at the summit, the then chairperson of SADC, Tanzanian President Dr John Magufuli, said the removal of illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West would benefit the whole region.