A GWERU company, Fuest Industrial Supplies (FIS), is one of the many local businesses whose operations have been crippled by sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the United States of America, after the US Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) blocked its payment of US$33 414 seven years ago.

OFAC blocked the FIS’s payment from a South African company, Alloy Trading Africa, on suspicion the funds belonged to the sanctioned Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ).

But the truth was that the payment was for FIS’s export of 11,3 tonnes of steel billets to the South African company riding on MMCZ, as required by law. The payment is still being withheld to this day. FIS managing director, Marvelous Tapfuma, said the company has tried to recover the money since 2013 to no avail. As a result, the seizure of the money has left FIS and its subsidiaries’ operations crippled.

“Our means of economic survival was completely destroyed by these heinous sanctions to an extent that we are walloping in abject poverty,” Tapfuma said.

“All our business operations have been destroyed because the money we used to start the business was borrowed funds and we have faced lawsuits after the block by OFAC. We suffered many losses, and all our business operations have stopped.”

Tapfuma said FIS was forced, like many businesses in Zimbabwe in the export of minerals and steel products, to go through MMCZ when exporting as it had a contract to supply in South Africa.

“When we got to South Africa to receive our payment, it was MMCZ that was flagged because it is the one that processed the papers here in Zimbabwe and the funds were then blocked by OFAC,” he said.

Tapfuma said FIS was referred to OFAC in Washington DC by the US ambassador in Zimbabwe whom the company had approached but OFAC insisted that the money belonged to MMCZ despite showing proof to the contrary.

“By blocking our funds citing MMCZ, which is on sanctions is like  putting all Zimbabweans on sanctions as all of us have to go through  MMCZ,” he said.

“When we wrote to them, we attached the MMCZ Act to show that all Zimbabwean companies can only export through the MMCZ.

“By insisting that the money belonged to MMCZ, it means MMCZ is being used as a proxy to punish all Zimbabweans because no one can export without going through the MMCZ.”

Another company official, Brian Zijenah Tapfuma, said FIS had incurred further losses by making numerous fruitless follow-ups for payment in South Africa. In the past seven years, in a bid to recover its money, FIS has written to the European Union, OFAC, the President of the US, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union for help to no avail. SADC on 25 October last year, launched the SADC Anti-Sanctions campaign to assist Zimbabwe have the illegal embargo lifted.

– New Ziana