South Africa asked the U.S. to ease sanctions against Zimbabwe in advance of the scheduled July 31 elections but U.S. President Barack Obama is taking a wait-and-see approach, according to a report in Voice of America.
Sanctions were imposed on Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his regime because of documented human rights abuses, said Human Rights Watch Africa Advocacy Director Tiseke Kasambala.
Kasambala wants Obama to keep the sanctions in place. South Africa argues sanctions have been counterproductive, hurting the nation’s economy, the report says.
Instead of helping the economy of Zimbabwe, sanctions had a negative effect on it, said Lindiwe Zulu, special advisor on international relations to South African President Jacob Zuma and chief negotiator on Zimbabwe for the Southern African Development Community.
The SADC argues sanctions deter business by giving Zimbabwe a negative image.
Kasambala said sanctions have worked. “We see a concerted effort by (Mugabe’s ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front) to continue talking about them,” Kasambala said. “If they didn’t work, ZANU-PF (wouldn’t) care. But we’ve seen ZANU-PF go on a drive throughout SADC, talking about how these sanctions must be lifted before they themselves can engage with governments.”
Sanctions will encourage Zimbabwe to hold credible elections, said Johannesburg-based researcher James Stent of Good Governance Africa. If Zimbabwe sticks to the rule of law and to democratic processes, it’s likely sanctions will be lifted just as divestment in apartheid South Africa helped move the country towards democracy, Stent said in the Voice of America report.
Obama did not directly respond to Zuma’s request, but mentioned Zimbabwe in a speech to University of Cape Town students.
“There is an opportunity to move forward, but only if there is an election that is free and fair and peaceful so that Zimbabweans can determine their future without fear of intimidation and retribution,” he said. “And after elections, there must be respect for the universal rights upon which democracy depends.”
Mugabe, 89, is Africa’s oldest leader and wants to extend his 33-year rule. Opponents want to delay the July 31 election to enact political reforms in hopes of preventing a repeat of the bloodshed that marred the 2008 election, the report says.