Harare – Last year, the Southern African Development Community declared October 25 the region’s Anti-Sanctions Day as a statement of solidarity with Zimbabweans and a reiteration of the bloc’s opposition to the Western economic embargo on a sister republic.
Zimbabwe has been under declared and undeclared economic sanctions for around two decades now, and SADC has steadfastly called for an end to the blockade that was imposed after the government in Harare deployed militarily in the DRC as part of a peacemaking effort in that country. Relations with the West then hit rock bottom when the government embarked on a Land Reform Programme that has redistributed land from about 4,500 white farmers to more than 300,000 black families.
While the United States and the European Union have insisted that the sanctions are targeted on a few individuals, analysts have often pointed out that the embargo explicitly bars extension of lines of credit from leading multilateral financial institutions to Zimbabwe, and has also specifically targeted major Zimbabwean companies and even Western ones that do business in the country.
And SADC has also pointed out that the sanctions hurt the entire bloc because of Zimbabwe’s geopolitical and economic positioning in the region.
In 2019, the then SADC Chairperson, President John Magufuli of Tanzania, said the region should rally behind Zimbabwe on the matter of sanctions, emphasising how the embargo was hurting the entire region.
How SADC is Affected
The following are some of the visible impacts that the economic sanctions on Zimbabwe have had on the wider Southern African region:
- Zimbabwe used to be the bread basket of the region. But not anymore. The government has pointed out on several occasions that the sanctions make it difficult to sourec equipment, spares and ancillaries central to agricultural production from traditional markets in the West, resulting in low productivity. Efforts to secure new source markets outside of the West have been frustrated by the fact that the United States controls a huge chunk of the international financial system. Further, without access to lines of credit, cultivating new source markets has been difficult. The low agricultural productivity in Zimbabwe has a knock-on effect on SADC as the country was an exporter to the region.
- The imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe saw an increase in migration of skilled and non-skilled workers to neighbouring countries in large numbers. This human capital flight heavily affected the economy of Zimbabwe. While recipient countries on one hand experienced a boom by way of suddenly having large numbers of potential employees, the sheer scale of migration has taken a toll on social services, especially in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa; and to some extent Mozambique and Zambia. Some commentators have casually tied the migration to xenophobia in South Africa.
- Prior to the sanctions, Zimbabwe enrolled and trained a high number of students from the SADC region in its colleges and universities, in addition to accommodating foreign learners in its secondary schools. With sanctions came an end to some scholarship programmes, thus derailing cultural exchanges within the realm of the education sector.
- Because of its central geographical location in SADC, Zimbabwe’s infrastructure remains key for regional commerce. However, the road and rail network has deteriorated over the last two decades, while investment in ICT infrastructure has been far lower than it ideally should. The Beitbridge Border Post between South Africa and Zimbabwe is the busiest inland port in Africa south of the Sahara, as the country provides a link between the port of Durban and markets in Zambia, Malawi and the DRC.