THE United States is going through the early motions of lifting sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe in 2001, but the country’s top envoy warned Wednesday a repeal Bill introduced by Senator Jim Inhofe (Republican-Oklahoma) has a “convoluted and complex process to go through”.
Senator Inhofe, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the Zimbabwe Sanctions Repeal Act of 2010 to the United States Congress on August 5. If signed into law, the Act would annul the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (ZDERA).
The Library of Congress website showed Wednesday that the Bill had been read twice and referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Any member of Congress – made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives -- can propose legislation which would have to pass a vote in both legislative chambers before it is sent to the President who retains a veto power.
On his website, Senator Inhofe said the new legislation, if passed, “will lift U.S. economic sanctions originally imposed on the African nation of Zimbabwe in 2001, and restore the country’s economy and aide in the nation’s transition to democracy.”
He added: “I’m pleased that the African nation of Zimbabwe continues to recover under the new power-sharing leadership set by both the United States and the Southern African Development Community.
“I commend the efforts of the power-sharing government there as they have reduced inflation and improved GDP and basic government services like medicine, education, and transportation.
“It is my hope that my legislation will help Zimbabwe return to being called the ‘Breadbasket of Africa’ and continue on the road to democracy.”
ZDERA was signed into law by former President George Bush after Zimbabwe began seizing white commercial farms for resettlement amid complaints of intimidation, murder and violence committed by independence war veterans.
Senators Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) and Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) introduced the Bill on March 8, 2001. Senators Frist, Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), and Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) sponsored it. The Bill passed a vote in the Senate on August 1, and in the House on December 4. Bush signed it into law on December 21, 2001.
ZDERA specifically directs United States citizens who are directors at international financial institutions to oppose and vote against any extension of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the government of Zimbabwe or any cancellation or reduction of debt. It also slapped travel restrictions on President Robert Mugabe and dozens of government officials as well as economic sanctions on state-owned enterprises.
But the formation of a power sharing government between Mugabe and bitter former opposition rivals Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara in 2009 has led to calls for the sanctions – which President Barack Obama renewed in March -- to be lifted. Mugabe blames the sanctions for the country's economic collapse over the last decade and accuses the United States and its European Union allies -- who have also imposed sanctions -- of seeking "regime change" in Zimbabwe.
The United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray told a media conference on Wednesday that ZDERA was being “reviewed”, but said he would not speculate on the outcome. He also warned the process could drag on for months.
“We recognise that this is a process (whether to lift sanctions) that must be constantly reviewed, and that review is taking place,” Ray said, speaking broadly with no reference to the proposed legislation by Senator Inhofe.
Also Wednesday, Sweden became the first European Union country to call for the lifcting of sanctions. Sweden's outgoing ambassador to Zimbabwe Sten Rylander said he hoped the sanctions would be lifted sooner rather than later.
Asked what he made of Rylander's comments, ambassador Ray said: "Everybody is entitled to their views ..."