SA's call for world to lift Zim sanctions
Pretoria seeks help for Harare to 'normalise' economy, slow down migration
The South African government has stepped up its campaign to have international sanctions against Zimbabwe lifted in an effort to halt the flow of Zimbabwean migrants to SA.
Finance minister Tito Mboweni and his director-general Dondo Mogajane used the annual spring meetings of the World Bank group in Washington last week to lobby Western nations to "normalise" Zimbabwe's economy, including its relations with the bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Zimbabwe's economic crisis is deepening, with inflation threatening to rise above 100%, which could increase the flow of economic refugees to SA.
Mogajane said Mboweni held one-on-one discussions with the new World Bank president, David Malpass, whom he petitioned for the easing of sanctions that were imposed after Zimbabwe's disputed elections in 2002, when Robert Mugabe was still in office.
Mboweni also raised the issue at the formal meeting of the World Bank-IMF development committee, where he spoke of the debilitating effect of sanctions on Zimbabwe and the wider region.
The large number of undocumented foreign nationals in SA has become a major issue in the lead-up to the elections on May 8, with both the ANC and the DA pledging a stronger stance on border control. The recurrence of xenophobic attacks has also forced the government to address the flow of migrants into the country.
Mogajane said he also had discussions on the sanctions with his counterparts from the US, France and Germany. "We have to be a strong voice for Zimbabwe to normalise the situation there and grant them greater access to markets.
"A stable Zimbabwe is a stable SA. It is well known that there is pressure on the health system here, and the situation in Zimbabwe has exacerbated hunger, starvation and joblessness in both countries," he said.
A team from Zimbabwe, led by finance minister Mthuli Ncube, was also in Washington to campaign for the lifting of international sanctions. Last month, the US extended sanctions against Zimbabwe by a year, saying they would remain in place until President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government changed repressive laws on the media and protest action.
In a published notice, President Donald Trump said Zimbabwe's policies continued to "pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the US".
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa said SA favoured the lifting of sanctions on Zimbabwe.
He said Harare faced "serious, serious, economic challenges and they can be assisted by the world if those sanctions are lifted".
Deadly protests earlier this year, in which soldiers fired live ammunition against unarmed civilians. killing more than a dozen people, set back the campaign to have sanctions lifted.
Speaking at the SA-Zimbabwe binational commission in Harare last month, Ramaphosa saluted the new administration for its efforts to take Zimbabwe out of its difficulties and improve trade relations in the region and with development partners.
He said to support these "commendable efforts", SA had issued a call to the international community to assist Zimbabwe and lift sanctions. "We are pleased that the European Union heeded the call and in February 2019 decided to lift sanctions on the current members of your administration," Ramaphosa said.
But the European parliament recommended more sanctions against the Zimbabwean government as a result of the violence against civilians.
The EU parliament resolved in February to "call on the European Council to review its restrictive measures against individuals and entities in Zimbabwe, including those measures currently suspended, in the light of accountability for recent state violence".
The resolution urged Mnangagwa "to remain true to his inaugural promises … to put Zimbabwe back on a path of reconciliation and respect for democracy and the rule of law".
It said that any long-term support for Zimbabwe from the EU should be based on "comprehensive reforms rather than mere promises".
Zimbabwe has failed in its efforts to be readmitted to the Commonwealth and its dependence on loans from neighbouring states and countries in Asia has been increasing.
Mboweni also appealed to the World Bank to come to the aid of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe after the devastation of Cyclone Idai last month.
Mogajane said while SA and other nations were providing help, the relief effort required greater support from the World Bank.
The cyclone is estimated to have killed about 1,000 people in the three countries and caused severe destruction in the Mozambique port of Beira and in Chimanimani in Zimbabwe. Food shortages and cholera outbreaks have been reported.