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Anyone who has lived in or followed Zimbabwe since 2001 has in all likelihood been bombarded by propaganda claiming that the Zimbabwe Development and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA), passed by the U.S. Congress in 2001, is the root cause of all the country’s problems. One can hardly argue that the intent of ZDERA was punitive; it was after all passed in response to horrendous human rights abuses and flagrant disregard for rule of law during the contentious elections of 2008 and the violent seizures of property in the 1990s, but, according to a Congressional Research Service report it does not have the far-reaching impact that is often claimed.
Those who argue against ZDERA often confuse it with the targeted sanctions against certain individuals and entities in Zimbabwe, the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list, which freezes assets and imposes a travel ban. Assertions that these actions on the part of the U.S. government are ‘illegal’ come from some of the same people who claim national sovereignty; a bit of a contradiction if one takes the time to read such statements carefully. General claims, coming from people who either haven’t read the law, or who have read it and deliberately ignore its content, don’t hold water if the facts are laid on the table.
ZDERA says, in part, that the U.S. Secretary of Treasury shall instruct shall instruct the U.S. executive director of each international financial institution to oppose and vote against any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to Zimbabwe. Ignoring the fact that the U.S. has only one vote in any of these institutions, there is also the fact that because of failure to settle its arrears with these institutions, Zimbabwe has been ineligible for loans, credits, or guarantees since long before ZDERA was enacted into law. From the late 1990s, Zimbabwe’s debt arrears has been the primary obstacle to new lending or debt relief. In reality, no U.S. law or vote by a U.S. representative can block lending by the international financial institutions; the boards by majority decide on lending to member countries, and the U.S. does not have veto power in any of them. It should also be noted that the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) board has approved several projects for Zimbabwe despite ZDERA.
A careful reading of ZDERA will show that it commits the U.S. to support debt relief, financial assistance, and technical support once the government has restored rule of law, held free and fair elections, made security forces subordinate to the civilian government, and committed to transparent land reform.
Before buying into the anti-sanctions propaganda, it might be worthwhile reading the entire text of ZDERA, which can be found here. Let facts take the place of propaganda.