Zimbabweans enjoyed a day off from work on Friday after their government declared a public holiday, saying people should demonstrate against U.S. sanctions rather than head to their jobs.
Led by Mnangagwa’s wife Auxillia, about 7,000 government supporters bussed from across Zimbabwe marched for 5 km to the national stadium in Harare.
Singing and dancing, they waved placards inscribed “No sanctions, no discrimination, sanctions new version of slavery,” and “Enough is enough, remove sanctions now.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government blames years of U.S. sanctions for devastating economic conditions including galloping inflation and severe shortages of basic goods and services
Sanctions against some individuals in the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and businesses associated with them were imposed back in 2003. The U.S. has made periodic amendments to include people the State Department believes are responsible for human-rights abuses or enriching themselves at the country’s expense.
The sanctions are “an act of terrorism against Zimbabwe,” said Zanu-PF’s spokesman, Simon Khaya Moyo. Zimbabwe has received more than $3 billion in U.S. aid since 1980 and at least $300 million this year alone, the U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols said in an interview with newspaper publisher Trevor Ncube that was posted on the U.S. embassy’s Twitter page.
The U.S. is Zimbabwe’s single-biggest donor. Despite diplomatic tension between the two countries, American aid kept Zimbabweans from starvation after former president Robert Mugabe authorized the often violent seizure of about 90% of all white-owned farms between 2000 and 2012. That cost the country millions of jobs and saw farm exports almost disappear.
Zimbabwe also has rallied regional neighbors to support its fight to have the sanctions lifted. Neighboring South Africa’s ruling African National Congress said its secretary-general Ace Magashule would join an anti-sanctions “picket” at a popular border crossing.
The European Union, which also came under criticism from some at the rally, said it has not imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe. “Our restrictive measures comprise of a travel ban and asset freeze against former presidential couple, a ban for European companies to do business with Zimbabwe Defense Industries, and an arms embargo. That’s all,” the EU mission tweeted.