In an unusual political move, the Zimbabwean government this week has declared Oct. 25 to be a national holiday to protest longtime U.S. sanctions against the Southern African country.
News of Zimbabwe’s anti-U.S. sanction holiday was reported by The Washington Post on Oct. 22. The Zimbabwean government said its Anti-Sanctions Day will specifically highlight the economic harm allegedly caused to the country by U.S. sanctions.
To celebrate the new national holiday, The Washington Post said Zimbabweans from around the country are expected to be transported to Harare, the country’s capital, to “march, watch a soccer match between the country’s two biggest teams and attend an all-night concert.”
President George W. Bush issued the first executive order to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe on March 6, 2003, as domestic violence in the country threatened to destabilize the region. The sanctions took aim at Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his political associates.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) established the Zimbabwe Sanctions Regulations on July 29, 2004, which placed the sanctioned Zimbabweans on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List. Placement on this list generally blocks the U.S. assets of these individuals and prevents U.S. persons from conducting business with them.
President Bush signed two additional executive orders to expand sanctions against the Mugabe regime on Nov. 22, 2005, and July 25, 2008, for “undermining Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and institutions.”
Zimbabwe’s current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced Mugabe after he was forced from office in 2017, is also on OFAC’s SDN List.
The Zimbabwean government has argued that the country’s current economic hardships are largely due to the U.S. sanctions, which the U.S. has denied, stating that the sanctions “do not block the government of Zimbabwe as a whole, nor do they prohibit all business with the country of Zimbabwe or transactions involving that jurisdiction.”
On April 24, 2013, OFAC issued a general license to allow transactions involving Zimbabwe’s Agricultural Development Bank and Infrastructure Development Bank.
The African Development Bank Group said Zimbabwe still struggles with “protracted fiscal imbalances,” which keep most of the country’s population in poverty. However, the bank said the country can improve its economy through minimal additional investment and political reform.
“Given the vast natural resources, relatively good stock of public infrastructure and comparatively skilled labor force, Zimbabwe has an opportunity to join existing supply chains in Africa through the Continental Free Trade Area,” the bank said.