Sanctions, which sanctions? For those who still don't believe that Britain, America and their Western allies have imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, here is one such law--the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act--passed by the US Congress in December 2001. Baffour Ankomah reports.

Author:Ankomah, Baffour
Position:ZIMBABWE: Sponsored supplement

The punitive Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (readers should not be deceived by its sweet-sounding title), was signed into law by President George W. Bush on 21 December 2001. On that day, President Bush issued the following statement:

"Today, I have signed into law S.494 ["S" means Senate "law" because it originated in the Senate], the "Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001". This Act symbolises the clear bipartisan resolve in the United States to promoting human rights, good governance, and economic development in Africa. "My administration shares fully the Congress' deep concerns about the political and economic hardships visited upon Zimbabwe by that country's leadership. I hope the provisions of this important legislation will support the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle to effect peaceful, democratic change, achieve economic growth, and restore the rule of law. "Section 4(c) of the Act purports to direct the executive branch to oppose and vote against the extension of loans or the cancellation of debt in international financial institutions unless and until I make a certification or national interest determination. "I am concerned that this provision burdens my constitutional authority in the area of foreign affairs to conduct negotiations and cast votes in international organisations. I will construe the provision as being subject to my exclusive authority to negotiate or vote in international financial institutions." With this fiat, Zimbabwe was condemned to economic suffering by the say-so of a foreign government. S.494 has since led to the current implosion of the Zimbabwean economy, with subsequent high inflation and severe hardship for the people.

Interestingly, the bill was drafted with the help of one of the white parliamentarians of Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC, and was introduced in the US Congress on 8 March 2001. It was scheduled for debate on 16 July 2001, and was passed by the Senate on 1 August 2001, and by the House of Representatives on 4 December 2001. It became law (US Public Law No. 107-99) on 21 December 2001 after President Bush appended his signature to it.

The main sponsor of the bill was the Republican senator, William H. Frist who introduced it into the Senate on 8 March 2001. It was co-sponsored on 24 May 2001 by another Republican, Senator Jesse Helms (who spent most of the early years of his life working against black majority rule in Zimbabwe), and the Democratic senator, Hillary Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton, who now wants to run for president in her own right. On 12 July 2001, another Democratic. Senator, Joseph R. Biden, joined the co-sponsors. A co-sponsor is a member of Congress who joins one or more members in his or her chamber (ie, House of Representatives or Senate) to sponsor a bill or amendment. The first member who "signs onto" a bill is called the "sponsor". Members who subsequently sign become "co-sponsors".


In the case of S.494, the bill was passed in the Senate by unanimous consent, and a record of each senator's position was not kept. The House of Representatives passed it by roll call vote, which was held under a suspension of the rules to cut debate short and pass the bill. It needed a two-thirds majority--396 representatives voted for it, 11 against, and 26 abstained.

To gauge how Westerners value kith and kin relations (in this case, white farmers who had lost their lands in Zimbabwe), S.494 was rushed through Congress even as America was grieving over the loss of nearly 3,000 lives in the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. You might think they had more important things to do then, than passing a law to punish an African country which was taking measures to right a serious colonial wrong.


Below is the full text of the Act which is supposedly to "provide for a transition to democracy and to promote economic recovery in Zimbabwe".

S.494 [107th Congress of the United States of America]: Zimbabwe Democracy and...

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