Camping Against Sanctions

The word that immediately comes up when the story of scores of Zimbabweans, who, on March 29, 2019, camped at the imposing Embassy of the United States’ “doorsteps” in Westgate, Harare, vowing to remain put until Washington rescinds its decision to enforce punitive economic sanctions on their country, which have brought challenges to ordinary citizens, is determination.

The group, under the auspices of Broad Alliance Against Sanctions; a coalition of churches from different denominations, African religions, the Islamic community, six political parties, small-scale farmers, informal traders, the academic fraternity and organisations representing people with disabilities, has been camping at the US Embassy for 573 days when The Herald visited their site on Wednesday last week.

The call was a follow-up on the crew’s first visit on October 24 last year, ahead of the SADC Solidarity March against Sanctions.

Each member had a different story to tell, but everything summed up to difficulties, death of dreams and a desire to see Zimbabweans coming together as a nation, and speak with one voice against sanctions, which have burdened the nation.

We share some of their individual stories here:

Shingirai Musokeri (54)

I am from Gutu, but I grew up in Bindura at Trojan Nickel Mine, where my father was employed. I am married. My husband and I have eight children; four boys and four girls. Four of my children are at home in Epworth, and four others have moved out to start their own families.

My eldest child is 32, and although he attained good passes at Advanced Level, he is yet to work formally. He is married and has a son, whom I stay with. Like all my other adult children, my husband is not formally employed. Living is a vending tussle for us, save for my other son, a musician, who plays the mbira. Two of my married daughters left the country for South Africa, because they could not find employment here. Companies have closed, and more are failing to break even because of sanctions.

Hustling for a living as informal traders can no longer be counted on. It is a dog eat dog situation now. Playing music cannot be relied on either, because of Covid-19, compounded by the economic sanctions imposed on our country, which are impacting on incomes.

As a woman, I am touched by the effect of sanctions on our hospitals. They have become phantoms, because of lack of medicines and other medical provisions; and this pains me. Zimbabwe is the only country I know; it is our country, so I wonder why another country could make us miserable like this because we took back our land.

My fervent prayer, therefore, is that these sanctions be removed to allow us as Zimbabweans to move on with our lives.

Patience Kendoro (28)

I grew up in Kuwadzana 5, but am Mozambican by descent. My father came from Mozambique to look for greener pastures here in his youth.

I was married, but due to financial pressures, my husband and I were always fighting. We lived at a mine in Kadoma where he worked, and is still working. He would often accuse me of infidelity, to the extent that he would become violent, even when I was pregnant. My uncle and his wife, who are camped here, told me about their cause, so I decided to join them in the fight against sanctions last year. I was pregnant then.

I gave birth here on February 26, this year, through Gogo Manhanga’s help. She later accompanied me to a nearby clinic. Gogo Manhanga is here as well.

As a young mother, there is so much that I wish for. I want to be able to look after my child; to prepare a better future for him. He needs food, clothes, soap, medicines and everything else that ensures a healthy life. I do not want to live on hand-outs or alms. I want to live off honest work.

I know I am enterprising. However, with these sanctions in place, life for young people, particularly women like me has become burdensome. Marriages are breaking up.

My appeal to fellow Zimbabweans is that we should speak with one voice if we are to win the fight against sanctions.

Lenias Mashavira (39)

I am from Chivi, Masvingo province. I am married and have two children, who are living with their mother at our rural home in Chivi.

I am not formally employed, because industry has been suffocated due to the effects of sanctions. I am a trader, but you see, Chivi is a dry area. It is difficult to engage in market gardening there. I was born in a family of six children, none of whom works formally.

Sanctions are an evil and inhuman creation crafted through an Act of parliament in the United States. Due to pressures on families’ purses, child marriages have become rife; familial ties are severed, and marriages are burdened. Also, the cake has become too small, which causes strife as people fight for the little available.

My passionate call is that Zimbabweans unite against these illegal sanctions, because they brought misery on us.

Tonderai Chitope (36)

I am from Kadyamadare Village in Chief Chikwaka’s realm of Goromonzi District, about 57km from Harare, where I live with my wife and three children.

I heard about the camping against sanctions here at the US Embassy over the radio when I was at our rural home. I once worked at Pioneer Seed Company, before it scaled down operations.

The firm used to employ more than 500 people, mainly from communities surrounding Juru Growth Point, and was said to be the biggest seed conditioning plant in Southern Africa at its establishment in 1992.

Many other companies have either closed shop, or scaled down operations due to the illegal sanctions imposed on our country. If the sanctions are removed, I am convinced that I will be able to either find employment, or get funding to start a self-help project, like poultry, piggery or market gardening. That is why I am here.

Wilbert Dhewa (19)

I come from Zvishavane and live in Budiriro 1. I have decided to come here because of how sanctions are affecting our parents, and us as young people.

The youths are unemployed, they therefore resort to crime, drugs, and other intoxicating substances to escape the burdens they have to endure daily caused by the sanctions.

My friend, Darlington and I are contributing to the fight against sanctions through music.

Darlington Tendai Nheta (19)

I am from Chivhu, and live with my family in Budiriro 3. We hear that Zimbabwe used to be the breadbasket of Africa. But today our families can no longer afford to buy bread, and this is all because of the sanctions.

Due to sanctions our dreams as young people have been affected. Industries are closed, so even though I passed my O-Levels, I cannot find employment.

My friend Wilbert and I decided to add our voices to the call for the removal of sanctions through music. Our duet is known as Tha Fewture, and our song’s title is “Tibvisireyi MaSanctions”. If we get assistance, we will be able to reach out to a wider audience through music.

Sally Ngoni (34)

I am from Bulawayo, although am now based in Zvishavane. I am the co-founder and public relations officer of Broad Alliance Against Sanctions. Sanctions have destroyed the livelihoods of ordinary citizens in Zimbabwe. As a citizen, I have not been spared, even though I am a university graduate.

Zimbabweans should unite against sanctions. If we speak as a united voice, we will go a long way in building our country. We do not want external interference.

What is causing us continued hardships is speaking with a discordant voice. Bad publicity, fake abductions and outright lies by some media outlets, and some Zimbabweans, all aggravate the problems we are facing as a nation.

Without external forces interfering in our affairs, there would not be violence. There will be peace. Those Zimbabweans, who speak ill about their country for political mileage should be prosecuted, and if found guilty should be jailed. Sanctions must not be used as launchpads for political careers.

To that end, as Broad Alliance Against Sanctions, we have drafted a petition for a proposed Zimbabwe Patriotic Act. In October last year, we sent the petition to the Parliament of Zimbabwe through the Clerk of Parliament, and the Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi.

Saboteurs should be brought to book.

Pursuant to our petition, the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade visited us here in February this year on a fact-finding mission.

We later appeared before the Committee at Parliament in March, where we gave oral evidence on how sanctions are affecting us as ordinary citizens.

Together we can do more. Zimbabwe is our country!

Calvern Chitsunge (39)

I was born in Bulawayo, and I am the chairperson of Broad Alliance Against Sanctions. I was among the representatives who dialogued with US Ambassador Brian Nichols. The idea of a non-political, non-religious alliance against sanctions came in November 2018.

We started as Smart Youths Strategic Development Trust, which advocated for young people’s rights, especially in view of drug and substance abuse. We wanted to give youths a chance, but we realised that we could not do much in an environment of sanctions.

Camping here comes with challenges of its own. There is no water here, because the stream we rely on has dried up. We depend on well-wishers for food.

The war we are fighting here involves 15 million Zimbabweans, who therefore, should contribute in their own way even through words, or other gestures if they cannot make it physically. We cannot be bribed to abandon our cause because we represent millions of Zimbabweans. Even corruption is a culmination of the shrinking of the national cake because of sanctions.

We, however, applaud the Government for its efforts in curbing the scourge. We have our own sanctions-busting strategies here.

We have an oven that produces 100 loaves per day, a candle making machine and a garden. We strive for self-sustenance.

For other provisions, we allow some of us to go home and bring us some; whatever they can lay their hands on. We are grateful, however, to fellow Zimbabweans, who have been sparing a thought for us by providing us with food.

Together we can do more.

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