Banks’ illegal sanctions are ‘punishment without trial’

ZASM chairperson Rutendo Matinyarare says the banks should be stopped urgently. Picture: Supplied

ZASM chairperson Rutendo Matinyarare says the banks should be stopped urgently. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 7, 2023


The banks’ illegal sanctions over allegations of wrongdoing constitute punishment without trial and should not be allowed.

This is the view of the Zimbabwe Anti-Sanctions Movement (ZASM) following Standard Bank’s threatened move to close Independent Media’s bank accounts.

ZASM is a civil organisation established to fight against Western imperialism through the advancement of African unity and development.

The movement’s chairperson Rutendo Matinyarare said this should be stopped urgently.

He said the strategy was also used to control certain sectors of the economy.

People should stand up and fight this “monopoly” because a bank account a right that everyone was entitled to.

Matinyarare said the banks should not be allowed to affect people’s lives.

Independent Media’s situation is similar to that in Zimbabwe where citizens have been suffering the same fate for more than 22 years.

ZASM has challenged the banks’ decision before the South Gauteng High Court and the case has been ongoing since last year.

“As Zimbabweans, we decided that we will go to the South African courts to say how do these banks close bank accounts based on implementing illegal US sanctions? The banks responded by saying they were not implementing illegal US sanctions but were de-risking from risky people. They are risky to politically exposed persons or they are money laundering.

“Where did you prove that? Which court did you take these people to to prove that they are risky?

That’s what we are arguing. “The bank cannot close anyone’s account on the basis of discrimination, implementing illegal sanctions, or the basis of just saying ‘we don’t like this person because of what they are standing for politically’. That’s what we are fighting in the court,” Matinyarare said.

The movement used the Special Rapporteur’s report, the Universal Bill of Rights, the South African Constitution, and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution to take legal action against banks in South Africa.

According to ZASM, these banks broke domestic and international laws by implementing illegal sanctions on Zimbabweans without trial.

ZASM said it also intended to pursue similar action in Zimbabwe, Mauritius and the African court, adding that they would also approach the International Court of Justice if the sanctions were not removed.

“We have heard many banking executives locally in South Africa and internationally attempting to use Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism (AMLCT) rules to justify their illegal compliance with or implementation of illegal sanctions.

“However, we have noted that just like unilateral sanctions, the application of AMLCT measures is often extrajudicial, with no trials or guilty verdicts accompanying the discriminatory, blocking, prohibiting, or excluding of innocent persons, institutions, and entities from banking services or the international banking system,” Matinyarare said.

He said their case is solid but requires relevant stakeholders to play their roles to achieve the desired outcome.

“These legal precedents have serious implications for our legal fight against the arbitrary enforcement of sanctions and AMLCT restrictions.

“This applies not only to South African banks but also those in Zimbabwe and internationally.”

The Banking Association of South Africa responded on behalf of the banks, saying represented them in in the case against ZASM.

Cape Times