Gauteng - President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for an end to economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West, as well as for economic interventions in developing economies.
This came as he led the Africa Day celebrations yesterday.
Ramaphosa, who is also chairperson of the AU, was speaking as the organisation marked the 57th anniversary since its establishment in Ethiopia with the vision of uniting the African people for their collective prosperity.
He called for greater unity and collaboration among African countries as this year’s anniversary coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic which continued to spread, ravaging economies of countries on the continent.
“The virus has exposed the deep inequalities that continue to exist on our continent and across the world. It has shown how far we are from realising our developmental goals and our responsibilities to the citizens of our continent,” Ramaphosa said.
He called on developed countries and multilateral institutions to step up and assist vulnerable countries with financial support and Covid-19 supplies. Ramaphosa said these had to include debt relief and other support measures necessary for economic recovery.
“As we deal with the impact of this pandemic, we repeat our call for the unconditional lifting of sanctions that have been imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan,” Ramaphosa urged.
Since 2002 the EU has had sanctions in place on Zimbabwe following the land grabs and violence in the early 2000s under former president Robert Mugabe, with the US maintaining some of these sanctions to the present day, contributing to the collapse of the economy.
More than 90000 Covid-19 infections and 3000 deaths have been recorded on the continent, as individual countries continue to implement measures to contain the spread of the virus, which has been flagged as a major threat to African economies and mostly fragile health-care systems.
Zimbabwe was among the countries expected to have poor health-care systems and economies devastated, as a number of doctors have either refused to work or taken the government to court over failure to provide personal protective gear to front-line workers.
Ramaphosa said the pandemic would have a lasting effect on the continent’s ability to meet the AU’s aspirations to Agenda 2063 of peace and prosperity.
He also lamented the on-going military conflicts breeding instability in a number of countries on the continent, and said these had to end.
Zambian founding president Kenneth Kaunda said many had died while trying to ensure that the continent was truly united under the banner of the AU, which was founded as the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, a year before he led his country to independence.
“Our colonial borders have long separated us. Now a truly united Africa should rise and reach dreams like the Africa Continental Free Trade Area,” he said. He added it was up to Ramaphosa and his counterparts to push ahead in the fight for the dignity and freedoms of Africans.
Pan African Women’s Organisation (Pawo) president Eunice Iipinge called on the AU to provide an annual financial grant to the Pawo to help it advance interventions for women’s economic inclusion on the continent.