Nobleman Runyanga Correspondent
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) resolved last August to set aside today (October 25) to collectively call for the removal of the illegal sanctions which were imposed by the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) at the turn of the century.
For nearly two decades now, the US has been insisting that the sanctions, which are not backed by a United Nations (UN) resolution, are targeted at individuals in Government and Zanu-PF and some businesses.
The Western power continues to deflect its moral blameworthiness for the continued suffering of millions of Zimbabweans by shamelessly claiming that its sanctions are smart in that they only affect the targeted individuals and companies.
Nothing is further from the truth.
Contrary to the US government’s outright lies, many Zimbabweans are suffering, especially the vulnerable and those in the country’s rural areas where 67,72 percent of the population live.
In 2017, the World Bank estimated Zimbabwe’s population to be 16,53 million. This means that 11,19 million people of Zimbabwe live in rural areas and are bearing the painful brunt of the West’s brutal and unjustified sanctions regime.
Even before the cruel sanctions, the majority of Zimbabwe’s rural people had always been unenviable because of the difficulties associated with rural economies.
This has been worsened by the punitive measures in various ways.
The rural economy
Traditionally, the rural population depended largely on subsistence farming, crafts such as basket weaving, selling one’s labour as communal farming hands (maricho) or on skills such as carving cooking sticks, mortars and pestles and hoe handles, among other implements.
While these undertakings did not bring much to one’s table, people survived and even managed to send their children to school, thanks to a stable economy.
Higher up the rural economic ladder were civil servants such as teachers, agricultural extension workers, veterinary officers and health officers.
These are the people who earned salaries and could afford some comfortable life. Store owners, who occupied the highest economic rank in the rural economic set-up, were more prepared to give credit facilities to civil servants than anyone else. This was because of their assured and higher income.
Most civil servants were among those rural dwellers who could afford agricultural inputs to farm meaningfully enough to sell something to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) through local shop owners who acted as GMB agencies.
The coming of the rural resettlement schemes as early as 1981 also saw the emergence of a new type of a rural economy player — the resettled farmer, who prospered until the onset of the sanctions.
The rural dweller has been reduced to a survivalist.
The rural civil servant is struggling and the shop owner has closed shop as no one buys anything because of lack of liquidity. This has far-reaching socio-economic consequences.
While the poorest of the poor in the rural areas could hire out their unskilled labour for a living, today there is no one to hire it out to.
This means that more children of school-going age are dropping out.
Government has the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) initiative in place which came in as a social safety net, but sometimes it cannot pay on time because of reduced revenue following the closing of companies and the resultant unemployment.
In January 2018, the then Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Patrick Chinamasa, indicated that 50 percent of children in districts surveyed by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Zimvac), in 2017, were not attending school due to financial challenges and that the national non-attendance rate stood at 34 percent. And the US and its allies claim that their sanctions are smart and targeted.
Since independence in 1980, Government invested heavily in the health sector in terms of human resources and infrastructure.
It ensured that every province had a hospital. Districts hospitals were also put up to complement mission hospitals which rural communities looked up to as referral hospitals during the colonial era.
Most rural areas now have clinics, but sadly Government can no longer adequately equip them with necessary resources such as drugs and consumables owing to the ongoing economic challenges caused by the sanctions.
This has affected health services delivery in the rural areas, with some health institutions having to ask patients such as pregnant women to bring some of the items needed to serve them, such as water.
Despite an impressive rollout of health infrastructure in line with Government’s “Health for all by the Year 2000” campaign, it is sad that the United Nations Development of Programme notes that 50 percent of rural pregnant women deliver at home, endangering the women and contributing to the country’s high maternal mortality ratio of 614 deaths per 100 000 live births.
And the US claims that its sanctions are smart and targeted.
Pre-2000, most rural dwellers, except those in arid and semi-arid regions of Masvingo and Matabeleland, were able to sustain themselves in terms of food.
They were able to go back to their plots of land and farm again successfully even after debilitating droughts such as those experienced in 1982 and 1992.
Even in good seasons, most rural farmers can no longer farm as successfully as they did before. They can no longer afford inputs. Their children in towns, who used to support their farming efforts, are struggling also.
The land reform programme of 2000 saw over 300 000 families being resettled amid the expectation that this would boost food production and improve their livelihoods but not so with the effects of the ongoing sanctions.
With the exception of tobacco and cotton contract farmers, most rural dwellers now depend on the routine food handouts from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare as if they do not have land, thanks to the sanctions.
Zimbabwe has the capacity to irrigate over two million hectares of land using the many water bodies which the country has built over the years.
This would enable it to ensure food security for its people, especially the poor and the vulnerable.
In August, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that over five million people were facing hunger. Given Zimbabwe’s agricultural potential, it is sad to note that due to the sanctions, Government has been inhibited from fulfilling its mandate of ensuring food security for citizens.
And the US government and its Western allies lie to the world that their sanctions against Zimbabwe are smart and targeted.
Sanctions have to go
Sanctions removal should not be effected piece-meal and in half measures.
Given their illegal and unfair nature, they should just go to allow the new dispensation an opportunity of serving Zimbabweans without hindrance.
This is the reason why both SADC and the African Union (AU) have decided to stand on Zimbabwe’s side in fighting the anti-people measures.
This calls for Zimbabweans to stand together in pushing for their emancipation from the West.