Guest Column: Cliff Chiduku
The 39th Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit held in Tanzania last month declared October 25 as a day member States will organise activities to lobby the US government to remove targeted sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.
In 2001, the US, through the Zimbabwe Democracy Economic Recovery Act (Zidera), imposed sanctions on the late former President Robert Mugabe and his cronies over human rights abuses.
Last week, former liberation movements in the Sadc region gathered in Victoria Falls and resolved to stage anti-sanctions demonstrations at US embassies in their respective countries in solidarity with Zimbabwe for the removal of the embargo.
In what could be one of the most pointless exercises in the history of mankind, a group of Zanu PF apparatchiks took the anti-sanctions fight a notch higher when it vowed to camp outside the American embassy in Harare until the “illegal” sanctions were lifted. This was not the first time the Zanu PF government had organised such events in its bid to force the removal of sanctions.
Not so long ago, Zanu PF rolled out a national anti-sanctions-campaign that saw businesses, the public, individuals, organisations and various interest groups demonstrating against sanctions by appending their signatures on the petition form. But almost a decade down the line, it seems the campaign was a lot of hot air.
A Zanu PF anti-sanctions solidarity march was last week deferred to a date yet to be announced due to President Emerson Mnangagwa’s tight schedule, following the deaths of Mugabe and Major-General Trust Mugoba, who were declared national heroes.
There are media reports that the government had instructed fuel dealers to make sure the precious liquid is availed so that those intending to attend an anti-sanctions music gala in Bulawayo would be able to do so. Ailing companies, especially parastatals, were also supposed to dig deep into their coffers to donate to this cause — what a waste of money.
Addressing a post-Cabinet media briefing last week, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the unilateral sanctions have, and indeed continue to inflict grievous pain on ordinary citizens, especially women and children. Such dishonesty stinks to high heavens. If the Zanu PF government was honest about having sanctions removed, then they should know what has to be done.
Zimbabwe has lost a lot more through Zanu PF than the sanctions. The country lost about US$15 billion in potential diamond revenue at Chiadzwa; should that be blamed on sanctions? Some top government officials and connected individuals have developed pot bellies at the expense of impoverished Chiadzwa villagers, who were dumped in the middle of nowhere at Arda Transau.
Is it sanctions that caused the government to pour US$3 billion into the Command Agriculture purse only for the country to harvest hunger?
So is it sanctions that killed Zimbabwe’s healthcare system to the extent that our own leaders shun local hospitals, preferring to go to Singapore, and South Africa using taxpayers’ money. Access to healthcare is a human right, so the government must do everything it can to make sure there is universal access to medical care. Now all local hospitals have drug stock-outs thanks to corruption and mismanagement, not sanctions.
Is it sanctions that forced soldiers to kneel and shoot at a 45-degree angle, spraying live bullets at unarmed civilians on August 1 last year in one of the darkest post-election periods in Zimbabwe?
Should we blame sanctions for the water crisis currently bedevilling most urban areas when Zanu PF approved the development of residential stands on wetlands? Now women are sleeping in water queues instead of their bedrooms.
So is it sanctions that prompted the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) to procure snow graders worth US$8 million through Univern for use by local authorities? Money does not grow on trees. Should we blame sanctions on such ills; heads must roll over such misdemeanours.
The sanctions mantra is no longer sellable. All we see around us is opulence that has never been seen before, amid a sea of poverty and impoverishment. The government continues to blame sanctions for everything that is wrong in Zimbabwe.
While condemning sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the United States, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni rightly observed that sanctions can be used as a scapegoat for one’s own failures. Speaking at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo in April, Museveni said: “On behalf of Uganda, I would like to condemn the sanctions being put on Zimbabwe. This idea of sanctions is an act of cowardice. Why do you put sanctions, if someone is wrong, leave him and he will fail by his own mistakes? Why do you put sanctions if you know you are right and somebody is wrong? That means we are not sure if the man is wrong.
Otherwise, if he is wrong let him fail by his own mistakes. If you put sanctions, you are just aiding someone to use them as a scapegoat for his own failures. I appeal to those who are imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe to lift those sanctions.”
The Zanu PF government has launched a massive exercise in dishonesty in trying to hoodwink the world into believing that sanctions, not corruption, are at the root of our problems. You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Cuba has been on US sanctions since 1958, but its economy has been growing, thanks to the government’s zero tolerance to corruption and macro-management of resources. Despite this embargo, Cuba has managed to build a strong human capital base which it now exports to other countries. The Cuban healthcare system is often touted as one of the late El Commandante Fidel Castro’s legacy. The Cubans have been able to accomplish much with little without complaining about sanctions. Former Education minister Lazarus Dokora, of the national pledge fame, can testify of Cuba’s thriving education system.
After Ian Smith proclaimed the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution which called on all member States to break economic ties with Southern Rhodesia. But because of sanctions-busting measures, the embargo was futile as Rhodesia continued to enjoy the position it always had.
Implementing reforms would be in Zimbabwe’s interests rather than the West. The targeted sanctions can be lifted within a week or less if the government walks the talk on reforms. There is no need to applying lipstick on a pig. Observance of human rights and the rule of law can lead Zimbabwe being admitted into the family of nations. Anti-sanctions marches will not help, but reforms. Every other ill bedevilling the country is being attributed to sanctions. At this rate, we might see the unpredictable rainfall patterns, Cyclone Idai, old age and global warming being attributed to sanctions. It seems Zanu PF scoundrels on sanctions will stop at nothing regarding the sanctions issue.
While Mnangagwa’s government is on overdrive calling for the removal of the “debilitating” and “illegal” sanctions, the alignment of laws with the new Constitution is the sure bet to jump-start the engagement and re-engagement drive.
Whither the sanctions “busting” measures and the Look East policy? Scapegoating is the new Zanu PF war chest and it is well and truly reaching ridiculous proportions.
Sanctions that the Zanu PF government slapped on Zimbabweans, through corruption, patronage, cronyism and looting are a cruel jab which destroyed livelihoods. Imagine more than three million are living in neighbouring countries as economic refugees, thanks to the “ruining” party, Zanu PF’s politics of patronage. It is corruption, not sanctions which are an “attack” on Zimbabweans and the economy. It is corruption and mismanagement, which are at the root of the economic mess that the country finds itself in. No need for scapegoating — just reform or fold!
Cliff Chiduku is a journalist. He writes in his personal capacity. He can be contacted at email@example.com