Zimbabwe: Change Is in the National Interest

The United States government this week extended by one year sanctions against President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his inner circle. As soon as the announcement was made, government spokesperson Nick Mangwana issued a statement denouncing the sanctions.

At face value, Harare’s knee-jerk response sounded routine – until Mangwana starkly denied that the security forces killed civilians last year. It was exactly the kind of response that does not help Zimbabwe’s cause.

As Zimbabweans, it is vital for us to show clarity of thought when dealing with the issue of Western sanctions. For decades, self-serving propaganda has run its course and we have not resolved the matter. The so-called international re-engagement drive is now off the rails and the outpouring of goodwill in the aftermath of the coup has been squandered. The reason we demand reforms is not because they are a British or American construct. Not at all. Good governance is not a foreign concept. It is the birth right of every citizen. Good governance is a constitutional imperative.

Western sanctions have been used by the Zanu PF government as a smokescreen for its catastrophic governance failure. The truth, of course, is that corruption, cronyism and incompetence are at the heart of Zimbabwe’s decay. The targeted sanctions are not a trade embargo. They are largely aimed at a few dozen individuals, termed specially designated persons in the US executive order.

Billions of dollars are looted but nothing is done to bring the culprits to justice — even in situations where a glut of evidence is presented.

President Mnangagwa’s government has publicly outlined a reform roadmap. This reform agenda was not imposed by the West. The government’s own Transitional Stabilisation Programme and the reforms expounded in the International Monetary Fund’s Staff-Monitored Programme are documented examples of the government’s stated commitment, at least on paper, to reform.

Upholding human rights, abiding by the constitution, respecting property rights, promoting freedom of expression, building accountable and responsive public institutions are all aspects of good governance. Even the government’s Vision 2030 blueprint highlights the importance of rolling out these reforms.

After failing to implement reforms that we set out for ourselves, it is unreasonable to blame the Americans or the European Union. Genuine reform is in the national interest.

Instead of reforming, what has the government done? State-sponsored violence has worsened under this administration. Corruption has spiralled out of control. Cronyism has given birth to parasitic cartels. Man-made hunger stalks the land.

The Zimbabwean government needs to stop peddling hollow propaganda and come to terms with the brutal truth that this economy will not be transformed in the absence of genuine, far-reaching reform.

Reforms are not only a matter of political intent; there is also a vital economic development proposition to be made here.

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