Eric Bloch Column

Official lies as sanctions intensify


AS Zimbabwe&#82

17;s economy not only continues its downward spiralling, but does so at an ever-increasing pace, government is fast running out of others to blame for what it has caused.


It has successively attributed the increasingly great economic collapse upon adverse climatic conditions, commercial farmers, industrialists, allegedly unscrupulous, profiteering manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, banks and other financial institutions, illegal money market dealers, and many others. Concurrently with its vociferous denial of any culpability in the destruction of that which had been upon the path towards substantial economic growth and recovery in 1997, it has sought vigorously to deflect any possible allegation of any such culpability by casting the blame upon others, albeit without foundation, and at best as a result of government self-delusion. For a long time a generally trusting and believing populace, and therefore a readily gullible one, has unhesitatingly accepted as fact all that it was told, no matter how spurious it was.


But even the most gullible eventually recognise realities and, as each of those that government claimed were responsible for Zimbabwe’s economic miseries were proven not to be, the credibility of those in authority became ever less. To counter this growing disbelief in government’s continued efforts to attribute responsibility to others for that which it had itself wrought upon Zimbabwe, government intensified its fallacious propaganda, and struggled to cast its net for targets for blame ever wider.


It focused upon its political opposition, its intense hatred for the country’s white minority, Britain (as the former colonial power) in general and its prime minister and his government in particular, upon those member states of the Commonwealth as do not cravenly worship at the feet of the Zimbabwean leadership, and upon the United States of America and those member states of the European Union as have been forthright in their criticism of Zimbabwe’s disregard for law and order, abuse of the fundamental principles of democracy and of the equally fundamental principles of human rights, and of Zimbabwe’s unwillingness to resort to economic policies proven frequently to enable economic wellbeing, but instead rigidly pursuant of economic measures which have consistently failed wheresoever elsewhere in the world they have been applied.


As it became more and more difficult for government to find any to blame with even the remotest element of credibility, it decided to ascribe the disastrous failure of all its ill-conceived economic policies to the alleged imposition of economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, being — the Zimbabwe government claims — the European Union, with the United Kingdom being the alleged driving force and motivant of those sanctions, the United States, and a few of the members of the Commonwealth, Australia being foremost in government’s targets amongst the Commonwealth countries.


In order to convince the Zimbabwean population that yet again no fault is attributable to government and to the policies it pursues, it has fully activated its vast, grossly overfunded, propaganda machine, which operates as if driven by Goebbels of days of yore. The Ministry of Disinformation and Misrepresentation, led by the Minister of Fiction, Fable and Myth, and aided and abetted by his cabinet colleagues, the Zimbabwean diplomats abroad, and the state rigidly controlled print, visual and audial media, are strenuously promoting the specious contentions that Zimbabwe’s economic ills, whilst partially a result of adverse climatic conditions, are mainly a consequence of the unjustified, harsh, and debilitating sanctions imposed solely due to ill-will.


As with all that Zimbabwe has blamed, it is almost totally false to claim that sanctions are the catalyst of Zimbabwe’s economic morass. The hard fact is that none of the sanctions applied against Zimbabwe impact upon international trade with Zimbabwe, and only trade sanctions can have an overwhelming effect upon the economy. Any other sanctions can only have minimal economic repercussions. The first truth is that the dismal state of Zimbabwe’s economy is because the governmentally created environment is not economically conducive.


For a virile economy to exist, there must be a respect for law and order on the part of the government as well as of the people as a whole. There has to be adherence to the principles of market-force direction of the economy, instead of regulation and command. There needs to be good and sound monetary policies, justly and effectively applied. There must be real fiscal prudence and probity, together with stringent actions to contain corruption. There must also be an economically enabling stance by government, including policy consistency, meaningful incentivisation, and minimised bureaucracy. Economic strengths, such as agriculture, must be built upon, instead of destroyed.


The second truth is that those sanctions as have been imposed are targeted ones, the targets being those who constitute the government of Zimbabwe, their families, and others renowned for their support of that government and the ruling party. The sanctions seek to constrict their access to international travel, and to seize any assets they may have outside Zimbabwe. None of the countries that have imposed sanctions have legislated against trade with Zimbabwe. Any reduction in trade as can be claimed to be due to the sanctions upon Zimbabwe is minimal, being as a result of the more widespread awareness of Zimbabwe’s negative image, that awareness brought about by the promulgation of the sanctions, and as a result of the constraints upon travel impacting upon trade between the countries implementing the targeted sanctions, and the companies owned by those prevented from travelling.


Government’s devious purveyors of falsehoods attempt to evidence that economic sanctions exist by pointing towards Zimbabwe’s suspension from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), its non-receipt of balance of payments support from the IMF, and the absence of developmental funding from the World Bank, as well as its exclusion from the councils of the Commonwealth.


The reality is that Zimbabwe has been suspended by the IMF because of the magnitude of its debt-servicing arrears. Any other country which is as grievously in arrears in honouring its debt repayment commitments is equally subject to a suspension decision by the IMF. It is not an issue of politically-driven sanctions, but of good and sound financial practice. It is extremely rare for any bank, financial institution, lender or other creditor to extend further loans or credit to a debtor guilty of continuing and substantial default. Why should the IMF be any different?


Similarly, the World Bank’s constitution precludes the provision of funding to countries whose arrears exceed prescribed periods or amounts, and Zimbabwe is certainly one of them, if not one with the greatest levels of default. So the World Bank has not imposed political or trade sanctions upon Zimbabwe. It is merely complying with the provisions of its constitution, as it is bound to do, whether the defaulter is Zimbabwe or any other country.


The very vocal accusations that sanctions against Zimbabwe are the principal cause of the derelict state of the economy also highlight discontinuance of aid to Zimbabwe, by countries in the European Union, as evidence that such sanctions are being applied. It cannot be denied that some aid programmes have been discontinued, and others reduced. This has occurred in instances where the donors were made unwelcome by the Zimbabwean government, and in other instances where the aid has been abused, diverted to non-approved purposes, or hindered by interventions of government, the ruling party, war veterans (actual and pseudo), and others. It has not occurred as a political or trade sanction.


And, whilst some aid programmes have ceased or been scaled down, others have been very intensively pursued and extended. The dissemblers of government who seek to shift responsibility perspectives, are remarkably silent on the very great aid inputs that continue to be forthcoming from the very countries whom they seek to blame.