HomeCommentErich Bloch: Misguided Demands For Sanctions

Erich Bloch: Misguided Demands For Sanctions

IT is unsurprising that very many of the world’s nations have condemned last week’s Presidential run-off election.


The United Nations Security Council unequivocally stated, in advance of the election, that it could not be, and would not be “free and fair”. So too did the European Union, a very great number of the states of Africa, in general, and of Sadc in particular, many of the Commonwealth countries, and numerous others.

No genuinely and transparently thinking countries, or persons, could think otherwise. With opposition leaders being recurrently arrested, many of their rallies being peremptorily banned by the authorities, blatantly without foundation, innumerable opposition supporters (actual or perceived) being the victims of grossly cruel and inhuman victimisation, police and others in the public sector being forced to cast their votes according to governmental dictates, a totally biased state-media operating as nothing more than a propaganda machine, and much else, there was as much prospect of the run-off election being “free and fair” as there is of a male experiencing conception and giving birth to a human being!

With a few, condemnable exceptions, the world demanded that the run-off election be postponed, and only be conducted when it could be genuinely free and fair. But government was dogmatically ill-disposed to heed those demands, obdurately and spuriously contending that the run-off would be wholly democratic, and that the demands of the international community were devoid of substance, without credibility, and were only the figments of imagination and the machinations of the enemies of Zimbabwe, and especially so of President Mugabe and of his Zanu party.

For a very long time President Mugabe has vigorously alleged that the pronounced opposition of the international community to him and to the party that he leads was solely motivated by continuing colonialist aspirations, and by resentment against Zimbabwe’s land reform programme. In making those repeated allegations, the president and those that he leads have studiously ignored the incontestable evidence that recolonisation is totally anathema to the former colonial powers, and that they have absolutely no wish to be burdened by colonial responsibilities. He, and they, have equally seen fit to disregard that Britain and others have unhesitatingly voiced support for a land reform programme, provided that such programme was just and fair, fully cognisant of property and human rights, and of bilateral investment protection agreements, and was unreservedly constructive.

Even more vigorously, and repeatedly voiced, ad nauseum, have been the claims of President Mugabe and his sycophants that all Zimbabwe’s economic ills have been occasioned almost entirely by “illegal international sanctions”, (the only exceptions being when such ills were claimed to be the consequence of adverse climatic conditions). The founding of claims of illegality has been that no sanctions have been determined upon by the United Nations, and such claims have contemptuously disregarded that the sovereignty of any country includes the right to determine whom it will trade with, to whom it will advance loans or make grants of aid, and the investment freedoms and constraints of its populace.

Of even graver gravity is that, in the determination to ascribe blame to others, and thereby deflect any and all allegations of culpability, government has not only deliberately ignored the actual causes of Zimbabwe’s near total economic collapse, and intentionally denied them, but it has wholly failed to address those causes, and has made no meaningful attempts to counter and reverse them.

In so doing, it has dismally failed in its primary and principal duty, being to protect and enhance the wellbeing and welfare of the Zimbabwean people, and instead it has grievously worsened the lot, save for a few nepotistically well-placed Zanu PF hierarchy and their families, of the populace.

The reality (as has been previously stated in this column) is that the only significant economic sanction applied by any of the world community against Zimbabwe is the USA’s Zimbabwe Democracy and Recovery Act, which bars that country from providing funding to the Zimbabwean government, and obligates it to exercise veto powers to prevent IMF and World Bank advances to Zimbabwe. All the other legislated sanctions are not targetted against Zimbabwe, but against 125 of Zimbabwe’s political leaders and their families. They face travel and investment bans and, in some deplorable instances, barriers against pursuit of education.

However, since the debacle of the March, 2008 “harmonised” elections, and the blatantly corrupted presidential run-off election last week, there have been very extensive calls or markedly intensified sanctions. These include a US-based demand for an international ban on the supply of arms to Zimbabwe. In principle, that demand has merit, but in practice will have very limited impact. On the one hand, Zimbabwe is possessed of a substantial arsenal, and on the other hand it is highly improbable that South Africa and China would be prepared to apply that sanction.

But another call for sanctions is highly misguided. There are very strong calls in the United Kingdom, USA, some Commonwealth countries, and various EU countries for a ban on all investment in Zimbabwe. The British press has been flooded with articles and editorials calling for such sanctions, and even calling for those who hold shares in multinational companies which operate in Zimbabwe to dispose of their investments.

British members of parliament have been urged to sell off their shareholdings in such companies as Standard Chartered Bank, Barclays Bank, Shell, BP, Rio Tinto and Anglo American, amongst many others. Such demands are meaningless, for the sale of the shares would in no manner whatsoever impact upon the Zimbabwean economy, or upon Zanu PF. It would only result in possible losses for those possessed of the shares, and would have no bearing upon Zimbabwe and its tragically oppressed populace.

In like manner, calls for a freeze of any further investment in Zimbabwe will not have any impact upon President Mugabe and his (few) supporters. Such a freeze will merely stultify, and worsen further, Zimbabwe’s already sadly distressed economy.

More meaningful would be suspension of Zimbabwe’s membership of the United Nations, an extension of travel bans to include a bar on travel (for Zimbabwe’s so-called leaders) to any UN member state. International actions are necessary, but economic sanctions would be misguided and counterproductive.

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