Erich Bloch: Sanctions Hurtful To General Public

NONE can credibly condemn the imposition of sanctions targetted against those who resort to evil, dictatorial domination of others.

 

None can plausibly argue against sanctions which are designed to impact upon those devoid of respect for human and property rights, those who perpetrate or condone genocidal actions, those who abuse positions of power to pursue self-advantage in blatant disregard for the well-being of those they are intended to serve.

None can persuasively contend that those who have blatant contempt for the fundamental precepts of justice, and of law and order, should not be subjected to appropriately punitive sanctions. None can rationally challenge the withholding of rights, and the imposition of restrictions by the international community, upon those who see fit to disregard norms of international relationships and to abuse fundamental principles of interaction between the independent states that comprise that international community.

Thus, the actions by many countries of barring travel to their countries by Zimbabwean politicians who have seen fit to ignore, contemptuously, human and property rights, justice, law and order, the principles of good governance and of genuine democracy, and resort to naught but endless vituperative, vitriolic outpourings against those that do not meekly accept those politicians’ belief in an omnipotent right to entrench themselves in near perpetuity, to exercise excessive power over the peoples that they dominate, cannot reasonably be contested.

There are no sound arguments to support claims that such travel bans are unjust and “illegal”. In like manner, it cannot be rationally claimed that it is unjust and unlawful for any countries to impose against such politicians other sanctions, such as barriers upon conduct of economic transactions in those countries, the operation of banking accounts, acquisition of properties and other assets, and the like.

However, as justifiable as such targetted sanctions are, sanctions which afflict the innocent are not only unjustified, but also are often inhumane and an intensification of the hardships and suffering of the innocent, being the very people that the sanctions seek to protect.

The first of such inequitable sanctions was limited in extent, being a bar upon the children of the rightfully targetted from pursuing their education in the countries wielding such targetted sanctions. In most, if not all, instances of such children, the affected children were blameless, their sole connection with perpetration of deeds justifying sanctions being the accident of birth as descendents of such perpetrators.

And yet, their future, their lives, were unhesitatingly placed in jeopardy, without consideration, and with blatant disregard for the longstanding international justice principle of innocent until proven guilty.

In like manner, some Zimbabweans were subjected to targetted sanctions solely on the strength of their direct or indirect association with the deservedly sanctioned, disregarding that some of those so associated were innocent of the evil machinations of their associates, and often sought vigorously to dissuade those associates from continuing their unjust oppression of others, their unlawful retentions and abuse of power, and their other diabolical misdeeds. Subjecting them to such targetted sanctions was as unjust as were the acts of those deservedly sanctioned.

Save for the targetted sanctions, Zimbabwe as a whole was not subjected to international sanctions until recently, even though its government continuously alleged to the contrary. The only sanctions which applied to all Zimbabwe, and not only to those deserving to be sanctioned, were applied by USA, to the extent of its Zimbabwe Democracy Act which, amongst other provisions, prescribed a veto of any International Monetary Fund support for Zimbabwe, and of its Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, Zimbabwe being precluded from access to the favoured nation trade benefits of that act.

But that is now rapidly changing. Suddenly many of the countries of the European Union (EU), and some Commonwealth countries, and US, are resorting to broadbased economic sanctions.

Bank accounts are being frozen, businesses are discontinuing the supply to, and purchase of goods from, Zimbabwe, international financial institutions are imposing barriers to transfers of funds to and from Zimbabwe, including withdrawal of letter of credit, travellers’ cheques, and other facilities and financial instruments, and businesses are being pressed to disinvest from Zimbabwe.

The tragedy is that these sanctions are not harmful to Zimbabwe’s rulers. These sanctions do not impact significantly upon the political hierarchy who brazenly tyrannise the Zimbabwean people, in pursuit of their craving for retention of power and, in some instances, of continuance of self-enrichment.

They have sufficient friends in those countries (usually also dictorships) as align themselves with them, reinforced in certain cases by accumulated resources externally of Zimbabwe, and deviously well-concealed, to circumvent the impact of sanctions upon themselves.

And, in the rare instances where they are in need of foreign currency beyond their own massively acquired wealth, they ensure that what little foreign currency as Zimbabwe still generates is prioritised towards them, instead of towards meeting essential economic needs.

Instead, those who suffer the consequences of the sanctions are the very people that the international community wishes to help, being the general population. The sanctions imposed have lessened the availability of foreign currency essential for importation of basic commodities, of fuel, electricity, medication and other healthcare requisites.

As a result, the population suffers the direct consequences of immense scarcities, which is a major fuellant of inflation (now exceeding 1 200 per month, and rising). Moreover, the lack of foreign currency is the major driver of exchange rates within the black market, further intensifying inflation.

Concurrently, the sanctions are directly and indirectly a further massive burden upon the survival of businesses and, as a result, unemployment is intensifying daily.

By now, almost 90% of Zimbabwe’s employable population is without formal sector gainful employment, and over 80% of the population is struggling to survive on incomes vastly below the poverty datum line.

The majority of the population is undernourished and suffering pronounced malnutrition, thousands are dying due to that malnutrition, compounded by an inability to access healthcare, and tens of thousands, if not more, are homeless. NGOs and humanitarian aid agency food and healthcare distribution programmes are hindered by their inability to access their own foreign exchange, which sits in frozen international bank accounts.

The sanctions are counter-productive in the extreme. They do not hurt the political hierarchy which justly is the target of international condemnation and ire. They hurt only the innocent populace, while giving that political hierarchy a fictitious explanation for Zimbabwe’s ailing state, thereby deflecting recognition of their own culpability. The world needs to find a more constructive way of achieving a just Zimbabwean governance transformation.