Eric Bloch: Continuing Sanctions Deception

FOR years the Zimbabwean government has striven to deny any culpability for the country’s economic morass.

That its policies, and its maladministration have been the pronounced cause of the continuous decline of the economy, and of the ongoing erosion of formerly strong economic foundations, is indisputable. One action after another by government has contributed to, and progressively escalated, the collapse of almost all facets of agriculture, mining, tourism, commerce and industry.

Whilst not the sole causes of that collapse attributable to government, the disastrously negative and adverse policies and actions being numerous, some of the principal governmental triggers of the economic decimation include:

lIn 1997, agreeing to “compensation” for war veterans (real and pseudo) which, irrespective of whether deserved or not, was far beyond national means, and which triggered the massive depreciation of the Zimbabwean dollar, which in turn triggered intensive inflation, and was a major investment deterrent;

lEmbarking upon very necessary land reform, but in the most ill conceived, grossly mismanaged and confrontationally implemented manner, thereby bringing agriculture to near total disintegration — a contrast to it previously being the primary foundation of the economy;

lEndless spending beyond government’s means, resulting in huge deficits, continual recourse to unsustainably great borrowing, and recurrent default in debt servicing;

lTotal failure to contain corruption, inclusive of that perpetrated by some close to the political hierarchy;

lContinuously intensifying regulation and command of the economy to an untenable extent (until January 29 this year when, belatedly and insufficiently, some deregulation was initiated);

lRepeated vilification and alienation of the international community, with consequential decrease of aid, balance of payments support, lines of credit, and investment;

lInvestment-discouraging legislation, including a very poorly conceived Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act which is potentially ineffective in attaining its objectives, and recurrent failure to honour obligations under Bilateral Investment Protection Agreements;

lImmensely oppressive, and regionally incompatible, taxation;

lForced imposition upon the Reserve Bank of quasi-fiscal operations.

These are but a few of the many governmental economic misdeeds of the past 12 years or so.

However, imbued with belief in its own omnipotence and infallibility, the Zanu PF government in general, and the president and his ministers in particular, have been obdurately incapable of acknowledging that government was the primary creator of the near demise of the economy.

Instead, to a limited extent, it attributed the negative economic circumstances to adverse climatic conditions but, in the main, it has recurrently claimed that those circumstances were the consequence of deliberately malevolent machinations of much of the international community, especially the United Kingdom (allegedly desirous of recolonisation of Zimbabwe, which is so specious as to be distressingly ludicrous).

According to government, strongly supported by its rigidly controlled media, for years Zimbabwe’s economic ills are a consequence of malicious “illegal” international sanctions.

Not only were there no economic sanctions whatsoever, other than the USA’s Zimbabwe Democracy and Recovery Act barring IMF and World Bank funding to Zimbabwe (which in any event could not be procured for so long as Zimbabwe was in repayment default on previous funding) until 2008, but had there been they would not have been illegal, for any country can determine whom it will trade with, and which countries should be recipients of support.

Prior to last year, the only sanctions that existed, other than the limited ones of the USA, were not economic but targeted against specific individuals within, or supportive of, the government.

Understandably, and justifiably, the new inclusive government is calling for the lifting of economic sanctions that now do exist.

Those sanctions should be lifted, for they are distressingly punitive upon the innocent populace, whilst of little consequence to the primary Zimbabwean offenders of the precepts of respect for human and property rights, just and adhered to law and order, and democracy.

However, that does not mean that sanctions should not continue to be applied against those who are continuing to disregard those precepts.

In the meanwhile, whilst it is warranted for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai and some others in the inclusive government to urge the discontinuance of the economic sanctions that now exist, much of government continues to mislead as to the extent of such sanctions, and are strongly supported by the media.

Thus, bold headlines that appeared last week claimed a renewal of extensive economic sanctions of the USA and UK. The reality is very different.

In a statement issued by the White House on March 4, President Barack Obama said:
“On March 6, 2003, by Executive Order 13288, the President declared a national emergency and blocked the property of persons undermining democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe, pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 USC 1701-1706).  He took this action to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions.  

“These actions have contributed to the deliberate breakdown in the rule of law in Zimbabwe, to politically motivated violence and intimidation, and to political and economic instability in the southern African region.
“On November 22, 2005, the president issued Executive Order 13391 to take additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13288 by ordering the blocking of the property of additional persons undermining democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe.

“On July 25, 2008, the president issued Executive Order 13469, which expanded the scope of the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13288 and ordered the blocking of the property of additional persons undermining democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe.

“Because the actions and policies of these persons continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States, the national emergency declared on March 6, 2003, and the measures adopted on that date, on November 22, 2005, and on July 25, 2008, to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond March 6, 2009.

“Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 USC 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to the actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions.”

Thus, the constraint upon funding by the Bretton Woods institutions, and the targeted sanctions upon selected individuals continue, but no other economic sanctions are pursued by the USA.

Similarly, Britain’s Minister for Africa, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown emphasised that Britain applies no economic sanctions against Zimbabwe, albeit that it is not willing to “bankroll Zimbabwe’s economic recovery” until there are some significant, positive changes in Zimbabwe, albeit that it does apply targeted sanctions against certain Zimbabwean persons from within, or connected to, Zanu PF.

Notwithstanding, for the sake of the well-being of a desperately suffering, innocent population, the European Union and those others who have applied economic sanctions since 2008 should support that population, and the inclusive government, by lifting all but the targeted sanctions, despite the continuing deception on sanctions pursued by some in the political environment. Doing so would be genuine humanitarianism!  

BY ERIC BLOCH

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