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Deliver democracy to remove sanctions

THE coalition government has put together a team to engage the United States and the European Union to lift the sanctions imposed on the former regime of President Robert Mugabe.

The team is composed of high ranking officials from the three political parties in the inclusive government, namely Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube, Priscilla Misihairabwi–Mushonga and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.

There is nothing wrong for the coalition government to constitute a team to work on the removal of sanctions.

There is also nothing wrong for the political elite in this government to call for the lifting of sanctions so that foreign aid starts coming our way. 

But there is everything wrong with a government that does not feel compelled to first deal with the democracy deficits and human rights failings of the former regime which have led to the sanctions before coming up with a team calling for the removal of the sanctions.

The sanctions debate needs to be put into proper context. Sanctions were imposed on the political elite because of corruption, blatant human rights violations and successive stealing of elections by the former regime of President Mugabe.

The deficit in democratic governance in Zimbabwe explains why the EU, US and other Western powers slapped Zimbabwe with sanctions. So common sense tells us that if the new government has now assembled a team to call for the removal of the sanctions, it means the rule of law has now been restored and that human rights abuses have stopped and the once corrupt political elite is now more accountable.

The MDC ministers and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai are better advised that it is premature to call for the removal of sanctions because the political terrain has not yet changed in any fundamental way.

There is need for the new government to set in motion a national programme of action that restores the confidence of the international community and the world that indeed President Mugabe and his cronies still in government have reformed.

It is true that the MDC inherited depleted national coffers. There is need for an audit of the financial records of key state institutions as a way of restoring donor confidence.

There are conditionalities that have to be met before donors disburse their funds. Donors do not pour their money into a bottomless pit.

Donor funds follow closely where there are safeguards; in other words funds are disbursed where there are mechanisms for transparency and accountability.

The foreign aid that Minister Biti desperately needs is tied to reform of state institutions, including the Reserve Bank. Some countries have asked for the removal of Gideon Gono as governor of the central bank before any money is disbursed.

This is understandable given the lack of accountability and arbitrariness with which business was conducted at the central bank. There is definitely need to right these wrongs before the “anti-sanctions” ministerial team flies off to Brussels, Paris, London or Washington DC.  

The sanctions-authoring international community needs to be convinced that Mugabe, the long-time human rights violator, has changed his ways before substantial funds are availed. A host of reforms need to be undertaken on many fronts, including liberalising the media, reform of the security services and the judiciary.

Zanu PF zealots like Johannes Tomana, Tafataona Mahoso and current service chiefs have no role to play in a new Zimbabwe. They have to be lustrated as part of national healing and building bridges in a polarised society.  

The new government was sworn-in in February and it has not yet delivered anything tangible in opening up democratic space and reform of national institutions. Farm invasions continue unabated in the countryside, political activists, including Gandhi Mudzingwa, Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s former aide, are still being incarcerated on trumped up charges.

Roy Bennett, is being victimised by Zanu PF elements who do not agree with his nomination to serve in the inclusive government. Tertiary college and university students continue to have their academic freedoms trampled upon.

The sanctions will stay as long as Zanu PF thinks the MDC is a junior partner in the coalition government and that Tsvangirai is an “international public relations officer” or a “Senior Minister”.

Zanu PF wants everyone to buy the exhausted argument that the sanctions imposed on President Mugabe and his cronies that surround him are “illegal”. Who defines the legality of the sanctions, the sanctioning authority or the recipient?

The sanctions imposed on the former regime of President Mugabe are legal because they were imposed on a coterie of corrupt officials, sponsors and perpetrators of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

The US has already made its position clear in this regard. Robert Wood, the US State Department spokesperson says: “We have not yet seen sufficient evidence from the government of Zimbabwe that they are firmly and irrevocably on a path to inclusive and effective governance, and as well as respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

Wood also added that the US government “has a long way to go before easing sanctions with that (inclusive) government”. The US also said that it is concerned about the suffering of the Zimbabwean people and any aid would be directed towards alleviating this suffering.

A clear roadmap towards the removal of the sanctions would address the deficit in democratic governance, equitable power-sharing between Prime Minister Tsvangirai and President Mugabe, conclusion of all outstanding appointments of governors, ambassadors and permanent secretaries, reform of state institutions, restoration of the rule of law and respect for people’s freedoms.

There is need for the transitional government to set in motion a process for constitutional reform and fresh elections. Without these changes, I do not see donors falling over each other to assist Zimbabwe except by way of extending humanitarian aid.

*lPasirayi is the Co-ordinator of the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ). The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCDZ.

BY PHILLIP PASIRAYI

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