STRONGLY supported by Sadc, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Minister of Finance Tendai Biti, Minister of Economic Planning and Development, Elton Mangoma and diverse others of the â€œinclusiveâ€ government have appealed to the international community to discontinue their economic sanctions imposed upon Zimbabwe.
Those appeals are founded upon a well-considered recognition that the desperately needed economic recovery is severely hindered by the economic sanctions.
Admittedly, there are various myths which the pre-inclusive government political hierarchy repeatedly disseminated about international economic sanctions.
The first of such myths was that such sanctions were imposed years ago, as malicious acts of resentful former colonists who wished to recolonise Zimbabwe and were resorting to imposition of sanctions in order to demolish the economy and thereby facilitate recolonisation, and as acts of revenge for Zimbabweâ€™s pursuit of its land reform programme. In reality, with one solitary exception, no economic sanctions were imposed on Zimbabwe until early 2008.
That exception was the USâ€™s promulgation of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recory Act, which includes that until full democracy is restored in Zimbabwe, the US representative to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) must veto any provision of funding to Zimbabwe. However,Â in practice that is a faÃ§adeÂ sanction, for the IMFâ€™sÂ constitutionÂ precludes any advances to countries in payment default, and Zimbabweâ€™sÂ debtÂ arrearsÂ have been of such magnitude for many years thatÂ the IMFÂ could not have providedÂ funding to Zimbabwe, even had the USâ€™s legislation not been enacted.
Save for that enactment by the US,Â no country had imposed economic sanctions upon ZimbabweÂ until 2008, although many donor countriesÂ discontinued or diminished developmental aid (in the main being fearfulÂ that the funds would be abusedÂ and divertedÂ from intended purposes), and numerousÂ private sector financialÂ institutions ceased to provideÂ lines of credit to Zimbabwe, solelyÂ becauseÂ they perceivedÂ Zimbabwe as an extremelyÂ high risk borrower, from whom repayments were improbable. However, it was convenient for the then government to allege the existence of sanctions, and to attribute the economyâ€™s progressive demise to those mythical sanctions, thereby avoiding admission of own culpability for that demise.
A second myth, recurrently promoted by the pre-inclusive government, was that the sanctions were illegal. The fact that such (non-existent, until 2008) sanctions had not been determined by the United Nations did not render them illegal. There is no law, internationalÂ or otherwise, which bars any country from determiningÂ which countries should be recipientsÂ of its aid largesse, orÂ which countriesÂ may not receiveÂ funding fromÂ private sectorÂ entities,Â or be tradingÂ partners. Any country has the sovereignty to decide whether it should, or should not, transact with any particular other country. But this did not deter the Zanu PF government from recurrently contending the existence of â€œillegal sanctionsâ€. And these two myths were only some of the many propagated by the previous government, and still contended by the leadership of Zanu PF and their sycophants.
However, in 2008 the European Union, diverse Commonwealth countries, and others did impose economic sanctions, supporting the â€œtargetedâ€ sanctions that they had previously applied against the key members of the Zanu PF government, and others closely connected to them.
The targeted sanctions precluded those subjected to them from travelling to the imposing countries, and in numerous instances barred the children of such named persons from education in those countries. (Of course, the â€œvictimsâ€ of the targetedÂ sanctions readilyÂ circumvented the sanctions by travellingÂ to countriesÂ not imposing such sanctions Ââ€” andÂ especially to the Far East,Â by recourse to nominees, trusts and other facadesÂ to disguise whence investmentsÂ were coming, and the like,Â but such circumventions did notÂ diminishÂ their resentmentÂ for the sanctions, or their endless diatribes againstÂ those imposingÂ them).
Unfortunately, the economic sanctions that were ultimatelyÂ introduced against Zimbabwe, whilst possibly an indirect contributantÂ to the coming into being of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), whichÂ was the catalyst for the creation of the inclusiveÂ governmentÂ veryÂ greatly exacerbatedÂ the ZimbabweanÂ economic decline. One must necessarily ponder whether indirectlyÂ motivating the necessary change of government could not have been otherwiseÂ achieved, withoutÂ intensifying economic collapseÂ to such an extentÂ that over seven million Zimbabweans are now so impoverished as to be subject to extreme, health-jeopardising, malnutrition,Â with thousandsÂ dying monthly from starvation and health-related consequences ofÂ that malnutrition.
And this is particularly so as those which the sanctionsÂ were intendedÂ to oust from politicalÂ rulershipÂ have not suffered,Â and do not suffer, from the prevailingÂ economicÂ morass. With rare exception, they have accumulated such wealth within, and in some cases outside, Zimbabwe that they have in no manner had any deterioration in lifestyle.
They continueÂ to reside inÂ massive,Â multi-roomed mansions, travel in fleets of modern, executive styleÂ motor vehicles, travel widely internationally, are never without electricity, water, telecommunications or other utilities, and maintainÂ as luxurious a lifestyleÂ as previously. This they do, whilst the majority of the population are experiencing extreme suffering, are greatly in want, and very many are homeless.
Concurrently, the entirety of Zimbabweâ€™s infrastructure has been collapsing, be it the healthcare resources, education, energy generation, water purification and distribution, roads, or anything else.
Commerce and industry, mining, tourism and all other economic sectors, deprivedÂ of accessÂ to essential foreignÂ currency funding, and of requisiteÂ infrastructuralÂ support,Â and afflicted by pronouncedÂ hyperinflation, wasÂ progressivelyÂ reduced toÂ the thresholdÂ of near total collapse,Â and unemployment soared to almost 90%Â of the employableÂ population.
Whilst all these tragic developments were not wholly caused by international policies and actions, nevertheless the sanctions have been a significant contributant to the intensified contraction and demolition of the economy.
Since the inclusive government came into being, it has been vigorously focused upon bring about the critically necessary economic recovery. Almost immediately after its formation, it launched a Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme (Sterp), and it is now engaged in formulating a medium and long-term programme for economic recovery and development.
Concurrently, it is pursuing otherÂ much needed, long overdueÂ reforms,Â includingÂ development of a new, democraticÂ constitution, revitalisation ofÂ agriculture, restorationÂ of harmonious international relationships,Â and much else.
As with any government, it is not doing everything right, and it is also still in a learning curve, but it is striving to achieve a Zimbabwean metamorphosis. However, economic recovery is a prerequisite for almost all it has to do, and the continuance of international economic sanctions is a gargantuan constraint on it attaining that which is so desperately needed.
If the international community wishes the inclusive government to succeed, if that community wishes to see progressive decline in the horrendous poverty and suffering of most Zimbabweans, if it really cares, it must now speedily bring economic sanctions to an end. Â
The prejudice and harm of those sanctions to the population of Zimbabwe far outweighs any political influences they may have.
The international community must now put humanitarian needs ahead of political tactics.
BY ERIC BLOCH