HomeOpinionEric Bloch: No More Need for Economic Sanctions

Eric Bloch: No More Need for Economic Sanctions

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 “inclusive” 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 Zimbabwe’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 US’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,  in practice that is a façade  sanction, for the IMF’s  constitution  precludes any advances to countries in payment default, and Zimbabwe’s  debt  arrears  have been of such magnitude for many years that  the IMF  could not have provided  funding to Zimbabwe, even had the US’s legislation not been enacted.

Save for that enactment by the US,  no country had imposed economic sanctions upon Zimbabwe  until 2008, although many donor countries  discontinued or diminished developmental aid (in the main being fearful  that the funds would be abused  and diverted  from intended purposes), and numerous  private sector financial  institutions ceased to provide  lines of credit to Zimbabwe, solely  because  they perceived  Zimbabwe as an extremely  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 economy’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, international  or otherwise, which bars any country from determining  which countries should be recipients  of its aid largesse, or  which countries  may not receive  funding from  private sector  entities,  or be trading  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 “illegal sanctions”. 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 “targeted” 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 “victims” of the targeted  sanctions readily  circumvented the sanctions by travelling  to countries  not imposing such sanctions ­— and  especially to the Far East,  by recourse to nominees, trusts and other facades  to disguise whence investments  were coming, and the like,  but such circumventions did not  diminish  their resentment  for the sanctions, or their endless diatribes against  those imposing  them).

Unfortunately, the economic sanctions that were ultimately  introduced against Zimbabwe, whilst possibly an indirect contributant  to the coming into being of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), which  was the catalyst for the creation of the inclusive  government  very  greatly exacerbated  the Zimbabwean  economic decline. One must necessarily ponder whether indirectly  motivating the necessary change of government could not have been otherwise  achieved, without  intensifying economic collapse  to such an extent  that over seven million Zimbabweans are now so impoverished as to be subject to extreme, health-jeopardising, malnutrition,  with thousands  dying monthly from starvation and health-related consequences of  that malnutrition.

And this is particularly so as those which the sanctions  were intended  to oust from political  rulership  have not suffered,  and do not suffer, from the prevailing  economic  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 continue  to reside in  massive,  multi-roomed mansions, travel in fleets of modern, executive style  motor vehicles, travel widely internationally, are never without electricity, water, telecommunications or other utilities, and maintain  as luxurious a lifestyle  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 Zimbabwe’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, deprived  of access  to essential foreign  currency funding, and of requisite  infrastructural  support,  and afflicted by pronounced  hyperinflation, was  progressively  reduced to  the threshold  of near total collapse,  and unemployment soared to almost 90%  of the employable  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 other  much needed, long overdue  reforms,  including  development of a new, democratic  constitution, revitalisation of  agriculture, restoration  of harmonious international relationships,  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.  

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.


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