Comment: Prayer Won’t get Sanctions Lifted

OF late there has been a growing clamour from Zanu PF for the removal of limited sanctions imposed by Western countries starting 2002 for a whole range of reasons, including the breakdown of the rule of law, human rights abuses, politically-motivated killings, general repression and dispute over the chaotic land reform programme.

Of course, Zanu PF dishonestly thinks sanctions were just over its violent and unstructured land redistribution. The party does not seem to realise that the political violence and concomitant murders which it licensed by acts of commission or omission were serious violations of human rights that warranted reaction and counter-measures.

The choreographed campaign on sanctions reached a crescendo just before last week’s Sadc summit in Kinshasa when President Robert Mugabe and his cronies were lobbying the regional grouping to put in its communiqué a renewed call for the lifting of the restrictive measures.

Asked what the government was doing to get the sanctions lifted, President Robert Mugabe this week said the only thing they could do was to ‘plead for sanctions to go”. “Ours is a mere prayer. We cannot do more than that,” Mugabe said. By contrast, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who refers to the limited sanctions as restrictive measures, said government should first or simultaneously address those issues which led to Western backlash.

“The other side of restrictive measures is the rule of law. The rule of law on one side and restrictive measures on the other side. So we have agreed in Cabinet that we need to have a strategic discussion on this debate. Why only talk about restrictive measures? Talk about the rule of law, the violence against the people, good governance practices,” Tsvangirai said.

“Talk about real change to the people’s lives. I have initiated dialogue with those countries with a view to assist my partners in government affected by the measures and we can see progress. Australia has announced that they are re-engaging us. The EU dialogue is on track and a high level delegation was here just last week. The United States Congressional team was in the country recently and both the EU delegation and US congressional team met with President Mugabe as well, something unimaginable just a few months ago.”

Tsvangirai said he said her was working to end Zimbabwe’s international isolation. “In fact when we have these engagements, part of the agenda is the issue of restrictive measures. But Zanu PF people have to play their part as well. We won’t have any restrictive measures to talk of if we restore the rule of law and implement the GPA.”

There in lies the problem. Mugabe thinks all Zanu PF needs to do to get the sanctions lifted is to “appeal” and “pray”. Tsvangirai understands that praying is not enough. There has got to be far-reaching reforms and a change of political culture for the restrictions to go.

Zanu PF needs to stop lying about the situation, especially claiming that the economy was destroyed by sanctions. The financial restrictions made a bad situation worse. The economy was already on freefall when these measures were imposed.

The facts speak for themselves. Zimbabwe’s current economic crisis (note: there were fundamental problems of a structural nature before) began in 1997, with the dramatic collapse of the Zimbabwean dollar after the government made huge unbudgeted payouts to war veterans. This was worsened by the DRC war in which Zimbabwe intervened from 1998 to 2002.

The political conflict attendant upon the constitutional reform process between 1999-2000 and the establishment of the MDC in 1999 also worsened the situation.

This was aggravated by the land invasions which started in 2000 and persist up to this day. There were also company invasions and seizures. Underlying all this was Mugabe’s disastrous policy failures. The breakdown of the rule of law put the final nail in the economy’s coffin.

There is no straight line on such debates but in brief this should establish the context and genesis of the current economic crisis.

By the time the EU imposed “targeted sanctions” in 2002 over the dispute over presidential election observers and the US followed suit, the crisis was already very serious and uncontainable. Zanu PF must stick to the facts and avoid propaganda and falsehoods.

The MDC, which the EU correctly says has no power over the matter beyond moral persuasion, also needs to stop being dishonest about these limited measures.

There are limited sanctions, including financial restrictions, travel bans and arms embargo by the EU and the US.

This must be acknowledged. It’s true that Tsvangirai and Finance Minister Tendai Biti have in a way done, but there are some MDC apparatchiks and hirelings still in denial. This doesn’t help anything.

We need honest debate and not deceitful arguments to move forward. To get the sanctions removed, government must address the causes of the issue. It must stop repression.

It must restore the rule of law, end human rights abuses, cease political harassment and persecution, sort out the messy land reform programme and institute political reforms. Praying won’t get the sanctions lifted.

Top