HomeCommentEditor's Memo: Sanctions an indictment of unity government

MuckRaker: Someone else started apostolic ‘meddling’

THE US president, Barack Obama, this week extended sanctions on Zimbabwe for another year saying the political crisis in the country remained unresolved because certain members of the government
were undermining democratic processes and institutions.

Obama’s executive order came barely a fortnight after the European Union also extended sanctions despite growing calls for the lifting of the embargoes internally and by Sadc and the African Union.

The US sanctions came as South African President Jacob Zuma, the facilitator of talks between Zimbabwe’s political parties in the inclusive government, is in London lobbying No 10 Downing Street to lift sanctions arguing that travel bans and asset freezes imposed by the EU and the US on Mugabe and members of his inner circle served only to divide the already fragile power-sharing government.

“Our view is that the unity government should be supported so that it can get out of the difficulties that face Zimbabwe,” Zuma told journalists in London on Wednesday. “We plead with the countries that have applied sanctions to lift (them). That would give Zimbabwe the opportunity to move forward.”

Zuma’s argument is that Zimbabwe cannot resolve its economic crisis when its unity government is subject to two “different sets of rules”.

“It’s going to be difficult (for the government) to get on with other matters if there are sanctions, because sanctions are one-sided,” he said. “We have a government that’s not treated equally by sanctions. Those who cannot travel freely feel that they are constrained.”

Indeed the sanctions — whether targeted or full blown — have harmed and slowed Zimbabwe’s re-emergence from the economic vegetative state it has been in for the past decade.

The continued imposition of the sanctions is a serious indictment on how our government conducts its business and how it treats its citizens. The parties in the inclusive government — Zanu and the two MDC formations — are failing to fully consummate the global political agreement (GPA) they inked in September 2008 whose provisions, if implemented, could have addressed the concerns of the international community.

It is common cause that despite an unambiguous outline in the GPA on reforms to be undertaken, the inclusive government has done little regarding institutional reforms, democratising the media space, upholding the rule of law and national healing.

Ostensibly President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai are to blame for the continued imposition of embargoes on our country. After all, their failure to remove the obstacles to democratic governance contributed to the renewal of the sanctions.

But there can be no doubt as to the real culprits in this saga. Zanu PF, through their usual bravado and brute force against the people and failure to respect human rights have brought this problem on themselves. They had every opportunity to observe the GPA template and instead treated it and their MDC partners with contempt.

Now that there is an admission across the political divide that sanctions are harming progress to economic and social development, the challenge for Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara is to come up with a common position on how to deal with resolving the sanctions issue.

The inclusive government should come up with a strategy on how to extricate the country from the sanctions noose and adhere to what they agreed on in the GPA.

In article IV of the GPA, the political parties agreed to endorse the Sadc resolution that all forms of measures and sanctions against the country be lifted to facilitate a sustainable solution to the challenges facing the nation and they committed themselves to working together in re-engaging the international community with a view to bringing an end to international isolation.

It is clear from the GPA that the partners in the unity government agreed that there were sanctions and committed to work in unison for their removal. One wonders why the parties have not been speaking with one voice on the subject.

Zanu PF and Mutambara’s MDC’s positions on the matter have been clear — the embargoes must go. Tsvangirai and his party seem not to have a clear-cut stance on the matter.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos recently, the premier called for a calibrated removal of sanctions and on Monday he reportedly said they must be unconditionally lifted, although his spokesmen now say he was misquoted. Addressing the MDC MPs’ caucus on Wednesday, Tsvangirai reportedly told the legislators that he had not called for the wholesale removal of sanctions, but failed to state the party’s position. Tsvangirai’s flip-flopping on this important matter is worrying.

Last year Tsvangirai’s office said it had been mandated by cabinet to work on a position paper on the sanctions, but that initiative seems to have been stillborn given utterances made by various government ministers and officials on the matter. The utterances exhibit a government in confusion and this should end.

The inclusive government needs to speak with one voice and act in unison. At the same time, the government should ensure real reforms to attain full democracy are undertaken.

The re-emergence of political violence, the reported reestablishment of torture bases throughout the country by Zanu PF and human rights violations should not be tolerated because it is these evil machinations that led to the imposition of sanctions in the first place.

Constantine Chimakure

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