He unreservedly showed that he did not concur with the endless attribution by President Robert Mugabe and his political echelons of “illegal sanctions” as the cause of Zimbabwe’s intense economic ills and woes. He stated categorically, and very correctly, that it is the “politics, not sanctions, sinking Zimbabwe”, and that it was the “political crisis of the last 10 years “which wrought ravages to the Zimbabwean economy”.
From the mid-1980s onwards, with a few brief positive interludes, the Zimbabwean economy has contracted and become more and more decimated. The shining prospects so bright and pronounced upon Zimbabwe attaining its independence in 1980 were progressively eroded and dissipated from 1985 onwards, save for a limited extent during the years 1994 to 1997. As Zimbabwe increasingly failed to realise its very immense economic potential, and as the exchequer became more and more bankrupt, the early 1980s’ advances in education and health services were reversed. The pre-GNU government strove evermore vigorously to deny culpability for the intensifying ills seeking for scapegoats to whom it could attribute them.
First and foremost, for over two decades, the government strenuously asserted that the economic ills confronting Zimbabwe were a result of the Machiavellian stratagems of the former colonial powers to recolonise Zimbabwe. The plan, they said, was to denude Zimbabwe of its resources and, to all intents and purposes, to enslave Zimbabweans. Occasionally they varied their theme song, by also ascribing the ills to negative climatic circumstances and other “acts of God”. On rare occasions, the latter contention had some limited credibility, whilst the primary claims of recolonisation intents were blatantly devoid of any substance.
As the Zimbabwean populace progressively recognised that not only were the stated causes of Zimbabwean ills wholly without foundation, but also that the actuality was a combination of intense economic mismanagement and of even more intense profligacy and actions of self-enrichment and engrandisement. So the politicians had to find other explanations for the ills. They needed desperately to prevent the electorate from recognising the real causes, which would endanger their retention of power.
Although with the best of intents and motivations, many of the international community then played straight into the hands of the Zimbabwean politicians. Having previously imposed selective sanctions upon named Zimbabwean political leaders, and their families, in 2002 they extended the sanctions. Initially, the sanctions precluded those leaders and their families from travel to the imposing countries, and from investing therein, but in no manner were those sanctions directed at the economy, or at the populace as a whole. However, the extension of the sanctions created barriers upon any economic interactions with the Zimbabwean government, its parastatals and other entities owned or controlled by government. Foremost amongst the instruments of sanctions imposition was the Zimbabwean Democracy Act of the United States of America, and very similar measures were pursued by the European Union and various of the member states of the Commonwealth.
But none of the increased sanctions were targeted at the Zimbabwean economy per se. Zimbabwean private sector enterprise was not barred from exporting to the US, to Europe, or elsewhere and similarly remained enabled to source any goods or services they required from those countries. Admittedly, the US legislation prescribed that country from supporting funding to Zimbabwe by the Bretton Woods’ institutions (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank), but this was only notional in effect, as Zimbabwe’s debt servicing defaults in any event barred it from accessing such funding. Furthermore, government and its puppet media vehicles endlessly alleged (as they still do) that the sanctions were “illegal”. That allegation is spurious and specious in the extreme, devoid of any credibility, for none of the countries were in breach of their own laws, or of international law, by constricting economic interactions with the government and its underlying entities.
It is the absolute right of any country to determine which countries it will interact economically with, and the nature and extent of such interactions. Therefore, the never-ending description of the sanctions as being illegal is only a political stratagem to mislead the Zimbabwean people. As stated courageously and authoritatively by former President Joaquim Chissano, the reality of Zimbabwe’s tragic economic circumstances has been, and is, nothing but politics. No country that pretends to be a democracy, but in practice is driven by non-democratic, authoritarian rule, can have a viable economy. A country that has contemptuous disregard for property and human rights, rule of law and for Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements cannot have a virile economy. Endless, oppressive economic regulation rings the death-knell for an economy. Pronounced governmental profligacy, far beyond national means, not only does not provide a foundation for economic development and growth, but guarantees an economy’s decline and collapse.
All of these, and many other, negative political actions and inactions have been the cause of the cataclysmic contraction of the Zimbabwean economy. They fuelled the greatest hyperinflation ever experienced anywhere in the world. They destroyed much of Zimbabwean agricultural productivity, which was the foundation of the economy. They grievously eroded business confidence, which is a prerequisite for economic growth. They deterred much-needed foreign and domestic investment, essential for the creation of employment, the generation of foreign exchange, the access to state-of-the-art technologies, enhancement of inflows to the Fiscus, and much else. They undermined confidence and trust in the banking system and in the financial sector as a whole. The Zimbabwean economy has overwhelming potential, and great opportunity for the populace, but only when politicians put the country and its people ahead of their own interests, when they govern the country consistently with internationally accepted norms, when they govern according to national needs, instead of their own, and when the politicians have the courage to recognise and acknowledge facts, instead of allowing megalomania and paranoia to drive them and to ascribe all ills to the actions and deeds of others.