MOST readers of this column will undoubtedly be surprised at my urging of the international community, in this week’s instalment, to reconsider its stance on diverse sanctions on Zimbabwe as this appears to be in conflict with previously expressed views.
After being in force for more than a decade the sanctions have in no manner prevailed upon Zimbabwe’s government to modify any of the policies and actions justly anathema to the international community.
Instead, the political regime that governs (or is it misgoverns) Zimbabwe has applied expertise in turning the sanctions to its own advantage.
The regime has endlessly alleged the sanctions are illegal, but that contention is baseless. Any country is free to determine who may travel to and within its territory, as does Zimbabwe. This country’s immigration officers assiduously enforce the country’s entry regulations, with visitors required by the country’s laws to have entry visas required to have, and also to be compliant with other specified entry requirements.
The sanctions on Zimbabwe bar travel of 21 specified individuals (being the political hierarchy and some closely connected to them) to the countries that have imposed bans on such persons.
In alleging that the sanctions are illegal, Zimbabwe is not only misstating fact, but impliedly suggesting that it is guilty of like illegality.
Similarly, the international sanctions constrain identified Zimbabwean personalities from investing in the sanctions-imposing countries, be it by operation of accounts with banks and other financial institutions in those countries, the acquisitions of properties or of investment in businesses, and any other form of investment, be it direct or indirect.
Wherever it is identified that such investments exist, they are immediately blocked. However, every country has the right to determine who may or may not invest within its borders, and there is nothing illegal in that. In fact, Zimbabwe does likewise.
Any foreign investor must procure the consent of the Zimbabwe Investment Authority, or the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to effect any investment in Zimbabwe, and of RBZ to operate any banking or financial institution accounts.
Thus the allegation of illegality of the international sanctions, if of substance, would constitute admission of like Zimbabwean illegality, devoid of fact.
Similarly, the international sanctions include a ban on loans, gifts and such assistance by the sanctions-imposing countries to the Zimbabwean government, any of the entities controlled, managed, or otherwise directly associated with the government including all parastatals such as the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, National Railways of Zimbabwe and Air Zimbabwe.
However, it is the absolute right of any country to decide to whom it, or its residents, may give or lend monies, and hence such sanctions are in no manner illegal.
All of these factors apply equally to the few other barriers that constitute the internationally imposed sanctions, all which are in the same manner in no way illegal.
However, Zimbabwe persists in its contention of the illegality of the sanctions, and clearly does so solely in order to deceive Zimbabweans to which it is accountable in order to conjure up and maintain the support of that populace.
In particular, government often claims that the appallingly distressed state of the economy, and the consequential widespread poverty and intense hardships that afflict most Zimbabweans are wholly due to the “evil, hatred-driven, machinations of the sanctions-imposing countries against Zimbabwe and its people”.
Moreover, in promoting such falsehoods to the Zimbabwean people, the political hierarchy fuel bitter resentment against the sanctions-imposing countries and their nationals, thereby alienating and severing beneficial friendships which have, in most instances, endured for more that a century.
In particular, the existence of the sanctions enables government to refute contentions that the circumstances of the country’s distressed economy are attributable to its catastrophic mismanagement of the economy and of the nation’s fiscal resources.
Instead, in speeches by President Robert Mugabe, his cabinet ministers and many others within Zanu PF the Western world is chastised for the imposition and continuance of the “illegal” sanctions, and for the allegedly deliberate destruction of the economy.
As masters of propaganda and deception, government continues to be remarkably skillful in convincing a proportion of the population that those allegations against the international community are absolute fact and, therefore, government cannot be held responsible for the economic ills and national hardships.
So prolonged has this misrepresentation by government that by now most in government have wholly misled and convinced themselves that they are not misrepresentations but facts.
Hence they are myopic to the actual causes of Zimbabwe’s economic and other ills, and are similarly blind to the actions to be pursued if Zimbabwe’s economy is to recover.
In view of the fact that the sanctions are not yielding any of the results which were contemplated and sought by the imposing community, and are concurrently aiding and abetting the Zimbabwean government’s self-deception and that of the populace, the international community should lift the sanctions.
Doing so would remove from government its present opportunities of misleading itself and its voters, thereby forcing it to recognise and address realities. In such lifting of the sanctions it would not be necessary to remove the travel bans on specified individuals which, if the imposers so wish, could be retained without negative Zimbabwean consequences.
Thus a well-considered lifting of many of the sanctions could be of substantial medium and long-term benefit to Zimbabwe, and could facilitate more effective governance.
It is time for the international community to recognise that a policy change on sanctions would be effective.