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Sanctions: ‘We are our own enemies’

ON Sunday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration will ratchet pressure against the United States to lift the embargo it placed on the country in 2008, but failure to implement far-reaching political and economic reforms has further isolated the country and worsened its multifaceted crisis, characterised by an imploding economy and a poor human rights record.

Tinashe Kairiza

The sanctions, slapped on Harare by Washington in 2002, through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera), when the regime of former president Robert Mugabe rolled out land reforms that were punctuated by violence and a gross violation of property rights. Sadc has earmarked October 25 as the day to amplify the call for the lifting of sanctions on Zimbabwe.

Over the years, debate has raged on the impact of the embargo, which Harare insists has haemorrhaged its fragile economy, but the US contends that the restrictions are meant to curtail public corruption and encourage Zimbabwe to return to the democratic fold.

In a nutshell, Zidera restricts a selected few government officials, including Mnangagwa, from travelling to the US and a number of state-controlled enterprises from trading with the US.

The US argues that Zimbabwe’s economic malaise is fuelled by rampant corruption, misgovernance and a total breakdown of human rights.

Inversely, Harare, which has canvassed for solidarity from Sadc and the African Union (AU) for the US to scrap the sanctions, contends that the penalties are the cause of Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown, characterised by hyperinflation which is more than 600%, widespread job losses and company closures.

Ironically, Mnangagwa and many of his officials have admitted on various fora that Zimbabwe’s economic challenges are more of a result of corruption and not sanctions.

In 2017, Mugabe admitted that Zimbabwe could have been prejudiced a massive US$15 billion by the then mining firms extracting diamonds in the resource-rich Chiadzwa area.

In recent times, Washington has broadened its sanctions to include Kuda Tagwirei, a close ally of Mnangagwa for the manner in which he handled US$3,1 billion Command Agriculture programme through his firm, Sakunda Holdings.

Under the controversial initiative, the Auditor-General (AG) has since highlighted that millions of dollars could not be accounted for.

Faced with an economic implosion at home, Mnangagwa, like his predecessor, has chosen to bury his head in the sand by selling the rhetoric that Zimbabwe’s economic troubles were triggered by the imposition of sanctions by the US and its Western allies. Over the years, the EU also slapped sanctions on Harare, but they have been scrapped as a carrot to encourage Zimbabwe to implement far-reaching reforms.

Interestingly, when Mnangagwa assumed power in 2017 through a military coup that toppled Mugabe, he pledged to break with the past as part of a new dispensation that would end Zimbabwe’s near two decades of isolation from the international community of nations.

Among his promised reforms, Mnangagwa pledged to rein in rampant corruption, foster property rights, adhere to constitutionalism and introduce investment friendly policies through the “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” mantra.

At his inauguration in 2017, Mnangagwa, whose reform rhetoric was met with wild cheers from the generality of Zimbabweans, enjoyed goodwill from the international community which pledged to partner Zimbabwe in its quest to mend its battered economy.

But, the systematic killings of six civilians by state security agents in the aftermath of the August 2018 elections which Mnangagwa won by a wafer-thin 50,6% margin, courted the ire of the international community. The slain civilians, who are yet to be compensated, were among protesters who were demanding for the immediate announcement of the disputed election results. Some of the casualties were coming from work and were caught up in the brutal shootout by soldiers. Mnangagwa marginally won the elections against MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa.

Two years on, Mnangagwa’s administration is yet to implement reforms recommended by the Kgalema Motlanthe Commission which was set up to probe circumstances surrounding the deadly shootings, which also damaged property worth millions of dollars.

A year after the disputed poll, state security agents also shot down 16 civilians during widespread protests after government had increased fuel by 150%. A number of women were reported to have been raped as state security agents battled to contain the riots.

During his first term in power, Mnangagwa has also been heavily criticised for his heavy-handed approach when dealing with dissent. He is also blamed for orchestrating abductions and unbridled public corruption.

In his three years at the helm, Mnangagwa’s tenure has been blighted by the alleged abductions which include that Peter Magombeyi, Tawanda Muchehiwa and MDC Alliance activists namely Johanna Mamombe and Cecilia Chimbiri. Even comedian Samantha Kureya popularly known as Gonyeti has not been spared.

Recently, award winning journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested for his role in exposing the plunder of millions of dollars meant to fight the global pandemic Covid-19 in what has now become known as the Draxgate scandal.

Similarly, Jacob Ngarivhume, leader of Transform Zimbabwe and MDC Alliance legislator Job Sikhala were arrested on charges of inciting public violence for their role in supporting the July 31 protests.

Economist Tawanda Purazeni contends that Zimbabwe was shooting itself in the foot, while ignoring calls to implement the much needed political and economic reforms that can extricate the country from its multifaceted crisis.

“We are our own enemies. We have abundant resources that if we utilise, we would not be in this economic mess. Rhodesia was under sanctions but it prospered under the circumstances.

Public corruption and misgovernance are deeply embedded in our society. Funds which are meant for public use are converted by government officials and the politically connected for personal use,” Purazeni said. “The so-called sanctions that were imposed are meant to encourage Zimbabwe to implement sweeping reforms which are the missing link to address the country’s multi-dimensional crisis.”

Political analyst Tawanda Zinyama admits that the US imposed sanctions have militated against growth, but contends further that corruption and misgovernance are the twin evils worsening Zimbabwe’s economic crisis.

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