HomeAnalysis#SanctionsMustGo: An objective economic lens

#SanctionsMustGo: An objective economic lens

By Eben Mabunda

There are divergent views as far as the economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe since the genesis of this millennium, which more often than not wear a partisan political mask in the interpretation thereof. In a sense, the term “sanctions” is then used as a political opinion to further the agenda of the wielder of the weapon in Zimbabwe’s political landscape.

On the one hand, the main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is habitually touted as an advocate of the sanctions from the West, however there is not sufficient evidence to prove the notion. Nonetheless, the party has not been vocal for the removal of the sanctions either, as if to suggest, the existence of the sanctions props its political endeavours.

On the other hand, while the Zanu PF government has been a strong advocate for the removal of the sanctions, its excessive use of arms of the state has resulted in the disproportionate use of force with endless allegations of human right abuses — all of which have militated against the state with sanctions upheld by the instigators thereof — the West.

The ancient adage “When two elephants fight the grass gets hurt” couldn’t be truer in Zimbabwe than anywhere else, as the battle between the Zanu PF and the MDC has not necessarily hurt the two “elephants” but has at the end of the day crippled the Zimbabwean economy and grossly affected the lives of the masses.

Of course there is a raging debate on the true weight of the sanctions on Zimbabwe’s economic performance. While all of Zimbabwe’s economic woes cannot be pinned on sanctions, the effects thereof are too heavy to ignore. While it is difficult to quantify the true value of the sanctions on Zimbabwe, the government estimates that the Western imposed sanctions have cost the Zimbabwean economy more than US$42 billion since the start of the millennium.

While the sanctions imposed are touted by the instigators thereof as targeted, their ramifications are far reaching across the main pillars of the Zimbabwe economy including: financial services, mining, agriculture, and manufacturing among others. Penultimately, the ripple-effects are felt by the “have-nots” as precedence globally has shown that the so-called “targeted sanctions” more often than not infringe on the untargeted masses.

The Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Zisco) in the 1990s employed about 5 500 people while indirect employment was around 50 000. Zisco played an important role as a foreign currency earner as 80% of its products were for export and in the 1990s was the largest foreign exchange earner in the manufacturing sector.

Such an industrial force has since lost its glory as thousands were left jobless with several factors attributable to the entity’s downfall. Certainly, sanctions form a part of the web as efforts to resuscitate the firm have been hampered by US sanctions imposed on the firm in 2008.

In response to a sanctions list released in an official tweet by the US Embassy in Harare in April this year, @Nelson07515854 a concerned Zimbabwean tweeted “I don’t like ZANU PF, but please America remove sanctions especially (on these) companies (as) they used to employ thousands of Zimbabweans . . . Your sanctions (are) directly affecting us as citizens.”

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Zimbabwe sanctions were initiated in the  2000s and serve to  block money transfers through the US financial system by or for blocked organisations or people.  The United States financial and travel restrictions currently apply to 83 individuals and 37 corporations of significance face varying restrictions. The EU and the United Kingdom also have in place some trade embargos which are also flaunted as targeted.

I submit that the sanctions saga must be addressed not by a partisan hat but a universal Zimbabwean hat. While the Zanu PF government must put an end to the alleged human right abuses, curb corruption and stop the excessive use of force by the security agents as recommended in the Motlanthe Commission. On the flip-side; The MDC must start to be vocal on the removal of these sanctions.

Mabunda is an analyst and TV anchor at Equity Axis, a leading financial research firm in Zimbabwe. — ebenm@equityaxis.net

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