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New Horizon: At last, UN will witness who is imposing sanctions on Zim

By Janet Zhou

Continued from last week: New Horizon: At last, UN will witness who is imposing sanctions on Zim

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Alena Douhan, continues with her official visit to Zimbabwe and will wrap up on October 28, 2021. Zimbabweans do anticipate her report to be balanced in terms of conclusions and recommendations. It is the government’s mandate to manage public resources and funds prudently for the benefit of all Zimbabweans. Evidently maladministration and impunity have contributed to the immense suffering of the Zimbabwean people.

For example, Zimbabwe’s mining fiscal regimes are fraught with poor governance, lack of transparency, lack of capacity and human resources, weak regulatory oversight, corruption and economies of affection which have proven to be effective ingredients of illicit financial flows (IFFs) and under development.

The Minister of Home Affairs, Hon Kazembe Kazembe, established that Zimbabwe is losing US$100 million dollars each month through gold smuggling. Annually, this figure adds up to US$1,2 billion, a figure roughly equal to Zimbabwe`s total gold export earnings. Zimbabwe lost approximately US$1,5 billion in gold smuggling in 2020 against US$800 million official Fidelity exports. These could be conservative figures, but imagine what this money could do to uplift the 49% of people living in extreme poverty with no health access, proper education facilities, water and sanitation.

The Report on Cartel Power Dynamics in Zimbabwe (2020) indicated that the Zimbabwean government itself recognises that they have very weak institutional capacity for combating corruption and money-laundering.

The Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG), to which Zimbabwe is a member, has received adverse reports to this effect in Mutual Evaluation Reports (MER), the last being in 2019. This is proved by the fact that on May 9, 2021, a Tashinga Masinire was arrested after traveling from Zimbabwe and on arrival in South Africa at OR Tambo airport with 23 pieces of gold worth US$782 380,37.

This failure to curtail such IFFs and governance epidemics have propelled socio-economic quagmires and humanitarian crises. This can be evidenced by the health sector which is in a deplorable state, with poor and inadequate equipment.

Zimbabwe only has 134 functioning ambulances for 15 062 998 population as of October 10, 2021. This means that each ambulance will need to serve approximately 112 411 people making it difficult for Zimbabweans to access emergency health care on time.

As we grapple with diagnosing what the causes of our suffering are, I am reminded of this African proverb: “If you are shelling groundnuts for a blind man, you must keep whistling, so he knows you are not eating them.”

This proverb sums up the levels of transparency, accountability and honesty required when one has the stewardship for resources that belong to the citizens. In our culture, society is bound by the spirit of “ubuntu” that tells us that it cannot be well with you when the next person is not well. It cannot be normal for a few to eat while the majority suffers.

How does it become normal that the majority of the population has to tighten their belts, while a handful loosen their belts because of overindulgence on public resources?

Bad economic governance in Zimbabwe haemorrhages resources that are meant to fulfil citizens’ social and economic rights such as access to clean water, health, education, and adequate food. The economic burdens of mismanagement are then shouldered by the citizens, particularly the vulnerable.

It is the citizens who pay for the luxuries of the elite. Women become the biggest unrecognised philanthropists who provide unpaid care work involuntarily. The costs of lack of accountability are massive for Zimbabwe, and, among other things, bad governance scares away genuine investors from the country and does not reward honest enterprise.

It causes the economy to shrink and roll back social investments in education, public transport, and health, for instance. This is our biggest self-imposed sanctions that we must urgently deal with as a first step towards the revival of the economy and Zimbabwe must entrench a new policy dispensation that respects the constitution and fosters transparency, accountability and serving the people of Zimbabwe.

There are political and economic reforms that Zimbabwe has to embrace based on the spirit they drafted and adopted in the 2013 Constitution. The Sadc and AU as counterparts and the UN as a multilateral institution have a role to assist Zimbabwe rise again by ensuring that a framework of national envisioning, internal dialogue and consultations on rebuilding the nation is done in a way that builds trust and confidence. For example, the UN could play a critical role in opening discussions on possibilities of discussing a debt relief package for Zimbabwe and how that can be insulated from abuse and to directly benefit Zimbabweans.

The Special Drawing Rights (SDR) monitoring and accountability framework can be a starting point. Zimbabwe got an allocation amounting to US$961million from the IMF from the SDR facility to respond to Covid-19.

This SDR can set a good example in complementing the required reforms and not substituting the reforms.

The Special Rapporteur will have to be thorough to assess the accountability systems in place and be able to assist Zimbabwe create a conducive environment for its people, business and future generations.

For the past two decades, leadership has mainly apportioned blame on external forces while they toot their horn as messiahs who brought independence, land reform, indigenisation laws among other many achievements they highlight.

While these struggles were noble, they gave political leaders great entitlement and created patronage politics, owing nothing to the citizens; stagnating without setting a post-liberation narrative where women, youths, communities and other marginalised groups become key decision makers with the central government ensuring those decisions are implemented.

Going forward, Zimbabweans must know that to move forward there is need to introspect about what being a nation means; what independence means for all of us and re-imagination of the state and role of leadership and the citizens is important to put in the matrix.

Where leadership has been inept in its discharge of duty and mandate given by the citizens the same citizens must be able to approach institutions that are independent for redress or recall of such leadership.

More importantly where leaders fail to deliver on their obligations to citizens, they must be held accountable through robust systems and independent institutions.

Our current crisis is primarily internally authored and driven, rather than a result of external factors.

We have an opportunity to write a new script of governance and not keep playing an old movie where the many are insecure, suffer structural violence daily while a few sit in the comfort of well-manicured gardens of plenty watered by others’ suffering.

We are the people who must fix it.

None but ourselves.

  • Zhou is the executive director for the Zimbabwe Coalition On Debt and Development (ZIMCODD), a socio-economic justice movement. She writes in her own capacityThis weekly column New Horizon is published in the Zimbabwe Independent and coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past-president of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators in Zimbabwe. — kadenge.zes@gmail.com or mobile: +263 772 382 852.

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