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Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa looks on as he gives a media conference at the State House in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Analysis

Anti-sanctions campaign futile without key reforms

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President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime to rally Sadc leaders and governments in a campaign against Western sanctions, Zimbabwe has not embraced political and economic reforms, as well as follow the roadmap proclaimed
by the United States to ensure removal of the restrictions Sadc has since last year set 25 October as a solidarity day
against sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West – the US and European Union, which has basically removed the measures.

Last year’s march in Harare was a big flop, with poor attendance and negative comments from the majority of the people who do not believe the restrictions are the root cause of the country’s economic problems.

Most people, except some in Zanu PF and its supporters, say the economy is sinking primarily because of leadership, governance and policy failures. Macroeconomic, climatic and Covid-19 shocks have worsened the situation.

Yet Sadc countries are on Sunday set to join Zimbabwe in denouncing sanctions imposed on the country at the turn of the millennium following a chaotic and often violent fast-track land reform programme by the late former president Robert Mugabe.

The sanctions were also imposed amid a protracted crackdown on civil and political liberties, arbitrary arrests, abductions, human rights violations and killings.

South Africa has said while sanctions must be lifted, Zimbabwe needs to deal with the political and economic issues which are the root cause of the crisis.

Of late Pretoria and Harare have been on a collision course over human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. Following a vicious crackdown on political and civil society activists, detentions and abductions, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa sent a government and an ANC delegation to engage President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu PF,
respectively.

But the missions got entangled in mounting hostile rhetoric and tensions between the two countries.

Last year, the African Union and Sadc joined in the campaign against sanctions, with the then chair of the Southern African regional bloc, Tanzanian President John Mahafuli, saying sanctions had crippled Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa’s regime has been on an anti-sanctions drive, engaging in diplomatic overtures and hiring costly overseas public relations companies in a bid to revamp its battered image and reputation.

US ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols says the sanctions issue and last year’s campaign was a distraction from the root cause of the problem.

“Last year’s anti-sanctions solidarity day events; I think were very much designed to distract the people of Zimbabwe from the real causes of the problems in this country,” Nichols told The NewsHawks in an interview this week.

“This is really a hollow exercise that does not serve the greater interests of the people of Zimbabwe.”

While the Zanu PF government says sanctions are responsible for wrecking the economy, the US and EU say the measures are targeted at certain individuals in government and state entities.

Analysts say while Sadc leaders have a right to support Zimbabwe over sanctions on fraternal grounds, they should also be honest with Mnangagwa and his government over the root causes of the economic problems.

Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said Sadc has no capacity to successfully lobby the West to remove the sanctions even if they make noises.

“Sadc’s support is only on paper. It is one of the poorest and largely dormant organisations with no capacity to mount a successful campaign. You may want to ask yourself how many in Sadc believe in the anti-sanctions campaign. Only a few do,” Mandaza said, adding bad governance and corruption are largely responsible for Zimbabwe’s economic problems.

Last year’s anti-sanctions march, characterised by a low turnout, gobbled up ZW$4 million, while Zimbabwe paid more than US$4 million to public relations companies in a desperate abroad bid to lobby for the removal of sanctions.

At that time, Western embassies ran a massive social media campaign dismissing Mnangagwa’s narrative. International relations lecturer at Bindura University Ronald Chipaike said despite noise on sanctions, the intended targets were not listening.

“A lot of noise has been made through Sadc and internally, but the issue is that the people who are supposed to be listening, are not listening. They feel that the country has not implemented the governance reforms needed to necessitate the removal of sanctions,” Chipaike said.

Chipaike said without reforms, the anti-sanctions campaign would not work. He said Sadc should pressure Mnangagwa’s government to implement reforms outlined in the Zimbabwe Democracy Economic Recovery Act (Zidera).

“In Sadc, the problem is that our leaders do not tell each other the truth. It is a club of brothers who do not tell each other the truth at all. It is clear that the reforms have not gone deeper enough,” Chipaike said. “Sadc will say that we are with you, yet they know what the US and EU are demanding for sanctions to be removed.”

Zidera of 2001, as amended in 2018, demands that Zimbabwe should uphold the constitution, the rule of law, address human rights abuses, including Gukurahundi and Operation Murambatsvina, and respect civil and
political liberties, as well ensure political, economic and electoral reforms, while accounting for diamond revenues.

It says Zimbabwe must take concrete measures and tangible steps to ensure “good governance, including respect for opposition, rule of law, and human rights; and economic reforms such as respect for contracts and private property rights”.

Zimbabwe has been under the international spotlight over the past months amid renewed human rights abuses which have led to the emergence of campaigns like #ZimbabweanLivesMatter movement.

The campaign triggered intervention from neighbouring South Africa which has acknowledged that Zimbabwe is in a
crisis. Ramaphosa dispatched two delegations, which met with hostility, to assess the political and security situation in Zimbabwe after sweeping arrests, detentions and abductions.

Although the delegation led by the ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule met only Zanu PF leaders, ANC’s International Relations Committee chairperson Lindiwe Zulu ruffled authorities’ feathers irked in Harare when
she spoke forthrightly about the crisis.

“In the ANC’s view, yes, there is a political crisis in Zimbabwe, and we have to be frank and honest about it. If we are to help the situation, then we have to be frank and honest about it because we are asking the question; where is the dignity in all the Zimbabweans who are here?” Zulu said.

Government has also come under intense pressure from churches, mainly the Roman Catholic Church, over human
rights abuses, arbitrary arrests and repression.

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