AHEAD of the 2023 polls, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government — after largely failing to fulfil its 2018 election promises — has found a scapegoat to justify its dismal bad governance record by way of Western sanctions.
The government has even roped in some African leaders to call for the lifting of sanctions. However, while the Zanu PF government hides behind the finger by attributing Zimbabwe’s multi-faceted crisis to the sanctions, the failings of the Mnangagwa adminstration are too numerous to ignore.
At the recently held 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) summit, African Union (AU) chairperson and Senegalese President Macky Sall led the call for the removal of the sanctions, saying this would enable Zimbabwe to realise its full potential.
South African leader Cyril Ramaphosa made similar sentiments while newly elected Kenyan President Samuel Ruto also added his voice on the need for the removal of the sanctions. Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, the current chair of the Southern African Development Community, described the sanctions on Zimbabwe as “a crime against an innocent people”.
To say the sanctions are hampering Harare from turning around the fortunes of the country would be farfetched. Zimbabwe was never banned from exporting its goods to the world. What is banned under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA)passed by the United States in 2001 is the purchase of military hardware by the Zimbabwe Defence Industries, but the Harare regime has always looked elsewhere for weapons as evidenced by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s arms deal in Indonesia early this year.
Analysts are therefore agreed that the government’s inability to create a conducive business environment and attract investors is the major reason for Zimbabwe’s prolonged crisis. ZDERA only restricts US support for multilateral financing to Zimbabwe and imposes a travel ban on those responsible for undermining democracy, human rights abuses and corruption.
In addition, the US imposed a ban on transfers of defence items and services destined for or originating in Zimbabwe, and suspended certain government assistance.
The conditions for the removal of the ZDERA are simple as they relate to implementation of democratic practices that are already provided for in the constitution as well as restoring the rule of law. In a statement on 28 January 2022, the US State Department summarised why the sanctions are still in place.
“Despite promises of reform, the Mnangagwa administration continues to use violence against peaceful protestors and civil society, as well as against labour leaders and members of the political opposition. The Zimbabwean government has made little progress in implementing the broad reforms the country needs.”
The sanctions by the United Kingdom and European Union have been scaled down to such an extent that they cannot in any significant way cause governance failures for the Zimbabwean government as conveniently claimed by officials in Harare.
Academic Ibbo Mandaza told The NewsHawks that it is not true that sanctions are to blame for the failures of the Zimbabwean government in fulfilling its 2018 election promises and solving the long-running economic instability.
He said it would also be a mockery to the people of Zimbabwe if Zanu PF tried to say so.
“While we know that sanctions can scare away investors at their mention when they exist in a certain country, in our case it is not true that they are the reason why the country is at this bad stage,” he said.
“There are several factors that come into play. Corruption is one of them. Mismanagement of the economy is another reason, including lack of skills by people who are in government in as far as growing the economy is concerned,” added Mandaza.
He also opined that Zanu PF cannot complain about sanctions, yet it is continuing to commit the same undemocratic practices that invited international censure, such as the imprisonment without trial of opposition activists and the shrinking of democratic space.
He cited the case of Zengeza West legislator Job Sikhala and the Nyatsime 14 who have been on pre-trial detention since mid-June.