Zim sanctions mantra divides public opinion


guest column :Tendai Ruben Mbofana

FOR me, the issue of targeted sanctions imposed by the US and her Western allies goes beyond mere allegations, unsubstantiated claims, and circumstantial evidence.

This, however, has been the main argument of the Zimbabwean government, ever since their imposition at the dawn of the millennium, as the administration frantically attempted to connect them to the economic crisis the country had been facing since the late 1990s.

I may have come across a number of stories alleging how these targeted sanctions — largely travel restrictions, as well as financial and asset, on 142 top officials and entities accused of involvement in State-sponsored violence and gross human rights abuses mainly against opponents of the government and ruling party, and electoral fraud, coupled with a ban on any transfer of defence items and services — were affecting our business community and the economy, but as far as I am concerned, none of them stood out in my mind as being incontrovertible — as they dismally failed in proving a direct link between the restrictive measures and our business community and economy. I need more than such reports.

I need more than mere quotes of the former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Chester Crocker apparently saying that the imposition of these targeted sanctions was meant to cripple the economy, thereby, alienating the suffering people of Zimbabwe from their leaders, and hopefully leading to chaos, and subsequently, an illegal regime change.

I need real proof, and that is precisely the information that I have been searching for and requesting, for the past several years — with minimal success, as no one has been forthcoming…from the government itself, academics, the business community, to ordinary citizens.

Circumstantial evidence — no matter how strong — does not work with me, although it is a very good starting point for deeper investigation.

Solely attributing the country’s failure in accessing international balance of payments financial support — which, institutions such as the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, have repeatedly stated was due to the government’s unwillingness to service its already ballooning debt, that is reportedly in the billions of United States dollars — and, the lack of significant foreign direct investment in the country, or making allegations of local exporting companies’ inability to access Western markets, does not hold any water.

How then does the Zimbabwe regime account for recent investment by the United States’s John Deer company, which is now seriously involved in the country’s agricultural sector — in addition to several other businesses that have opened shop?

Seriously, would John Deer set itself up in, say, Iran — a country that has endured real economic sanctions (reportedly the worst ever imposed on any country in the history of the world) — yet, has maintained a relatively strong economy, which is one of the biggest in the Middle East and North Africa (NEMA) region, and doing well globally?

Thus, as long as I don’t get anything that is substantive, then there will never be any change in the way I view this sanctions debate.

Let us not forget that Zimbabwe, as the one accusing Western powers of harming the country through these targeted sanctions, has the burden of proof beyond any reasonable doubt — since this renders the former plaintiff, and the latter defendant.

Let me give an example. Mr A was recorded planning to poison and kill Mr B at an upcoming party, then he was caught on camera actually putting something in Mr B’s drink during the party, resulting in Mr B having severe stomach pains, and subsequently dying a few hours later. The recording and video of Mr A can never be taken as irrefutable evidence which proves beyond any reasonable doubt that he was responsible for Mr B’s death.

However, such recordings would be excellent circumstantial evidence that can then be used to investigate further. The investigators will then have to conduct a post-mortem to ascertain the real cause of Mr B’s death — as he could have died of other causes, in spite of Mr A being recorded planning to poison him, and caught on camera putting something in the drink which Mr B actually drank, eventually dying moments later.

It needs to be proven that, indeed, Mr B died from poisoning. Secondly, if it’s shown that indeed Mr B died of poisoning, it still needs to be proven that what Mr A was recorded putting in Mr B’s cup was poison, and the same type that killed Mr B. If indeed it is ascertained that what Mr A put in Mr B’s drink was poison, and it was the same type that killed him, the next thing would be to prove that the amounts put in the drink were the same quantities found in Mr B’s body.

After that, there is need to determine whether the timeframe between Mr B taking the poisoned drink and his death were in tandem with the potential potency of the poison — in order to rule out that he could have been poisoned by the same poison by someone else prior to taking the drink poisoned by Mr A. After all these have been proven, then — and only then — can there be said to be incontrovertible proof that Mr A intentionally murdered Mr B.

Anything less can never be said to be irrefutable evidence. The same logic applies to the issue of the targeted sanctions imposed on Zimbabwean top officials and entities. I need information that can be proven beyond any reasonable doubt. After that, believe you me, I will be convinced. I have always maintained that I honestly harbour no ulterior political motives with my opinions, but base my views purely on what I believe to be the truth.

Once I prove something, or it’s proven to me beyond any reasonable doubt, then I am convinced and will go with that narrative.

I will never intentionally support anything that harms or hurts other people — even harming myself, as the economic challenges being faced in Zimbabwe are also affecting me and my family. I am an honest social justice activist who is not driven by some political agenda, but someone who sincerely wants to know the truth, and who believes in the truth, and stands by and for the truth in an endeavour to seek justice, dignity, and equality for all Zimbabweans.

I am also known for being gentleman enough to admit where I have been wrong — as no one is perfect, and we learn new things each and everyday.

I would be very grateful to anyone who provides me with conclusive evidence on how these restrictive measures have affected our economy.

The next phase, for me, would be to follow up, investigate, and verify this information — to the best of my abilities — to ascertain if, indeed, it is irrefutable evidence. If it is proven — beyond any reasonable doubt — that these sanctions are truly hurting our nation, I promise to be an active and loud advocate for their immediate removal.

However, as the situation currently stands — as has been the case for the past two decades, ever since the imposition of the restrictive measures in the early 2000s — there has never been proof of the existence of any link between these, and the immeasurable suffering of the people of Zimbabwe. The only connection is the incompetent and inept mismanagement of the country, and unadulterated shameful corruption by the ruling elite that has left a once prosperous country bankrupt, and a laughing stock of the entire world.