SO, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was in Zimbabwe for a visit.
That was good news; well, for me at least, because I believe this was an opportunity for him to finally get it into the heads of those governing Zimbabwe that sanctions — no matter which form and shape they come in — can never bring a country’s economy to its knees.
I really hoped that he would dispel this myth which has been spread by Zimbabwe’s ruling elite for the past two decades that sanctions are responsible for our country’s economic misery.
Iran is a perfect candidate to school Zimbabwe on the sanctions fallacy because it has been under arguably the harshest and most punitive economic and trade sanctions imposed on any nation in the history of this world, mostly by the United States and its allies.
Iran has severe trade and financial restrictions imposed on its oil and natural gas, while there are further sanctions on over 50 banks and their subsidiaries, Iran’s national airline, over 200 members of the shipping industry and vessels, as well as its atomic energy programme.
Yet, this is the same country that is ranked third in the Middle East — only behind Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and larger than the United Arab Emirates — in terms of gross domestic product, which stood at an impressive US$15 trillion in 2022.
On the global stage, Iran is the 22nd largest economy. In fact, its economy has been growing at a steady pace of 4,7% in 2021, 3% in 2022 and a projected 2% in 2023.
These are statistics Raisi should have and should be telling his Zimbabwe counterpart, President Emmerson Mnangagwa who has unashamedly tried to hide behind the so-called “sanctions imposed by the US and its allies” which he has blamed for the unbelievable suffering and poverty afflicting millions of Zimbabweans.
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Mnangagwa needs to be told, in no uncertain terms, that — no amount of sanctions can ever reduce a country to a basket case — as happened to Zimbabwe.
There is no way half the country’s population can live in extreme poverty, while three-quarters earn below the poverty datum line simply because of supposed “sanctions”, especially when Zimbabwe’s minerals and other products are not under any trade restrictions or embargo — a fact made abundantly clear by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya.
I really hoped that while he was still here, Raisi would do us all a huge favour by asking Mnangagwa why our hospitals and clinics lack the most basics — such as painkillers, essential medications, ambulances, functional theatres, cancer machines, and decent maternity facilities.
Does Mnangagwa know that Iran is at the forefront of some of the world’s technological breakthroughs — having designed its own military drones, a vibrant space programme, radiotherapy machines and even a COVID-19 vaccine?
Raisi should have taken time off his schedule to go around both our urban and rural areas so as to witness, first-hand, the deplorable and disgusting conditions under which most Zimbabweans live, yet they sit on nearly 60 precious minerals, 40 of which are already being exploited and exported, including gold, diamonds, chrome, platinum and lithium.
Iran only boasts two key natural resources, oil and gas, which are under sanctions by the US, yet it remains a regional and global economic powerhouse.
How do those in power in Zimbabwe correlate these glaring disparities?
For interest’s sake, Iran’s annual inflation is currently at 42%, while the unemployment rate sits at a lowly 9%.
In Zimbabwe, our inflation is the world’s highest, while university graduates cannot find decent jobs, particularly in line with what they trained for, which has reduced them to street vending, prostitution and criminality.
Day in and day out, Mnangagwa and his comrades never tire telling us about how sanctions are hindering development.
Nonetheless, there is one indisputable truth: This sanctions narrative is nothing but an excuse for Mnangagwa administration’s unmitigated failures to run the country.
I am really not a fan of the Iranian regime whose repression of its own citizens makes Mnangagwa look like a mere kindergarten bully, but no one can deny that country’s economic and technological feats.
The Zimbabwe regime may try to fit itself among other countries with sanctions, but the stubborn truth is that our leaders are abysmal failures and an embarrassment.
Iran is a perfect example that sanctions can be responsible for a country’s economic non-performance, and even downfall is a myth.
The sanctions delusion is just an excuse — and nothing else.
In fact, Zimbabwe is not new to sanctions, because Rhodesia had even more punitive measures imposed on it by the United Nations (UN) following its November 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence, but the leadership did not resort to excuses.
The Rhodesians rallied and came up with home-grown solutions such that, despite a liberation war simultaneously being waged, the country’s economy was performing quite well.
In fact, the Rhodesian currency was at par with the US dollar. So, if sanctions are not the real cause of economic problems affecting Zimbabwe, what is?
Let us go back to the Iran scenario.
According to the 2018 Transparency International corruption perception index, Iran ranks 28 out of 100 countries.
What about Zimbabwe?
In 2020, we were ranked a staggering 150 out of 187!
Need I say more?
Zimbabwe is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and that is the main reason we are in this economic mess.
Admittedly, there are other factors, such as incompetence, skewed economic policies, extravagance on the part of government and political instability, but above all corruption looms large.
Therefore, instead of the Mnangagwa regime searching for foreign causes for our suffering, it is better advised to look at itself in the mirror, instead.
Zimbabwe is being prejudiced over US$2 billion each year through the smuggling of our minerals, US$3 billion is lost to illicit cross-border financial transactions, and half the GDP via other corrupt activities.
Those accused of corruption are regularly freed by our courts, thereby permitting them to continue pillaging our national resources with impunity.
Is it not embarrassing that not a single one of those caught on camera or implicated in an undercover Al Jazeera investigative documentary exposing gold smuggling and money laundering in Zimbabwe has not been brought to book?
The answers to our economic and political problems lie squarely between the Zambezi and the Limpopo rivers — and nowhere else.
However, the key is to ruthlessly crackdown on corruption and the looting of our resources mostly by those in power and those aligned to them.