Village Rhapsody: Sanctions are not the reason Zim is in a mess

Zimbabwe’s economy has had elements of growth, but overall it has been on the decline— jobs are scarce or you ought to be very well-connected to land one.


Zimbabwe has had mixed fortunes since independence.

For many, 1980 gave hopes for a better life.

But here we are, 41 years after independence, the majority are struggling and liberation war veterans are being terrorised, arrested and harassed.

Zimbabwe’s economy has had elements of growth, but overall it has been on the decline— jobs are scarce or you ought to be very well-connected to land one.

The ruling Zanu PF has often run with the rhetoric that sanctions are the root cause of our misery.

Agreed, we do have sanctions on us, but we need to introspect about what destroyed Zimbabwe’s economic potential.

Good governance principles are the backbone of any country’s administration and an appraisal of Zimbabwe’s track record on those qualities shows we fail in many ways.

We have had so many corruption scandals, including the Willowgate scandal, the GMB scandal and the airport road scandal, to mention just a few.

In all these, there were no prosecutions, let alone arrests.

Of all the issues affecting this country, Zanu PF chooses to point to sanctions as an easy way out because it makes them duck responsibility and accountability.

There have been calls and protests against sanctions that were imposed on Zimbabwe two decades ago.

The ruling Zanu PF party and some top government officials believe that once sanctions are lifted, Zimbabwe’s economy will start functioning.

As it stands, Zimbabwe’s economy is in shambles, the ship is sinking and only a few can afford bread and butter.

Sanctions came to effect through Zidera Act of 2001.

Announcing the 2002 sanctions, then US president George W Bush said he hoped “that soon the people of Zimbabwe again will enjoy political and economic freedom.”

But that has not happened. Instead, in the almost 20 years since sanctions began, conditions in Zimbabwe have continued to deteriorate.

The sanctions came partly in the form of travel restrictions against senior Zimbabwean officials.

There are about 120 names, including government officials and affiliated businesses.

Some Zanu PF senior members believed that the former president of America Donald Trump was too harsh on Zimbabwe with regard to the sanctions.

However, the programme was most recently renewed by President Joe Biden in March.

According to Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom since 2002, Zimbabwe has been ranked among the world’s most repressed economies.

Some economists believe that corruption and mismanagement have left Zimbabwe’s economy smaller today in constant GDP terms than it was in 2002.

Looting of public funds and vague tenders is a major threat to Zimbabwe’s economy and that has nothing to do with sanctions.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo last year expressed frustration over the government’s lack of resolve to fight rampant corruption, amid startling revelations that the country is losing up to US$1,8 billion annually due to the vice.

Until today, it is not clear what happened to the US$15 billion that allegedly disappeared during Mugabe’s presidency, but the public deserves to know.

Zimbabwe lacks transparency and accountability.

Mourning about sanctions is just a government strategy to blame the opposition MDC-Alliance for their failure to implement policies that promote good governance and sustainable development.

Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya’s drama at the Robert Mugabe International Airport when she attempted to smuggle six kilogrammes of processed gold to Dubai is a classic example which shows why Zimbabwe must arrest all factors which are impediments to good governance.

How many kgs of gold have been  smuggled secretly?

President Emmerson Mnangagwa once said that Zimbabwe should stop mourning about sanctions and focus on rebuilding the economy using available human and natural resources.

Ironically, the first family is allegedly linked to Rushwaya’s gold scandal.

Corruption has crippled Zimbabwe’s economy, but Mnangagwa’s administration continues to hide behind a finger blaming sanctions for its mismanagement and graft.

The US embassy in Harare recently said on Twitter that Zimbabwean government should stop blaming sanctions and focus on factors behind Zimbabwe’s economic challenges.

“Blaming sanctions is a convenient scapegoat to distract the public from the real reasons behind Zimbabwe’s economic challenges — corruption, economic mismanagement, and failure to respect human rights and uphold the rule of law. #ItsNotSanctions,” the embassy tweeted.

It has been repeatedly said that the Zanu PF government’s human rights abuses, and economic mismanagement prompted the United States Congress to pass the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, which restricts US support for multilateral financing to Zimbabwe until the country makes specified political and economic reforms.

If sanctions are really the main cause of the economic crisis in Zimbabwe, then why not implement political reforms and be freed?

Of course, sanctions have affected the country and general citizens but they are not the only cause of economic challenges in Zimbabwe.

The government should not be myopic to think that removal of sanctions can reboot Zimbabwe’s economy.

The real issue is about how public institutions conduct public affairs and manage public resources.

Public resources should be managed responsibly.

Zimbabwean lawyer David Coltart also highlighted last week that factors that promote good governance can necessitate the removal of sanctions.

“There’s no doubt that sanctions hurt a country or its citizens.

“However, that misses the point.

“Banks need to focus on what needs to be done regarding governance, rule of law & compliance with the Constitution to remove sanctions. If the rule of law is respected sanctions will go,” Coltart tweeted.

I wonder what message they are sending to the United Nations (UN) special rapporteur Alena Douhan on her visit to Zimbabwe?

However, the million dollar question is what evidence she has managed to gather on the allegations that “illegal sanctions” have crippled the country.

But can removal of sanctions stop our leaders from looting state resources which are meant for development projects?

  • Evans Mathanda is a journalist and development practitioner who writes in his personal capacity. For feedback email: [email protected] or call 0719770038 and Twitter @EvansMathanda19

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