Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
Perhaps we should have heard how fertiliser undermines democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe? Or how America regards the latest sanctions as a “gift from the American people”? But we are sure the mighty America and the man with a magical hand who leads it, on their moral high ground, sleep well at night.
This writer was mortified when listening to a radio show one morning, an interviewee was gushing about the eternal goodness of US President Barack Obama.
This particular person, some guy from West Africa, had been brought by the Star FM show’s host Napoleon Nyanhi, along with another lady from Mauritania, purportedly to talk about a programme about an initiative for African women, supposedly in keeping with the spirit of International Women’s Day which was observed last week.
Out of his way, the youthful guest, a beneficiary of the so-called Mandela Washington Fellowship or Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), went on to lavish praise on Obama and how he had been starstruck when he met the American leader.” When you shake the hand of Obama, your life changes,” he gloated.
Well, good for him but for the writer it was the most horrifying, sickening and offending thing to hear on our national radio.
The hand of Obama, my foot!
This guy was trying to tell us the American president was a kind of god so generous, so powerful and heavenly when just a few hours prior the Obama administration had slapped sanctions on Chemplex Corporation Ltd and its subsidiary Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company the biggest chemicals and fertiliser manufacturers in Zimbabwe, making a direct, savage and unremitting attack on the country’s agriculture and economy.
One could not help feeling angry.
Obama’s hand, the hand that has extended every year, America’s sanctions on Zimbabwe since he came to power in 2009, could not be so worshipped on our national radio, surely?
What is worse, it has been noted over the past few years that the same station, our sister station Star FM, has been giving a lot of time to the US Embassy in Harare to come and conduct public diplomacy and propaganda at the station and used to feature prominently the immediate past ambassador Bruce Wharton and other officials.
And all too paradoxical, that America has just found a propaganda arm, which would probably do better than Voice of America!
So, the writer engaged the show’s host both as a colleague and as a concerned Zimbabwean and asked humbly whether he did not feel the irony and dissonance of eulogising the mighty, miraculous hand of Barack Obama when the same hand signs the sanctions against the presenter’ countrymen?
For his part, Nyanhi is one of the latest beneficiaries of the YALI.
But couldn’t there be a distinction between personal and national interest?
As a matter of fact, such initiatives as exchange programmes, scholarships, and food aid constitute what the left hand gives to victims of a savage backhand slap in the face America directs to victim states such as Zimbabwe.
Americans and other countries that have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe often seek to play up how much they have helped Zimbabwe by way of aid, which is a dishonest and hypocritical frame of understanding relations between Zimbabwe and the West.
In his latest offering, which could as well have come from the same patriotic corner as the writer’s heart, columnist Nathaniel Manheru captures it vividly when he notes that America is a “country without skin”.
He poses: “How does a country that has so studiously sought to convince us that ZDERA is about ‘targeted sanctions’ now sustain that lie which today rings so sonorous, so hollow? Or it does not care a hoot, has no skin requiring a face-saving illusion? By both actions against Chemplex and ZFC, the US has now explicitly brought into the sanctions dragnet all Zimbabweans who live off the land, peasants included. Having tussled with the El Niño natural factor; they now have to grapple with the US-nurtured winter of inputs shortages. And against the broader sanctions, well over 10million Zimbabweans now survive on land and the informal sector. Increasingly, the sanctions are sounding genocidal, and America does not seem to care. Has no skin, in other words. The long denied link between sanctions and land reforms can no longer be denied.”
It is a tragedy of our time that Zimbabweans have been divided over a national threat like sanctions with denial, obfuscation and rationalisations often coming in the way of a national issue.
America itself says Zimbabwe constitutes an extraordinary and continuing threat to the foreign interests of the US.
The Americans obviously know better, while apparently our own celebrities and our radio stations are too corrupted or starstruck, naïve or simply too foolish to understand threats to Zimbabwe’s interests and sovereignty.
It must be said without fear that America is at war with Zimbabwe, hence its use of emergency powers in peacetime, as Nathaniel Manheru notes.
It is in fact, Zimbabwe’s enemy.
Sanctions are just one step away from a military invasion.
As academics note, sanctions are a coercive instrument of diplomacy and “. . . a relatively ‘un-costly’ tool through which resolve can be demonstrated; they can help signal hostile intentions to the target state, while preparing the domestic audience for the conflict to come.”
Britain, the US and their allies in fact, wanted to invade Zimbabwe as we saw at the United Nations in 2008 and as attested to by former South African President Thabo Mbeki.
Because this Libya option was stalled the US and its Western allies maintain sanctions to this date.
And this war is targeting all Zimbabweans by attacking their food and agro-based economy.
They are not going to affect President Mugabe, his “cronies” and ministers.
When the country’s fertiliser manufacturer is attacked it is the ordinary man and woman — the ordinary person from Dotito to Chiendambuya — who will suffer.
That is the consequence of Obama’s hand.
In the final analysis these sanctions are not only illegal as they are imposed outside the UN system.
They also constitute an unjust war on the people of Zimbabwe and a crime against humanity.
Academics note that “sanctions violate certain just war principles and are inconsistent with the Kantian notion that people are ‘ends in themselves’” and do not discriminate.
It is noted that sanctions are a kind of siege which inevitably deprive “a whole city or nation of economic resources” through “international institutions and international pressure”; they are ‘the modern version of siege warfare” in which “surrender is achieved not by defeat of the enemy army, but by the fearful spectacle of the civilian sea”.
Scholars contend that this suffering is not “collateral” damage, “but . . . the primary objective of the siege strategy, or at least the foreseeable and direct result” meaning that when the term “targeted sanctions” is applied it is the ordinary people who are the targets.
One journal paper notes that, “In one of the worst cases, UNICEF has pointed to sanctions as responsible for the death of over half a million Iraqi children leaving Richman to term the situation ‘genocide’ because it was ‘a deliberate policy to destroy the people’. It is usually inconceivable that the implementing states’ leaders are not aware of the destruction that sanctions cause.
“While knowingly killing (even hundreds of thousands of) civilians might be considered morally justified where the survival of one’s own nation is at stake, it’s difficult to defend such an action when relatively abstract principles such as human rights and international law are the issues at hand, however important these may be.”
It should also be on record that the US Embassy in Harare is too embarrassed by the latest attack on Zimbabwe because of the brazenness and immorality of the country they represent, given the way the embassy failed to justify the action and took more than 24 hours to answer questions relating to the placement of Chemplex and ZFC.
On March 9, this writer emailed the embassy saying: “The US Department of Treasury has announced that it is extending sanctions on Zimbabwe’s Chemplex Corporation Ltd and its subsidiary, the Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company (ZFC). The information is contained here: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20160308.aspx
“No reasons have been given. Will the US Embassy in Harare kindly explain the reasons for extending sanctions on this vital agro-industrial player and how it views it as helpful to the people of Zimbabwe? We would also like to know if the US does not consider this an attack on the general economy of Zimbabwe, which is already not performing, in part due to crippling sanctions already in place?”
This is what took the embassy 24 hours to write back: “The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) identified two companies that it has determined are owned 50 percent or more in the aggregate by persons that were designated under OFAC’s Zimbabwe program, and added those two companies to the list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List). OFAC’s 50 percent rule is published online. OFAC Frequently Asked Questions on this topic are also available here. The United States regularly reviews and updates its SDN list, including those listings related to Zimbabwe. For any additional questions, I would refer you to the OFAC Spokesperson: [email protected]”.
There you go!
Perhaps we should have heard how fertiliser undermines democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe?
Or how America regards the latest sanctions as a “gift from the American people”?
But we are sure the mighty America and the man with a magical hand who leads it, on their moral high ground, sleep well at night.
For the people of Zimbabwe, with their fertiliser companies being sanctioned, surely their lives will change forever!