Dr Norbert Hosho
Since the imposition of illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe by some Western countries in 2001, the sanctions-imposing nations, as per their expectation, have been looking forward to an implosion of the Zimbabwean economy.
There is no doubt that the sanctions have dismally failed to accomplish the intended mission of bringing the economy to a screeching halt.
Although sanctions have become a perennial problem that affects Zimbabweans from all walks of life, the revolt against the Government, which is the primary objective of the sanctions-imposing nations, has failed to see the light of the day.
Year in, year out, the status quo keeps disappointing the “global prefects” who are left with no option, but to side with some self-appointed individuals from amongst us who seek to gain self favour from hostile foreign governments.
Such sections of the populace have blamed Government policies for the country’s economic challenges, while the Zimbabwean Government has blamed economic sanctions for the country’s poor economic performance.
Whatever the argument, it is indisputable that economic sanctions are designed by a sender to strangulate a target and make the target capitulate.
Every fair-minded Zimbabwean is aware that the imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe was a direct response to the country’s historical black-empowering land reform programme which marked our pursuit of total independence and self-determination as a people.
Given such a scenario, the onus is on the Government and people of Zimbabwe to fight their way out of this vicious circle created by the economic sanctions; in a manner which preserves the gains of independence, and in particular, the values of Zimbabwe.
This could be done through lobbying for the removal of the economic embargo on the diplomatic front, initiating negotiations to find common ground between the Government and all stakeholders for the removal of the sanctions and most importantly, implementation of sanctions busting measures.
Critics argue that sanctions are rarely effective in changing a target’s behaviour, while supporters argue that they have improved in recent years and are still an important foreign policy tool.
The critics may be correct in the context of Zimbabwe where these sanctions have been applied for over two decades without achieving their intended purpose, but only causing suffering of the general populace.
In December 2001, the United States Congress passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA), ostensibly to halt the country’s democratic and economic challenges.
ZIDERA made it impossible for the US government to approve new financial aid to Zimbabwe from international financial institutions.
In 2002, the EU followed suit, imposing sanctions that included the suspension of development assistance, an arms embargo, visa bans, and asset freezes for several high-ranking officials.
As a result, the fact that Zimbabwe is subject to sanctions is by no means a topic for discussion.
While the sanctions regime against Zimbabwe has been packaged as “targeted”, the measures have virtually affected all the socio-economic facets of the Zimbabwean society.
Government says the sanctions have cost the country over US$42 billion in revenue between 2001 and 2019, owing to a significant reduction in external budgetary support.
As a result, Zimbabwe’s budget deficit has been financed primarily through domestic borrowing, resulting in high inflation that peaked in 2008.
Zimbabwe’s Balance of Payments position has deteriorated significantly with devastating consequences since sanctions were imposed.
Following the enactment of ZIDERA, access to international credit markets was blocked, resulting in an unprecedented build-up of external debt arrears, which made it difficult for local companies to access offshore lending, and thus crippling their operations.
The country’s employment levels and ability to provide basic goods and services to its people have been impacted by the sustained decline in long-term capital inflows, resulting in a drop in living standards.
A host of areas, including the agriculture, manufacturing, mining, energy and health sectors, water and sanitation infrastructure, transport and tourism sectors were affected.
The list goes on and on.
Suffice to say that the Government and people must join hands and act to avoid potential future disasters emanating from these sanctions.
Although the removal of the stringent measures imposed by the West could be a major solution to the negative impacts, sanctions busting is also of paramount importance.
We must soldier on and be more productive at all levels while in adversity of sanctions.
While Government has been so immersed in re-engagement efforts to try and solve the sanctions puzzle, some sections of the populace have been doing exactly the opposite.
The current situation in Zimbabwe is that various political and societal actors disagree on whether sanctions should be lifted.
The call for the removal of sanctions, which are causing untold suffering to the majority of Zimbabwe may not yield desired results without unity of purpose among Zimbabweans.
Sanctions busters protect targets from the financial consequences of the measures which strengthens their resolve.
Zimbabwe has many resources at its disposal to use as sanction busters; mineral and human resources are examples.
Following this path, Zimbabwe’s Look East Policy has since weakened the economic impact of sanctions.
Zimbabweans should take it upon themselves to support Government initiatives to refine its sanction busting activities to reduce the negative impact on the citizenry.
The West is bound to experience “sanctions fatigue”, when the domestic costs of maintaining the measures attract more attention, while the willingness to sacrifice economic opportunities for political reasons dwindles.
It is remarkable that while in adversity of sanctions, there are friendly countries that have stood up for us and with us in several ways, including multilateral co-operation, infrastructure development, health delivery support, education, and cultural exchange programmes.
The onus is on Zimbabweans to remain focused and alive to the sacrifices by such friendly nations that have helped us as a country.
We have seen such friends investing in Zimbabwe.
Investing in a country whose image has been so tarnished and battered because of sanctions is a sign of true friendship.
Therefore, we have a moral obligation to reciprocate such love through unity of purpose; bearing in mind that; with or without sanctions; the country remains ours.
Sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the United States and the European Union have a negative impact on the Zimbabwean people.
The use of sanctions to resolve international disagreements and conflicts is no longer a viable option in the contemporary world.
Instead, sovereign nations need to adopt non-violent conflict resolution approaches, and above all, respect the national sovereignty of other nations.
Dr Norbert Hosho is the president and founder of Zimbabwe Anti-Sanctions Trust (ZAST), an educationist and trainer in economic empowerment and entrepreneurial leadership. He can be contacted on +263773115890 or email [email protected] or [email protected]