Naboth Paurosi Dzivaguru Own Correspondent
As has become the norm, the United States (US) last week renewed sanctions on Zimbabwe, stating that Harare posed a threat to Washington’s foreign policy.
This brings to more than 10 years since the country has been under sanctions.
The dark years for Zimbabwe began in 2001 when the US government decided to impose sanctions on the country through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) with the European Union (EU) following suit a year later.
That enactment empowered the US President to invoke preventatives on multilateral lending agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and Africa Development Bank (AfDB), among others to vote against credit facilities (in all their various forms) to Zimbabwe, on condition that the latter “improves its human rights records, observance of the rule of the law, holds free and fair elections”, among other conditions. ZIDERA thus literally heralded economic sanctions against Zimbabwe.
There has been debate over the nature and impact of these sanctions.
Sanctions imposed on any society can either be comprehensive or targeted. Comprehensive sanctions are indiscriminately imposed on the whole society and usually include arms embargoes, trade restrictions, goods boycott, financial restrictions and travel bans.
Targeted sanctions are narrowly imposed on the elites or leaders of a government by denying them access to lucrative international business ventures, financial restrictions and travel bans, thereby blocking development in vulnerable populations.
The different main actors involved ZANU PF, the opposition MDC-Alliance and the West view the issue of sanctions differently. The wisdom or lack thereof underlying the imposition of sanctions according to the ideology of the West is the assumption that economic pain creates political gain and that the greater the economic hardships the probability of political compliance by targeted government authorities.
ZANU PF perceives the sanctions as an illegal tool to destabilise the internal political affairs of the country (particularly after the land reform programme) and a serious contravention of the principle of non-interference in other independent states’ sovereignty. In essence, the ruling party views sanctions as a tool for regime change.
MDC-A — which invited the sanctions — regards them as a means of checking State delinquency to enforce compliance to the whims of the West, who are its handlers.
The barometer of democracy is decided by Western countries who want to play judge, prosecutor and the police. Just like their handlers, MDC-A believes that the more the “economy screams” the more likelihood of an insurrection by the people against the government. Although some of the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the US and the EU are targeted, the truth of the matter is that they also affect the general populace and create a discomforting political landscape that promotes polarisation.
Basing on Zimbabwe, the so-called targeted sanctions often miss the “target” and fail to yield the expected results.
The common man, the weaker in society, has been sadly the one on the receiving end, thus the sanctions are serving as an instrument of mass pauperisation and terror. They are used to influence how other governments behave both domestically and internationally.
In their sanctions theory, David Cortright and George A. Lopez, argue that sanctions must have a devastating humanitarian impact and need to cause sufficient hardship and discomfort to motivate the targeted regime to enter into bargaining process.
However, the history of sanctions has demonstrated that they have a serious shortcoming as an instrument of maintaining order in the world system.
In most circumstances, sanctions evolve into a protracted and costly low-intensive campaign whose impact is serious attrition on the targeted State.
Studies indicate that sanctions were only 30 percent successful between 1945 and 1989 as they harm the most vulnerable in society.
Even targeted sanctions have a humanitarian cost as they inevitably cause social pain and economic suffering.
Ironically, the EU argues that sanctions on Zimbabwe are not “sanctions” in the traditional sense despite sanctioning the country’s beef and tobacco exports into Europe — its long established, conventional and largest market.
If the motive is to put pressure on key decision makers in their official capacity while at the same time protecting the broader population, then the impact of ZIDERA might have overstretched as it has neglected the virtual protection of ordinary citizens. Basing on attributes of ZIDERA, Zimbabwe’s economic sanctions have contributed to the immense economic turmoil the country has been experiencing.
It is now evident that these sanctions have had contagion effect on the economies of other African countries particularly those in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Some of these neighbouring countries, particularly South Africa have had to absorb an influx of migrants from Zimbabwe seeking better economic prospects.
Besides, concurring with Zimbabwe that the sanctions are unjustified and inhuman especially with the coming on board of New Dispensation intend on governing differently from the previous regime, most neighbouring countries are concerned that the large influx of migrants pose a serious threat to the hegemonic stability of the social, economic and political fabric of their communities.
This is one of the reasons why African countries have called the US and the EU to remove the sanctions to allow the New Dispensation to implement its reform agenda, which was clearly articulated by President Mnangagwa in his inauguration speech when he stated that re-engagement, engagement and economic diplomacy were to be the cornerstone of the country’s foreign policy.
It must be made clear that Zimbabwe’s reform agenda initiated by President Mnangagwa as the leader of the Second Republic are not so much motivated by the US or the EU intrusiveness concerns about alleged human rights violations but are being implemented because they are good for the country.
Maintaining sanctions on Zimbabwe when the country has taken a reform trajectory not only shows the insincerity on the US’ concerns, but reveals a more sinister agenda of wanting to instigate unrest and create conditions for public outrage against the Government.
Naboth Paurosi Dzivaguru is a holder of LLB Hons, Bsc Hons Political science, MSC International relations. e-mail: [email protected] com