Elijah Chihota Correspondent
“Beware the Ides of March,” a soothsayer warned the Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar, in William Shakespeare’s play, “Julius Caesar”. The words came to fruition in Zimbabwe during the evening of March 4, 2019, when United States President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order on the continuation of the so-called national emergency with respect of Zimbabwe for another year.
After the end of World War 2, Britain was in ruins due to shelling by German bombs and urgently needed funds for infrastructural development and reconstruction. The United States quickly filled that gap and provided the funds. Under a gentlemen’s agreement, Britain would accompany the US to any war without raising questions. This explains why former British prime minister Tony Blair dragged his country in the Iraq war in 2003 which toppled Saddam Hussein when he did not have any empirical evidence to support his claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) despite crafting a 50-page dossier.
By addressing the land question to correct colonial historical land imbalances, Zimbabwe seemed to have stepped on a lion’s tail as Britain sounded the trumpet of distress. Britain reneged on what it had promised during the 1979 Lancaster House Conference to provide the necessary funds as compensation for its subjects once Zimbabwe rolled out the Land Reform Programme.
When the Labour Party in Britain was approached over the issue in 1997, Britain’s Secretary of State, Claire Short, in a letter dated November 5, 1997 to the then Zimbabwe Minister of Agriculture, Kumbirai Kangai, stated plainly that Britain would not provide the required funds.
“I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new government from diverse backgrounds without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers,” Claire said.
Zimbabwe never interfered with the US business interests, but because of the above dispute with Britain, the US took sides with the country’s former colonisers. The result was the imposition of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) of December 2001. With it came the so called “targeted sanctions” which are not targeted after all but affect all people even those not on the sanctions list.
When President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over in November 2017, he announced that his administration would work towards re-engagement efforts so that Zimbabwe would become a member of the larger community of nations. The re-engagement efforts were going to see loans being extended to the country by International Financial Institutions (IFIs) which, in turn, had the capacity to underwrite the country’s economic revival.
The President went a step further and announced the “Zimbabwe is open for business” strategy as way of attracting potential investors. The strategy entails marketing Zimbabwe as a safe investment destination. Above all, President Mnangagwa announced Vision 2030 of transforming Zimbabwe into an upper middle income economy by the year 2030.
All these promising and well thought out and planned programmes have been derailed by the announcement by President Trump that sanctions were extended for another year. Like his “son” here the MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa, Trump has poured sand (kuzvidira jecha”) on President Mnangagwa’s plans. He pointed out that Zimbabwe poses a threat to the US. This speculation by Trump is far from the truth as Zimbabwe is not much of a threat as do terrorist groups in Asia and parts of Africa.
On various scales, Zimbabwe does not pose a threat to the US government. Below are some pointers which show that there is no threat manifestation to US emanating from Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s foreign policy is anchored on non-aggression and co-operation with the international community on issues of mutual interest. With such a foreign policy, Zimbabwe does not pose a threat to anyone let alone a superpower like the US. This explains why Zimbabwe is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) because it does not wish to interfere in other countries’ affairs and promotes peace.
By any chance, Zimbabwe is no match for the US militarily and budget wise. On September 2018, Trump signed a US military budget of US$716 billion for the 2019 financial year, while that of Zimbabwe for 2019 stands at $546,9 million. This simply shows that Zimbabwe’s military has no capacity to upset the US.
At the turn of the century, Zimbabwe came up with various economic empowerment policies which were meant to transform it into an economic powerhouse. However, this move did not please the US and Britain and it was feared that Zimbabwe could influence other African countries by reclaiming their resources, mainly land. Regional countries which have emulated Zimbabwe’s land policy are South Africa and Namibia. When people see good policies they copy them and that is not a crime on the part of the ones who originate such a policy.
Zimbabwe’s move is viewed by the US as having the potential to negatively affect US interests in accessing resources from other African states. It should be remembered that in 1998 when Zimbabwe participated in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) campaign, it unsettled US interests in that country. The sanctions, therefore, are another way of getting back at Zimbabwe for the interference.
What the MDC in Zimbabwe does not know is that the sanctions imposed on the country are not only targeted at ZANU-PF, but are being used as a vehicle to weaken the country so that the US would have unhindered access to resources such as platinum, lithium and uranium.
ZIMRA chairperson Callisto Jokonya was angered by the US’ decision to extend sanctions on Zimbabwe for another year and he took to Twitter to pose a question to Trump.
“Mr Trump, why do you hate Zimbabweans? What wrong have we done to you and USA? We are blacks because God created us in His image. Remove your sanctions on Zimbabwe for they are destroying our economy. We deserve to be free like USA! I ask this in Jesus Christ’s name,” tweeted Jokonya.
During the just ended Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission meeting, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa joined other African leaders like Uhuru Kenyatta, Paul Kagame and Mokgweetsi Masisi in calling for the removal of sanctions on Zimbabwe.
“We want to see meaningful support being given by international development partners to Zimbabwe because Zimbabwe deserves the support,” President Ramaphosa said.