Tuesday, September 04, 2007
By Masiiwa T. Shwere Chisango
Last updated: 04/06/2007 22:32:00
NOTHING but the economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the Western world, with the complicity of the MDC, accounts for the economic decline that we have witnessed.
As such, the MDC’s connivance with the West to ferment the economic collapse takes away their legitimacy as a Zimbabwean political party. The MDC may legitimately and credibly be against Zanu PF, but when they deliberately, or unwittingly courted Western sanctions that now render the living conditions of an ordinary Zimbabwe at Machipisa insufferable, they downgraded to a much lower and sinister plane where they can never claim any legal, political or moral right: being anti-Zimbabwe.
The plan could have been quite astute on the MDC’s part, and probably beneficial to the majority of Zimbabweans, if it had worked. Sub-plan 1: engage Western powers, South Africa, Zimbabwe’s biggest partner in trade on the continent, SADC, other African countries etc to precipitate the fall of the economy. Sub-plan 2: incite people to revolt against the incumbent government, either through the ballot, popular uprisings, or through the bullet, oust them, and get into power. Sub-plan 3: Mend diplomatic relations with the West, ask for revocation of sanctions, court their investment, re-establish rule of law etc and you have the ingredients of a bling-bling economy once again.
Who would have the last laugh? Morgan Tsvangirai. What a good plotter! As it stands right now, Sub-plan 1 has worked rather successfully: the West has imposed some sanctions on Zimbabwe, but not South Africa nor other SADC nations nor other African countries. The West stands out as the only bloc of the world that has imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe!
Sub-plan 2 has worked to some extent, but has had a quite crucial paradoxical effect: entrenching Mugabe further into power; Sub-plan 3 lies in a perpetual limbo, perhaps never to happen.
The MDC have thus put our people in a never-ending crossfire, because they never had a back-up plan in case the sanctions did not work. Did they ever sign an agreement with the Western powers that if the sanctions did not work for a certain period, they would call them off? No, they did not! In fact, what they did not realise was that although they were fighting a common war with the West against Mugabe and his government, the motives only correlated, but did not necessarily originate from the same source.
The West won’t relent until their ends have been met, and all this while it’s our people who suffer. They obviously have nothing to lose if Zimbabweans starve. They will be able to sustain and retain their more dominant motives until the MDC are able to get into power and satisfy the West’s motives.
I am not sure of the MDC’s capacity to convince the West to take off the sanctions on Zimbabwe, what I am completely sure of is that they are readily being used as a pawn to justify the sanctions. The sanctions, through a myriad of processes, make it ever more financially difficult for my mother to be cured of her high blood pressure at High Glen Hospital!
While in the short or long run, the MDC may not be able to use this ‘pawnship’ to get to power, it is surely destroying our economy. In a nutshell, I believe the benefit-cost ratio of the sanctions to our people and to our economy has since reached a highly negative value whose effects may never be undone.
Enumerating the economic sanctions and documenting their direct effects in total on Zimbabwe is not an easy task, practically. The difficulty of this task should not necessarily mean that there are no sanctions on Zimbabwe, however. What is possible, and what other writers before me have tried to do is to demonstrate that there are definitely some economic sanctions by the West targeted upon the entirety of Zimbabwe, not only Zanu PF officials, which the MDC and its sympathisers deny.
Inferences can then be made about the full extent of the sanctions. Far from dismissing the so-called targeted sanctions, I will argue how they have adversarial effects on our economy. I will also argue that the MDC has been complicit in all the sanctions that have been imposed, or maintained, after its inception. The love-hate relationship between the IMF and the World Bank predates the formation of the MDC, for example, but its maintenance and the imposition of further sanctions (such as the Zimbabwe Democracy Bill) that entrenched it and have done further damage, have received the blessing of the MDC.
If the MDC supported the sanctions unwittingly, believing they would only damage the interests of Zanu PF, it’s high time they acknowledged their naivety, and start repairing their damage. As long as they continue playing to the West’s gallery, without openly renouncing the sanctions, they are responsible for the suffering the sanctions are meting out on our country.
Once they renounce the sanctions, the West will look lame, and not have the excuse for the anti-Zimbabwe din they are currently playing to the world. At least, I hope the evidence and arguments I will present in this article graphically demonstrate the existence of the West’s sanctions on Zimbabwe, as I have witnessed much denial on the part of those who support the West and the MDC.
The IMF and World Bank’s Sanctions
Both the IMF and the World Bank suspended balance of payments to Zimbabwe in 1997 after the government gave gratuities to ex-combatants. This is despite the fact that they had been assured that money would not come from investment funds, but from a package of tax increases and spending cuts.
The suspension of the balance-of-payment loans invoked fears of a ballooning budget deficit that resulted in the first ever crash of the Zimbabwean dollar, and has partly facilitated the incessant fall of the Zimbabwean currency up to the present time. It must be emphasised that it is not the payments to ex-combatants that caused the decline of our currency, but the reaction of the IMF and the World Bank.
Had they let it pass, as it was a one-off event anyway, I doubt it could have created an impact as huge as the unexpected cutting of crucial balance-of-payment loans. When the IMF finally agreed to provide a loan in 1999, Zimbabwe was, for the first time since independence, $20 million a month behind in its foreign debt repayment, resulting in a $190 million deficit for 1999. The sanctions were re-introduced in 2001, and still stand today.
The “Zimbabwe Democracy Bill” (2001)
The introduction of the “Zimbabwe Democracy Bill” by the US in 2001 set to entrench the financial starvation of Zimbabwe, which the IMF had been sporadically engaging in, as shown above. On December 21, 2001, US President George W. Bush signed into law S. 494, the "Zimbabwe democracy bill."
The law, among other things, instructed American officials in the IMF and multilateral development banks – including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Development Association, the International Finance Corporation, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Investment Corporation, the African Development Bank, the African Development Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Multilateral Investment Guaranty Agency – to "oppose and vote against any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the government of Zimbabwe," and to vote against any reduction or cancellation of "indebtedness owed by the government of Zimbabwe."
The above are virtually all the banks IN THE WORLD which could potentially lend money to Zimbabwe. Disturbingly, Zimbabwe cannot even borrow from Africa’s own banks because of US sanctions. Prior to the Bill, at least Zimbabwe could obtain credit from other international financial institutions when the IMF and the World Bank cut its credit lines.
This effectively means that Zimbabwe is one of the very few countries in the world that currently exists without any balance of payments support and external lines of credit. The only external alternative Zimbabwe is left with is borrowing from other governments, which is not very easy. Only recently, Zimbabwe failed to get a loan from both South Africa and China.
We should note that in the developing world in general, it is the rule rather than the exception to experience persistent trade deficit. Without such external funding, no economy in the developing world survives, and Zimbabwe is no exception. From the Zimbabwean perspective, this law can only be described as “cruel”. On its own, I guess it has been significant enough to start the economy on a downward spiral, with any other sanctions/measures only having additive effects. The support the MDC gave to the enunciation of this law renders them an enemy of the Zimbabwean people.
In addition, the so-called Zimbabwe Democracy Bill vetoes debt relief to Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe needs debt relief now more than ever, in order to invest in capital and social development, rather than spend its already depleted foreign reserves on servicing debt. Huge debt is not necessarily a sign of mismanagement, as some people will say, so Zimbabwe should not be punished for it, unless the motive is ulterior. For everyone’s information, the most indebted countries have the biggest economies in Africa and India, quite a model economy for us, is easily the most indebted developing country in the world. The US and its allies are throttling Zimbabwe’s throat!
European Union Sanctions:
On February 18, 2002, the European Union imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe. Under terms of the sanctions, the European Union suspended budgetary support to Zimbabwe and terminated "financial support for all projects" except "those in direct support of the population." All financial aid would be "reoriented in support of the population, in particular in the social sectors, democratisation, respect for human rights and the rule of law."
With Zimbabwe banned from obtaining credit from the IMF and the World Bank, prohibited from borrowing money from any other of the World’s major financial institutions by the USA, and with Europe terminating its support, the vicious stamp on Zimbabwe comes full-cycle. It is only paradoxical that the EU has “reoriented” its support to the “population” which will inevitably be hurt by its “suspension of budgetary support and termination of financial support for all projects”.
The European Union denies that it has imposed trade sanctions on Zimbabwe. At the same time, some evidence at least points to the fact that the EU has withdrawn its sugar export quota it had for Zimbabwe. If these are not trade sanctions, then what the hell are they? This actually reminds me of an interview Jonathan Moyo gave recently in which he appeared to claim that farms seized during the land reform programme had been black-listed by the European Union. Having conveniently maintained the EU and the USA as traditional markets inherited from the colonial period, any trade sanctions they impose/have imposed on Zimbabwe, whether de jure or de facto certainly can be expected to have biting effects as building new ones cannot be done overnight.
Other De Facto Sanctions:
The above example on the trade sanctions suggests that not all sanctions targeted on Zimbabwe are in black somewhere. The view I have expressed above is buttressed by the following example:
“Zimbabwe receives an average of just $4 per HIV-infected person compared with $74 elsewhere, Ms Bellamy told reporters in Johannesburg on her last tour of Africa as head of Unicef…The world must differentiate between the politics and people of Zimbabwe," she said, as reported by the BBC.
Can somebody tell me please: what justifies the condemnation of children to death? The fact that the EU countries hate Mugabe justifies their desire to actively partake in the demise of these kids!? This is but a tip of the iceberg! They at least feel that they do not really have an obligation, and it’s just an act of charity that they are helping these kids, so they have at least the guts to publish their hate. There is much behind the scenes!
Another example demonstrates the extent to which the US and British Governments are ready to go, even against individual Zimbabweans. Long after Simba Makoni resigned from the government, the US government successfully blocked his campaign for the post of president of the African Development Bank. Surely, it is not at all sensible that they maintain sanctions against Simba Makoni because he is a FORMER Minister of Fnance. And to suggest, even at the most implicit level, that Simba Makoni is, or was involved in, or supported, or facilitated, or perpetuated, any of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe is sheer nonsense!
Simba Makoni is not a full-time politician at all, having been incorporated into government as the Minister of Finance solely on his business, not political CV and had to be fast-tracked into the politburo to make his position as the Minister get in line with Zanu PF protocols. If the West [the US and EU] say the sanctions are targeted at Zimbabwe's ruling elite, which they accuse of stifling democracy as well as violating human rights, how is Simba Makoni part of the game? How is he stifling democracy? Is he violating or has he violated any human rights? I can only guess there are other de facto sanctions the EU, the US and their satellite states have imposed on us that we haven’t yet been able to understand.
Depleting our national “goodwill” through Media Demonisation
The demonisation the West does of Zimbabwe is tantamount to sanctions. The Herald is a government owned newspaper in Zimbabwe, and the BBC is a British government owned broadcaster in the world. The Herald is obviously pro-Zimbabwe government and anti-British government, while the BBC is basically anti-Zimbabwe. One major difference between the two is that the BBC is able to harness its resources to inform and bias world opinion on Zimbabwe.
The Herald cannot inform World opinion in any concrete way that is comparable to the BBC. The BBC is able to paint the Zimbabwean government and society as essentially anti-White, for example, such that any “White” person may be hacked to death upon alighting a plane at the Harare airport.
They don’t tell the world that the majority of the major companies, mines, and conservancies are in fact owned by Whites in Zimbabwe, and that they live quite peacefully in Zimbabwe’s picturesque suburbs like Glen Lorne. They paint a grotesque picture of Mugabe willfully starving his people, but don’t tell us how much the sanctions they have imposed on Zimbabwe harm ordinary people. They make millions of the world’s population believe that Zimbabwe is the hell on earth full of animal-like beings perpetually scrounging for food in the rubbish dumps. To my mind, this produces a profound effect that can be captured in $ terms.
The so-called targeted sanctions
While we celebrate that Zanu PF “fat cats” are reeling under the effects of the so-called targeted sanctions, they in fact have a broad side-effect on the economy. Who wants to do business with a people whose government is treated like dare-devils by both the USA and the EU? Again, it’s a matter of depleting our national goodwill. While the EU and the USA claim there are no trade sanctions on Zimbabwe (which I have disputed above anyway) is it not necessary for the trade minister of Zimbabwe to meet his British counterpart once in a while, or any other business people in Britain and the rest of the EU, the USA, or in Australia, New Zealand and Canada?
Does this have a null effect on Zimbabwe’s business capacity and on its business relations with the above countries and in fact the rest of the world? We would only be very naïve to believe the opposite. In addition, some of the Zanu PF officials, no matter that we may not like them, own businesses that contribute to the GDP of the country.
Did we not become a bit perturbed the other day when Charles Davy, the father of Prince Harry’s girlfriend, Chelsy, who runs conservancies in Zimbabwe, had to defend himself on the charges by the West that his businesses dealings help sustain the “Mugabe Regime?” The man lives in Zimbabwe and is not supposed to have business links which are deemed by the West to prop the Mugabe regime? My foot!
This gives us a “privileged view” into the devilish intents of the West on Zimbabwe in general, and the Zimbabweans whose livelihoods depend upon Charles Davey’s operations. More recently, the Western sponsored International Crisis Group, advocated for the addition of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Governor to the targeted sanctions list. I am not naïve enough to believe that this would affect Gono as an individual, with zero effect on the Reserve Bank’s activities. And somebody would have me believe that the Reserve Bank is part of Mugabe’s regime, and not part of the Zimbabwean economy.
Pressure on Sadc and other African countries
Within the present context, I wish to highlight the fact that the West has also tried to coerce African countries into imposing economic sanctions on Zimbabwe. They were going for a kill! For example, the Extraordinary Summit of the South African Development Community (SADC) opened in Blantyre, Malawi on January 14, 2002, Britain threatened to withhold $18 million in budgetary support from Malawi, the chair of the SADC, unless it agreed to direct the SADC towards the imposition of sanctions against Zimbabwe. This was a significant portion of Malawi's budget.
Britain also held the threat of withholding aid for Malawi's food crisis. Similar threats to withdraw budgetary support were wielded against Mozambique. At the summit, President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania announced that British Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Baroness Amos telephoned him directly and urged him not to support Zimbabwe at the SADC and at the upcoming meeting of the Commonwealth. When that call failed, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw then telephoned and attempted to bully him. Despite intense pressure from Britain, African leaders at the March 2002 Commonwealth meeting rejected the demand for sanctions against Zimbabwe. President Mkapa of Tanzania revealed that members of the Commonwealth had endured a “bombardment of an alliance against Mugabe.”
Accepting that economic sanctions exist
All in all, thus, I hope I have shown clearly that there indeed are economic sanctions against Zimbabwe by the West. I have seen a lot of MDC supporters who are either ignorant of, or deny the fact that Zimbabwe as a country is under economic sanctions by the West. The denial or ignorance is in line with the ubiquitous belief that Mugabe has single-handedly “killed the economy”.
This belief cannot sit comfortably with the fact that the West has knowingly introduced insufferable conditions on ordinary Zimbabweans. It’s high time we accommodated the fact that there is a Western plot on our economy and acknowledge that we do not have anything to gain as a country from the sanctions. The difficulty in defining them does not mean they are not there, only to reiterate. It is very easy for powerful bully countries to fire economic “missiles” to states they are in loggerheads with. Unlike military ones, these economic missiles are invisible.
We may gladly blame Mugabe the monster for attracting the sanctions, but I cannot see how and why we should justify their existence, knowing fully well that they are hurting the very people we love.
What does the West want from Zimbabwe?
I have the gumption to say that the West hates the Zimbabwe government precisely because they are not happy that it seized the land from the “White” farmers. The rule of law, human rights, democracy, method of land reform arguments they use are mere smokescreens to conceal their real aim: they did not want the land to be seized from the White farmers, and the White farmers themselves did not want to give back the land they inherited, even if the inheritance was stolen.
They did not however, have the audacity to say so, because their unjust stand would be transparently untenable. So their desire to keep the land manifests via indirect avenues that impress most…they don’t fool me. I say so because the timing of the USA and EU sanctions closely corresponded with the first land takeovers. Second, the Zimbabwe Democracy Bill was partly sponsored by Senator Jesse Helms, who has long supported the Rhodesians’ cause and opposed the independence of Zimbabwe.
Third, the Lancaster House Constitution barred the Zimbabwean government from reclaiming privately-owned land for the first 10 years after independence perhaps to buy time. Fourth, it is important to understand that all the White countries in the World have always made a united stand against Zimbabwe since the land takeovers – USA, EU, Canada, New Zealand, and Britain. It is perfectly sensible to believe that it is only the above countries that care about the democracy and human rights of Zimbabweans.
It is amazing that they have not imposed targeted sanctions on Rwanda, as evidence continues to accumulate that the incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame is the one who ordered the shooting of the former president’s plane, which sparked genocide of about 800,000 people.
And it is a historical fact that there was no democracy and human rights for the Blacks in Zimbabwe until they fought in the liberation struggle. Ironically, the same people who never accorded Blacks their human rights all over Africa, in the USA and elsewhere are the ones who are now the ONLY people in the world who care about Blacks’ human rights! The same people who racially abuse Black Zimbabweans in Britain presently care about the human rights of Black Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe they have never seen?! Interesting indeed!
We can understand the Western perspective, but it is certainly of no benefit to us to justify it, for it is detrimental to our economy. Mugabe has mismanaged the economy, we know. If he is so good at mismanaging the economy, then why aid him with the sanctions? Why introduce the error to the mismanagement through the sanctions, and why deny their existence?
Why does it surprise the MDC and the West that Zimbabwe’s inflation is the highest in the world when they know that the West has sanctions on Zimbabwe? Or are they in denial, as usual? Why doesn’t the West say to Zanu PF, “Ok we know your economy is suffering because of our sanctions, and you know what you must do to avert them: give the MDC power, our favoured choice?”
Similarly, why doesn’t the MDC say, “You Zanu PF idiots must give us power to avert Western sanctions we called for that are now hurting the people, or else we will remove you violently, with the aid of the people’s hunger and frustration and of course with the West on our side”?
It’s high time they stopped pussyfooting about; thinking that marching in the streets will remove Zanu PF from power. That’s merely playing to the Western media, who hatchet up the propaganda. Whether it is Zanu PF or the MDC that is ruling, what we don’t want is the suffering of our people.
Mugabe is going soon or later. As a human, he will either have to retire or will die. But whether the sanctions destroy the country or not, I do not visualise Zanu PF going away soon (not that I don’t want them to go…).
What we need now are visionaries that are able to abate the suffering of our people. The MDC can play their part here. Maintenance of economic sanctions to meet political ends – ends that may never be met – is definitely the last thing we need. With Zanu PF cognisant of the fact that the MDC is dining with the people who are making people suffer, then say “ah,look how Zanu PF is making people suffer”, what they can only evoke from them is anger.
Events like the ones we recently witnessed are set to continue. Let those with ears hear. Let those with eyes see.