Saturday, November 14, 2009

(HERALD) James: Sanctions no kidding matter

James: Sanctions no kidding matter
By Themba Sibindi

THE denial by one James Maridadi, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s chief communications officer, that there are economic sanctions on Zimbabwe is a cause for concern particularly at a time we thought we had moved beyond the rhetoric of grandstanding.

The fact that MDC-T denies the existence of sanctions is a clear indication that the party is not interested in dealing with the matter as an outstanding issue, not only in the Global Political Agreement but as a matter at the core of improving livelihoods in Zimbabwe.

Maridadi’s statement can be explained in three ways.

First, it might be that he does not understand what economic sanctions are.

Writing in the American Journal of Political Science, Yale University assistant professor Nikolay Marinov’s essay titled Do Economic Sanctions Destabilise Country Leaders? defines economic sanctions as "[1] government-inspired restrictions (2) on customary trade or aid relations, (3) designed to promote political objectives.

Anyone who is not brain-dead and has knowledge of the Zimbabwean situation can easily identify Marinov’s three elements.

Donald Losman, in his book — International Economic Sanctions: The Cases of Cuba, Israel and Rhodesia — defines economic sanctions as penalties inflicted upon one or more states by one or more others, generally to coerce the target nation(s) to comply with certain norms that the boycott initiators deem proper or necessary.

The forms that economic sanctions take also include interfering or restricting the movement of people, restriction of capital flows and withholding wealth in the boycotting countries.

Given the foregoing definitions, it is difficult for Maridadi to put forward any sane argument to deny the existence of economic sanctions and hence his poor tactic of claiming to not even having heard about them. Which world is this man living in?

Maridadai’s utterances are cause for concern regarding his form of understanding because his only reason for denying the existence of economic sanctions is that he "heard about (them) in The Herald".

Even if we accept that it is only The Herald that has ever talked about the existence of economic sanctions, that is not reason enough to deny their existence.

The fact is that Maridadi is being economic with the truth. It is not The Herald alone that has talked about economic sanctions.

If, for sure, he has read about economic sanctions only from The Herald, then it shows how narrow he reads and how badly informed he is, for one posing as a spokesperson.

One suspects that Maridadi said this only to try and maintain his party’s position of denying the existence of economic sanctions and also to please their base of sanctions deniers. Another reason is to try and portray The Herald as a newspaper that lies.

It is not lies or an imagination that economic sanctions are there.

It is an absolute truth, which even finance minister Tendai Biti, secretary general of Maridadi’s party, acknowledged in his proposal for HIPC status.

On the contrary, denying the existence of economic sanctions demonstrates the lack of commitment on the party of a cabal of MDC-T to treat them as an outstanding issue and also indicates that the deniers do not see their grave consequences on the people.

How else can someone deal with something they don’t perceive as an existing problem and also why should they deal with something whose grave consequences they do not realise?

Second, Maridadi — given his self-confessed narrow readership, has apparently never come across the US sanctions law, the so-called Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 which some in his party helped draft, specifically, Section 4, which imposes economic sanctions on Zimbabwe.

It states that US directors to all international financial institutions are bound to vote against the extension of any financial assistance, loan or credit guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe till the president of the United States says so.

Section 6 imposes economic sanctions on individuals. But still, even if we accept that it is only individuals that have been banned from travelling; those restrictions still constitute economic sanctions as Losman noted.

How do you separate Cde Robert Mugabe, for instance, from the President of Zimbabwe?

The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe should not be denied travel since he represents his country and not his person.

Sure, they can ban Robert Mugabe but they should let the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe go on with his normal duties representing a country that we are informed is not under economic sanctions.

This is where even the individual sanctions mantra does not make sense; maybe it does to those with nothing between the right and the left ear.

My suspicion is that Maridadi did not think that far; having spent the better part of his life dealing with kids on radio, he appears incapable of critical thinking.

Third and very obvious, how could Maridadi’s own party accept, in the form of a signature, in the GPA that there are economic sanctions imposed on the country and yet by the very same breath deny their existence?

It’s either Maridadi is deaf and has not heard this issue being discussed or hates to read and therefore has never acquainted himself with that part of the agreement.

It is indeed an embarrassment for a communicator in a high office.

This writer hopes Maridadi’s character is not a reflection of how ignorant MDC-T or the PM’s Office is or how untruthful to the extent of even denying things that have affected the material lives of people and the country. I sympathise with those people who have to deal with the likes of Maridadi on a daily basis.

This is not an insult or prejudice against Maridadi but an honest assessment deduced from his own speech. For the chief communications officer in the PM’s office to suggest that he has not heard about economic sanctions is tantamount to suggesting that one has not heard about the existence of earth.

Without resorting to such lies, this writer thinks Maridadi should be thinking about strategies of removing his party-supported economic sanctions in order to stand on a high moral ground when they, in turn, call for Zanu-PF to deal with the other outstanding issues.

To deny the existence of economic sanctions will never be a political victory for MDC-T. In fact, it will actually undermine the party’s efforts in making any counter demands from Zanu-PF.

Ironically, these economic sanctions, as reported in this newspaper, are undermining the efforts of not only Zanu-PF, but of MDC-T and the inclusive Government especially the operations of the finance minister.

As long as the inclusive Government exists, the inevitable clash of Biti and his colleagues is obvious because he cannot operate successfully in an environment of economic sanctions. But who knows, this whole economic sanctions denial may have something to do with the MDC-T’s own internal power politics.

This writer also knows that having spent a decade denying the existence of sanctions and lying to their supporters that the economic downturn was due to Zanu-PF’s ineptitude, MDC-T leaders are finding it difficult to confess the lie. But that is a bed they made, they must lie on it.

l The writer, Themba Sibindi can be contacted at sibindithemba ***

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