Zimbabwe: Sanctions Removal a Collective National Duty

23 October 2020

Earlier this year, the world experienced a novel pandemic that forced the global community into lockdown.

The economic consequences of the actions taken thus far have been far-reaching for the developing world and much worse for the emerging markets such as Zimbabwe.

Across the continent, governments are facing falling revenues, rising expenditures, increasing debt distress and significant reversals in development indicators.

In an omen of what is to come, Zambia now appears headed for the continent's first pandemic-related private debt default.

The human costs are huge. Up to 39 million people are expected to slip below the poverty line.

If one compounds the stated financial outcomes with the pre-existing sanctions on Zimbabwe, it becomes very difficult to morally, empirically and politically justify their existence.

The sanctions' impact, especially during these times, deepens collective punishment.

Ironically, the greatest victims are those who are already the most vulnerable in society.

An esteemed research organisation called the Rand Corporation once argued in a 2019 report that economic sanctions and carpet bombing have a lot in common, citing what they described as their indiscriminate nature and that they tend to damage disproportionately the most vulnerable and often the most innocent elements of society.

Furthermore, the impact on the economic growth of sanctions cannot be overstated.

According to the Centre for Economic Policy Research, sanctions lead to an average decline of 25 percent of GDP.

This affects institutions whose role it is to deliver public goods and services.

It is not a surprise why the state of health care services is in the condition we see currently.

Besides, one might add that the historic cholera outbreak we have seen in the past is as a direct result of the embargo as was seen in the early '90s in Iraq, an argument also made back then by many academics.

This is why the Centre for Economic and Policy Research defines sanctions as collective punishment of the civilian population -- a definition that trouble legal minds because it breaches the Geneva and Hague Conventions.

That being said, there is a fundamental case to be made as to why this issue should not be opposed locally.

It begins by us looking into the characters that sponsored the Bill. We find two democrats namely Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden plus one Republican, Jesse Helms.

The two Democrats are well known so I shall not dwell on them, Jesse Helms on the other hand is not.

Why is he important, well dear reader, Senator Jesse Helms was at the centre of attempting to delay this nation's independence by urging Ian Smith to continue negotiations and be unrelenting on the conditions of the Rhodesians.

Helms even pressured the then US President Jimmy Carter to accept the Muzorewa administration as he argued that an electoral win for Zanu or Zapu was a win for the communists.

Yet, despite his far-right ideology, the aforementioned democrats worked with him to sponsor and implement the sanctions Bill.

So if the Americans can put aside their political differences on an issue they perceive to be of their collective foreign interests, then we as Zimbabweans given this history, have no excuse whatsoever not to do the same.

Ironically, this writer once attended a debate at the Thompson Reuters building in London.

The debate was about sanctions and one of the panellists who was against the sanctions motion was Tony Blair's former spokesman, Alistair Campbell. He argued, "sanctions work if your only calculation of their effectiveness is economic degradation".

It would not be far-reaching to state that he would know better considering the role Blair's government played in lobbying for these very sanctions we are now victims of, yet he states their impact with perfect clarity.

It is intellectual dishonesty to state otherwise whilst those who imposed them speak honestly of their impact once they have left government.

Yet for Zimbabweans, the negative consequences of such policies remain.

In conclusion, there is a clear need to address the multiple challenges the nation faces, but these issues cannot be outsourced as there is no example in history where that leads to laudable outcomes.

So to accept an external condition of the nurturing of our democracy is to continue to denigrate a generation of young men and women whose blood birthed this nation.

To quote Fanon, "The native must realise that colonialism never gives anything away."

In other words, the US conditions of removal will continue to shift as they did when the sanctions were initially put in place.

Yesterday it was about the Democratic Republic of Congo war, today reforms, who knows what it will be about tomorrow.

Well, let us see.

Farai Muvuti is a political analyst at The Southern African Times and a weekly contributor on Arise News.

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