Monday, 8 June 2009

Zimbabwe: Sanctions a Damaging Reality

Tichaona Zindoga

ON May 4, Finance Minister Tendai Biti spoke of "billions and billions" of World Bank money that Zimbabwe was being barred from accessing by the illegal sanctions imposed on the country by America.

Hearing this, one could be forgiven for hoping that the era of political sophism, or its no-less-evil relation called intellectual dishonesty, had thankfully ended.

The historical, chronological and intellectual contexts of his revelation, which is rather a belated admission, offer a significant basis for the review of Zimbabwe's eco-politics for the last decade in general, and the first 100 days of the inclusive government in particular.

Minister Biti's acknowledgement that US-imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe scuttled government efforts to meaningfully discharge its mandate came on the 81st day of the "inclusive government" formed out of the country's three main political parties -- Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations.

He had come from the Spring Meetings of the Bretton Woods institutions, held in America, where he also met personalities he described as "mothers and those who gave paternity to ZDERA (Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act)", America's sanctions law on Zimbabwe signed by George W. Bush in December 2001.

At the behest of America, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have denied Zimbabwe access to critical developmental aid, credit lines and technical assistance.

Coming as it did on the twilight zone of the first 100 days of the inclusive government of Zimbabwe, Minister Biti's admission gave an important innuendo.

Minister Biti suggested that first 100 days (the much vaunted and oft-unrealistic yardstick which has somewhat been taken for a fact since 1933), which also saw him compiling the Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme document, were never the coup it was hoped to be because of the illegal embargo.

This admission should have marked a turning point from the plausible but largely false arguments that Zimbabwe's decade-old economic distress has been a result of the "mismanagement" of Zanu-PF, and that sanctions imposed by the US and her allies were simply "targeted" at Zanu-PF officials and their families.

The sanctions, in fact, were a calculated measure of bullying the Zanu-PF government into reversing black empowerment initiatives such as land reform and indigenisation programmes, which not only upset historical capitalist injustices but raises the spectre of socialism which the West lives in mortal fear of.

Such programmes, the West also feared, set a "bad" precedent to other Third World countries whose vast natural resources remain in the hands of a minority of Western colonial stock.

But Minister Biti's rare honesty has largely gone unshared in the circles that might well have been inspired to finally come to grips with the real impediment of Zimbabwe's success.

In fact, the world has been treated to a cacophony of sophistic arguments which have not only sought to explain away the damaging centrality of the illegal sanctions, but the fact that the new players in government have not been a magic wand in and of themselves as to bring a dramatic turnaround of the economy.

The twilight zone of the first 100 days of the inclusive government, when Minister Biti noted the adverse effects of the sanctions also saw the escalation of the talk about "the outstanding issues of the GPA (Global Political Agreement)".

The GPA is the broad-based agreement signed on September 15 last year that led to the formation of the inclusive government.

The "outstanding issues", are chiefly the alleged "unilateral" appointment by President Mugabe of Reserve Bank Governor Dr Gideon Gono and Attorney General Mr Johannes Tomana.

These "key appointments", we have been made to understand, are one reason why the government has failed, for example, to go beyond measures which were mooted before its inception, like awarding its civil service the very modest US$100 allowances.

Neither can the government be able to speak with one voice against the illegal sanctions imposed on the country, which the parties undertook to do in the letter and spirit of the agreement, one could assume.

The two appointments were undertaken in terms of the law and President Mugabe has maintained that the two will not leave, in spite of the political pressure.

However, MDC-T has said it is taking up the matter with the guarantors of the GPA, with party president, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai saying recently he was only a "worker of the party" and needed to do the bidding of his charges.

This is despite his stated belief that there was no deadlock and that 95 per cent of the issues in the agreement had been resolved.

The second reason, which has been attributed to the new government's modest showing, is that there have not been "genuine reforms" since the new government took over and that is why donors have not been too generous with their funds hence.

(Donor countries, in all honesty, have been too hard hit by the current global financial crisis to open their purses easily.)

But the countries have been made to appear like some kind of "hard-hearted partners" -- like the picture of MDC-T badgering Prime Minister Tsvangirai out of his conscience -- as to demand seismic changes without which there cannot be any meaningful progress.

US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, was trying to assume this mould of the "hard-hearted partner", when she told a television station recently that "it was in the best interest of everyone" for President Mugabe to leave office.

She divined that in the "the last years" President Mugabe he has visited misery on "his children and the children of his children".

What she did not say was that she is, in Minister Biti's words, one of the "mothers" of the same misery, being one of the sponsors of ZDERA along with other persons such as Jesse Helms.

It is to be assumed that the former first lady and once-presidential aspirant was, riding a moral high horse, telling the world that her country cared so much for the Zimbabwean populace which her country has illegally sanctioned. But she missed the point, just as could be pictured of MDC-T pressuring its leader out of his convictions, that Prime Minister Tsvangirai had just recently told off any pressure on President Mugabe to leave office, saying he was part of the solution to Zimbabwe's American-created problems.

Yet still others, like that perennial "people-driven constitution" campaigner Lovemore Madhuku believe that the implementation of "neo-liberal" values are the basis of, and yardstick for a successful government.

For some reason, Minister Biti himself for all his knowledge of how "the mothers and those who gave paternity" to the misery of Zimbabwe in the name of ZDERA, has not been immune to this.

Some analysts have expressed reservations for such apparent preoccupation with endearing the country to such institutions as the World Bank through "neo-liberal" partiality, while systematically ignoring how the same neo-liberalism has been used as a smokescreen in the aggression on Zimbabwe's interests.

Sunday Mail columnist Dr Tafataona Mahoso, in a recent article, expresses dismay with the use of "neo-liberal human rights propaganda" as well as "the fanatical insistence on parity" (which is part of the "outstanding issues" drive).

He said, "what people expect is competency and speed in de-mining the gulf of Anglo-Saxon sanctions dividing our people".

In essence, he believes the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe are not only the single most devastating manifestation of undue external interference, but have set an agenda that deflects nationally-beneficial discourse through entrenching a lot of political sophism.

And that is enough to say all the shadowy "Zim Eyes" might still make a living out of neo-liberal baloney and seeing Zimbabwe's eco-polity at a parallax, and enjoy themselves immensely out of the other side of the coins that have brought suffering to the generality of Zimbabweans.

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