PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe — who now sounds incoherent and like a broken record whenever he speaks — was at it again at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly this week, misleading the world that limited Western sanctions are responsible for Zimbabwe’s economic morass.
“My country, Zimbabwe, is the innocent victim of spiteful sanctions imposed by the United States and other powers and these countries have for some reason maintained these sanctions for some 16 years now,” Mugabe said.
He went on to allege Zimbabwe was being punished through “illegal and unjustified sanctions” for “possessing and owning” its natural resources, and responding to the basic needs of the people.
His shoddy narrative was sprinkled with half-truths, deception, fiction and lies.
To begin with the sanctions are largely targeted. They are limited to his regime’s officials, associated companies, state entities and government. Unlike Rhodesian sanctions which were comprehensive, wide-ranging and devastating, these are clearly not blanket sanctions.
In fact, the European Union has all but now lifted its measures, except on him and his wife, and a few cronies.
Australia has eased them. Only the US and Canada maintain the limited sanctions on Zimbabwe.
The targeted sanctions were imposed for various reasons, including human rights abuses, killings and electoral theft. It might well be that his chaotic and oft-violent land reform programme also invited them. Mugabe must look into the nature and causes of the problem, not just its indicators and symptoms.
The issue is after inheriting from colonial settlers the most industrialised economy in sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa and a currency stronger than the United States dollar, Mugabe — through extended periods of appalling leadership and policy failures, mismanagement and venality — ran down the country like he has down with his dairy farm in Mazowe. He ruined the country through chaotic experiments with unsustainable command economic models, bad policies and profligacy. Toxic leadership, poor governance, patronage, corruption and primitive accumulation are part of the problem.
The unpalatable truth is that Mugabe’s unbudgeted for expenditures on war veterans, the Congo war misadventure, land seizures, indigenisation, debts and kleptocracy destroyed the economy— not sanctions. Hyperinflation, a manifestation of misrule, liquidated the demonitised local currency, leaving Zimbabwe without monetary sovereignty.
Sanctions, an exogenous factor, are certainly not the cause of Zimbabwe’s economic mess, but rather endogenous variables and vulnerabilities. They are not the real problem; in fact, there is simply no correlation to economic growth. There are more fundamental issues and structural problems Zimbabwe must urgently focus on other than sanctions. The country needs political, institutional and economic reforms as well as fresh funding to recover.
The economy lost much of its wealth due to the hostile business environment, hyperinflation, company closures, de-industrialisation and capital flight. It is now crystal clear to all and sundry these are the underlying problems, not sanctions.