Sanctions Puzzle For Crisis Weary Zimbabweans

By Sij Ncube

Harare, February 18, 2016 – THE European Union (EU) Tuesday extended its targeted sanctions on President Robert Mugabe by another year.

But critics are quick to point out the measures have failed to tame the Zimbabwean leader and his regime, which continues to trample on the rights of its people.

Analysts, speaking to VOP a day after Brussels announced the resolution, argue that while they were meant to force a return to democracy by Harare, the travel and trade embargo on Mugabe and associated firms, have only managed to bring more suffering to the masses.

Mugabe and cronies, so they say, have continued to have unfettered access to national purse while the majority was surviving on less a dollar a day.

The rich western bloc 2002 imposed targeted sanctions on Mugabe, his wife Grace and several top ranking loyalists including military chiefs citing gross human rights abuses and electoral fraud.

While Brussels has had a change of heart in the recent past through scrapping dozens from the black list, it however maintains them on the Zimbabwe Defence Industries as an embargo on arms remained.

A puffed-up Mugabe and his administration have tried to put up a brave face, insisting the sanctions have largely failed to have an impact on targeted individuals, something which critics dismiss as false bravado.

But questions continue being asked in the wake of the extension of the EU sanctions whether they have served their intended purpose, which is to restore good governance and help mend an economy that has slumped under populist policies.

Maxwell Saungweme, a development finance expert, believes sanctions were successful in undermining Zanu PF, its officials and their sources of funding for violence.

But overally, he admits, they have brought more misery to ordinary Zimbabweans whose job and economic opportunities diminished when trade avenues in EU markets were blocked.

“Reduced support for basic services also meant the brunt of the sanctions is felt more on the poor. Sanctions alone are never an effective tool to encourage good governance by dictators.

“They tend to harm the poor more that the political elite who are already very rich anyway and can stomach the effects of the same sanctions,” he said.

Reward Mushayabasa, a political analyst based in the United Kingdom says if the measures were set to hurt the country’s economy, they certainly achieved their objective.

“I think the sanctions have worked pretty well. The economy has not yet fully recovered. It’s still struggling to recover and attract lines of credit on the international money markets,” said Mushayabsa.

But he was quick to say the sanctions have personally failed to hurt Mugabe and his cronies.

“They were a no brainer if there were meant to hurt Mugabe and his cronies,” Mushayabasa says.

“Mugabe and his cronies still have access to the national purse. They are dining and wining while the rest of the nation is struggling to make ends meet. So to Bob and his cronies these sanctions are a no brainer.”

Ricky Mukonza, a political analyst based in South Africa, believes the Zimbabwean experience seems to suggest that sanctions as a way of influencing political behaviour of those in power are not very effective.

“This is because ever since the introduction of sanctions, instead of reforming to become democratic, Zanu PF has remained authoritarian in its approach to governance and its leaders have continued to employ devious ways to remain in power,” said Mukonza.

He noted that violence and vote rigging remain issues on the country’s political discourse.

“If sanctions had any impact, it was to the general citizens of the country. The economic crisis that hit the country owing, among other factors, to the sanctions, had serious negative effects on the lives of the ordinary Zimbabweans.

“Whilst the political elite maintained their lives of opulence through hook and crook, the ordinary citizens’ lives deteriorated.”

Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson for the Tendai Biti-led People’s Democratic Party, feels Mugabe and his close associates seemed to have learnt nothing from the sanctions as witnessed by their reluctance to reform.

“The sanctions should remain as we need the pressure to be stepped up and Zimbabwe not forgotten to the devices of this evil regime. Their pressure will bear fruit in due course,” said Mafume.