By Precious Shumba
There are some in our midst who appear to be so angry that Zanu PF, with the support of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), are calling for the removal of sanctions by the United States of America, and the European Union. I have been listening to the arguments. The main thrust has been that the sanctions should not be removed. What is the benefit of the sanctions on Zimbabwe? Evidently, the sanctions have not helped us in any sensible way. The argument that there is evident corruption, manipulation of systems, human rights abuses, or socio-economic challenges, high level incompetence among Government officials and that there is obsession with power should not be the basis for insisting that sanctions should stay. Let Zanu PF and the Government and their SADC counterparts fight the battle with the EU and America on their own without trying to sound clever by pointing out Zanu PF shortcomings. The main worry I have is that to those who want the sanctions to remain, they get all the opportunities across the world to speak to the subject, and earn personal money and other incentives.
Zanu PF in my view does not expect the USA to remove the sanctions. They are in it to send a message that the powerful USA, modernised and industrialised as they are, are ill-treating a small Southern African nation because of the Land Reform Programme and her mineral wealth. They therefore project themselves as a victim of bullying by a powerful nation that wants to replace them with their puppet, the MDC Alliance. This reasoning resonated with the ruling parties in SADC and the majority of Africa. The kind of sympathy towards the late dictator Robert Mugabe was a result of this successful projection by Zanu PF. As long as the sanctions remain in place, and the Opposition is somehow encouraging their retention, Zanu PF will for a long time to come remain in power, with or without political or economic reforms.
What will Zanu PF use for their campaigns if the sanctions are removed? Will they become more transparent and accountable? Will violence and other human rights violations that they have been linked with disappear from our national politics? My argument is that sanctions, targeted and wholesome as they, do not really affect the top leadership being targeted in the sanctions. Proxies can always act on their behalf. Mugabe ended up getting first class treatment in Singapore, and he evaded sanctions big time.
The sanctions are put on Zanu PF heavyweights and military leaders. These leaders use the sanctions to shield themselves from scrutiny on natural resources. Hospitals run out of drugs, and socio-economic hardships hit the people very hard. The excuse from the sanctioned companies and leaders is that they cannot do things because of sanctions. Once the people are weak and vulnerable, without many options to survive, they end up having to depend on Government or Zanu PF’s handouts, especially in the rural areas, thus Zanu PF hegemony cannot be easily broken. The majority of the urbanites who believe that sanctions’ will hurt Zanu PF will not get the Government that they want. Zanu PF will allow the urban local authorities and institutions to collapse or dismally fail, and their excuse would be that they are under sanctions, there is very little that they can do. That way, urban supporters of the opposition will not derive much benefit from their support of the MDC Alliance. What this means is that the rural voters will continue to have the majority say in our national politics.
Zanu PF can afford to use the sanctions excuse as the reason for the collapse in the economy. And the utterances against Turkey by the USA President over Syria, the removal of leadership in Libya, Tunisia, Iraq, interference in South American states will inspire Zanu PF to be defiant and continue whatever corruption, human rights abuses that they are accused of without the need to reform to please the USA.
So, whither Zimbabwe on sanctions? Either way, Zanu PF benefits.
Precious Shumba is a journalist and civil society activist.He writes in his own capacity