Of sanctions and trips to Washington DC

By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka

I mean, talk about bad timing. Talk about bad taste, hell, think of any cliche about putting your foot in it and you have it all in one ill advised trip and some unfortunate statements from friends and colleagues that really, really, ought to know better.

Former University of Zimbabwe (UZ) student leader turned lawyer Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
Former University of Zimbabwe (UZ) student leader and lawyer Tinomudaishe Chinyoka

The optics are bad. No matter how you want to dress it, that MDC Alliance and Human Rights activists’ trip to Washington DC was a disaster for the opposition.

In my view, it even eclipses that cheque-wielding queue of white farmers waiting to donate to the MDC in 2000: at least there was no treachery in that, citizens must be able to donate to whichever political party they want and that was, after all, a meeting for commercial farmers. It wasn’t as if they trekked to MDC HQ and just happened to be all white.

Yes, no-one actually said “let’s increase sanctions on Zimbabwe”, but that is the effect. No amount of dissembling will blot out the fact that on the very day that the European Union decided that it was okay to resume doing business with Thailand, a country ruled for the last three years by a military junta that deposed a democratically elected President in order to arrest some criminals in government, we are asking the West to not do business with our own country until certain people win elections. Because that seems to be the only logic: the only political reform that will suffice for sanctions to be lifted, for debt relief to be offered, is an amendment to the laws making it illegal for anyone other than the opposition to win political power. So it seems.

I do not know why President Mnangagwa in his meeting with the MDC Alliance and Human Rights activists failed to assure them about his commitment to political reforms. I do not know why he failed to inform them of Justice Makarau’s intention to resign, or his appointment of the G40 targeted Prosecutor General, or the decision to trim the budget for Zanu PF’s congress. Because in the 18 days of President Mnangagwa’s tenure before that Washington DC treachery, surely he could have mentioned these things to them.

Oh! Wait a minute! They never met him, did they? They never even made an effort to meet with the man, to hear what he is planning about reforming the electoral playing field. The opposition continues to fight Mugabe, despite him being gone, so there was no need to meet with the new President and hear what his take is on the issues that they decided to take vonomurevera kuAmerica.

If there was a genuine need to talk about political reforms, why not schedule a meeting with the new President and ask him: who is going to replace Justice Makarau? Why not arrange a meeting with the President and present the list of things that would make the electoral map even? When he was Minister of Justice, did the new President not say that he thought the Electoral Act must be amended to align with the constitution? Why run to Washington DC when driving up to State House seems so much quicker?

Do we seriously think that kurevera President to there Americans will make him shake in his boots and suddenly go running to the US Congress and says “please, I admit it, I am sorry and will fix things”? Have we seen the resolve and pride of our people lately? Did his inaugural speech not promise change, and reforms, and elections in 2018? Where is the goodwill, the giving of the benefit of doubt? Where is the patriotism? Are we so deluded in our thirst for power that we think that only ‘me, myself and I’ can bring change to Zimbabwe and no-one else?

When one is talking about friends, one tries to be circumspect with language. I like mkoma Tendai Biti, when I speak to Chamisa he says ‘mkoma’ and my texts to him start with ‘munin’ina’. Welshman might be dead to me, but one would think that even he too knows that while you can play for Higlanders and I play for Dynamos, when we come to the national team we fight for the common goal. But on this, come now people, this was offside. Besides, my brothers, nothing good ever comes with going on foreign trips with Welshman, ask Morgan Tsvangirai and his Ari ben Menashe fiasco.

Arguing that sanctions do not affect anyone is stupid, because they do. The ‘targeted sanctions’ we have had since 2005 have not stopped Grace and her brood owning hotels and houses in places like Canada, France, Dubai, Singapore and South Africa. Did you see the cars that Grace and her sons bought recently? Did you see the house that Kasukuwere built? Have you heard how much was in Chombo’s house, as cash, when he was nabbed?

Sanctions affect Mr and Mrs John Q Public. Our common folk, who are reduced to the level of beggars in their own country and worse abroad. Sanctions do not even affect those in the opposition, with their access to Parliament allowances and business deals. Show me a poor opposition MP and I will raise you my mum. Show me a starving relative of any of the people in that delegation to Washington DC and I will raise you my village.

Chiang Kai Sheik and Zhou Enlai were bitter enemies, but when the Japanese invaded, the latter freed the former from prison so that together they might face the foreign invaders. They later resided their fight, and built China and Taiwan to where they are now in the world. That is what statesmen do.

These people we run crying to, these Americans and them Europeans, they do not like us. They are guilty of robbing our resources during colonialism and superintending over a system that keeps us subjugated even now, but they do have a moral compass that says they need at least some justification to avoid doing anything that might remotely look like helping us. Through trips like this, we have given them this excuse. Now they can decide to not assist us with balance of payments support and debt relief because, after all, our own people think they should not.

That trip gave the West an alibi, to keep our people suffering. We know it is not about the government: doing business with Thailand’s military rulers just because they have promised elections in November 2018 is proof that it matters not to the West what reforms are in place, just what the West gets out of the deal. We offer less than Thailand, and our misguided politicians just provided them with  a copout.

The people of Zimbabwe are not stupid. They know who removed Mugabe, and who said ‘Mugabe is not really gone’. They know who said ‘come let us reason together, and fix this country and recover our footing’, and who went to Washington DC to say ‘don’t help our country until after elections in 2018’.

To paraphrase Joshua 24:15 “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve Zimbabwe, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the West which in 2000 you were seen to serve… but as for most Zimbabweans and their households, we will serve the country of our heritage.” By any reckoning, the trip to Washington DC was another PR disaster that will meet its comeuppance in the ballot box.