Hopewell Chin’ono – US sanctions will embolden hardliners in Mnangagwa government
By Hopewell Chin’ono
The extension or renewal of the US sanctions against the Zimbabwean government leadership on Friday has emboldened the hand of the hardliners in that administration. More importantly, it has killed the dream of a diaspora vote which some in ZANU PF were now starting to entertain.
Contrary to what many say, this is a constitutional issue which requires the ruling party to amend the national law in order to accommodate the diaspora vote.
Many in both ZANU PF and the MDC-T have acknowledged that it is now politically impossible to convince the Zimbabwean government to drive an agenda for a diaspora vote when part of the national leadership of that very government is prohibited from traveling to certain parts of that diasporan world.
Many that have called for these US sanction measures to be extended have taken a juvenile activist attitude as opposed to a pragmatic approach towards these measures. They serve NO progressive purpose and yet they provide cover for the government’s omissions and failures.
How for instance can a President Emmerson Mnangagwa not allowed to travel to the US agree to give the nod to the Zimbabwean diaspora in that country to vote when he is not allowed to go there and campaign and yet his opponents can go and sell their case?
These are practical issues that require compatriots to remove partisan lenses to see and understand the long term damage caused by some of the things that we do and say out of exuberance and not being political!
Many in ZANU PF who were campaigning hard for the diaspora vote to happen now feel let down by the US government’s action. This will also see the waning influence of the US government on Zimbabwe as the European countries warm up to the new administration.
This in my mind was the time when the US government should have suspended these measures pending a clean election. The Zimbabwean government would have been compelled to give something in return.
Now they have NO reason to shift especially on the diaspora vote which many thought would happen.
The court case looking at this issue is now a purely academic exercise. This is yet another lost opportunity to help the new Zimbabwean government to come out of the cold.
The hardliners are rejoicing and popping champagne because they felt cornered by the new so called winds of change or New Dispensation. Now they can only say that “we told you so” with a twinkle in their eye.
Anyone who wants to help the Zimbabwean people should wear the same Thinking Cap worn by the former American Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray, last week when he presented to Congress his views on Zimbabwe. He encouraged engagement not estrangement.
The jihadist approach taken by some of our opposition leaders and “activists” towards sanctions will only ensure that ZANUPF rule is not interrupted in the next general election.
As happened in Kenya in 2013 when the US Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson threatened Kenyans with his “actions have consequences” statement, there will be an embrace of convenience between the Zimbabwean administration and its former doubters due to the extension of the sanctions.
Zimbabweans will now see their government as a victim of imperial power machinations!
This will force many to see the opposition as a beneficiary of these imperial maneuvers.
This anger will reward ZANU PF with the protest vote as happened in Kenya when Carson indirectly threatened Kenyans with consequences if they voted for the Jubilee team of Uhuru Kenyatta and William.
Kenyans went and did exactly that as they felt patronized by an imperial power.
You will remember this post after the elections, the Americans should have simply suspended these measures and allowed the Zimbabwean government to hang itself or to do the right thing.
Besides the political elite on the US sanctions list, there are 55 Zimbabwean companies not allowed to do business with the US or its banks.
This will have a huge knock on effect on our economic recovery efforts as all international money transfers are routed via New York. To avoid the hassle most foreign companies will stay away from Zimbabwe.
So whilst many take partisan positions and encourage foreign governments to punish the ZANUPF Government, it is actually the whole country that will feel the pain of those measures and extension.
Over and beyond our national borders, the hard working Zimbabwean diaspora will once more just watch from the sidelines as their say in the national discourse will be consigned to social media posts.
Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is a CNN African journalist of the year and Harvard University Nieman Fellow. His next film, State of Mind looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe is coming out in March.
He can be contacted on [email protected] or on twitter @daddyhope