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Tinomudaishe Chinyoka: Why the march against sanctions is necessary

By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka

There are those who will want to pontificate and argue until they are hoarse that there are no sanctions against Zimbabwe. That there exists only “targeted sanctions” against certain individuals. Or that there are travel restrictions stopping certain people from going to Europe, and no sanctions. That these “targeted sanctions” will be instantaneously removed once Zimbabwe “restores the rule of law”. Or, when these people are being generous, they accept there are sanctions but argue that these are not hurting Zimbabwe.

Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka during an interview on eNCA

Such people, whatever their motives, are wrong. Deliberately and misleadingly so. The sanctions issue is not only very real, but is also decidedly very simple.

So, why does the MDC Alliance claim that sanctions are not hurting Zimbabwe? Well, only through the employment of double-speak and hypocrisy. Fadzayi Mahere of the MDC says disingenuously:

“Why would an ordinary Zimbabwean who is struggling to make ends meet take to the streets so that Jongwe Printers or Zimbabwe Defence Industries are removed from the sanctions list? How would this change the price of bread?”

The condensation in this statement is clear. It says that poor people only worry about bread, not the interference by a foreign power in the internal affairs of their nation. It selectively chooses companies that have very little or zero involvement with the ordinary Zimbabwean or the USA, and avoids talking about such companies as Agribank or IDC.

But most of all, it denies poor people the legitimate right and agency to protest based on an exercise of their right to freedom of assembly and says they must only protest for bread. Other rights are the preserve of lawyers and others not “struggling to make ends meet”.

So, what is the truth about sanctions? It is really very simple.

The United States of America has, as one of its statutes, a law called the Zimbabwe Democracy and  Economic Reform Act. The latest version of this law was passed into law in that country in 2018. This Act is what is commonly known as ZIDERA.

At its heart, ZIDERA, as read with other US law and policy, does a number of very clear things: (a) it criminalises the doing of business by any American entity (or any entity that has a presence in the USA) with various Zimbabwean companies including those such as Agribank or the IDC, (b) it instructs American appointees on the boards or committees of the World Bank and the IMF (both of which are controlled by the USA) to vote against anything that might result in some support being given to Zimbabwe and (c) it determines that these conditions will never change unless and until Zimbabwe pays white commercial farmers US$9 000 000 000.00 for their land. That is US$9 billion.

To be clear, while one can guess what Agribank is, but not many of us know what the IDC does. The Industrial Development Corporation holds shares in various companies, including Olivine, which makes cooking oil, margarine and soap. That, apparently, made it a candidate for targeting.

So severe are the consequences for violating ZIDERA that not too long ago, CBZ was fined US$3,8 billion for transactions done on behalf of or to ZB Bank which was on the “targeted sanctions list”.

While this fine was later reduced on appeal, it still came “down” to US$385 000 000.00, which is still US$385 million more than would have happened if there were no sanctions. And only in April this year, Stanchart was also fined US$18 million for alleged violations of ZIDERA. This is not chump change.

In fact, the main proponents of ZIDERA, Tendai Biti and Chris Coons, have said all one needs to know about the existence of sanctions and their capacity to incapacitate a country. According to Coons (the dictionary defines the word ‘coon’ as either short for “racoon” or a “more polite version of the word nigger”, just for interest’s sake):

“As long as there are significant sanctions by Western countries on Zimbabwe, that raises both direct and indirect challenges for them; …. it makes it harder for them to access capital, to attract the sort of interest and engagement that would revive the Zimbabwean economy.”

And, speaking after they lost the election, Tendai Biti said:

“The fascists are trying to steal this election, but we won’t accept it. We’re going to fight this. We will mobilise more sanctions, Zanu PF won’t get a penny.”

Now, one does not need to get it explained that both these gentlemen (and I use the term very loosely) could not have been clamouring for something that is useless. The sponsors of ZIDERA know exactly what it does, who it hurts and how it hurts.  That Zimbabwe is the target in the “targeted sanctions” mantra is not in any doubt.

Zimbabwe is under a vicious sanctions regime whose far-reaching effects recently saw a Chinese bank deciding not to have any dealings with Zimbabwe; not because the Chinese have a problem with us, but because the bank was worried about the implications on its USA business.

That is what Coons meant by “it makes it harder for them to access capital”, because banks and other lenders will inevitably have dealings in the USA and they will not want to be fined US$3,8 billion like CBZ was for the “crime” of doing business with Zimbabwe.

That means whatever capital we get, it is at punitive interest rates, because those who do business with us will have to add a risk premium. That is why we don’t have that many capital projects, (no cranes in Harare’s skyline for example), because there quite simply are no capital flows into Zimbabwe for big projects. Due to sanctions.

Sanctions are not about so-called Zanu PF corruption or the claimed ‘abduction’ of actors and also-runs clothed under the guise of ‘break-down in the rule of law’. To think that is the epitome of naivety. It is foolishness born out of thinking that the United States of America will ever do anything for purely altruistic reasons. Such thinking needs an exorcist. 

Anyone who thinks that the United States of America gives a hoot about claimed missing v11s  in Victoria Falls or whether or not aid from Cyclone Idai was diverted to a supermarket in Gweru is a candidate for a mental hospital.

Sanctions are about land reform. Pure and simple. They are about warning South Africa not to expropriate land without compensation because they will suffer a ‘Zimbabwe’. That is why they have tied to them the demand to pay white farmers US$9 billion. A figure that those claiming there are no sanctions conveniently forget.

The march on 25 October 2019 is therefore not just necessary, but a chance for everyone, especially those of us “struggling to make ends meet” to show the world just what it is that USA sanctions have done to us.

It is disingenuous to argue otherwise.

Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is a qualified lawyer and social worker, living in Harare where he practices as an Advocate. He is a member of the ruling Zanu PF. Follow him on @TinoChinyoka