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Sibanengi Dube: Crisis of leadership is the genuine enemy, not sanctions

By Sibanengi Dube

The media was this weekend awash with the sanctions debates. I closely followed the debates with the intention to acquaint myself with the origins and implications of the sanctions.

Sibanengi Dube
Sibanengi Dube

After going through a few social media posts I was tempted to believe that MDC Alliance was responsible for slapping Zimbabwe with sanctions.

Some are wildly crediting MDC President Nelson Chamisa and his deputy Tendai Biti for drafting the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA). I marveled at the power of the duo, who allegedly control the foreign policies of America and European Union countries. Some are condemning MDC for neither joining the march nor calling for the scrapping of sanctions.

Is Zimbabwe under sanctions? This is the question which kept on creeping in my mind. Information which is only a button away has a different tale to make. Only 84 Zanu PF characters, mostly in the government leadership are on travel bans and targeted smart sanctions.

The 85th one Owen Ncube, Zimbabwe’s ’State Security minister, joined the rogue list on the day Emmerson Mnangagwa charlatanry led a march against sanctions. Fifty-six companies are also on the sanctioned list for acting in connivance with this ‘ugly’ lot.

ZIDERA came to life in 2001 in direct response to escalating human rights abuses and in 2003 for USA President, George Bush created the sanctions regime through an executive order targeting individuals undermining democratic processes. Subsequent modifications followed in response to new developments like election fraud, human rights violations and corruption.

As to why the mantra of Zimbabwe being on sanctions gained momentum is too preposterous to merit even as a passing sneer. The perception that sanctions are predominantly responsible for the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe is opportune fiction being sponsored by Zimbabwe’s authoritarian elite.

There are also claims that the sanctioning of blush Zimbabwe leaders was tantamount to sanctioning the whole populace of country. Of course this is inaccurate.

All other 16 million Zimbabweans except for the 85 are at liberty to travel and do business with America and other European countries. There are no blanket economic sanctions or crippling outside impositions targeting the generality of Zimbabwe.

The 85 ‘bad guys’ incensed the First and Third World by repeatedly failing to abide to ethical conduct in their dealings with citizens of the world. Kwanzi havashandikani navo. The reason behind the sanctions are well explained and backed with empirical evidence.

Instead of addressing the issues raised the ‘bad guys’ routinely gave credence to accusations being leveled against them. On the day of the sanctions march, Hilton Tafadzwa Tamangani, who was killed in police custody was being buried in Chitungwiza.

The vendor was tortured in detention and his lawyers claim that police denied him access to medication. Public and private funds are now an endangered commodity in Zimbabwe. National Treasury has repeatedly fallen prey to greedy and marauding politicians and senior civil servants.

Coffers of National Social Security Authority (NSSA), an agency entrusted with pensioners’ funds has been sucked dry by members of the ruling elite. A Zanu PF politburo member and former minister of Labour and Social Welfare Prisca Mupfumira is on bail for allegedly raiding the NSSA purse.

The quasi military government never hesitated even for a second to fatally open live ammunition to protesters disputing the discredited elections which attempted to sanitise Mnangagwa’s presidency. More than US$2 billion budgeted for Command Agriculture disappeared into the pockets of the reigning elite.

Even money for the all-weather Chinese friends is not safe in Zimbabwe. The Chinese financial institutions indefinitely suspended funding three big infrastructure projects totaling US$1.324 billion after government raided and diverted US$10 million from an escrow account for the Robert Mugabe International Airport expansion project.

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The above are some of the documented and proven sins which were committed by the sanctioned chaps. This is just a slice of the recent misdeeds out of a plethora of other mortal transgressions. As to how the MDC could be complicit in the attraction of sanctions is mind boggling.

The MDC is worried about internal sanctions being visited upon Zimbabweans by Zanu PF through bad governance, illegitimacy, corruption, abductions, and state sanctioned human rights abuses. MaChinjas want both internal and external sanctions to go.

The country is in a comatose state largely due to selfish and corrupt leaders who lack popular electoral mandate from the majority of Zimbabweans. At the core of the national collapse is a crisis of leadership, crisis of governance and crisis of legitimacy.

A visionless and unpopular government that employs ruthlessness as a weapon to remain in power can’t present itself as a victim of sanctions. The Authoritarian regime’s propaganda machinery is trying to paint a picture which is at variance with reality by falsely portraying sanctions as the enemy.

None of the crippling problems in Zimbabwe can be attributed primarily to sanctions targeted at individuals or to restrictions on international financial support. Rather the crisis is being fed by the regime’s failed leadership, economic mismanagement and corruption.

The SADC leaders got it all wrong by buying into the sanction chorus being sung by Zimbabwe’s ruling elite. SADC’s joint advocacy has been hoodwinked into chasing a false enemy. In shifting blame to the West, SADC missed a good opportunity to cajole Zimbabwe’s ruling elite into implementing genuine political and economic reforms.

The regional leaders should instead emphasise on the need to protect civil society leaders, human rights defenders and opposition activists. They should also limit the flow of funds stolen by Zimbabwean officials through their banks and curtail money-laundering within their borders through real estate purchases and other means.

The first sanction that has to go first to liberate Zimbabweans from oppression, corruption, starvation and torture is the Zanu PF government itself.

Good governance can only be guaranteed by the exodus of Zanu PF thugs from the corridors of power. ED’s kindergarten charade being confused as a march against sanctions is not an answer to any of the problems bedeviling Zimbabwe. It is ironic that victims were coerced to march in defense of their tormentors.

ED’s government needs to follow the sanctions script to the end. The former guerillas must stop kidnapping their opponents, desist from the habit of killing members of the opposition, vendors and protesters.

Ngava rege kugadzirira vanhu shamhu dzine munyu, ngavadire sugar mu nyika vanhu vazipigwe.

The fist waving brigade must put a stop to the rampant looting of state coffers and pension funds.

The quasi military government must hold free and fair elections and surrender power to a winner.

The government must uphold the rule of law. This is all they have to do in order to get the 85 ‘bad guys’ off the hook. If the sanctioned group is as patriotic and innocent as they claim, why don’t they step down from public office and seek clearance from the courts of law.

This will allow the country to move forward without the burden of inconveniencing the other 16 million Zimbabweans who have nothing to do with the tug of war between the 85 chaps and the West. The whole nation can’t be held at ransom by 85 people.

What can longer be conveniently forgotten is the fact that no sane investor can invest in a volatile Zimbabwe where human and property rights are not guaranteed. The rulers of the country have scared away investors by continuously generating wrong international headlines.

Military coup, corruption, abductions, stupid indigenization policies and raiding of foreign bank accounts can never be a package of a lucrative investment destination.

Credit lines were closed on Zimbabwe because the Zanu PF government has a poor credit record of not servicing debts. Investor confidence in Zimbabwe is at the lowest ebb. Zimbabwe’s failure to clear its external debt led to the closure of credit lines which means ZIDERA never actually came into play. This has nothing to do with sanctions.

Investors were never stopped from coming to Zimbabwe but the risk element is too high. Vakazvisunga mbira dzakondo vega. The government conduct and composition needs to change and sanctions will simply fall away. Ngavaende, ngavaende, zvavanoita hatizvidi, hatizvidi.

Sibanengi Dube is a Zimbabwean journalist based in South Africa