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Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: The Huge Sanctions Ruse — as the sanctioned regime buys expensive toys

Last Tuesday, 25 October 2022, was the day of the usual regional noise against sanctions. And yet it has always been as clear as a goat’s behind that Zimbabweans are suffering not because of anything else but the massive looting and corruption by this inept regime and its local and international cartel of criminal associates.

The so-called sanctions are a ruse because even the racist and repressive colonialist, Ian Smith, was under full-fledged UN sanctions but he did not mutter any senseless excuse. Yes, unlike the ED regime that is shouting hoarse over sanctions imposed only by the US, Europe and the UK, Smith was under full United Nations sanctions. And yet at Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, he left these guys to inherit a strong economy and a Zimbabwe dollar that was stronger than the British pound.

Smith delivered in spite of full-fledged global sanctions. The message and the lesson here is that sanctions must never be an excuse for non-delivery without the regime taking ownership of its own gross ineptitude and massive looting.

Sanctions cannot be an excuse by a regime that has damaged our ears by telling us, ad infinitum , ad nauseam , that in spite of the “illegal” sanctions, Zimbabwe is poised to be an upper-middle income economy by 2030 and that we are on a massive growth trajectory as we are building our economy ” brick upon brick , stone upon stone .”

The Zanu PF regime pleads extreme poverty due to sanctions, at least for the rest of us, while the party’s elite lives the bounteous life of plenty. The Zanu PF Congress last week did not in any way show a ruling party of a country under sanctions.

The Congress had the Hollywood optics of abundant wealth ; a grand occasion of party leaders living the high life while the ordinary people suffer. True sweeping sanctions—as we are told Zimbabwe was slapped with—are not selective and discriminatory. They similarly affect everyone.

The expensive fleet of over 500 lavish campaign vehicles bought and doled out to the party’s provinces at the Congress were at conplete variance with a party under sweeping sanctions, as they would rather have us believe.

And apart from the plush cars, we were reliably told that from January to September 2022, the party had spent ZW$1;8 billion and US$4, 8 million on salaries, transport, health and allowances for its bigwigs.

No one is minding about the welfare of the party’s ordinary members in Musana, Domboshava, Chakari, Tsholotsho and Dombodema.

So much for a party reeling under sanctions!

Moreover, it is an embarrassing contradiction to claim huge economic success and them blame sanctions for the suffering of the people. The same government cannot be massively succeeding in spite of the sanctions and yet be massively hamstrung by the same sanctions at the same time. It’s a shameful oxymoron!

Moreover, we cannot only claim sovereignty in building our country but deny ourselves the same sovereignty in destroying it. Kana nyika ichivakwa nevene vayo , inoputswa zvakare nevene vayo .Indeed, we cannot only be sovereign enough to build our own country but not be sovereign enough to destroy it!

For me, it was laughable and contradictory that we lavishly and expensively demonstrated against our suffering due to sanctions. Indeed, we showcased our “suffering” in a plush way; our poverty in a wealthy way. For how do you explain a sanctioned man who demonstrates against his sanctioner by holding a music gala and drinking and dancing the whole night away?.

Is it sanctions or looting and buying expensive toys?

In the wake of a poorly run economy, underpaid civil servants and despondent Zimbabwean families surviving on less than US$1 a day, the regime has sought to blame it all on sanctions.

Even the many in the ruling elite with their hordes of mistresses are blaming it all on sanctions. I hear Cabinet Ministers who pitch up home in the morning are blaming sanctions; those with genital warts as well as those with erectile dysfunctions are all blaming it on the restrictive measures imposed by the US and her European allies.

It is called scape-goating.

But only a few years ago, it was none other than Robert Mugabe himself who told us that US$ 15 billion of diamond proceeds had been stolen at Chiadzwa by none other than his party’s ruling elite . Was that sanctions?

US$15 billion would have bought cancer machines, improved our health care, education system, the entire social services sector as well as funding infrastructure rehabilitation. It would have improved the salaries and the quality of life of the lot of our civil servants. But did the US$15 billion vanish because of the sanctions by the US and her allies?

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It is shameful that those who have imposed sanctions on us fly on commercial flights while we hire expensive private jets to international summits. While the rich countries that have sanctioned us travel cheap, we have by habit chosen to travel wealthy, as if we can afford it.

We hire expensive jets and yet we have no money. Much like the poor jerk who hires a Mercedes Benz to go and borrow a loaf of bread from the rich, millionaire supermarket owner who has himself cycled to his shop in order to cut costs.

For exampley during his Davos trip, Mr Mnangagwa hired a plush plane at a cost of US$30 000 per flying hour; the plane itself was a Luxury P4-CLA, a Boeing 767-2DX (ER) that had been previously hired by the royal family of the oil-rich nation of Saudi Arabia.

Can we blame sanctions for our poverty and the parlous state of our economy?

A few years ago, the whole nation was made to celebrate ED’s handshakes with Boris Johnson and Joe Biden at a COP summit in Scotland. We were told that the handshakes signified the success of the government’s engagement and re-engagement drive.

Now that we have realised that we read too much into mere handshakes, should we blame sanctions that we lied to ourselves?

Our main problem is not sanctions but a thieving and corrupt leadership that lives well outside its means. We have a penchant for expensive toys and yet blame all our problems on sanctions and not on our own misplaced priorities.

For example, in April 2021, in the middle of a global pandemic and with our civil servants crying out for more pay, Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa bought himself a US$18 million helicopter. On Thursday 15 April 2021, a Russian Antonov AN-124 flew into Harare to deliver Mnangagwa’s Aibus H215.

Was that sanctions or plain profligacy on useless items?

Now only in the last few days, with our civil servants still suffering and our health delivery system in the doldrums, we read yet again that the man wants to buy himself a Presidential jet, yet another plush toy. This time, it’s a US$62,5 million long range Dassault Falcon. We hear four other plush helicopters will be procured for what has been termed “VVIP Transport.”

Should we blame sanctions when we buy plush toys while the nation is suffering?

The Auditor General’s 2018 report told us that Air Zimbabwe cannot account for three aeroplanes, three MA60 aircrafts. Yes, three aeroplanes just vanished and cannot to this day be accounted for.Should we blame sanctions when we steal three aeroplanes to leave only one Air Zimbabwe plane lying our skies? Is it sanctions or theft and corruption that are at the core of our problems?

Now we hear yet again that Z$1,2 billion worth of sanitary wear bought for distribution to rural schools cannot be accounted for. The sanitary wear for the school girls has disappeared and no one can account.

Can we say the sanitary wear has vanished because of the sanctions imposed on us by the US and her allies?

Conclusion: The biggest sanction

The sanctions mantra is just but a gigantic ruse. Our national challenge is looting and corruption by the ruling elite, compounded by misplaced priorities and a penchant for expensive toys.

For me, the biggest sanction is the sanction on life that the regime has imposed on innocent Zimbabweans. The regime has played God and has killed people. It is only God who can take away life and the biggest sanction is when a government of mortal human beings begins to sanction life by killing innocent souls.

The six people killed by the regime on August 1 2018 as well as the murders of Mboneni Ncube and Moreblessings Ali mean that it is the ED government that has slapped the biggest sanction ever which only God should administer—-the sanction of human life.

Zanu PF has also slapped other sanctions on the people of Zimbabwe; the sanctions against free and fair elections, against democracy, against jobs, against a free judiciary, a free media and a truly independent parliament. Charity (and even the call for the removal of sanctions) must surely begin at home.

Before SADC talks about any other sanction, they must first talk about the sanctions that the illegitimate Zanu PF regime has slapped on the innocent people of Zimbabwe. It is these sanctions that Zimbabweans hope to remove overwhelmingly when they vote out Zanu PF in next year’s elections.

The regime must not be allowed to continue with its culture of impunity. Before we vote them out next year, the most important assignment is for is to keep the regime in check as well as to expose all the shenanigans, including he looting and the corruption.

Anything else would be trite and grossly inadequate. It would be akin to stitching the anus in order to cure a running stomach!!

Luke Tamborinyoka, a journalist and ardent political scientist , is a citizen from Domboshava. He is a change champion in the Citizens Coalition for Change ( CCC ). You can interact with him on his facebook page or via the twitter handle @ luke_tambo.