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‘President Raisi, please tell Mnangagwa that sanctions can never cripple a country!’

So, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is in Zimbabwe for a visit.

That is good news!

Well, for me, at least this is an opportunity for him to finally get it into the heads of those governing Zimbabwe that sanctions – no matter which form and shape they come in – can never bring a country’s economy to its knees.

He needs to immediately dispel this myth – spread by the Zimbabwe ruling establishment for the past two decades – that supposed sanctions are responsible for our country’s economic meltdown.

Let us remember that Iran has been under arguably the harshest and most punitive economic and trade sanctions imposed on any nation in the history of this world, mostly by the US and her allies.

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Here we are dealing with a country that has severe trade and financial restrictions imposed on their only major natural resource, oil and natural gas.

Furthermore, there are sanctions on over 50 banks and their subsidiaries, Iran’s national airline, over 200 members of the shipping industry and vessels, and its atomic energy.

Yet, this is the same country that is ranked 3rd in the Middle East – only behind Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and larger than the UAE – whose GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for 2022 stood at an impressive US$1.5 trillion.

On the global stage, Iran is the 22nd largest economy.

In fact, its economy has been growing at a steady pace – at 4.7 percent in 2021, 3.0 percent in 2022, and 2.0 percent in 2023.

These are statistics Raisi should be telling his Zimbabwe counterpart, President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa – who has unashamedly tried to hide behind so-called ‘sanctions imposed by the US and her allies’ for the unbelievable suffering and poverty afflicting millions of his citizenry.

Mnangagwa needs to be told, in no uncertain terms, that – no amount of sanctions can ever reduce a country into a basket case – as happened to Zimbabwe.

There is no way half the population can live in extreme poverty, whilst three quarters earning below the PDL (poverty datum line) – simply because of supposed ‘sanctions’.

This becomes even more preposterous and incredulous when these ‘sanctions’ are merely travel and financial restrictions on a handful of individuals and entities – who are of minimal significance to the broader Zimbabwean economy.

In addition, Zimbabwe’s minerals and other products are not under any trade restrictions or embargo – a fact made abundantly clear by RBZ (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) governor John Panonetsa Mangudya.

So, whilst he is still here, Raisi may do us all a huge favour by asking Mnangagwa why our hospitals and clinics lack the most basics – such as essential medications, ambulances, functional theatres, cancer machines, and decent maternity facilities.

Does Mnangagwa know that Iran is at the forefront of some of the world’s technological breakthroughs – having even designed its own military drones, a vibrant space program, radiotherapy machines, and even COVID-19 vaccine?

Raisi should take time off his schedule to go around both our urban and rural areas so as to witness, first-hand, the deplorable and disgusting conditions under which most Zimbabweans live.

He can even take a walk in Harare’s Mbare suburb – then, visit any of the families to discover for himself how these people are surviving – in those uninhabitable structures, amidst shocking poverty.

I will not even bother mentioning our educational institutions, more so, in rural areas – where children are still learning in the open, without even basic books – much less, modern science and technology laboratories.

All this, in a country blessed with nearly 60 precious minerals – 40 of which are already being exploited and exported, including gold, diamonds, chrome, platinum and lithium.

On the other hand, Iran only boasts of two key natural resources, namely, oil and gas – which are under sanctions by the US – yet, remains a regional and global economic powerhouse.

How do those in power in Zimbabwe correlate these glaring disparities?

How does a nation under the worst economic sanctions ever imposed on anyone prosper to be the 3rd strongest in the region and 22nd in the world?

Then, another one – where the only ‘sanctions’ are mere travel and financial restrictions on a few inconsequential individuals and entities – becomes one of the poorest in the world?

This is the ball I throw directly into the court of those who have been loudly propagating this sanctions narrative.

How did these restrictive measures result in Zimbabwe having the highest food inflation in the world – hovering around 300 percent?

Or, our local currency rendered virtually useless, and can not be traded anywhere in the world – whose value now officially stands at ZW$5,000 to US$1, and ZW$6,000 on the parallel market.

For interest’s sake, Iran’s annual inflation is currently at 42 percent, whilst their unemployment rate sits at a lowly 9 percent.

Here in Zimbabwe, university graduates can not find any decent jobs – particularly for which they trained – and are reduced to street vending (or some mediocre so-called ‘projects’), prostitution, and criminality.

Day in, and day out, Mnangagwa and his comrades never tire telling us about sanctions.

Nonetheless, there is one indisputable truth!

We are being led by an incompetent group of useless cry-babies – who would rather seek solace in a pity party with fellow ‘sanctioned countries’, hoping to moan and mope together.

It is undeniable that this sanctions narrative is nothing but an excuse for the Mnangagwa administration’s unmitigated failures in running the country.

Well, not every nation that has had sanctions imposed on them feels the same – and, there are those who would rather move on, find solutions within themselves, and develop their economies without being melodramatic about the whole affair.

Instead of a small ruling elite largely looting whatever resources God blessed them with for their own personal enrichment – they have chosen to use these riches for the development to their countries.

Rather than fly overseas for medical treatment – due to the dilapidated state of their country’s health care systems – they prefer equipping their local hospitals with state-of-the-art treatment facilities.

Although, I am not a fan of the brutal heinous Iran regime – whose barbaric repression of their own citizens makes Mnangagwa look like a mere kindergarten bully – no one can deny this country’s economic and technological feats.

It is clear that Zimbabwe is not in the same league as Iran – and, I am quite sure deep down Mnangagwa is fully aware of this fact.

The Zimbabwe regime may try to fit itself amongst other countries with sanctions imposed on them – but, the stubborn truth is that, our leaders are abysmal failures and an embarrassment.

Therefore, Iran has put to rest the myth that sanctions can be responsible for a country’s economic non-performance, and even downfall.

The sanctions excuse is just that…an excuse – and nothing else.

Iran has shown us that, no matter what gravity of sanctions are imposed on a country, it can still prosper.

In addition, Zimbabwe is not new to sanctions, as Rhodesia had punitive measures imposed on it by the United Nations (UN) after the 11 November 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) – but, it did not resort to excuses.

The Rhodesians looked inside themselves by coming up with home-grown solutions – such that, despite a liberation war simultaneously being waged, the country’s economy was performing rather well.

In fact, the Rhodesian currency was at par with the US dollar.

So, if sanctions are not the real cause of economic problems affecting Zimbabwe, what is?

Let us go back to the Iran scenario.

According to the 2018 Transparency International corruption perception index, Iran ranks 28 out of 100 countries.

What about Zimbabwe?

In 2020, we were ranked a staggering 150 out of 187!

Need I say more?

Zimbabwe is one of the most corrupt countries in the world – and that is the main reason we are in this economic mess.

Admittedly, there are other factors, such as incompetence, skewed economic policies, extravagance on the part of government, and political instability – but, above all these is CORRUPTION.

Therefore, instead of the Mnangagwa regime searching for foreign-originated causes for our suffering, they would be better advised to look themselves in the mirror, instead.

Zimbabwe is being prejudiced over US$2 billion each year through the smuggling of our minerals, US$3 is lost to illicit cross-border financial transactions, and half the GDP via other corrupt activities.

Those accused of corruption crimes, yet with close proximity to power, are regularly freed by our courts – thereby, permitted to continue pillaging our national resources with impunity.

Is it not embarrassing that not a single one of those caught on camera or implicated – in an undercover Al Jazeera investigative documentary exposing gold smuggling and money laundering in Zimbabwe – has ever been brought to book?

The answers to our economic and political problems lie squarely between the Zambezi and the Limpopo rivers – and nowhere else.

However, the key is to genuinely crackdown on corruption and the looting of our resources – mostly at the hands of those in power and those aligned to them.

Unless, and until we all appreciate this fact – and stop finding others to blame – this country will continue on its freefall.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: [email protected], or visit website: http://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/