Why Zanu-PF's complaints about sanctions are bunk

Eddie Cross

18 October 2013

Responding to the Zanu PF Motion on Sanctions tabled in the House of Assembly on the 16th October 2013

This motion seeks to support the view adopted by Zanu PF as a principle propaganda platform that the ills of the Zimbabwean economy are totally attributable to the "illegal sanctions imposed by the West on the country". As a sub target they are claiming that the MDC is responsible for the imposition of sanctions and are therefore "responsible" for the effect of sanctions on the country. 

The MDC dealt with this motion very effectively on the day it was tabled in the House and had Zanu PF panicking in response. We can do more damage with a well crafted response in ensuing weeks. Our policy position is very clear: 

Under the Global Political Agreement we agreed to seek the removal of all restrictions on both individuals and companies that had been imposed as a consequence of violations of human and political rights in the period from 1997 to 2002. We did so during the life of the Government of National Unity and this effort saw significant progress in this arena - a number of affected institutions and individuals had the restrictions on them lifted during the GNU; largely as a result of the efforts of the MDC and the notion that progress was being made with the national reform agenda outlined in the GPA. 

In addition, solely as a result of the efforts made by MDC Ministers, a process of engagement with the multilaterals (the World bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank) as well as the European Union were initiated and very significant progress made including the signing of an agreement with the IMF in May 2013 to initiate a "Staff Monitored Programme" which is the first step towards reengagement with the Fund and the commencement of talks on debt relief for the country. 

The MDC remains committed to the complete withdrawal of restrictions on the leadership of Zanu PF and on certain institutions on the grounds that these restrictions have done little to advance the programme of essential reforms to the way the country is governed and instead are providing Zanu PF with a "Fig Leaf" which they are using to cover up their own shortcomings. However the MDC recognises that little progress can be made in this area so long as Zanu PF leadership continue to violate human and political rights and freedoms in Zimbabwe and continue to deny Zimbabweans the right to choose their leaders in free and fair elections that are compliant with all the SADC protocols guiding the conduct of elections in SADC countries. 

The failure of the GPA to produce a credible result in July 2013 is a direct result of the resistance of the leadership of Zanu PF to every reform measure in the agreement that they agreed to in September 2008 and which they signed in front of African leaders in Harare. This has resulted in Zimbabwe once again having to deal with trying to recover from the collapse in 2008 with a government that lacks credibility and will not be recognised as a democratic regime by a large number of countries, many of which are key partners in both trade and aid. 

In many respects therefore the restrictions on Zanu PF leadership are self imposed and the significance of the Motion in front of the House is that it is clear recognition that these restrictions can only be lifted if the MDC agrees to work with Zanu PF in seeking their suspension. The question that the sponsors of the Motion have to answer is why the MDC should do that when Zanu PF has completely failed to implement the many reforms that they accepted under the Global Political Agreement of 2008. The truth is that if they had faithfully fulfilled their commitments under the GPA, all restrictions would have been lifted several years ago and we would now be well on the way to recovery and growth under a new democratic dispensation. 

The sponsors of the Motion make a number of other claims that are clearly mischievous and misleading. These include: 

"The sanctions are illegal". The reality is that all the States that have imposed restrictions on the regime in Harare are sovereign States who have every right to restrict their relations with any country with which they have a relationship. They have several options in this respect - direct action on a bilateral basis, collective action through a group of States (the EU and the Commonwealth) or action on a global basis through the United Nations. Action threatened under the Harare Declaration adopted by the Commonwealth at its summit in Harare led to the withdrawal of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth for example. 

"The sanctions are responsible for our economic problems". In 1967 the United Nations imposed the most comprehensive sanctions ever on the Rhodesian regime at the instigation of the United Kingdom. These sanctions were mandatory, comprehensive and were enforced by military force in the form of a blockade by the British navy of the Ports of Mozambique. These sanctions were in place for the next 13 years and were only removed once independence under majority rule had been secured. Despite this harsh regime of sanctions, the Rhodesians maintained a strong economy, a currency which was stronger than the Rand or the US dollar and an average standard of living that was second only to South Africa and was three times higher than Botswana. Over 90 per cent of all the goods found in the economy were locally produced and the country remained a net food exporter. 

In 2008, after 28 years under Zanu PF government, the Zimbabwean economy collapsed with 250 million per cent inflation, a 60 per cent decline in GDP, a decline of two thirds in agricultural output and a dramatic fall in average life expectancy and average incomes. Debt accumulated over the period of Independence reached $11 billion, none of which was being serviced and this led to the suspension of all assistance by the multilaterals. All schools and hospitals were virtually closed and over 300 000 people were dying annually from communicable diseases. 

Since 2008, without any change in the restrictions imposed on Zanu PF the economy has recovered substantially, foreign trade has risen dramatically and trade with all those countries who have imposed restrictions has risen. In addition, the same countries led by the USA and the UK, who are applying restrictions on the Zanu PF leadership have poured well over $4 billion into the Zimbabwean economy - more than half in the form of humanitarian assistance. This clearly illustrates the fallacy of claiming that they are economic sanctions. 

"Sanctions are imposed because of the land reform programme". The issue of land reform is not an issue at all - all parties agree on the need for reform and this includes all the countries that have restrictions on the Zanu PF leadership. The problem is a wider one involving the failure to respect and maintain the rule of law, respect for our own legislation and national Constitution. The so called "fast track land reform" was a violent and illegal asset grab by politically connected individuals which violated the rights of hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who were dependent on the land for a living. This view is supported by dozens of legal judgments made in Courts of Law in Zimbabwe, South Africa and at the SADC as well as several international judgments. 

"Sanctions were imposed to protect the interests of their kith and kin". The imposition of mandatory sanctions on the Rhodesian Government in 1967 makes this a ridiculous claim. 

"The Western States are guilty of human rights abuse and do not have the moral right to impose sanctions". This is a claim that simply does not stand up to even the most simplistic examination. The claim is directed at the UK, France, Germany and the Nordic States. It implies that these States are equally guilty, along with the leadership of Zanu PF, of extra judicial killings, political assassinations, the abuse of the right to assembly, restrictions on freedom of speech, the right to vote, the right to citizenship and the full protection of the law. These are the issues on which the European Union based its decision in 2002 to impose restrictions on the leadership of Zanu PF and those economic institutions which were perceived as providing the regime with support. In fact the only real "sanctions" on Zimbabwe are restrictions on the sale of any weapons or equipment that might be used to further suppress the people. 

"Sanctions are an act of war". Finally this must be the most ridiculous claim made in the presentation of the motion. Zimbabwe is a tiny State with a GDP that is less than 3 per cent of the GDP of South Africa. The states that have imposed restrictions on the Zanu PF leadership have virtually no interests left in Zimbabwe, certainly not the USA. Their policies towards Zimbabwe are based solely on principle and the desire to ensure that Zimbabwe does not become a failed State because of its own incompetence and poor policies. In fact the reasons for the continued imposition of these restrictions are the same ones that gave rise in 1967 to the imposition of global, mandatory and binding sanction on Rhodesia. Through them the international community is trying to help secure the freedoms and rights for all Zimbabweans that they have achieved for their own people after centuries of struggle.

Eddie Cross




Eddie Cross is the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) MP for Bulawayo South and Director for Policy Research