Outside looking in: A letter from the diaspora

While Zanu PF endlessly rails against sanctions, I’m pretty sure that if you were to ask the average Zimbabwean, Mr and Mrs Average Citizen, what are the main problems facing the country today, the answer would most definitely not be sanctions.

The reason for that is simply that sanctions have very little effect on the average citizen’s daily life. Now that the US dollar has replaced the worthless Zim dollar it is possible to buy just about anything – providing, of course, you have the money. So why do Mugabe and his underlings continue to go on and on about sanctions.

The answer must be that it is they, the top chefs, not the ‘povo’, who are most affected. The ‘chefs’ can no longer travel freely, access their foreign bank accounts, shop in Harrods, stroll along the Champs Elysee or walk down Fifth Avenue, though no doubt Robert Mugabe and his party will attempt the latter while he is in New York for the UN Summit!

Apart from those inconveniences to Zanu PF chefs, I wonder what purpose sanctions serve any more? They have certainly not persuaded Mugabe to change his policies. By lifting them Zanu would lose its main propaganda tool: the lie that the west is responsible for everything that has gone wrong in Zimbabwe. The Attorney General argued last week that sanctions violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

When I checked the specifics of that reference, it turned out that Tomana was referring to that part of the Declaration that dealt with property rights. Coming in a week when, by my count there were more than half a dozen illegal seizures of property, that’s pretty ironic. In Chiredzi Zanu PF youths took over white-owned businesses; there were threats of takeovers in the Save conservancy by Zanu PF chefs; fresh farm invasions hit Masvingo and Zanu PF youths targetted all white-owned businesses in the town; there were more details of the Kunonga takeover of the Shearly Cripps Orphanage revealing the suffering caused to the children; the so-called February 21st Movement threatened more land seizures; white robed Mapostori refused to move from the farm which they had invaded and in Bulawayo a Zanu PF youth group plans to take over all unoccupied buildings.

Meanwhile Robert Mugabe tells the UN that ‘his’ land reform has alleviated poverty and reduced pressure on the land. How he justifies that claim is hard to fathom when we see pictures showing Zanu PF youths butchering an elephant they had slaughtered in a game conservancy where they chopped down trees for firewood to sell, poached game, set fires and generally misused the land and its resources.

Zanu PF wants better relation with the US and the EU, Mugabe says, but not until sanctions are lifted. Only then will Zanu PF fat cats be able to get their hands on their ill-gotten wealth deposited in foreign banks. Why should these criminals be allowed to benefit more than they already have from land and property seizures? Mr and Mrs Average Citizen are entitled to ask that question but it would not, I suspect, come top of the list of problems facing Zimbabwe. From the outside looking in, the main problems facing the country is political violence and the failure by the police to deal with the perpetrators. However, Mr and Mrs Average Citizen living inside Zimbabwe might see it differently. They, I suspect, would put money – or the shortage of it –at the top of the list of problems Zimbabwe faces. That problem affects every citizen. With unemployment still at 80%, earning a living wage is the major problem.

Mugabe boasts of his policy of ‘Economic empowerment’ but, as the economist Tony Hawkins pointed out this week, it is a foolish policy which discourages investment and thus perpetuates poverty, slows growth and leaves the majority of the population poorer and still not empowered either politically or financially. The fat cats continue to do very well out of it though.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, PH. aka Pauline Henson author of the Dube books, detective stories with a political slant set in Zimbabwe and available from Lulu.com

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