Sanctions: UN visit adds fuel to fire

The United Nations has come under fire from critics for attributing the suffering of Zimbabweans in the last decade to the targeted sanctions imposed on Zanu (PF) individuals and companies by the US and EU member countries.

UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay.
UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC party are also being blamed for seeming to side with Zanu (PF) in their treatment of the sanctions issue.

Harare based economic consultant, John Robertson, accused UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay of “speaking like Zanu (PF)”.

“It is unfortunate that Pillay seems to have fallen into the Zanu (PF) trap and has swallowed the party’s propaganda hook, line and sinker. The UN has been compromised,” he said.

“I am also extremely disappointed with Morgan Tsvangirai and his party because they seem to be cozying up to Mugabe’s line of thinking. It seems being in the GNU has affected them. I used to respect the party very much, but that respect is now diluted,” he added.

“It is there for everyone to see that, far from the sanctions causing the suffering of the people, it’s in fact the bad policies that Mugabe and his party adopted that are to blame. They are the ones who invited the rogue state perception that many now share and has made it difficult to attract investment,” he added.

Pillay called for the sanctions to be suspended, arguing that they had affected the economy and were adversely affecting the livelihoods of vulnerable populations. She told journalists the sanctions were “in fact having a wider impact on the general population”.

But some economic analysts said Pillay was talking sense and that her comments should be taken in the current context, where Zanu (PF) has used the issue of sanctions as a red herring to cloud numerous important issues.

“What Pillay said was that there seems little doubt that the existence of the sanctions regimes has, at the very least, acted as a serious disincentive to overseas banks and investors. It is also likely that the stigma of sanctions has limited certain imports and exports. This is absolutely true,” said one analyst.

Pillay also said: “Taken together, these and other unintended side-effects will in turn inevitably have had a negative impact on the economy at large, with possibly quite serious ramifications for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable populations.”

With so much publicity and disinformation being communicated in the international press about sanctions, the issue had become clouded in controversy and fear which, of itself, had deterred international investors, said the analyst. For this reason alone, it made sense for the sanctions to be at least suspended so that they ceased to become an issue that Zanu (PF) or anybody else could use to muddy the waters.

Eric Bloch, an economist who has in the past advised the Zanu (PF) government, said sanctions had diverted attention from the real issues at stake.

“This misconception has been wrongly promoted by the politicians and it conceals the real cause of the economic crisis that we have been experiencing. The sanctions have had a minimal direct impact on the economy. Private companies were not on the targeted list, but they have suffered as well,” he told The Zimbabwean.

What do you think?

Should sanctions be maintained, removed or suspended?

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