Open challenge to Zimbabwe govt for nationwide LIVE public debates on so-called sanctions

As the vast majority of Zimbabweans continue to drown in this suffocating abyss of the worst economic meltdown in a decade, the government has upped its denial and defensive mode, as it seeks to dodge responsibility by casting the blame on alleged sanctions imposed on the country by western countries, namely the United States of America (USA) through its Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) of 2001, and the European Union  (EU) in 2002.

Nonetheless, this contentious issue has further polarised the nation – pitting those who unequivocally support the government’s standpoint, against the rest of the nation who believe that the blame lies squarely on the country’s authorities, through their wanton systematic corruption, toxic and unpredictable economic policies, gross human rights abuses, and their questionable legitimacy.

This seemingly unending tag-of-war between the two camps – the former supported by regional leaders, through the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), and the latter by predominantly western countries – has raged on for far too long (nearly two decades), whilst ordinary Zimbabweans, who bear the brunt of this economic freefall, continue to wallow in poverty, with no reprieve in sight.

After twenty years, without any national consensus in sight, is it not about time that this sanctions debate became open to public scrutiny, in the hope that there can be finality as to exactly who has placed this burdensome yoke on the citizenry of this country – because the only way to move forward as a nation is when the truth is revealed, and we all unite in putting pressure on the real culprits behind our suffering.

Whilst this argument rages on, we, the people of Zimbabwe, continue to experience first hand the trauma of not finding employment (as companies close, not invest, or downsize), or those fortunate enough to be employed or operate their own small businesses do not earn enough to make any semblance of a dignified livelihood worthy of a human being, or fail to secure school fees for our children, struggle to buy food for our families, or can not afford medication for ourselves and loved ones, as the country faces shortages of foreign and domestic currencies, coupled by skyrocketing electricity and fuel tariffs.

We have had enough – as this endless tussle over who is truly responsible for our suffering will never make our lives better. No amount of grandstanding on this view or the other will help our cause. No amount of anti-sanctions marches will put food on our tables, or send our children to school, or buy medication for a dying mother with cancer. We demand a lasting solution, and we need it today. We can not take it anymore!

Therefore, to finally bring closure to this sanctions quarrel – and, hopefully, adopt a common understanding and purpose – we challenge the government to nationwide LIVE public debates on the real effects of sanctions on the economy, and the lives of ordinary people – preferably beamed on national television, without any editing.

These public debates should involve all major stakeholders affected by these sanctions – most importantly, the government and ruling ZANU PF party, the main opposition parties, the US and EU diplomats, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other global financiers’ representatives, the donor communuty, businesspeople, as well as local civil society, human rights orgnisations as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, academics, and churches from across all perspectives, and the general public.

Such pertinent and pressing questions as: what exactly ZIDERA and EU sanctions entail, the real reasons why Zimbabwe is not receiving lines of credit from global financiers, how much donor support the country has actually received from international agencies and countries, just how businesses are affected by these restrictions, how the country’s human rights record fares, and so much more, need to be seriously tackled.

In such a forum, issues surrounding these so-called sanctions can finally be openly and honestly debated and discussed – which each side mandated to provide evidence  supporting their stance, in full view of the nation.

This should finally put an end to one-sided and opinionated viewpoints that we have witnessed over the past two decades – which have not helped the ordinary person on the street, as this simply led to protracted polarisation, with the nation never nearer to knowing the truth – yet, our hell on earth has only intensified.

The nation deserves to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing else but the truth. In that way, we can then band together under one objective – as no one will still be a victim of the never-ending lies propagated by those in power who have relentlessly and unapologetically destroyed our lives, and turned them upside down.

There will obviously be those who will question the funding for such an undertaking – but, striving to reach a conclusion to this sanctions issue, which has paralysed our nation for two decades, is worth every cent. For one thing, it is far much better than wasting US$4 million on pointless marches, musical galas, and a soccer match pitting junior teams of the nation’s top teams.

Additionally, it will be incomparable to the undisclosed millions of dollars more being flushed down the drain, through the charade and sham of the so-called Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) – which is nothing but a tea party of pseudo-opposition parties (that have become de facto wings of the ruling ZANU PF party), and the government. These pseudo-opposition parties and their government counterparts are ACTORS for sure, as they pretend to be engaged in serious political dialogue, yet merely wasting tax payers money on hotels and publicity stunts.

On my part, there can never be any expense too much for finding a genuine and lasting solution to the nation’s suffering.

If the government fails to organise such an open public debate, then it will be clear for all to see that they are hiding something, and have been lying through their teeth to the people of Zimbabwe. We will all finally be in absolute agreement on who truly is behind our never-ending suffering.

As long as we have a government that continues to hide its failures behind the veil of sanctions, the citizenry should  never dream that their plight will ever be taken and tackled with any amount of seriousness. Only after the real culprits behind our suffering have been exposed – for the whole nation and world to see – shall we be able to hold them to account as a united force, which no one will be able to stop.

  • Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to WhatsApp/call: +263733399640, or +263715667700, or calls only: +263782283975, or email:

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  1. David Barber

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