Firstly, it was the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa – on his state visit to the US – who was reported to have urged counterpart, Joe Biden, to lift these restrictive measures on a handful of top Zimbabwe officials and entities, fingered in human rights abuses and corruption.
Then, to follow suit, were the leaders of Namibia (Hage Geingob), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi), as well as the South African foreign affairs minister (Naledi Pandor) – as they addressed the ongoing United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, US.
Before delving deeper into my discourse, I need to make one thing crystal clear.
I have been on record asserting that any form of sanctions by a country or group of countries on another or others, are not only illegal according to the dictates of international law – unless and only, if imposed by the UN Security Council – but are also a form of bullying, as coercive measures are usually a unilateral decision by the more powerful on the weaker.
In that light, it is practically unheard of, and even laughable, for these weaker nations to do likewise to stronger states that would have similarly violated their own citizens’ rights, or accused of the grand looting of national resources.
Surely, which country has the power, and strong enough an economy, to put in place travel bans and asset freezes on, for instance, Joe Biden and members of his administration?
As such, by their very nature, sanctions are always gravely skewed – as only the weaker nations are prone, whilst the more powerful remain untouched and unscathed, and left to do pretty much what they want, with relative impunity.
Even the UN Security Council is not powerful enough to imposed any sanctions on these world powers – as we have witnessed after the Russian brutal and barbaric invasion of its neighbor Ukraine – since, Russia is also a veto-wielding permanent member of this organ.
Be that as it may, whether sanctions actually achieve the desired stated objectives is completely another matter.
Whether these goals are to cripple the targeted country’s economy – as currently pertains mostly US, UK and EU (European Union) sanctions on Russia, in order to hamper its war machine and even financially choke the population, and incite a popular rebellion.
Or, if these are solely for the purpose of punishing or coercing certain individuals or entities – without touching the rest of the country’s economy, as with Zimbabwe – into submitting to particular demands, such as the respect for democratic principles, or shunning corrupt tendencies.
Let us remember that Western countries are never shy, and never hide, the main objectives of these restrictive measures – information that can even be easily accessible on their governments’ official websites.
As such, if they are meant to drive a ‘regime change agenda’, then they will openly make that point abundantly clear – as witnessed with the over five-decade long US embargo on Cuba, and those against Venezuela and Iran – which are publicly designed to incite popular uprisings.
The Americans have never hidden that fact.
And, if these are said to be merely targeted at particular individuals, as opposed to an entire nation – a case in point being Zimbabwe – then it is true.
These world powers are arrogant enough to tell it as it is – I am sure, with the knowledge that no one can do anything to them about it.
They never leave any room for speculation or debate, as regards the true objectives of their sanctions.
Thus, basing a whole argument on one flimsy statement by some tired US official – on supposedly ‘making the Zimbabwe economy scream’ – can never be treated as solid testimony, especially for a country that seldom makes a secret of its intentions.
Which brings me back to the recent statements by Ramaphosa, Geingob, Tshisekedi and Pandor.
In their bold declarations to both the US president, and UN General Assembly – did they ever bother providing details on how exactly these targeted sanctions on a few individuals and entities were actually affecting the Zimbabwean economy, and consequently the people?
As I attentively listened to these grown men and woman, I was amazed at how their claims were filled with nothing more that the usual washed up and worm out generalizations (lacking any incontrovertible evidence-based scientific foundation).
The world was told how these coercive measures were crippling the Zimbabwe economy – as a result, affecting the whole southern African region – due to impoverished and unemployed Zimbabweans fleeing, oftentimes illegally, to neighboring countries in search of a semblance of a decent livelihood.
Even, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Impact of Sanctions, Alena Douhan – who was in the country last year to carry out her research – made similar wild claims, even linking these so-called sanctions to the upsurge in youth drug and substance abuse, prostitution, crime and all manner of social deviance.
Yet, in all this – not a single one of these relatively intelligent, highly learned and esteemed gentlemen and ladies ever bothered to proffer any substantiated proof of these links – merely resorting to, what can at best, be described as circumstantial evidence.
However, having dismally failed to prove the link between targeted restrictive measures and the economic disaster in Zimbabwe – have these mainly southern African leaders ever bothered thoroughly investigating what were the real causes?
I am quite sure, if a person of such high level were to be invited to make a presentation at a forum of the magnitude of the UN General Assembly (in front of hundreds of other heads of state and government), or to plead their case with the president of the country accused of these sanctions – one would be expected to have meticulously done their homework.
These are not opportunities one is presented with everyday – so, why waste these precious minutes blabbering nonsense, which is more of hearsay than well-researched articulately presented evidence?
However, we in Zimbabwe – who are facing the brunt of these economic hardships – can offer some insights in this regard.
For starters, we are all too aware that our country (in spite of these targeted sanctions) is accruing billions of dollars in revenue from our plentiful natural resources (with nearly 60 identified precious minerals) – a fact of which our own government is immensely proud.
Nonetheless, over a third of gold revenue was lost last year alone – about US$1.5 billion – due to smuggling.
According to prominent economist Eddie Cross, in the course of the past 15 years, Zimbabwe has made US$25 billion in raw diamond revenue, yet less than one percent found its way into our national coffers – with one particular diamond reportedly having been sold for US$15 million in Venezuela.
Do Geingob,Tshisekedi, and Ramaphosa ever ask where all those billions went, or what they were used for?
As a matter of fact, Transparency International alleges that the country lost over US$100 billion to corruption since attaining independence in 1980.
These leaders can look at their own national treasury books to appreciate just how phenomenal this amount is – with South Africa’s GDP (gross domestic product) for 2021 at US$360 billion…meaning Zimbabwe lost a third of that to looting.
In fact, the entire African continent losses over US$140 billion a year to corruption.
As Zimbabweans flock, mostly illegally, to such neighbouring countries as South Africa, is Ramaphosa aware that a modern hospital theater costs only US$37,000 to build?
How many could have been constructed with only the US$1.5 billion of gold revenue stolen last year alone?
I will not even go into shady deals in the Zimbabwe government’s so-called ‘Command Agriculture’, where billions were lost in scandalous deals or unaccounted for.
Or, the forcing of local authorities into dubious deals (as the waste-to-energy agreement with a shadowy Netherlands company in Harare costing ratepayers about US$40,000 per day, and local authorities ordered to purchase fire tenders from a Belarusian company at an inflated cost of US$464,296 each ).
Therefore, before the likes of Geingob, Tshisekedi, and Ramaphosa fly in their luxurious jets to New York, enjoying the high life with our own Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa – after which, shamefully regurgitating some nonsensical unproven drivel about ‘sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe’ – they need to do their homework thoroughly, first.
Whether or not these travel bans and asset freezes on a handful of individuals and entities are really yielding the desired stated results – of forcing the Zimbabwe political elite into respecting citizens’ rights, and rejecting their corrupt ways – is neither here nor there.
Or, whether they are even necessary or not – or the real reasons for their imposition genuine – is irrelevant.
What matters the most is for the people of Zimbabwe to finally have a chance to fully enjoy the fruits of their hard-won independence, and live in dignity and prosperity.
This can never be achieved if we have world leaders who abuse the rare opportunity to carry the true Zimbabwe story to the world, and plead our case – of a political elite that is enriching themselves, through ill-gotten wealth from the proceeds of looting, whilst millions of Zimbabweans are abandoned to wallow in abject poverty.
The world needed to understand why over 7.1 million Zimbabweans are categorized as living in extreme poverty (earning under US$1.90 a day), and over 80 percent of the workforce earning below the poverty datum line, with millions of children going without nutritional meals.
The world needs to know the real reasons we are fleeing to neighboring countries, usually illegally – thereby, threatening the entire region’s economies.
This has nothing to do with some travel bans and assets freezes on a few people – but, has everything to do with the grand plunder of billions of dollars of our national resources.
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email: [email protected]