This cruel deception that everything that is going wrong, has gone wrong, and could ever go wrong in our daily lives, is a direct consequence of some imagined ‘economic sanctions’ has, tragically, made it extremely easy for those from other countries who do business with ordinary Zimbabweans to defraud them of their revenue, usually under the pretext of sanctions.
Yesterday, I received a most disturbing message from a highly gifted sculptor, who lamented how he had lost over US$24,000 to some American tourists – who had visited Zimbabwe, and had taken some of his priced works on credit, with the promise of sending the money once back home in the US.
Of course, the money never came.
Well, his buyers kept telling him that they could not transfer the cash to him, due to the existence of ‘sanctions against Zimbabwe’, which made it nearly impossible to send money to anyone in the country.
He was, subsequently, made to run around, as he was told to find someone in South Africa – possibly, under the assumption that there was no way he could accomplish such a feat – whom, the American would send the cash to, and hopefully then wire it to Zimbabwe.
To say, I was shocked would be a gross understatement.
I was thoroughly dumbfounded and enraged at how this sanctions drivel by the ruling establishment in Zimbabwe had found its way to scandalous foreign individuals and companies, who now found it terribly easy using that as an excuse not to fulfil their financial obligations towards ordinary Zimbabweans who are not even named on the US, UK, and EU targeted sanctions list.
What is even more troubling is that, the money transfer agent that this American tourist named, is a world-renowned reputable entity, through which I have also received some cash – yet, without any difficulties and problems whatsoever.
After learning of this hardworking but luckless sculptor’s unforgettable plight, I carried out some checks on how this money transfer agent operates, and what challenges, if any, they encounter in transacting or dealing with those based in Zimbabwe.
Not to be surprised, there were none!
The only issues, experienced regardless of country, were in that funds could be delayed or services unavailable based on certain transaction conditions – including amount sent (especially anything over US$3,000), destination, country, currency availability, regulatory issues, identification requirements, agent location hours, differences in time zones, or selection of delayed options.
Nonetheless, there was no problem specific to Zimbabwe – more so, on the basis of supposed ‘sanctions’.
What is even more tragic is that the local sculptor actually believed that he had lost his cash on account of ‘sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe’.
Unfortunately, he is far from being the only one.
Our poor farmers have not been spared, either – who, due to their inability and incapacity, individually or collectively, to find foreign markets for their produce (since most are located in rural areas and lack the requisite know-how and even technologies for this purpose) are made to believe that this is all because ‘Zimbabwe is under sanctions’.
As a result, those with the means, financial and technological muscle, and most often linked to political power – take advantage of these small scale farmers, by acting as middlemen, thereby exploiting and fleecing them their hard-earned cash, through offering ridiculously low prices for their produce – yet, reselling overseas for huge profit margins.
Numerous farmers have lost out to genuinely uplifting their livelihoods, by reaping the true rewards of their hardwork, on account of being cruelly exploited by ruthless, predatory and parasitic political heavyweights, or those aligned to them – under the pretext of sanctions.
Regrettably, true to the popular biblical verse – ‘my people perish due to lack of knowledge’ – as some sections of the population fail to understand what these travel restrictions, asset freezes and an arms embargo on a handful of individuals and entities truly entail, and the true extent of their impact on ordinary citizens.
In fact, this even extends to the supposedly enlightened and educated.
Let us remember that not every bank in every country on the planet has a correspondent relationship with all other banks and countries around the world.
As such, I remember when I contributed an article to a magazine in Germany, the payment took nearly two weeks – as, the cash had to be transfered through several other financial institutions, in various countries, before eventually reaching me.
The political elite in Zimbabwe – in their disgraceful efforts in painting everything bad as related to the hatred that Western countries have upon us – could have easily exploited this incident as effects of ‘sanctions on the country’.
Fortunately, I knew better – since I understood how banking relationships functioned.
Needless to say, there are those amongst us who may be tempted to believe that any such delays or hurdles in transacting smoothly with foreign entities was due to restrictive measures on a few people and companies in Zimbabwe.
Granted, financial institutions that opt to deal with those on this sanctions list, run the risk of encountering hefty fines – as happened to CBZ Bank, when in 2017, was slapped with a staggering US$385 million fine by US OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) for thousands of financial transactions done on behalf of ZB Bank, then under these sanctions.
Of course, ZB Bank was removed from this sanctions list that same year (2017).
However, as the rest of the millions of Zimbabweans are not under any restrictions whatsoever – there is really no reason why these financial institutions would feel under siege, if only they would only do business with the right people and entities.
It, then, goes without saying that there is really no need for ordinary Zimbabweans to be crying over these targeted sanctions – since they are not impacted in any way, and most of the stories they are made to believe are simply tall tales, and outright lies – solely intended to rope them into a washed up narrative that has since lost its luster.
Yet, this is extremely cruel and the height of savagery – when a regime allows ordinary Zimbabweans to be exploited and swindled of potentially millions of dollars – simply because the ruling elite does not want them to know the truth.
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email: [email protected]