Whilst Shava, with his colleagues in cabinet – ministers of information and industry, Monica Mutsvangwa, and Sekai Nzenza respectively – are taken around Iran’s success stories, I am hoping this finally lays bare a stark reality that – no amount of restrictive measures, no matter how severe, can ever bring a country to its knees, if managed properly.
On their return, Shava, Mutsvangwa and Nzenza should tell their boss, President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, the blunt truth – that these targeted sanctions imposed on a handful of Zimbabwean individuals and entities can never be faulted for what has gone wrong, is going wrong, and can ever go wrong in Zimbabwe.
Admittedly, any restrictive measures imposed on a country – whether on a few citizens or corporates, or the entire nation – will inevitably effect the economy, in one way of another.
That can never be denied.
Nonetheless, to what extent this harm or damage goes, is entirely dependent on two factors – the magnitude of these sanctions, and the quality of leadership in office.
As such, before anyone climbs on rooftops shouting over how ‘sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe have harmed the economy, and caused the people’s suffering’ – we first need to know just what these sanctions are, and in what way exactly have they led to the sorry state of affairs we have been witnessing in this country over the past two decades.
This is the ball I throw directly into the court of those who have been loudly propagating this sanctions narrative.
May they, please, correlate which specific measures imposed by the US, UK or their allies, and in what way, have they resulted in half the population living in extreme poverty, and two thirds of the workforce earning far below the poverty datum line, whilst three million Zimbabweans are said to be food insecure.
In the same vein, they can also educate us on how these travel and financial restrictions on just 171 people and companies – most of whom are not even major economic players in the country – have brought a nation endowed with over 40 precious minerals to its knees, with a local currency that is never stable (is currently hovering around US$1,000 to the greenback), and one of the highest food inflations in the world.
During this visit to Iran by Shava, Mutsvangwa and Nzenza, it was most embarrassing noting that their side of the table was the only one making such great noise about sanctions – yet, their hosts, whose country has been subjected to the worst punitive measures in history, being more interested in talking about how they have overcome and succeeded, in spite of all odds.
Yet, here we are dealing with a country that has severe trade and financial restrictions on imposed on their only major natural resource, oil – as well as on over 50 banks and their subsidiaries, the national airline, over 200 members of the shipping industry and vessels, and atomic energy.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing like that – not even close – imposed on it.
That is very telling, and exposes the real reason Zimbabweans are suffering.
We are being led by an incompetent group of useless cry-babies – who would rather seek solace in a pity party with fellow ‘sanctioned countries’, hoping to moan and mope together – whilst, at the same time, finding a good excuse for their unmitigated failures in running the country.
Well, not every nation that has had sanctions imposed on them feels the same – and, there are those who would rather move on, find solutions within themselves, and develop their economies without being melodramatic about the whole affair.
Instead of a small ruling elite largely looting whatever resources God blessed them with, for their own personal enrichment – they have chosen to use these riches for the development to their countries.
Rather than fly overseas for medical treatment – due to the dilapidated state of their country’s health care systems – they prefer equipping their local hospitals and clinics with the latest state-of-the-art treatment facilities, that adequately cater to the needs of the ordinary people.
Unlike in Zimbabwe, where there is a shortage of nearly everything that makes a hospital a hospital – such as, basic pain killers, protective gloves, antiseptic ointment, antibiotics, anesthetic, or radiotherapy machines for cancer patients.
Whilst in Zimbabwe, university graduates are reduced to street vendors – who spend their time fighting over market stalls, and currying favor with ruling ZANU PF party space barons – in other sanctioned counties, they are more concerned with proving that they are just as good as the most developed countries.
As such, they invest heavily in science and technology from very early schooling – thereby, producing some of the greatest brains in the world, whose innovations compete with the very best – something that Shava, Mutsvangwa and Nzenza should have seen on their visit.
Although, I am not a fan of the brutal sadistic Iran regime – whose barbaric repression of their own citizens make Mnangagwa look like a mere kindergarten bully – no one can deny this country’s technology feats.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, they managed to produce their own vaccines – and, most recently, true to their nefarious activities as a pariah rogue state, provided domestically produced drones to Russia, for its savage heinous attacks on its neighbor Ukraine.
In Zimbabwe, with all our diamonds, gold, platinum, nickel, and now lithium – amongst a whole host of others, none of which under any sanctions – we have children still learning under trees, or disused tobacco curing barns, as they sit on the floor, without any text and exercise books.
We can only boast of an amateur satellite that we were helped to produce by the Japanese.
It is clear that Zimbabwe is not in the same league as Iran – and, I am quite sure deep down our leaders are fully aware of this fact.
The Harare administration may try to fit themselves amongst other countries with sanctions imposed on them – but, the stubborn truth is that, our leaders are abysmal failures and an embarrassment – a sentiment most probably shared by their fellow comrades in Iran.
In fact, based on the magnitude of sanctions imposed on Iran, would it not have made so much more sense had the people of that country been the poorest in the world?
Would it not be justifiable if the Iranian government had been the one always blaming the ‘US and her allies’ for the country’s dismal performance?
Yet, the answer is a resounding NO!
In spite of all these economic sanctions – the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ranks Iran’s economy as the 20th largest in the world, and 9th in Asia, for 2021, and only second to Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.
It is even stronger than other countries in the region as such the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Qatar.
Its GDP (gross domestic product) for 2021 was at US$1.4 trillion, and was expected to increase by a further US$137 billion in 2022.
This, compared to Zimbabwe’s measly US$38 billion GDP for the past year.
Therefore, the Islamic Republic of Iran has put to rest the myth that sanctions can be responsible for a country’s economic non-performance, and even downfall.
The sanctions excuse is just that…an excuse – and nothing else.
Iran has shown us that, no matter what gravity of sanctions are imposed on a country, it can still prosper.
In addition, Zimbabwe is not new to sanctions, as Rhodesia had punitive measures imposed on it by the United Nations (UN) after the 11 November 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) – but, it did not resort to excuses.
The Rhodesians looked inside themselves, instead of outside, and came up with home-grown means of survival – such that, despite a liberation war simultaneously being waged, the country’s economy was performing rather well.
In fact, the Rhodesian currency was at par with the US dollar.
So, if sanctions are not the real cause of economic problems affecting Zimbabwe, what is?
Let us go back to the Iran scenario.
According to the 2018 Transparency International corruption perception index, Iran ranks 28 out of 100 countries.
What about Zimbabwe?
In 2020 we were ranked a staggering 150 out of 187!
Need I say more?
Zimbabwe is one of the most corrupt countries in the world – and that is the main reason we are in this economic mess.
Admittedly, there are other factors, such as incompetence, skewed economic policies, extravagance on the part of government, and political instability – but, above all these is CORRUPTION.
Therefore, instead of the Mnangagwa regime searching for foreign-originated causes for our suffering, they would be better advised to look themselves in the mirror, instead.
They have to seriously tackle the rampant corruption in this country, drastically reduce their lust for spending, resolve the political standoff, and implement the constitution to the letter.
Here we have a country that is losing an average US$1.5 billion each year to gold smuggling – with seldom anyone being brought to book, mainly as the culprits are linked to the political elite.
Since 2005, Zimbabwe has been prejudiced over US$25 billion in diamond revenues – which never found their way into national coffers.
Those accused of corruption crimes, yet with close proximity to power, are regularly freed by our courts – thereby, permitted to continue pillaging our national resources with impunity.
This is the same message that should also go to regional and continental bodies – especially, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa – who, instead of merely parroting the Harare administration narrative, should push for the Zimbabwe authorities to look at themselves first.
The answers to our economic and political problems lie squarely between the Zambezi and the Limpopo rivers – and no where else.
They are not to be found from the West, or from the East, nor from the North or the South – but, right here, using the magnificent blessings we have been given.
Unless, and until we all appreciate this fact – and stop finding others to blame – this country will continue on its freefall.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: [email protected]Post published in: Featured