Zimbabwe since the year 2000 has repeatedly confronted the scathing effects of economic sanctions that have outrightly challenged the plane handling of Zimbabwe’s economic aspirations. Often, political scholarship has neglected the topic of sanctions especially after the November 2017 re-birth of Zimbabwe. Deliberate efforts have been made to forget the position of sanctions in post 2017 Zimbabwe. As if that is not enough, the same schizophrenic perspectives intend to annihilate the effects of sanctions and most importantly deliberately ignore the great efforts and achievements made by the new dispensation in liberating Zimbabwe from this unbecoming economic position.
The standing of the ruling party, Zanu-PF since colonial rule has not shifted, its liberating formation still persists even in the “new” Zimbabwe, and therefore the same inclination that brought Zimbabwe’s liberation is relentlessly fighting against the idea of sanctions, a phenomenon that contradicts the values of the liberation struggle. Known narratives by the alleged democrats who perceive the removal of Afrocentric patriotism as amounting to the realisation of democracy have failed to objectively interrogate the effects of these sanctions. Often, they find themselves as protégés of reiterative thinking which rubberstamps all the proceeds of the current international regime. This crop of thinkers is seemingly unwilling to approach the question of sanctions with national interests at heart, instead it approaches the issue from a paternalistic angle; one that values the interests of their political bracket first, before it sees the broader national objectives.
In its illogical mantra, it repeatedly supports the notion of sanctions, and repeatedly calls for the maintaining of sanctions so that Zimbabwe realises “their” model of democracy, where it is the one running government in the name of the “majority” not the majority itself. The interesting part to this political clique is that it is frequently quoted, calling for a “free” and fair democracy, accusing the ruling party of being an impediment to the realisation of these goals, yet at the same time maintaining its claim that sanctions should be retained against Zimbabwe.
It is imperative that patriotic Zimbabweans re-think the question of sanctions; sanctions not against the ruling party, but sanctions against Zimbabwe. Let us locate the role of sanctions in the upcoming 2018 elections; do they make a level electoral field? Who is benefiting politically from the existence of sanctions because as Zimbabweans we are not benefiting anything? Therefore, those maintaining the trail of sanctions are maintaining it in whose capacity?
It is a logical claim that the nature of sanctions is a contradiction to Zimbabwe’s interests; therefore, an average citizen is logical enough to denounce the existence of sanctions. From a sober perspective, how do sanctions, which are causing economic havoc at the expense of citizens of Zimbabwe, create a “free” democracy?
The majority of Zimbabweans have been negated to the scathing effects of sanctions. Sanctions that sought to pressure Zimbabweans into rebelling and disbanding government because of the former administration’s errors of omission and commission. An average mind can see that there is no such thing as “freeness” during the upcoming election if such contradicting forces like sanctions are still in existence. It becomes extreme double standard to claim and selectively declare that elections can only be free if government adequately performs its mandates — do they mean their regime change mandate as canvassed by the formation of sanctions?
It is hypocritical to neglect how government efforts are being sabotaged by the existence of sanctions. It is satirical that those who call for sanctions to disturb the flow of governance come back and act surprised to the creations of their projects. Most state institutions that are vital in catering for democracy are crippled because of these sanctions. In simpler terms, sanctions themselves are toxic to the realisation of a free election. How free is an election when there is a deliberate coercive force that gives citizens one option and tells them to choose? How democratic is a tool that seeks to deconstruct a creation like Zanu-PF, which in itself reflects the will of the majority.
It is a fact that Zanu-PF is a key player in Zimbabwe’s political field. Intending to fix the election using economic factors to force Zimbabweans to challenge Zanu-PF is an antithesis of the values of the same democracy, which sanctions claim to be in pursuit of, through deprivation of imperative economic exigencies. How then should an election be free when Zimbabweans who support Zanu-PF are brutally disciplined through economic structural violence, disciplined not for the sake of democracy but for some delayed grudges against Zimbabwe?
Within Zimbabwe, there exists a rogue unpatriotic group that has found a lucrative business in the mantra of sanctions; its job description was initially to be a proxy of the international regime’s hegemonic interests. However, in the evolution of political cleavages in Zimbabwe, this crop is now the executive administrator of sanctions; it has accredited itself with the monopoly of discretion over the definition of democracy in Zimbabwe. Under this spell, it has swiftly aligned itself with the international regime that was against the previous government. Therefore, its immediate relationship with anyone against the previous government had armoured it with a political mantra to extend to the masses. However, it is failing to see that the previous administration is no more — replaced by the new dispensation that is a new breed, a type disconnected from the blunders and responsibilities of the previous government.
Therefore calling for sanctions against the new dispensation contests the very essence of Zimbabwe’s democracy. It contradicts the aspect of a free election because sanctions themselves carry a reductionist effect especially towards the ruling party, which has government performance as a campaign tool to show to the citizens that it is worth re-election. As such, how should government perform well when deliberate efforts to sabotage it still exist?
To Zimbabweans, the new dispensation represents a new era for Zimbabwe, a new era that is founded on the principles of a free and fair election. The new dispensation has repeatedly fought for a free election in 2018 through diplomatic efforts made by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to address the issue of sanctions, which is an immediate impediment to the conduct of a free election. President Mnangagwa’s administration has collectively elected to approach sanctions in a very nationalistic and tolerant approach. It has accepted that Zimbabwe was not innocent during the imposition of sanctions, and has therefore availed itself for dialogue with the affected actors.
What separates the new dispensation’s approach to the resolution of this crisis is its ability to go beyond the declaration of intent to solve sanctions, and even place legislative efforts to address this crisis. President Mnangagwa has repeatedly engaged the causes of sanctions in Zimbabwe, through efforts like reviewing the land reform, whose implementation in 2000 is the key reason why sanctions were imposed. His willingness to even compensate those whose land was acquired during the land reform has further augmented the president’s desire for a free 2018 election.
One thing that now resonates is that for 2018 to be a free election, elements like sanctions have to be removed. The new dispensation has played its part in addressing dynamics that are within its jurisdiction, it has even availed itself for dialogue to resolve the issue of sanctions.
For Zimbabweans, our decision making should be free, although such factors that challenge the independence of thinking in the ballot box still exist, national interests that transcend the politics of the stomach should be at heart. As for those entrepreneurs of sanctions who masquerade as democrats, Zimbabweans are now awake, it’s time to shift from smearing politics to policy politics. The bad guys are no more, therefore, no need to use the good guy mantra as a strategy to deceive voters. One question that you should answer to the electorate is, where are you getting your money from yet you claim that Zimbabwe should reject the government because it is not performing well in economics. Who is funding you and why are they doing so? What do you report to them to get those funds, “isn’t he who pays the piper determines the tune”? Nevertheless, the new dispensation will soon shift the narrative through its competent ministry of foreign affairs; it will successfully negotiate for the removal of sanctions. In the 2018 election, Zimbabweans would have answered the question, “how democratic is an imposed democracy”.
Tedious Ncube is a political science and public management researcher with Leaders for Africa Network.