The newly appointed United States ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Brian Nicholas had an interesting interview with one of the pirate radio stations, Voice of America, wherein he was very economic with the truth regarding the effects of the sanctions which his country unilaterally imposed on Zimbabwe.
The reporter, Marvellous Mhlanga Nyahuye solicited the ambassador’s comment on the belief held by many people in Zimbabwe that the sanctions hurt the ordinary person on the street, not the ones that are on the target list. The ambassador attempted to dodge the question, giving the old and trite narrative that the sanctions are targeted at 154 individuals and entities.
“Well, Zimbabwe has an opportunity for growth, and the sanctions really do affect specific individuals,” responded the ambassador. The people who lost livelihood and relatives through sanctions related circumstances will not take this response lightly.
Perhaps the ambassador can be forgiven for he is a new comer who is still to get to grip with the situation on the ground. As an incoming emissary, Mr Nicholas’ first port of call must be the streets of Zimbabwe where he must investigate the extent to which sanctions are affecting the ordinary person.
All facets of the society and sectors of the economy were crippled. The health sector was one of the areas that were gravely affected by the imposition of sanctions. For the purpose of enlightening the ambassador, a case study of the health sector, being topical as it is, will be suffice for him to appreciate how the self-styled targeted restrictive measures are indiscriminately distressing the poor citizens.
The roots of the Cholera outbreak currently bedevilling the country can be traced to the sanctions. Most of the medical paraphernalia such as essential drugs, medical and surgical sundries, and radiological and laboratory equipment are imported. Before sanctions, the Government used to procure most of these things using Balance of Payment Support facility from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the African Development Bank (ADB). However, these global monetary institutions suspended the balance of payments support under Sections 4 (a) and 4(d)-(2) (1) of the Zidera sanctions in 2000, and 2001. Most of the individuals that are ostensibly targeted by the sanctions have the means to seek medication across the frontier.
If the sanctions were targeted as Mr Nicholas wants everybody to believe, Zimbabwe could not have been excommunicated from the Commonwealth of Nations. The Breton woods institutions could not have withheld funds meant for economic development. These institutions benefitted the whole nation not individuals. Therefore, Mr Nicholas is deliberately attempting to cast a blind eye on the broader impact of sanctions.
The so-called targeted sanctions had serious repercussions on Zimbabweans evidenced by the collapse of health services.
Zimbabwe is struggling to contain Cholera outbreak which has so far claimed 30 ordinary people in the country. The nation is struggling because the sanctions have crippled the health system of the country. However, among the victims, none was on the sanction list.
A number of agencies which used to bankroll the health sector of the country halted to do so in response to the imposition of sanctions. For instance, Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) had a number of health support programmes that targeted at, among others, improving water and sanitation, supporting the provincial health service capacity building and policy issues to Ministry of Health and Child Care, integration of Zimbabwe essential drugs action program (ZEDAP) to national laboratories, Establishment of the health information system; and Support to the Health Services Fund Transport Management.
The sanctions have seen most of these programmes being halted and this subsequently affected the general health of the person on the streets. Even the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) regional offices were shifted from the country to Congo Brazaville and this resulted in the loss of employment by the men and women on the street.
Residents of urban areas are failing to pay rates to councils because they were forced out of employment because of sanction-induced closure of companies. As a result, the city councils are failing to keep their health care facilities in tip-top conditions. Even the Government is failing to meet the Abuja declaration on health wherein a country is expected to allocate at least 10% of its budget to health. It is so because it is operating on shoestring budget because of the sanctions.
The sad thing is that, in all this, the ordinary person is the victim. So it is being insincere for the ambassador to claim that the sanctions affect specific individuals.