By Elijah Chihota
On 21 December 2001 as the sun was directly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere during the December Solstice, President George W Bush of the United States of America sealed the Southern African teapot-shaped country, Zimbabwe’s fate when he signed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001(ZIDERA) into law.
President Bush went on to issue a statement at the White House justifying the enactment of the vile law.
“Today I have signed into law S. 494, the "Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001." This Act symbolizes the clear bipartisan resolve in the United States to promoting human rights, good governance, and economic development in Africa. My administration shares fully the Congress' deep concerns about the political and economic hardships visited upon Zimbabwe by that country's leadership. I hope the provisions of this important legislation will support the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle to effect peaceful democratic change, achieve economic growth, and restore the rule of law”.
The aftermath of this signing was capital flight, closure of companies especially Western ones such as Colgate Palmolive, the collapse of the economy and the near-collapse of the education system. The cost of living soared to unprecedented levels.
The faltering of the health delivery system characterised the health sector for nearly two decades. Hospitals ran out of drugs and medical equipment as companies abroad which manufacture these items avoided trading with Zimbabwe fearing American government backlash or the invocation of the American Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the hefty penalties which are associated with it.
Part of OFAC regulations read, “Executive Order 13391 prohibits U.S. persons, wherever located, or anyone in the United States from engaging in any transactions with any person, entity or organization found to: 1) be undermining democratic institutions and processes in Zimbabwe; 2) have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support to these entities; 3) be or have been an immediate family member of a sanctions target; or 4) be owned, controlled or acting on behalf of a sanctions target. Persons, entities and organizations referenced in Annex A of the Executive Order are all incorporated into OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals. Prohibited transactions include, but are not limited to, exports (direct and indirect), imports (direct and indirect), trade brokering, financing and facilitation, as well as most financial transactions”.
The USA sanctions saw ZANU PF, businesspeople and companies being put on the so called “targeted list”. ZB Bank and Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and fertilizer manufacturer, Zimbabwe Fertilizer Company (ZFC) were also put on the list. The Americans realised that Zimbabwe’s economy was agro-based and putting these entities on the sanction list would drive the economy to its knees. Former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Chester Crocker is on record for summarising to the US Senate the rationale of the punitive measure.
“To separate the Zimbabwean people from ZANU PF, we are going to have to make their economy scream, and I hope you, Senators, have the stomach for what you have to do,” he said.
One other business entity which was indirectly affected by these sanctions is Econet Wireless Zimbabwe which was founded by billionaire, Strive Masiyiwa. In view of this background, Masiyiwa and other progressive Zimbabweans have joined the clarion call for the removal of the sanctions. Due to the prevailing sanctions-induced economic challenges, the majority of Econet subscribers cannot afford to buy airtime to access various products on offer which in turn negatively affected the company’s profit margins. Masiyiwa posted on his Facebook page that “I am with the people of Zimbabwe and my record is there for over 30 years of real activism, in which I put life and property at risk.”
Alpha Media Holdings Chairperson, Trevor Ncube chipped in and tweeted that “I am 100% with @StriveMasiyiwa on this.” While, United Refineries Chief Executive Officer, Busisa Moyo also took to the micro blogging site, Twitter stating that “I am yet to meet a single businessman worth his salt who is pro-sanctions. We have spoken out against this and so has Steve_Hanke. Sanctions should also be a crime against humanity in the near future at the International Criminal Court (ICC) because they are equally brutal to issues they purport to address.”
Human Rights Watch executive director since 1993, Kenneth Roth tweeted trying to sell the empty claim that the measures are targeted.
“US sanctions for Zimbabwe are designed not to hurt the Zimbabwean people but to squeeze the officials who are repressing (and stealing from) the Zimbabwean people”.
One Madzibaba Simba responded: “You seem ignorant of US laws. Treasury's OFAC, criminalises with heavy penalty any agencies, banks, investors across the (globe) seeking to engage in business with Zimbabwe. This embargo clearly isn't targeted at Government of Zimbabwe alone. Unless you are a fool to the obvious truth”.
To show that the sanctions were not targeted, former Finance Minister, Tendai Biti had this to say about two mining companies, Mbada Diamonds and Marange Resources which were placed on the sanctions list.
“They should have firstly been allowed to put their case forward before the punitive measures were taken,” said Biti.
Despite his strong anti-ZANU PF position, Professor Jonathan Moyo during his membership of that party was livid that sanctions were real and argued that they were not targeted. He once tasked the University of Zimbabwe to conduct a research on the extent of the effects of sanctions on the Zimbabwean economy.
In a video doing rounds on YouTube, Professor Moyo said: “What greater intimidation is there than a leader of a political party supported by some powerful countries in the world calling on a powerful neighbour to cut off electricity, cut off fuel supply and cut off transport is that not intimidation? Is that not intimidation when a leader who has a political party that wants to govern in this country to sit down with legislators in America and write a law which they call the Zimbabwe Democracy Bill”. This was inference to the former MDC leader, the late Morgan Tsvangirai’s call for South Africa to cut Zimbabwe off energy supplies. He showed that the sanctions were penned with the assistance of the MDC.
Given the above scenario, there is need to go beyond calling for the end to the sanctions and come up with sanction-bursting measures to rescue the country and the economy.
In January 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said “Yes, sanctions are there but we should not continue talking about them. We must have solutions and already, we have solutions in agriculture and this should cascade to all sectors. ”
Land reform beneficiaries should now put their shoulders to the wheel and produce food in abundance to obviate the need to import the staple food. Farmers should now strive to develop irrigation systems and maximize water bodies dotted around the country.
Another area of focus should be mining. The country has in excess of 60 minerals which can be taped to the fullest. Gold production for 2018 reached 33.2 tonnes against 24.8 tonnes delivered in 2017. The fore going figures and facts indicate that it is possible to adopt a two-pronged approach to fighting sanctions.
Zimbabwe will rise again.