ZIDERA extension is unacceptable

by Elijah Chihota

The ushering in of the new dispensation on 24 November 2017, gave hope to the people of Zimbabwe as they hoped to see a paradigm shift from the old dispensation of Robert Mugabe. President Emmerson Mnangagwa hit the ground running calling for re-engagement between Zimbabwe and the international community guided by the wisdom that the country could not continue in isolation.

Out of the blue in December 2017, MDC Alliance principals, Tendai Biti and Nelson Chamisa and the Southern Africa Director with the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, Dewah Mavhinga embarked on a trip of shame to the US which most people treated with suspicion even before they asked for the extension of sanctions against Zimbabwe. At this point Zimbabweans were on the point of finding each other and moving ahead as a nation with one common goal of resuscitating the economy and ensure food security.

Biti, Chamisa and Mavhinga followed in the footsteps of the late MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, by calling for sanctions. Tsvangirai called for the switching off of electricity supplies and cutting transport network to Zimbabwe, among other punitive measures. When asked why they invited sanctions, unashamedly Tsvangirai claimed that they were as a result of “disputed elections and violence against the people”. The question that readily comes to mind is: Why this extension of sanctions, when there was no violence in the run up to the elections? For the first time the opposition was able to hold rallies deep in the rural areas which hitherto were no go areas.

To show that the trio’s trip left more to be desired, US President Donald Trump in August 2018, signed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act (ZIDERA) of 2018 (S2779) into law thus, marking another extension of the illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe. This move throws the new dispensation’s efforts to propel the country’s economic fortunes into turmoil. Trump was obviously working on the request of these unpatriotic and unZimbabwean counter- revolutionaries.

The extension of the sanctions has a multi-pronged effect on the economic and social being of the nation. Tackled below are some of the side effects of extending the sanctions.

The United States Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is notorious for seizing funds for those companies doing business with companies from a country under US sanctions. A close example is that CBZ Bank which was fined US$3.8 billion in 2017 for processing thousands of financial transactions on behalf of ZB Bank which was under sanctions. However, after negotiations, the penalty finally stood at US$385 million. Another financial institution, Barclays Bank was also fined US$2.48 million to resolve potential civil liability for 159 apparent violations of the Zimbabwe sanctions regulations. The transactions, which were carried out on behalf of Barclays Bank corporate clients, took place from July 2008 to September 2013, through financial institutions in the United States, including Barclays’ New York branch.

The country is said to have incurred a financial loss of about US$42 billion worth of business since 2001 when ZIDERA was first signed into law. As a result of this, Zimbabwe’s industries started closing, infrastructural development stalled and social services such as education and health took a knock.

Honestly, how can a nation develop if it cannot financially transact with the outside world? Borrowing from international financial institutions becomes a tall order for exporting companies and those seeking expansion.

To the ordinary person, the effects of the sanctions are devastating as there are very little supplies of drugs in hospitals. Many will remember the 2008 cholera outbreak and how the country struggled to contain the outbreak partly due to the debilitating effect of the sanctions. “As of 1 December 2008, the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe has reported a total of 11 735 cholera cases with 484 deaths since August 2008, affecting all provinces in the country,” read part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) released on 2 December 2008.

 Recently, there was a typhoid outbreak in Gweru City which killed seven people, something that is not acceptable. The city council is failing to adequately treat drinking water owing to financial constraints hinged on the imposition of sanctions on this country. Gweru City is not alone in this respect as many other local authorities are failing to provide adequate service delivery including refuse collection and provision of clean drinking water to their residents. Burst sewer pipes in urban areas have become the order of the day.

In the education sector, schools are inadequately equipped in terms of learning and teaching materials. Above all, the nation is suffering from a construction backlog of about 2 000 schools mainly in the resettlement areas.

As President Emmerson Mnangagwa rightly put it when he reacted to the ZIDERA extension by stating that, “Should I concern myself about what is happening in Washington? Do they concern themselves about us?” As a nation, this is high time to define who we are as Zimbabweans and determine our destiny and chart our own course.

Given the negative effects of the sanctions to the country, Zimbabwe should leverage its trove of sixty (60) plus minerals that are in high demand the world over. For example lithium which is essential in manufacturing of batteries is found in large deposits in Zimbabwe. Gold, platinum and diamonds should be exploited as well to drive economic recovery and growth.

Zimbabwe is famous for growing organic food. Therefore it would be prudent for the country to resume fruits, vegetable and beef exports into the United Kingdom. Following the exit of Britain (Brexit) from the European Union (EU), Britain finds itself in need of raw materials to cater for its industries.  Zimbabwe’s abundance of agricultural produce and minerals places it in a position to close the supply gap and benefit financially.

The country has other options such as turning to our all weather friends Russia and China. During the protracted liberation struggle, Zimbabwe benefitted a lot from Russia and China in terms of training, expertise and arms.  

Zimbabwe can also expand its horizons into the Arab world by engaging other oil rich countries like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iran, among others. At one time Zimbabwe entered into a deal for the assembly of Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company (ITMCO) tractors under a joint venture with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) named Motira Tractors and the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) was one of the major beneficiaries of the scheme. More such projects can be entered into in order to revive the economy.

Trade with India would also benefit the country given the latter’s strength in drug and the manufacturing of medical equipment.

Following the extension of the sanctions one is bound to agree with ZANU PF Secretary for Youth Affairs, Pupurai Togarepi and social commentator Reason Wafawarova’s proposal that “This Parliament will pass the Patriotic Act (and) anyone who calls for economic sanctions to be hanged and their political parties banned”.