POLITICAL analysts say President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF’s anti-sanctions campaign will fail to achieve its intended outcome until his regime prioritises the implementation of political and economic reforms.
The former liberation movement blames the sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his inner circle by the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) for Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown, but critics have fingered his increasing mal-administration.
On Wednesday the 87-year-old leader launched the National Anti-Sanctions Petition aimed at garnering two million signatures against the embargo to be handed over to the US and the EU embassies in the capital.
The US and EU slapped the octogenarian leader and his cabal with travel bans and an asset freeze over alleged gross human rights abuses, unbridled disregard for the rule of law, political intolerance, electoral fraud and endemic corruption. The US passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) which prevents Zimbabwe from accessing financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Political analyst and dean of the Faculty of Communication and Information Science at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) in Bulawayo Lawton Hikwa said the anti-sanctions crusade can only have an impact if it is driven by the inclusive government and not as part of Zanu PF’s electioneering.
The lobby’s campaign advertisements inserted in local newspapers are sponsored by Zanu PF, but carried the government emblem, indicating that the lobby is a clear Zanu PF campaign strategy rather than a national cause.
Hikwa said the sanctions issue was contentious because political parties viewed them differently.
“Some parties say the sanctions are targeted while Zanu PF believes they are wholesale and not personalised,” he said. “The inclusive government is supposed to be at the forefront of the fight against sanctions because they represent the views of most Zimbabweans. Zanu PF only speaks for its supporters, not everyone.”
Hikwa said the sanctions mantra should not overshadow the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement and other reforms, such as an end to political violence.
However, Zanu PF insists that the punitive measures are an attack on the country’s economy, health, land reform and national sovereignty, and that they are racist and also aimed at effecting regime change.
“Sanctions are an attack on our health, on the education of our children, on our social services and our infrastructure. They are an attack on the entire fabric of our society,” reads the campaign advertisements.
“Sanctions are illegal, undeserved and spiteful. They are unilaterally imposed outside the United Nations mandate by a British-led Western coalition defending minority rights in our country,” reads the message penned by the Zanu PF information department.
Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said the anti-sanctions campaign will achieve its intended goals if Zimbabweans are united against them.
“We want the sanctions to go. This is the year the sanctions will go,” said Gumbo.
The EU recently renewed sanctions against Mugabe and some members of his inner circle for another year saying there was a sluggish approach in the implementation of the GPA, which gave birth to the inclusive government of Zanu PF, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC and the squabbling smaller MDC formation of Welshman Ncube and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.
The shaky coalition was formed two years ago in a bid to end political strife and a biting economic meltdown. Zanu PF says sanctions are part of the GPA’s outstanding issues which should be addressed while the MDC-T points to the unilateral appointments of new provincial governors, the Reserve Bank governor and Attorney-General, among others, as the major stumbling block.
But Hikwa insists that Zanu PF must first attend to domestic issues, such as addressing human rights abuses and violence to boost the image of Zimbabwe before it can call for the lifting of the punitive measures.
“All political players have to encourage their supporters to shun violence and heal the political environment before we reach out for an end to sanctions,” Hikwa said.
He noted that the failure by the government to access financial assistance from multilateral lending agencies had a negative effect on industrial capacity utilisation causing most companies to scale down operations and even shutting down, resulting in massive job losses.
Strangely, according to analysts, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) and the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) joined hands with Zanu PF during the campaign.
Joseph Kanyekanye, the president of the CZI, was one of the key speakers at the campaign launch despite the fact that Mugabe had last Saturday attacked business and threatened to seize Nestle and Zimplats as part of the empowerment drive his party is pursuing. ZNCC president Trust Chikohoro was quoted in the state media backing the anti-sanctions campaign.
The secretary-general of the Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango), Godwin Phiri, dismissed the anti-sanctions lobby as a Zanu PF tactic to measure its support base. Phiri said the campaign would be ignored by foreign governments which imposed the sanctions given that the two-year inclusive government has done little to implement tangible reforms.
“Zanu PF is responsible for the sanctions because its regime perpetrated human rights abuses. They should first correct that before sanctions are removed,” said Phiri.
Last year, Presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia and Rupiah Banda of Zambia were tasked by Sadc to engage Washington and Brussels to lobby for the lifting of sanctions, but their pleas have not yielded anything to date.
US President Barack Obama’s administration responded by saying it would only review sanctions when the rule of law is restored and human rights violations completely ceased.
Phiri said Zuma should push Zanu PF to restore the rule of law and end political violence before engaging the west over sanctions.
The smaller MDC faction castigated Zanu PF for using the government emblem in its anti-sanctions drive saying this displayed dishonesty and a lack of respect for other signatories to the GPA.
“We have the GPA to deal with the sanctions and for Zanu PF to launch another way to push for removal of the measures shows that the party is insincere and doesn’t recognise some provisions of the agreement,” MDC spokesman Nhlanhla Dube said.
Tsvangirai and his party boycotted the launch arguing that the sanctions issue should be dealt with within the confines of the GPA.