PRONOUNCEMENTS by the European parliament on the grave human rights situation in Zimbabwe provided a concise checklist of everything that has gone wrong in the past six months and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government will be well-advised to take note of them.
The parliamentarians meeting in Brussels last Thursday recommended more sanctions against Mnangagwa’s government as punishment for the latest round of state-sponsored violence that left several people dead throughout the country.
Zimbabwe was first slapped with sanctions by the European Union (EU) and other Western countries in 2002 after Robert Mugabe’s regime went on a murderous campaign targeting opposition supporters and white farmers to preserve its power.
The sanctions have partly been responsible for the country’s spectacular economic collapse over the years and the embargo continues to hurt the poor the most.
However, it has to be stated in the same breath that the biggest source of our economic woes is misgovernance and corruption at the highest levels of government.
Over the years, the Zanu PF government under Mugabe and now Mnangagwa, has used the Western sanctions as a scapegoat for its ineptitude in managing the economy.
In 2017 when he took over from Mugabe following a military coup, Mnangagwa told his party that it was now time to stop using sanctions as an excuse for the economic collapse. He called for accountability and hard work.
The president made sense because there are countries that have been under similar or worse sanctions for decades, but chose not to be perennial moaners by crafting survival strategies that suited their economies.
Following the brutal clampdown on the opposition and civil society by the security forces in the wake of the January 14 protests, the EU sanctions against Zimbabwe are back on the agenda.
The EU parliamentarians had a long list of recommendations that included a “call on the European Council to review its restrictive measures against individuals and entities in Zimbabwe, including those measures currently suspended, in the light of accountability for recent state violence”.
They also urged Mnangagwa “to remain true to his inaugural promises . . . put Zimbabwe back on a path of reconciliation and respect for democracy and the rule of law”.
The Zimbabwean government has to decide on whether to accept these recommendations and fend off further international isolation or continue with its ostrich mentality of burying their heads in the sand.
In that case, if the sanctions regime is tightened, Mnangagwa and his government will have no one to blame, but themselves because it is within their power to bring back Zimbabwe from the brink.