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What next after Anti-Sanctions march?

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration this week declared Friday, October 25, a public holiday as the southern African nation makes a case for removal of sanctions imposed by the United States in particular.

The United States through Zidera, imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe as well as preconditions from the removal of these restrictive measures. Zimbabwe has over the last two decades adopted alternative means to counterbalance the impact of the sanctions. Lines of credit have dried up and the country cannot access concessionary funding.

Now Zimbabwe faces daunting but not insurmountable economic challenges that have to be addressed by the government in cooperation with other local and foreign stakeholders. Unfortunately the growing berth between Mnangagwa’s government and other non-state actors such as the country’s main opposition party and civic organisations will make this journey a bumpy one.

Zimbabwe’s case has been under the spotlight for many years many international actors such as Britain want to bring closure to more than 17 years of political crisis in Zimbabwe.

Following the ouster of long-time leader Robert Mugabe, Mnangagwa had the goodwill to map out a clear foreign policy on Zimbabwe. But his message has been ambiguous. On one hand he is supporting a Palestine state and most recently he announced his plans to reengage Israel. Zimbabwe’s traditional allies like China and Russia will not be amused by Mnangagwa’s ambiguity. Apart from the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Zimbabwe’s international relations with Japan (which is not an ally of China) also raise questions on which path the southern African nation wants to pursue in an international system of multi-polarity.

Interestingly, the EU, which also wanted to reengage with Zimbabwe once offered to restore cordial diplomatic relations with Harare after the 2013 elections. The invitation by the EU to President Robert Mugabe to attend the fourth EU–Africa summit in Brussels signalled both a response to African pressure and the desire to normalize relations.

 Mugabe, who felt that the west had reneged on its promise to assist Zimbabwe implement the emotive land reform programme however, decided to boycott the summit. Despite Mugabe’s snub the EU also agreed to suspend most sanctions on Zimbabwe except in the defence sphere and on President Mugabe and his wife Grace.

With memories of hyperinflation still fresh as the economy turns topsy-turvy debate continues in and between Europe and the United States over how quickly bilateral relations should be fully normalized. Harare has hired consultancy firms to normalise relations with the US in particularly but the world’s largest economy wants more-no reforms, no restoration of good diplomatic relations.

For a country that has lost millions to corruption and bad governance, the Zimbabwean government can no longer blame the West for the country’s continued economic underperformance. Scholars that discredit the sanctions narrative as the bane for the country’s development argue that the economy stabilized under the Government of National Unity (GNU) that was in office from 2009 to 2013.

As it becomes highly probable that economic collapse is not inevitable, Zimbabwe has few options to come out of the woods—all hinged on political will. Authorities in Harare should adopt policies to build international business confidence, support technocratic and entrepreneurial expertise at home as well as reaching out to a sizable and skilled diaspora population, encourage good governance and reduce inequality.

Political and economic reforms are the way to go, instead of grandstanding. Zimbabwe is a periphery nation that cannot take on a superpower like the United States. Give diplomacy a chance.

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