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.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is this week expected to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA.
The annual meetings come barely a month after the Southern African Development Community held a summit and declared October 25 as a day entities within the region will organise activities and lobby the US to lift sanctions or restrictive measures on Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Reform Act (Zidera) has been a thorn in the flesh for authorities in Harare.
Soon after his ascendancy following the November 2017 coup, President Mnangagwa broke rank with his party’s ideology when he said sanctions were of little effect on Zimbabwe’s economic outlook.
When he made this statement he had the goodwill of the international community following former president Robert Mugabe’s ouster. That goodwill was short-lived. Post-election violence, which claimed the lives of seven people and left several injured blemished Mnangagwa’s reengagement with the international community.
Quite predictably Mnangagwa had to sing from the same hymn as his predecessor after western powers lost faith in him. The impact of US sanctions has been felt in both public and private spheres. At UNGA, Mnangagwa will take the anti-sanctions message to global leaders when he takes to the podium. Already some people are picketing in New York and the late Coltrane Chimurenga is conspicuous by his absence.
Zimbabwe’s anti-sanction drive is not peculiar to the Mnangagwa’s administration. Here lies the problem. One cannot expect a different result after doing the same thing over and over again. Conditions for the lifting of sanctions have been spelt out and government should focus on these conditions.
The idealistic path of institutionalising Zimbabwe’s problem on a global forum cannot work in a world where realism prevails. The United States will not move an inch when a group of developing countries call for the lifting of sanctions. That is a sad reality of international relations.
President Mnangagwa should have a defined foreign policy after his return from the US. As it stands Zimbabwe’s foreign policy has been ambiguous and that will not serve to protect her interest. Zimbabwe’s economic policies are anchored on reforms—political and economic and the anti-sanctions are against reforms. This disjointed narrative will only serve to extend the status quo or probably lead to more international isolation given recent developments in Zimbabwe.
One of the reasons why Zimbabwe has remained a member of the UN despite trying in vain to force the US to lift sanctions on Harare is that she has powerful allies—China and Russia who can veto any aggression on Harare. This cooperation has helped Zimbabwe survive but it has also come at a cost. Zimbabwe will remain a source of chrome and other primary products to these super powers and she will find it difficult to unshackle poverty using such a development model.
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View: While it is noble for Zimbabwe to diversify its export destinations we contend that Zimbabwe should first strengthen is domestic policy before she can aggressively pursue her foreign. The country’s foreign policy should an extension of its domestic policy. As it stands local firms are in limbo and more needs to be done to stimulate growth.
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