The background of Zimbabwe’s sanctioning runs deep and extends to pre-independence times when Ian Smith’s racial government had sanctions imposed on it by the United Nations after unilaterally declaring itself as independent from British auspices. Even though this was reversed after autonomy, the notoriety of the government at the turn of the new century led to sanction imposition by the European Union and Uncle Sam. The European Union imposed targeted and restrictive sanctions on the government after the head of its election observatory team was kicked out of Zimbabwe in 2002. The measures banned, at that time, about 20 government officials from Europe and forbad the regional bloc from lending money to the government. That subsequently meant that about 120 million Euros planned for Zimbabwe in the coming years was cancelled. To date however, sanctions by the EU have been limited to just the Zimbabwe Defense forces, the former Presidential couple and an arms embargo.
On the other end, the United States placed targeted sanctions on certain government officials and affiliated companies and the famous Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) sanctions to try and avoid the suppression of human rights in the country. These sanctions also sought to stop any transactions between US-affiliated institutions (the IMF and World Bank included) and some Zimbabwean companies, politicians and army officials. The measures of the upliftment of these sanctions were stringent, one being that the government compensates white commercial farmers who lost their land during the 2000 land invasions. The government was unwilling or possibly unable to co-operate and these sanctions have been passed from one US administration to another, from Bush to Obama to Trump.
According to the Anti-Sanctions bandwagon, ceteris paribus (all things being the same), Zimbabwe would be a ‘great’ country and an envy to the whole African fraternity without sanctions. Correct me if I’m wrong but if such is the argument that led to one less day of productivity and going to school in Zimbabwe then it is doom and gloom. Even rookie Economics would be good enough to inform that ceteris paribus cannot be applied to the Zimbabwean situation. Zimbabwe’s downfall is a result of a complex aggregate of misdemeanors at all levels of society and, sanctions, though one of them, is not the root cause. Having an Anti-Sanctions Day in a bid to reverse that which is not in our hands, without having an Anti-Corruption or Anti-Poor Governance Day which are both based on phenomena that we can change, is tantamount to a fissure in reasoning.
The day of the supposed to be groundbreaking event was particularly embarrassing. Very few people showed up, albeit the chance of a good serving of fast food. The reasons to the lack of pomp and fanfare would probably be based on the fact that very few people were able to fully comprehend the whole scope of the sanction saga. In essence, those who marched against the sanctions were simply doing it for populist reasons. What I found even more funny was how a whole regional bloc was able to stand in solidarity to a propaganda tool first unleashed by the former Zimbabwean leader: blame the West for everything. In a failed effort to divert Zimbabweans from pending bread and butter issues (or the lack of it), the government sought to address an issue that it can’t really directly control, leaving real issues that it can control unattended.
To say that the Anti-Sanctions day was a farce would probably be an insult on the millions of Dollars used on the day. However, in all fairness the day was a product of hypocrisy. Sanctions do hurt Zimbabwe, but evidence would probably show that the hurt inflicted is less than that imposed by more intrinsic factors like fraud, money laundering, negligence, policy inconsistency and uncertainty and the like. It would be a good thing for sanctions to be removed for Zimbabwe, but protesting is not a way to do it. Rather, the authorities should focus more on meeting the measures put for the upliftment of the sanctions. Zimbabwe and all other small nations should learn to be more inward-looking when it comes to fault-finding and not the opposite. Sometimes that’s all it takes.