That SADC has expressed solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and set 25 October as anti-Zimbabwe sanctions day across the region must be commendable.
Indeed, the people of Zimbabwe have suffered for too long and the regional bloc has spent valuable time trying to find a solution to the problems in the country. Zimbabwe was in 2002 placed under an economic and travel embargo by the European Union, at the egging of Britain, following the country’s stance to redistribute land on a more equitable basis and to correct colonial imbalances in the ownership of the resource.
But the land reform programme in Zimbabwe did not go down well with the Western countries, and the US had to enact a law, the misnamed Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) which bars American companies to invest in the country. ZIDERA bars Americans on the boards of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and other multilateral financial institutions which the US control, from voting for financial support to Zimbabwe. This is contrary to critics who have tried to advance the flimsy argument that the sanctions are only targeted at senior ruling Zanu-PF and government officials.
In fact, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) can freeze funds destined for the Zimbabwe government or public or private entities in the country. This therefore means a number of countries are dissuaded from doing business with Zimbabwean companies. A number of companies in Zimbabwe have suffered as a result, with Standard Chartered Bank being one of those private firms heavily affected. Public entities that have borne the brunt of the US sanctions include the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), a company which owns car assembler, Willowvale Motor Industries and Deven Engineering, among others. These companies have been reduced to a pale shadow of themselves, throwing thousands of workers into the streets.
There was a lot of hope when the new government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa came into office in 2018. But that hope appears to be dissipating, and fast, as serious economic conditions are biting the people of Zimbabwe.
This is why we believe new tactics now need to be implemented to come up with a firm and lasting solution to the problems bedeviling the country and SADC must take a more proactive role in identifying the problems. Sanctions are but part of the problem. It is time to address the elephant in the room once and for all. There is a need for political leaders to introspect in order to see where they are getting it wrong.
Yes, people can march and speechify against the sanctions, but will this help? After the marches and the speeches, what will happen next? Will the people of Zimbabwe find the solution to their problems in the anti-sanctions march? We believe it is time for SADC leaders to come up with a more practical solution to this issue.
As we report elsewhere in this issue and in our edition last week, incoming SADC Chairperson and Tanzanian President Dr John Pombe Magufuli led the charge against western imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe at the 39th SADC summit of heads of state and government in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in August. Magufuli likened the sanctions on Zimbabwe to having one’s hand cut off. The whole body, he said, will suffer as a result.
SADC executive secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax also admitted the economic sanctions against Zimbabwe were militating against economic growth in the country and the region. Reading the communique to mark the end of the 39th SADC heads of state and government summit in Tanzania, Dr Tax made it clear that the sanctions were doing no good to the whole SADC region.
“Summit noted the adverse impact on the economy of Zimbabwe and the region at large of prolonged economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and expressed solidarity with Zimbabwe, and called for the immediate lifting of sanctions to facilitate socio-economic recovery in the country,” Dr Tax said.
We agree that the entire SADC region will not progress economically as long as one of its members is not doing well. But while we welcome the regional solidarity over sanctions, we do not believe that the leaders should sit on their laurels and hope that things will improve in the country because they have made solidarity messages and marched against the sanctions. On the contrary, the problems of Zimbabwe will continue spilling into other countries across the region if a lasting solution is not found.
The economic problems in the country brought about by the sanctions need the regional leaders to think outside the box and find a lasting solution. Millions of Zimbabweans have migrated into neigbouring countries and elsewhere across the world in search of better lives. This is a whole lost generation of Zimbabweans who have left home and might never come back to settle in their country of origin.
SADC leaders need to look at another solution to this problem in Zimbabwe which has been sticking out like a sore thumb for more than two decades. At one point, the regional bloc appointed former South African leader Thabo Mbeki to find a solution to the problem, which culminated in the formation of a government of national unity in Zimbabwe, resulting in the late President Robert Mugabe and opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai coming together in 2009. Then the political and economic problems seemed to have disappeared, only to re-appear upon expiry of the unity government.
Perhaps it is time for the regional leaders to come up with a similar solution. Perhaps it is time for a complete surgery to the body in order to repair the hand that President Magufuli says has been cut off, after which bitter medicine will have to be administered to the patient. SADC has other problems to attend to and Zimbabwe must not continue to be on its agenda forever.