THIS piece is penned with a heavy sense of exasperation and bewilderment at the inability of Zimbabwe’s political opposition and some civil society groups and private media to come to grips with the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front’s political uses of the various forms of sanctions imposed on it by America and the European Union (EU).
On Thursday, Zambian President Rupiah Banda and South African President Jacob Zuma called for the lifting of Western sanctions. This has been received with derision in many civil society and media quarters. The call has been interpreted by some as “an indication of Zuma and Banda’s support for Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF”.
“Zuma and Banda believe Mugabe’s propaganda”, others in civil society bleat. For some “the West must keep punishing Zanu PF for its human rights abuses”. The Zimbabwean political opposition is silent.
If you are one of those who shares the aforementioned views, pause a moment to ask yourself why there are sanctions on Mugabe and Zanu PF but none against Swaziland’s King Mswati or Angola’s Eduardo dos Santos – both leaders who are not anymore human rights respecting than Mugabe.
Ask yourself whether America has the moral authority to apply sanctions against Zanu PF when its own human rights record is chequered. Remember the illegal Iraq invasion. The human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Civilians who continue to die in Afghanistan. America’s reluctance to rein-in Israel for its human rights abuses in Palestine.
Western sanctions against Mugabe and Zanu PF elites would command more authority if the same human rights standards were applied to every country evenly. Will you not wake up and smell the fetor of Western hypocrisy? It reeks all the way to hell and heaven. Come out of the malodour. Wake up from the illusion of Western human rights supremacy.
ZANU PF has and continues to work hard at casting Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) as “sell-outs” who campaigned for the imposition of unjustified sanctions that are “racist” and an interference in the country’s internal affairs. Today, Tsvangirai’s MDC is asked to advocate the removal of sanctions because it instigated them.
While the MDC-T denies that it ever campaigned for sanctions, its message on the sanctions issue has never been as coherent and consistent as that of ZANU PF. Only in November during a parliamentary debate MDC-T MP Jefferson Chitando called for the extension of Western sanctions and he suggested that the opposition had indeed invited the imposition of sanctions in the early 2000s.
Zanu PF refuses to fully implement power-sharing reforms for as long as Western sanctions remain in place. The sanctions stand-off is one of the main reasons why the power-sharing government has made little headway in reforming Zimbabwean institutions in time for the next elections.
By campaigning for sanctions to be lifted, Zuma and Banda are attempting to take a key impediment to reform implementation off the table. Calling for an end to sanctions is not indicative of support for Mugabe.
Moreover, sanctions have become a convenient scapegoat for Zanu PF because they allow the party to argue that Zimbabwe’s breathtaking economic decline was not caused by its adoption of a disastrous Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes (ESAP) in the 1990s, massive corruption by Zanu PF elites, an ineptly implemented land reform programmes and the country’s 1998 involvement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Zanu PF is a violent party and they have made many bad policy decisions while in government, but they are nonetheless astute political operators. And yet the manner in which civil society, private media and the MDC-T are still struggling to comprehend and strategically counter Zanu PF’s political uses of the sanctions matter is making me increasingly question whether Mugabe’s party is indeed a clever assemblage or civil society, private media and the opposition are simply intellectually ill equipped.
Perhaps there is nothing to Zanu PF – they are a shallow lot who just happen to be a tad cleverer than the mediocrity that surrounds them.