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By Jon’osi Sibanda

United States and their European Union and Australian allies must be smiling.

Finally, their plan to remove Robert Mugabe from power appears to be gaining momentum. The end of their arch nemesis' reign in southern Africa appears nigh.

This is thanks to the erosion of Mugabe’s power as a result of the financial sanctions imposed against the country by the Western countries and Mugabe’s own obviously demented response to the ensuing economic, social and political crisis facing the country.

The socio-economic situation in Zimbabwe is obviously dire. Inflation at 1700% is at an all time high and rising. Doctors, nurses and other key sector workers have engaged in crippling labour strikes. There are riots in some urban areas. Leaders of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were assaulted by police officers to the accompaniment of an international media frenzy.

Despite claims by the West and international media outlets, what is happening in Zimbabwe is not a fight for democracy. True, this may be the MDC’s mantra, and against the background of the illogical and brutal assault on civilians and some MDC members, the situation may look like a death and life struggle for liberty.

But this is a smokescreen, and the MDC are pawns. Rather, the signs of collapse reflect the result of a sustained financial sanctions campaign led by the US, the EU and Australia to effect regime change through the medium of the MDC. The reason: Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned farms and the threats this posed in southern Africa and elsewhere to private property rights and international investments.

Initially resilient, Zimbabwe’s continued blockade from international financial markets and divestment caused particularly by US policy, is destroying the very core of its frayed economy and the vestiges of all that the young country achieved after independence in 1980.

True, Robert Mugabe is old, dictatorial, and blindly clinging on to power and must go; but his removal should not be a celebration for democracy. Instead, it represents work in progress for a campaign to effect regime change through financial and related sanctions.

In addition, what is also concerning is not Mugabe’s removal from power. Rather, it is his removal on the back of millions of ordinary Zimbabweans whose lives have been inexorably changed by the financial sanctions imposed against the country.

Thousands of lives have been needlessly lost due to the collapse of the health delivery system. The hopes and aspirations of an entire generation of children have been dashed by the blind actions of the powerful. The country’s social fabric has been torn apart by sanctions-exacerbated poverty and emigration. Savings and pensions of the elderly and infirm have been eviscerated by inflation; itself the result of financial sanctions and Mugabe’s incompetent handling of the crisis which followed the imposition of financial sanctions.

In the past 12 months, the US, EU and Australian governments, particularly through their respective ambassadors in Harare, have been at pains to explain that the sanctions in place are not against Zimbabwe, but rather, a few Zanu PF people. Following the arrest and assault of Morgan Tsvangirai, the US announced that it was considering imposing further sanctions against the Harare government. Predictably the MDC leadership has not denounced these plans. The international media has also failed to critically evaluate whether the sanctions imposed against Zimbabwe are financial in nature, and whether this is what catalysed the economic crisis facing the country.

It is telling that Western governments, and in particular the US, has never talked about the purpose behind and the impact of the US law called the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA).

Repeating ad nauseam as Mr. Dell, the US ambassador to Zimbabwe continues to do, that the only sanctions against Zimbabwe are “smart”, targeting Zanu PF people and companies, fails to hide the fact that the US government’s law and actions have effectively led to Zimbabwe being excluded from the international financial markets. And that Zimbabwe is collapsing due to the effects of these US imposed financial sanctions. In addition, the social unrest being witnessed in Zimbabwe reflects the successful progression of this campaign.

While it is inconvenient now that it seems that Mugabe is finally losing his grip, both on power and his reasoning, a few questions do need to be asked of the US government and others that proclaim that the only sanctions in place against Zimbabwe are “smart and targeted”.

Hasn’t the US, through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act:

Blocked extensions of finance, credit facilities, and debt rescheduling and cancellation made by Zimbabwe to the IMF, World Bank and other multilateral lending agencies?

Ensured that the IMF unreasonably keeps pressure on Zimbabwe to pay outstanding debts, notwithstanding that the country has a foreign currency and food crisis and clearly unable, without rescheduling, to maintain its current debt obligations;

Confiscated cash proceeds from US companies which sold agricultural machinery with Zimbabwean companies?

Frozen financial assets of Zimbabwean companies, whose only fault is to be controlled by the government, or to have as shareholders, Zimbabweans who happen to support Zanu PF?

Ensured that dollar denominated trade between a Zimbabwean company and any other company attracted greater scrutiny from the US Federal authorities, and hence attracting a premium;

Imposed a punitive premium on any company – both US and non-US - that has major business dealings with the US on trading with Zimbabwean companies; and;

Ensured that until ZDERA is repealed, Zimbabwe has a snowball’s chance in hell of normalising relations with multilateral lending agencies such as the Bretton Woods institutions?

The US, EU and Australia bans the trade of produce from Zimbabwean farms identified in the list of specified persons and companies created by these countries. And in the last 6 months, Australia has stopped honouring any foreign currency trade originating from Zimbabwe.

And yet all three in bad faith falsely claim that the only sanctions in place are travel bans and asset freezes against a few Zanu PF people and companies. How pathetic!

All three countries claim that Mugabe’s poor human rights record is the reason why they imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe. Again this is a smokescreen. But even if it were true, a question has to be asked: How many more people have lost their lives, lost their livelihoods as a direct result of the financial sanctions? Perhaps the end justifies the means. And Mugabe is such a high value threat that any deaths and suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans pales in comparison!

Yet, without the complicity of the MDC hierarchy, the US, EU and Australian sanctions and actions would have rung hollow. And without the crass incompetence and delusions of Mugabe and his Zanu PF government, the situation may not have deteriorated to this level.

By not publicly denouncing the imposition of sanctions against the country and against their fellow compatriots by foreign governments, and by allowing themselves to be used by these governments to effect regime change, the MDC is partly to blame for the economic crisis. The quest for political power should never come at the expense of one’s country or the pain and tears of one’s compatriots. However, that said, Mugabe and Zanu PF remain the villains of this tragedy.

The imploding economy and a frustrated people has become Mugabe’s main enemy; not the MDC. Mugabe must now negotiate, albeit because of sanctions imposed against the country and the fact that he has no solutions to redress the rapidly deteriorating situation. If he remains obstinate, the end may be catastrophic both for him and the country. He has lost the battle, which focusing on the lifeblood of the economy was subtle but insidious.

He will, however, remain a figure that fought against colonialism and guided the country through its formative years. However, he failed miserably when confronted with a new kind of warfare, one that does not require guns to prosecute. And his attempts at redistributing land to the majority have failed. He failed to plan for the reaction of international capital.

It is highly likely that the country will have to return to the skewed land distribution situation that led to the war in the 1960-70s and lately, the farm invasions and the current economic crisis.

Jon’osi Sibanda writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted at

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