Zimbabwe government targets citizens for its failure to negotiate what it terms ‘international sanctions’

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By Dr Mathew Nyashanu

In what is becoming a circus in African politics, the Zimbabwean government believes that sanctions can be mitigated through arresting or jailing citizens who are standing up against its oppressive rule. To many people who have closely watched the unfolding of the political journey in Zimbabwe from 1980, it is worth to question why the liberation war was fought. Indeed, the answer to this big question has now turned to be a rhetoric from the ruling party slogans at rallies and its inner circle meetings. Independence, freedom of expression and freedom of association have completely eluded the former freedom fighters. I know it will be very painful to draw similarities between Zanu PF in its current form led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the right-wing apartheid political outfit the Rhodesian Front led by the then prime minister Ian Douglas Smith.

It is clear that no one who is a citizen of Zimbabwe would want Zimbabwe to be placed under the sanctions landing the country into a double jeopardy of poor economic management by Zanu PF and the impact of the so-termed sanctions by Zanu PF. It is disturbing for a government to think and believe that sanctions are being caused by its own citizens who are wallowing in poverty.  What Zanu PF fails to understand is that sanctions are enacted by a constitutional administration that governs a country and citizens from a different country cannot be privy or part to this process. Entangling citizens in the sanction debacle is a sign of poor political sight mixed with incompetence to understand the processes of international governance and relations. Who in their right mind would believe that Britain, the United States of America (USA) and the rest of Europe are being told by Zimbabwean citizens to place sanctions on the Zimbabwe government.

The behaviour of targeting citizens when the government is failing to perform its duties is not a new phenomenon in the history of Zimbabwe and the world at large. This is exactly what was happening during the colonial rule in Rhodesia where the cornered apartheid regime thought that the problem was being caused by nationalist dissent. All Zanu PF big wigs are still whingeing about their unconstitutional and arbitrary detention by the colonial government but what is ironic about it is that the same victims of colonialism from Zanu PF are walking in the footsteps of the colonialists. Many Zimbabweans have been detained for long periods without any trial including members of parliament like Job Sikala from the opposition Citizen Coalition for Change led by Advocate Nelson Chamisa.

It is sad to see that Zanu PF trying to use sanctions as a reason for the non-working of the economy, yet their incompetence to run the economy dates back to the pre-sanctions period. In 1988 the Willowgate scandal saw many Zanu PF big wigs misappropriating vehicles to amass wealth against a backdrop of suffering citizens. The scandal saw the demise of one of the earliest nationalist icons Maurice Nyagumbo but a lot of them just went low and surfaced again to devour what they had left and some of them are still with us.

Zanu PF knows how it landed itself in the present political state and knows the milestones they need to achieve before they can be part of the bigger family of nations. It is sad how Zanu PF employs some of the laughable and unorthodox strategies to end sanctions including holding rallies with rural folks and drumming support from primary and secondary school children. Honestly, what impact or international significance can such actions have in mitigating sanctions. All they are doing is to waste working and learning hours for rural folks and school children respectively.

However, those who have been around with Zanu PF know that they can surprise anyone when they want to do it; not long-ago senior ministers in Zanu PF travelled hundreds of kilometres to the town of Chinhoyi to inaugurate a strange economic event dubbed “Dhiziri paChinhoyi” when they were made to believe that diesel was oozing from a nearby mountain by a traditional healer. It becomes very difficult to have confidence in leaders who presumably went to school and have a working knowledge of how oil is processed but can easily be told that it can ooze from a mountain by a traditional healer. It is through these events that you can start to understand why Zanu PF is coming up with chilling strategies in trying to end the sanctions debacle which is honestly out of their own making.

More pain comes to haunt citizens when they look at the state of the health system ostensibly blamed on sanctions. Our hospitals have become death traps with thousands of mothers dying through unmanaged maternal health problems. Some patients from Zimbabwe are making some very difficult journeys across the Limpopo to give birth in a country that still believes in its obligation to deliver a working health system to its citizens.

In the process some Zimbabwean patients have been publicly degraded by some health professionals for accessing services in South Africa without paying for them. A good example was a mother who went viral while being questioned by a South African health official for using their health services without paying for them. All these dramas are unfolding against a backdrop of Zanu PF buying new cars for their political party and bussing people to rallies. Honestly, if Zanu PF loved the citizens of Zimbabwe was it not prudent for them to give up half of their new fleet of vehicles and trade them for ambulances and medication for our hospitals which are empty and dangerous to visit?

The big question is Zanu PF tells citizens that they are under sanctions and so cannot provide services for them but where are they getting the money to buy all those party vehicles and even give each other loans that would not be repaid? We are still waiting for feedback on how command agriculture was funded and when will the recipients pay back the money and implements they amassed and misappropriated. The other challenge is that Zanu PF has turned itself into an unorthodox monetary institution where money is dished out and used as a political bait. The present state of the economy will never improve unless there is a strong commitment from Zanu PF to create a conducive atmosphere to attract investors and professionals in Zimbabwe.

The brain drain of teachers, nurses and doctors will continue unless the Zimbabwean government is committed to the initial ideals of why the liberation war was fought. It is pathetic that the vice president and minister of health Constantine Chiwenga wants to oversee the verification and confirmation of nurses who want to go and work abroad in a bid to prevent them from leaving. This confirmation is legally done by the nurses’ council, but their powers and legal mandate has been usurped by the vice president who is also doubling as a minister of health.

Lack of sincerity and commitment to professional conduct and international standards is one of the reasons why Zimbabwe is being isolated. I wish that all those in Zanu PF could have their clocks turned back to colonialism and reflect on their legacy. Citizens are honestly questioning the place of Zanu PF with regards to colonialism. Are we not experiencing colonialism in a post-colonial State? My brothers and sisters let’s meet again next week when I unpack our education system and employability.