Will African leaders’ sanctions removal call free Zimbabwe’s economy?

GABORONE – Botswana President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi has put his weight behind Zimbabwe in pressuring the West to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi
Botswana President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi

In a recent press briefing to his members after returning from the 32nd African Union Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which ended on the 11th of February 2019, President Masisi confirmed that he endorsed a recent communique by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) demanding the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe.

“With sanctions, you will not be able to trade with others, import fuel and buy machinery. Sanctions should be lifted on Zimbabwe because a stable Zimbabwe is good for Zimbabwe and for Botswana. As the African Union and SADC we do not want to interfere in Zimbabwe but try to give support to Zimbabwe to be orderly and peaceful. To do that you have to appreciate that the situation there is complex,” Masisi said.

The 5th and current President of Botswana joins a list of revolutionary party leaders in Africa who have openly called for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe. Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC leader and current President of South Africa who is also the SADC Chairperson took the Zimbabwe sanctions fight to the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where he said Zimbabwe faces serious economic challenges and they can be assisted by the world if those sanctions are lifted. The United States imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe during Mugabe’s reign citing human rights abuses.

The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) is an act passed by the United States Congress which imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe. It was first passed in 2001 at the height of Zimbabwe’s land seizures and was purportedly a reaction to the Zimbabwean government not protecting the property rights of white farmers. The violent Zimbabwe national elections of 2003, 2008 and 2013 and alleged human rights abuses led to the extension of ZIDERA on targeted Zimbabwean officials.

With the removal of former president Robert Mugabe from power in November 2017 through a military intervention and the coming in of the Zimbabwe ruling party’s new dispensation under Emmerson Mnangagwa’ s leadership, the global community was embracing Zimbabwe’s open for business reform agenda. It was on August 1, 2018 that Zimbabwe’s reform agenda derailed after the military shot and killed civilians in its efforts to control citizen protests against delays by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in announcing the July 2018 presidential election results. The military interventions left at least six (6) people dead and dozens others injured from gunshot wounds, a Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) post-election violence report entitled “A new Era or Error” revealed. After announcing the presidential election results which declared Emmerson Mnangagwa a winner, the main opposition party in Zimbabwe (Movement for Democratic Change) led by Nelson Chamisa challenged the election results in court, and lost the case in the constitutional court. Since then, Zimbabwe’s main political parties have been in a legitimacy war at the expense of the economy.

From August 2018 to January 2019, Zimbabwe has experienced the highest spike in commodity prices since its 2008 dollarization. Fuel queues and food queues have been common since the run up to the 2018 festive season as government battles against huge fiscal deficits and a leaky monetary system.

Whilst it is commendable for African leaders to ratchet up pressure for the removal of economic sanctions against Zimbabwe by the West, as the adage goes, charity begins at home. As long as there are conflicting statements coming out of Zimbabwe on economic, political and humanitarian developments, the international community will not remove sanctions on Zimbabwe. African leaders must learn the principle of reciprocity and stand up tall to facilitate a leadership dialogue between Zimbabwe’s two main political parties. These talks will bring Zimbabwe’s mainstream leaders together and bring peace and unity in Zimbabwe. These two (peace and unity) are the only constant values for the international community to remove economic sanctions against Zimbabwe.

To augment the above proposition, as African leaders call for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe,  Zimbabwe’s former colonial masters through Harriet Baldwin, the UK’s Africa minister recently told the House of Commons international development committee that the United Kingdom will not support Zimbabwe’s readmission bid into the Common Wealth citing human rights violations and vowed to push other European Union’s foreign ministers to extend sanctions against Zimbabwe and top officials in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

After this has been said and done, which African leader has the wisdom to stand up to Zimbabwe’s real challenge by brokering a credible internal political dialogue between Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ZANU PF party and Nelson Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change party? This African leader would have freed Zimbabwe from perpetual years of international isolation and economic stagnation.