Guest Column: Tendai Ruben Mbofana

AS I write this article, the government of Zimbabwe is launching its so-called strategic roadmap for a US$12 billion mining industry by 2023, officiated by President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa — characterised by the now all too familiar high-sounding programmes, plans, policies, and projections for a very prosperous country, that Zimbabweans have been subjected to for decades, but to no avail.

However, as I attentively listen to the Minister of Mines and Mining Development Winston Chitando talk lyrically and optimistically about how this vision is going to be attained, there is something that stands out — something that has always stood out with all other Zimbabwe government economic blueprints and policies — the omission of the word “sanctions”.

Ever since the imposition of targeted sanctions on several Zimbabwe entities and top officials by Western countries, particularly the United States (US) and European Union (EU) in 2002 — ostensibly for gross human rights abuses and electoral fraud — the government has never failed to blame these for the economy’s dismal performance.

In fact, as the country currently goes through its worst economic performance in 10 years, the “sanctions are to blame for everything going wrong” tirade has only intensified — further emboldened by the blind support offered by Sadc and African Union (AU), who have declared October 25, 2019 a “remove sanctions on Zimbabwe day”.

- Advertisement -

These so-called sanctions — which are, in fact, mainly travel bans and a prohibition to trade with listed entities associated with targeted top officials, and those accused of involvement in human rights abuses — have been blamed for the current shortages of nearly everything, including both foreign and local currency, fuel, electricity, water, medication, school equipment, jobs, as well as the ever-soaring prices of basic commodities.

However, what always baffles my mind is that, whenever the Zimbabwe government announces its overly-optimistic economic blueprints and visions, there is hardly any mention of these so-called sanctions as a condition for either their success or failure.

If sanctions are truly responsible for the economy’s free-fall — and the only way out of this abyss is their lifting — then why would that not be central to all the government’s “turnaround” programmes?

Should we not be hearing such mantras as: “Zimbabwe is open for business — only if sanctions are lifted, Zimbabwe will be an upper middle income economy by 2030 — only if sanctions are to be removed, or today’s US$12 billion mining industry by 2023 — only if sanctions are lifted”?

Has the Zimbabwe government not gone out of its way to convince both citizens and the international community that there can never be any meaningful economic recovery if sanctions remain in place?

With the current hyped up anti-sanctions drive preceding October 25, 2019 “Sadc sanctions must go” event, one would have believed that without this “albatross” being removed, there can never be any hope for Zimbabwe’s economic recovery.

Therefore, the question is: “If sanctions are not a factor in the success of government’s various economic blueprints and policies, then just how real are these sanctions as a hindrance to the country’s development?”

The convenient manner in which the government seemingly forgets these so-called sanctions in the formulation of their economic blueprints and policies proves that they have never been a factor in the suffering of Zimbabweans.

Meanwhile, if the government is to allege that the reason for omitting to factor in sanctions in their development plans is that they have found ways round them, then this still disproves their “sanctions are to blame” fallacy, as it shows that — even if these sanctions had been real — the authorities could have so easily formulated policies to circumvent them…but, they failed to do so.

If that were the case, then it would expose the government’s disingenuousness, as it has been blaming sanctions for its own failures in coming up with sound economic policies — thereby, falsely blaming sanctions.

If government is so confident that it can achieve an upper middle income economy by 2030, or attract sufficient businesses and foreign direct investment to uplift people’s lives, or receive US$12 billion from the minerals industry by 2023 (notwithstanding billions more from other sectors, such as agriculture, tourism and so forth) — with or without sanctions — then who is to blame for our current economic malaise?

Certainly not sanctions.

In fact, ever since Mnangagwa took over after the ouster of then President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, we have been told of tremendous interest in investing in the country by numerous foreign companies — characterised by groundbreaking ceremonies, launches and other events — yet, we are told, in the same breath, that sanctions are preventing the opening of businesses and creation of jobs in the country!

Have any of these companies that are showing interest in Zimbabwe ever been threatened by the US or EU not to invest in the country?

If there are any such companies, could they please come forward and tell the people of Zimbabwe that the reason they have not invested in the country is because of sanctions, or that although they have invested, they are receiving pressure from Western countries to disinvest, or are finding it difficult to trade due to sanctions.

Similarly, the country realised US$3,2 billion from the mineral industry in 2018, and is targeting US$4,2 billion for this year — yet, these so-called sanctions are still very much in place!

Is it then not clear that sanctions have absolutely nothing to do with our dire situation, but that the reason why there are such shortages of foreign and local currency, fuel, electricity, water, medication and many others, as well as soaring prices of basic commodities, unemployment of nearly 90%, company closures and lack of reasonable investment is all due to government’s own incompetence and corruption?

The government should know that the people of Zimbabwe are a very enlightened lot, and will never be hoodwinked by its own failures into believing that travel bans on some top officials and restrictions on certain entities are responsible for our economic suffering. We know exactly how we got here — government incompetence and corruption.
Simple and straightforward.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author and speaker. Email: