MDC must challenge sanctions rhetoric

HARARE - Sanctions, as penalties aimed at a State, entity or individuals to change their behaviour, have been central to Zanu PF’s political campaign for a long time.

Yet the party’s claims on effects of sanctions have barely been cogently challenged.

The United States (US) and European Union (EU), among others, imposed sanctions during Zanu PF’s rule about 10 years ago.

The reasons and the nature of sanctions are contested. Zanu PF claims the “illegal” measures were imposed as retribution for land redistribution which displaced a small number of white farmers.

The imposers, however, contend the penalties were only exacted on individuals and entities identified as impeding democratic reform after widespread human rights violations.

Equally contested is the impact of the measures. The legality argument is not worth this space because countries and organisations reserve the right to impose sanctions.

More significant, Zanu PF has portrayed sanctions as the sole cause for Zimbabwe’s economic crisis.

However, such claims have been made without empirical evidence. The claimed causality has been based on anecdotal evidence, designed to discredit its rivals, the MDC for calling for the measures years ago.
The problem, however, is that the MDC has on its part failed to proffer a cogent counter-narrative.  Zanu PF has thus been allowed to run away with a false narrative as the totalising explanation for Zimbabwe’s economic maladies. Such contrived narrative has been appealing to many against a backdrop of an economic crisis.

However, causal factors for the crisis have hardly been articulated to assess the supposed impact of sanctions.

The sanctions issue can perhaps be divided into the moral and impact arguments; firstly, whether they were justified and secondly, if they have caused the impact claimed.

Those who lived through the early 2000 would have little doubt about the moral rationales for the sanctions.

Zanu PF’s egregious atrocities against, among others, farmers, workers and opposition members are a matter of public record.

Space does not allow but The Daily News diligently captured horrors of the time, and paid the price for it.

All taken into account, a moral argument for calling for sanctions at the time holds up.
It is one thing to conduct agrarian reform; it is quite another to displace, maim, murder people and bomb institutions without holding the criminals accountable.

The barbarities of 2008 erased any doubt about Zanu PF’s inclination towards violence.  

It is, therefore, absurd for Zanu PF to portray itself as a victim of vindictive foreign forces when it is a proven and persistent rights violator.

The “impact” argument about sanctions is even more challengeable.

The problem with sanctions issue, however, is that it has lacked any empirical evidence. It is inadequate to point to anything or everything for that matter as a victim of sanctions as  Zanu PF does, given its history of corruption and economic mismanagement.

The sanctions claim becomes even more unintelligible when the countries and entities that supposedly imposed measures continue to trade with Zimbabwe.

“EU trade with Zimbabwe amounted to $860 million last year with a positive trade balance of  $271 million in favour of Zimbabwe.” An extract from none other than The Herald of March 30, 2013.

It begs the obvious question: if the EU has imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe (not just individuals as claimed) why would it trade with Zimbabwe?

Something doesn’t square up. The US and Britain have continued to provide aid to Zimbabwe.

However, what has lacked is a collation of such empirical evidence to debunk Zanu PF’s false claims.

It is obvious the self-enriching Zanu PF elite cannot own up to its mismanagement of the economy.

It has, therefore, seized on sanctions to exculpate itself.

Only recently,Finance minister, Tendai Biti, was bemoaning the lack of revenue inflows to his ministry.

It is simplistic and dishonest to attribute Zimbabwe’s economic maladies to the impact of sanctions.

The MDC would do well to challenge the “impact” argument so that Zanu PF does not perpetuate, unchallenged, the sanctions narrative as the totalising explanation for the country’s parlous State.

It makes political sense to challenge your opponent’s central message that, in this case, appears to have gained considerable currency.
Such counter-narrative would require empirical backing. - Conrad Nyamutata

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