IT HAS been noted that on September 17 2013, the European Union agreed to lift the restrictive measures imposed on the Zimbabwean government mining parastatal the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC).
– David Coltart
Pursuant to Article IV of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed on September 15 2008 all the signatories to that agreement consented all forms of restrictive measures and sanctions against Zimbabwe be lifted.
Acting in good faith we (as the MDC) immediately and consistently thereafter called for the lifting of all these measures and sanctions.
At the time we stated that, the reason for this was not solely because of our moral obligation to do in terms of of Article IV, but because we believed that it was necessary to take the wind out of Zanu PF sails in its argument that sanctions were responsible for the destruction of Zimbabwe’s economy.
Zanu PF has tried through its propaganda machine to blame virtually all Zimbabwe’s ills, including the collapse of its economy and its education system, on the restrictive measures imposed on a few individuals and companies responsible for gross human rights abuses and corruption in Zimbabwe during the last decade.
All people in possession of the facts know that these measures had little impact on the economy and that the primary reason for the collapse of the economy was Zanu PF’s abuse of the rule of law, rampant corruption, chaotic land reform and the irresponsible printing and corrupt distribution of currency.
However, given that Zanu PF had exclusive access to State electronic media and that there are no independent radio or television stations in Zimbabwe, the sanctions argument could not be rebutted and was taken as truth by many Zimbabweans, especially rural dwellers, who had no access to an alternative view or the truth.
It was therefore our view that all sanctions should be lifted so that Zanu PF could no longer use this propaganda line.
By and large, we were not listened to by Western governments and Zanu PF were able to blame their poor historical performance on sanctions in the last election.
The highly contentious general election of July 31 2013 has come and gone.
Some would argue that because of the fraudulent nature of that election, both the moral obligation (in terms of the Article IV) and the political justification for sanctions to be lifted have both gone.
Whilst there is no doubt with the termination of the GPA there is no moral obligation on the two MDC parties to continue to argue for the lifting of sanctions, the political justification for the removal of sanctions remains.
That justification certainly does not hinge on the credibility of the elections.
In fact on the contrary the fraudulent abuse and violation of both the Electoral Act and Zimbabwe’s new Constitution should if anything act as justification for the continuation and indeed extension of restrictive measures and sanctions against those response for this subversion of democracy.
Indeed the timing of the EU’s lifting of restrictive measures against the ZMDC is unfortunate because it will no doubt be trumpeted as an indication that the EU now concedes that the elections were free, fair and credible.
However, when all is said and done we still believe that all restrictive measures should be lifted for the following reasons:
- No amount of sanctions or rhetoric will change that fact. They must now govern and deliver on their promises to the Zimbabwean electorate.
- Those opposed to Zanu PF and committed to a new democratic and lawful order in Zimbabwe now need to reorganise and prepare to fight the next general election. Given Zanu PF’s record of mis-governance during the last 33 years it is unlikely that they will be able to deliver on their promises.
The one thing we do not need as we prepare for the next election is Zanu PF being given an excuse to explain why it has failed again. If restrictive measures and sanctions remain in place there is no doubt that they will be the centerpiece of Zanu PF’s propaganda campaign.
- There is little likelihood of Zimbabwe’s electronic media being opened up so the vast majority of the electorate will be subjected to this lie and excuse. In a recent meeting of civic leaders with a key Zanu PF strategist the strategist admitted that Zanu PF always needs an enemy to fight.
This is of course a classic tactic of fascist parties down the ages to remain in power; enemies are needed to unite people against a supposed external evil force and to divert their attention away from the real reasons behind their poverty, namely mis-governance.
This particular “enemy”, namely sanctions, must be removed as soon as possible to remove that lie from our political discourse.
- Sanctions and restrictive measures have been particularly used in the diamond sector to facilitate and cover up massive corruption.
In the last four years in Cabinet whenever we tried to investigate diamond receipts these efforts were always met with the excuse that there was a need for “secrecy” because of sanctions; that if there was a truly transparent process that that would be used by hostile Western governments to stop the export of diamonds from Zimbabwe and in so doing have a dramatic negative effect on our gross domestic product and revenue flows to Treasury.
Of course it was just another lie because all the secrecy did was to enable a few to enrich themselves at the expense of the general public and the fiscus.
A classic example of this is the statement made on Tuesday the September 17th 2013 by none other than President Robert Mugabe in which he alleged that the former chairman of the ZMDC Godwills Masimirembwa had received a bribe of $6 million from a Ghanaian diamond mining house.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
In truth the restrictive measures have allowed corrupt Government officials and ministers to milk our diamond revenues for their own benefit.
Some senior people have become obscenely wealthy in the last five years.
It was because of this that former Finance minister Tendai Biti called for the lifting of restrictions several years ago so that at least our diamonds could be sold through traditional, lawful diamond dealers and also that would mean that Zimbabwe would get the best prices for her diamonds.
Nothing has changed in this regard and so as regards diamonds at least, these restrictive measures should be lifted.
In stating this we are not naive regarding the fact that corruption will continue to plague this sector but at least the lifting of sanctions will remove the excuse that there is some justification for keeping our diamond dealings secret.
Their removal will also at least mean that Zimbabwe will get better prices for her diamonds.
It is important to remember that the restrictive measures were just that – they were directed at a few individuals and were restricted in their application, largely confined to travel bans and asset freezes.
Their primary benefit was to stigmitise those responsible for gross human rights abuses and corruption. The objective of stigmitising these individuals has been achieved; never again will those responsible for these crimes be considered as statesmen or paragons of virtue.
However the equal reality is that the measures themselves have done little to trouble those targeted. In all the circumstances while the timing is most unfortunate at present all sanctions and restrictive measures must be removed as soon as possible by those countries still applying them.
-Coltart is MDC secretary for legal affairs and former Education, Sport and Culture minister