Mbeki adopts Mugabe line on non-existent “sanctions”
By Tererai Karimakwenda
23 August 2007
There are no sanctions currently imposed on Zimbabwe by Western nations or anyone else. There are targeted sanctions that affect only the ruling elite assets and their ability to travel. Yet Robert Mugabe, who is acknowledged by many as a master of propaganda, has managed to create a media frenzy around this issue, constantly blaming sanctions for destroying Zimbabwe’s economy. Now South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki is reported to have adopted this spin. Media reports quote Mbeki as saying SADC should "do all that it can to help Zimbabwe address the issue of sanctions," which are hurting the country’s economy. In a report back about discussions on Zimbabwe that took place at the recent SADC summit in Lusaka, Mbeki is said to have blamed Western nations, including the US, UK and Australia, for imposing these so-called sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Mbeki also accused the media of fabricating false information suggesting that the Heads of State had been divided over the SADC secretariat report on Zimbabwe, which was presented in Lusaka at the recent summit. He is quoted saying: "If anything, the heads of state are united in their resolve to do what is necessary to help Zimbabweans to find a lasting solution to the socioeconomic and political problems."
The South African president is also quoted as saying: "Sanctions also damage the image of Zimbabwe, causing a severe blow to her tourist sector.” Mbeki made other policy recommendations, but it is the “sanctions” issue that has aroused concern.
Piers Pigou, a researcher on Southern Africa at The National Archives in South Africa, said there is a media war taking place between those who support Mugabe and those who want to see him go. He described the whole sanctions issue as “nonsense which is being peddled by ZANU-PF and its apologists.” He said sanctions are a smokescreen that is not really there but it has given SADC and Africa in general a “headache.” Pigou said issues are sometimes over-exaggerated or twisted by both sides to achieve a certain purpose.
Pigou also blamed the lack of direct information from Mbeki and SADC leaders for some of confusion that is making the rounds in reports on Zimbabwe. He said Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy” has led to a broader problem of misrepresentation by the media, and his ability to explain things clearly has been problematic.”