Heart of the Matter
by Tanonoka Joseph Whande

August 12, 2010

Loosening sanctions on Mugabe is rewarding murder of Zimbabweans

Political tensions are on the rise again in Zimbabwe where Robert Mugabe continues his mad rampage of beating up innocent people while hurling insults at the international community during burials.

The sanctions are an obvious irritant to the dictator.
And on Tuesday, Jabulani Sibanda, the leader of Mugabe’s so-called war veterans, who are leading a campaign of terror to stop people from giving input towards the new constitution, said he would swat Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai “like a fly on a window”; he even alluded to the killing of Tsvangirai.
Meanwhile, both the US Congress and Senate are foolishly considering loosening the targeted sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his cronies.

The sanctions were imposed by the United States and some European countries.
It is important here to note that, contrary to sympathy provoking propaganda from Mugabe, the targeted sanctions were not imposed on the country of Zimbabwe but on selected individuals of Mugabe’s government who were causing a lot of misery to the people of Zimbabwe at the same time they were ruling economic ruin on the nation.

The sanctions, in the form of travel, banking and business bans, targeted only Mugabe and about 200 of his party leaders and associates for several reasons, chief among which were the ransacking of the economy, the abuse of human rights, the lack of the rule of law, stolen elections, intolerance and state sponsored violence on members of the opposition and those who were suspected to be sympathetic to the opposition.

The Zimbabwean economy was in a shambles.
Agriculture was all but dead and the nation could not even feed itself.
Industry was just a word.
The health system had crumbled, with some clinics closed down and in-patients being asked to bring their own food to hospitals.
The education system was dogged by endless, crippling strikes as teachers rightfully demanded fairness.

The sanctions were directed at those in power and their prominent supporters who were abusing the nation and the people.
The level of state sponsored violence, intolerance and human rights abuses reached such dangerous proportions that, once again, talk about sending Mugabe to The Hague resurfaced and picked up momentum.
Needless to say, government critics and those in the opposition ranks welcomed the sanctions on Mugabe and his gang.

The demands being made by those who imposed the sanctions clearly benefitted the Zimbabwean people, along with opposition parties that needed help in containing the rabid Mugabe government.
The sanctions tried to curtail the ridiculous, expensive and useless foreign trips by Mugabe, his wife and their inner circle who were abusing the people and the economy, especially whatever little money might have trickled into national coffers.
Today, with an imposed and hardly functional “unity government” in place for the last sixteen months, and with prodding from none other than Tsvangirai and his party, the western countries are ready to loosen the sanctions.

Is it not, therefore, superfluous to simply state that the westerners and the Europeans have always believed they know what is best for us Zimbabweans?
They see what some of us don’t see – light at the end of the tunnel!
I hope it is not the headlight of an oncoming train!
Sponsored by Donald Payne, an African-American congressman, and 35 other representatives, legislation to update U.S. sanctions on Zimbabwe leadership was introduced in the US Congress just last week.

The legislation “aims to retune sanctions to reflect political changes, such as the national unity government installed in Harare in early 2009”.
I like the part that says “to retune sanctions to reflect political changes”.
What political changes?
There are, however, several reasons being advanced for the loosening of sanctions, the biggest of which is to “reflect political changes”.
The other is to encourage and reward Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s efforts in trying to bring a little bit of normalcy to the country.
Tsvangirai won an election and humbled himself by accepting a secondary role.
Although his party is the ruling party, he still plays the role of opposition owing to the fact that Mugabe still wields more control than Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai accepted responsibility without authority.
Today, we are told that things have changed in that supermarkets are full and even the agricultural sector is making strides as far as improvement in production is concerned.
The US Dollar, the South African Rand and the Botswana Pula are our bastard currencies.
The Minister of Finance recently announced that Zimbabwe is to import foreign coins to help us through.
There are some who cheered when the sanctions were imposed; today we are afraid to cheer because the reasons those sanctions were imposed are still there.
On a visit to Europe early this year, Tsvangirai campaigned for the removal of sanctions, saying that progress made by the unity government had to be rewarded.
Now they are rewarding Tsvangirai and Mugabe by loosening the sanctions.
The unfortunate thing, however, is that as they reward Tsvangirai, they are also encouraging and reinvigorating Mugabe precisely at a time when his party is terrorizing the people.
No, this is not the right time to remove or loosen the sanctions.
People are still being beaten up and threatened.
People are being prevented from creating their own constitution.
There are no human rights.
There is no rule of law.
There are no property rights.
The police and the army are serving a political party not the nation.
The war veterans have upped their campaign of violence.
Mugabe has not honoured the Unity Agreement. As the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights recently said, progress has indeed been observed in areas of economic resuscitation, although “we are still far from where we should be in terms of addressing economic recovery and growth and investment”.
“When it comes to issues around democratization, such as the constitution-making process, the rule of law or the return of democratic institutions, there has not really been much improvement and not as much consistency and determination to deal with the issues of reforming institutions and instilling a better culture of respect for human rights,” they said.

The heart of the matter is that this is just not the time to remove or loosen the targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle, as events currently unfolding in the country show.
If the west wants to reward Tsvangirai for whatever he did for them, they should think of another way of doing so because loosening the sanctions will retard any progress they are rewarding Tsvangirai for.
Besides, the battle has not yet been won so it is premature for these countries to start rewarding anyone before the targets have been accomplished.
The battle is still raging and the EU and the US will be intervening on the side of Mugabe, not of the people, if they relax those sanctions.

Removing sanctions at this stage is sending wrong signals to Mugabe at a very critical phase in the attempt to resuscitate our nation.
All along, I have always believed that nations, especially the United States, were looking at the overall welfare of not only their people but the safety and welfare of the world at large.
I thought the US, Europe and other “first world countries” were concerned about the abuse of Zimbabweans.
I always believed that those countries, like America and Europe, that have the means to yell the loudest against the abuse of our Zimbabwean citizens, did so because of genuine conviction, not because of camouflaged greed.
If those sanctions are loosened or removed, Europe and the west will be throwing us back to square one.

It is called betrayal.
The EU and the US must stop playing such childish and dangerous games. They assisted in slowing down Mugabe and just when we believed something might come out of these sanctions after all, they want to loosen them to give Mugabe time to recover.
He has already unleashed the army, police, war veterans and youth brigades on innocent people and these western countries want to reward him for that.

I am Tanonoka Joseph Whande saying that sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle must stay because Mugabe has not changed and removing the sanctions will ensure that he never changes…yet change must come.
This is not the time to loosen sanctions on Mugabe. It is time to tighten them.
And that, my fellow Zimbabweans, is the way it is today, Thursday August 12, 2010.