File Picture: REUTERS/Grant Lee Neuenburg – Former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano (L) addresses the media after meeting Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai (2nd R) in Maputo, April 23, 2008.
By Professor Gabriel Kabanda
Zimbabwe announced the appointment of former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano to lead a group that would work to end the country’s protracted standoff with its creditors and the international community. President Mnangagwa stated that his administration was dedicated to repaying white former commercial farmers in a speech read on his behalf at the first Structured Dialogue Platform on Zimbabwe’s Arrears Clearance and Debt Resolution Process with Creditors and the International Community held in Harare. Mnangagwa also said that he and DR Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (ADB) had announced the selection of Chissano as the head of the negotiations during the recent Africa Investment Forum in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. “Mr. Chissano is a tower of knowledge and one of our most illustrious elder statesmen in Africa. Former Mozambican Prime Minister Madam Luisa Diog, will serve as his technical adviser. He will also play a significant facilitative role between the key parties and the Zimbabwean government, which is a debtor and has bilateral loan partners”, announced President Mnangagwa.
It is envisaged that all Zimbabweans should be concerned about this national project on re-engagement with the international community. The Zimbabwean President claimed that they had discovered the value of communication over time. “The value of discussion in resolving conflicts is one of the most important lessons we have discovered over the years. In light of this, we are here today to pursue dialogue as a means of resolving the protracted impasse between Zimbabwe, its creditors, and the international community”, said President Manangagwa. He also pledged to pay compensation to all former white commercial farmers who lost their farms as a result of the nation’s land redistribution programme. He believes that this sends a clear message about the Government of Zimbabwe’s dedication to upholding property rights and allaying any worries that potential foreign investors may harbour. The Zimbabwean President urged the international community to keep supporting the execution of economic and governance reforms with technical and financial assistance, as these mechanisms are anticipated to improve transparency, trust, and foster reciprocal accountability.
In accordance with the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) of 2001, Zimbabwe’s Land Reform Programme has prompted the United States of America (USA) to impose sanctions. Contrary to assertions that the sanctions are ring-fenced and specific to a small group of people, it is obvious that they are all-encompassing. In February 2002, the European Union (EU) also enacted its own measures. The majority of the EU’s sanctions were withdrawn in 2014, although an arms embargo and those against the Zimbabwe Defence Industries business, prominent government officials, and service chiefs are still in effect. In light of political and security developments in Zimbabwe, the EU insists that it would continue to keep the sanctions under continual review. Because they contravene Article 41 of the United Nations Charter, which specifies that sanctions can only be agreed upon by the UN Security Council, the sanctions against Zimbabwe are unlawful and unjustified. Recognising this, the UN General Assembly urged developed nations to refrain from threatening or enforcing trade restrictions, blockades, embargoes, and other economic sanctions against developing nations as a form of political and economic coercion that would negatively impact their economies in its resolution 39/210 of 18 December 1984.
Due to the sanctions, Zimbabwe has lost well over US$42 billion in revenue over the last 19 years. This includes lost support from bilateral donors, estimated to be at US$4.5 billion annually since 2001, US$12 billion in loans from the World Bank, African Development Bank, and International Monetary Fund, US$18 billion in commercial loans, and a US$21 billion drop in GDP. As a result, Zimbabwe’s tremendous advancements in the creation of its infrastructure as well as its systems for delivering health, education, and other social services have been drastically reversed. The most vulnerable groups of the population have subsequently fallen into greater poverty as a result. For instance, after sanctions, the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty increased. As a result, Zimbabwe’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN have also been severely hindered.
Sanctions on Zimbabwe are also interfering with the regular operation of regional organisations like the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Zimbabwe’s inability to meet the majority of the SADC macroeconomic convergence targets, including low inflation, sustainable budget deficits, low public debt, equitable current account balances, the creation of a regional monetary union, and progress toward realising the region’s industrialisation agenda, puts those goals at risk.. Due to the sanctions, Zimbabwe and all of its financial ties to the outside world have been classified as high risk, making it an attractive target for de-risking measures by lending correspondent banks in the US and Europe.
Once Zimbabwe began the Fast-Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP), ties between Zimbabwe and the European Union (EU) soured. As a result, Zimbabwe faced extensive criticism from the EU, which then placed sanctions on the country. Due to the country’s inability to obtain credit lines, the socioeconomic situation worsened as a result of the sanctions. Zimbabwe lost about US$42 billion in revenue, and by 2013, its economy had shrunk by more than 40%. Prospects for re-engagement exist thanks to Britain’s exit from the EU and the current political climate in Zimbabwe. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s new political regime is now recovering the economy and has carried out a number of economic reforms. Sanctions against influential people who hold sway over the economy and politics have had a negative impact on the economy.
However, the extraordinary economic collapse of Zimbabwe cannot be entirely attributed to targeted economic sanctions because Robert Mugabe, the country’s former president, and the ZANU-PF-led government were also heavily responsible for the country’s disastrous economic and political policies.
When targeted sanctions are imposed on political figures and government officials of a given nation, it is typically the weaker segments of society who bear the brunt of the consequences rather than the intended target. Under President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s direction, the European Union (EU) has shown its willingness to reengage with and support Zimbabwe. EU sanctions have been placed on Zimbabwe for nearly 20 years as retaliation for the nation’s decision to begin land redistribution to the landless population in 2000. Since taking office in November 2017, the new political administration headed by President Mnangagwa has implemented a re-engagement programme that has witnessed an improvement in Zimbabwe’s relations with the EU and the larger international community. According to President Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe is open for business, and as a result, attempts are being made to entice foreign direct investment from all over the world in industries including mining, tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing. Between December 2017 and April 2018, Zimbabwe approved investment bids totalling more than $7 billion.
Under Emmerson Mnangagwa, the nation’s foreign policy has been developed in a way that supports Zimbabwe’s economic recovery, promotes economic growth, generates jobs, and fosters an environment that will draw foreign investment. It draws on the tension between change, conservatism, and maintaining the status quo while attempting to forge a new path. When analysing Zimbabwe’s ties with Africa, China, and Russia, which carry on the legacy of the former regime, it identifies the patterns of change and continuity over both space and time. Zimbabwe also understands the importance of Western nations like the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union member states in terms of change.
Professor Gabriel Kabanda is an Adjunct Professor of Machine Learning, Woxsen School of Business, Woxsen University, Hyderabad, India.
This article was first published in The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (Accord).