Mr Obama, tear down these sanc­tions!

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opin­ion/world­wide - Jo­ram Ny­athi Spec­trum

13 288 of 2003 signed by Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush, “declar­ing a na­tional (Amer­i­can) emer­gency to deal with the un­usual and ex­tra­or­di­nary threat to US for­eign pol­icy posed by the sit­u­a­tion in or in re­la­tion to Zim­babwe”.

That Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der was meant to com­ple­ment and re­in­force the Zim­babwe Democ­racy and Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery Act passed by the US Congress ear­lier in 2001.

Many com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als deemed to con­sti­tute the core of that “un­usual and ex­tra­or­di­nary threat” found them­selves hit by sanc­tions. That list in­cluded Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe.

Since then, slowly and capri­ciously, the US has re­moved in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies now deemed less threat­en­ing to its for­eign pol­icy. It made the same ges­ture this week on Tues­day, strangely against a spir­ited cam­paign by op­po­si­tion groups that Zim­babwe should re­main un­der sanc­tions and not re­ceive help from mul­ti­lat­eral fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions.

In­di­vid­u­als and se­lected com­pa­nies were dropped from the sanc­tions list by its Of­fice for For­eign As­sets Con­trol.

Apart from the de­ceased, so far no ex­pla­na­tion has been given. But Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe re­mains.

Not with­out cause. He sym­bol­ises an idea which can­not be al­lowed to flour­ish — that it is pos­si­ble for for­merly colonised peo­ple to re­claim what was forcibly taken away from them at the point of con­quest and coloni­sa­tion.

But first let’s ex­am­ine the irony. In 2000 Zim­babwe em­barked on an un­charted path to re­claim its land. It did not in­vade any coun­try where Amer­ica had in­ter­ests.

The land re­form pro­gramme was a na­tional im­per­a­tive and re­mains such if Zim­babwe is to be­come a full democ­racy. That’s what Zim­bab­weans fought for. There is some­thing cyn­i­cal about a democ­racy in which a small race of peo­ple of for­eign stock re­tain spe­cial colo­nial priv­i­leges over a na­tion’s key re­source such as land.

That is the myth of democ­racy which the land re­form pro­gramme sought and seeks to chal­lenge and up­set. The former colo­nial power Bri­tain did not like that. But it was some­thing that would be dif­fi­cult to ar­gue at the United Nations, even one dom­i­nated by pow­er­ful racist nations.

How do you deny peo­ple own­er­ship of their land sim­ply be­cause they were your former colony? What is the mean­ing of in­de­pen­dence? Why should hu­man rights ex­clude ac­cess to land?

It was there­fore eas­ier to en­list the sup­port of a kin­dred spirit like the US. That’s how Un­cle Sam came into Zim­babwe’s fight for con­trol of its land. It now sought to grow democ­racy in Zim­babwe through a sanc­tions regime. Sim­i­larly, the econ­omy re­quired sanc­tions to re­cover. That’s how we ended up with the cyn­i­cally framed “Zim­babwe Democ­racy and Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery Act”.

To com­plete the trav­esty, the Amer­i­can peo­ple were told a coun­try in Africa, which they knew lit­tle about, “posed an un­usual and ex­tra­or­di­nary threat” to mighty Amer­ica’s for­eign pol­icy.

The lie was nec­es­sary to gain the sup­port of the peo­ple. Amer­ica is the big brother. Rus­sia had col­lapsed and the cold war was over. Who was it now try­ing to chal­lenge Amer­ica in global af­fairs?

Mean­while, the agenda was made clear to Zim­babwe. The sanc­tions would make peo­ple stone their gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials on the streets, de­clared Ch­ester Crocker.

They were a fore­taste, or a dry-run for what would later be termed the Arab Spring in 2011 where or­di­nary peo­ple were in­cited and in­sti­gated to turn against their own gov­ern­ment in search of democ­racy.

And Amer­ica’s def­i­ni­tion of a democ­racy is a po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic dis­pen­sa­tion un­der which its for­eign pol­icy and eco­nomic in­ter­ests can’t be chal­lenged. It is not about the wel­fare of the na­tives, as the peo­ple of Libya are learn­ing, only too late in a very bit­ter way as they drown in the Mediter­ranean Sea to escape Amer­ica’s never, never democ­racy.

That is why it is still too early to cel­e­brate the re­moval from sanc­tions of com­pa­nies such as ZB Bank, Chemplex Cor­po­ra­tion and the Zim­babwe Fer­tiliser Com­pany while re­tain­ing Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe on the list. What has changed? Is this part of old di­vide and rule tac­tics? Is the land re­form un­der threat in any way?

Af­ter all by tar­get­ing food pro­duc­tion by sanc­tion­ing fer­tiliser man­u­fac­tur­ers in March this year, Amer­ica made clear its sanc­tions were not as tar­geted as we had been fooled to be­lieve. It was gloves off if Zim­bab­weans didn’t have the stom­ach to stone their lead­ers out of power.

But what makes Tues­day’s de­ci­sion by Amer­ica ex­tra­or­di­nary and un­ex­pected is that it came against grit re­sis­tance. Op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties and civic so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions have been en­gaged in a cam­paign to ren­der Zim­babwe a pariah state. That is why peo­ple like Evan Mawarire be­came lit­tle mes­si­ahs in a space of a few weeks.

That is how he earned his wings to Amer­ica. That is why the just-ended United Nations Gen­eral Assem­bly sum­mit be­came such an im­por­tant cal­en­dar event for the op­po­si­tion — Zim­babwe was sup­posed to be a ma­jor agenda item.

Af­ter all they had been let down by con­spir­ing and con­niv­ing Africa lead­ers at the Sadc sum­mit in Mbabane, Swazi­land, who were too spine­less to con­front Mu­gabe.

New York be­came the ul­ti­mate des­ti­na­tion, and it turned out to be the ul­ti­mate anti-cli­max for Mawarire fol­low­ing weeks of ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­cite­ment. Here was a man who sud­denly found the doors of the World Bank and In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund flung open for him to ad­vise on their re­la­tion­ship and deal­ings with the regime in Zim­babwe. There was to be no money, no bailout pack­age un­til Mu­gabe was out.

Now Amer­ica wakes up with this most un­kind­est stab in the back. While self-hat­ing Zim­bab­weans pleaded for more strin­gent sanc­tions, Amer­ica gives them a slap in the face!

There is no other way to look it. There have been demon­stra­tions in this coun­try against nearly ev­ery pol­icy gov­ern­ment has tried to im­ple­ment — SI64 of 2016 to pro­tect and pro­mote lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing, in­tro­duc­tion of bond notes to im­prove the liq­uid­ity sit­u­a­tion and re­duce ex­ter­nal­i­sa­tion of scarce for­eign cur­rency — all to fos­ter an im­pres­sion of a gov­ern­ment that is clue­less and is not do­ing any­thing to build the econ­omy.

Some have gone to court to stop the bond notes be­fore they are in­tro­duced.

Not once have these peo­ple who pur­port to care about the suf­fer­ing peo­ple of Zim­babwe mo­bilised a march to the Amer­i­can em­bassy against the in­iq­ui­tous sanc­tions.

It is Amer­ica it­self which is hav­ing to be­have in ex­tra­or­di­nary ways against its own sanc­tions, piece­meal. Per­haps it is time Zim­bab­weans spoke in uni­son: Mr Obama, re­move those sanc­tions.

Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe

Barack Obama

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