Gift Phiri 15 December 2017
HARARE – The United States (US) President Donald Trump must temporarily
lift long-standing sanctions against Zimbabwe to undercut a massive
government exercise in dishonesty that the targeted measures are at the
root of all economic problems and a cash crunch that has forced the
government to delay wages to soldiers and civil servants, local author and
journalist Peter Godwin has told the US Congress.
Appearing before the US Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa,
Godwin suggested that Congress could suspend sanctions on Zimbabwe until
elections, to take away the scapegoat that has seen government go in
overdrive blaming every other ill bedevilling the nation to sanctions – a
narrative that is being swallowed hook-line-and-sinker by the solidarity
Western countries imposed sanctions in 2001 on government over allegations
of ballot fraud and crushing civil liberties, while lenders such as the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) froze financial aid since Harare
defaulted in 1999.
This comes as former Finance minister Tendai Biti – who has led a
high-powered MDC delegation to Washington DC – delivered moving testimony
before the subcommittee where he described the military intervention that
enthroned Emmerson Mnangagwa as president as an illegal and illegitimate
transfer of power from one faction of the ruling party to another.
With former autocrat Robert Mugabe’s departure, Biti said Zimbabwe now
faces an uncertain future, but one which presents real opportunities for
reconstructing, rebuilding and re-fabricating a new Zimbabwean story, and
a new Zimbabwean society.
Biti, who is accompanied by top MDC alliance leaders Welshman Ncube,
Nelson Chamisa and Jacob Ngarivhume, were invited by the State Department
to testify before the great centre of American democracy.
Major General Sibusiso Moyo, who appeared on State television on the
morning of November 15 to announce the military intervention with the
memorable words “the situation in our country has moved to a new level,”
and is the new Foreign and International Trade minister, reacted angrily
to the “sanctions trip.”
“Zimbabwe’s new government has been in office for shorter than two weeks.
It is staggering that these gentlemen should have expected the deeds of 37
years to be corrected and livelihoods improved in such a short time,” he
said in a statement.
“As if that myopia was not enough, the trio and others requested their
American hosts for more of the same policies which have inflicted
suffering on our people.
“How could any serious putative future leader of our country ask that
Zidera remains in place?”
Yet, the MDC Alliance never called for maintenance of sanctions but
outlined a proposed roadmap to elections as the fundamental precondition
to the establishment of a sustainable, just, and free Zimbabwe. The
roadmap Biti envisaged was anchored on clear benchmarks such as
restoration of constitutionalism, the rule of law, and legitimate civilian
rule, electoral and economic reforms and restoring the social contract.
Reacting from Washington yesterday to the brouhaha over sanctions “lies”,
Chamisa said: “What we are here for is more about the re-positioning of
the opposition than the positioning of the ruling party.
It’s more about the next government, not this outgoing one, the future
government not this present one. We are the next government in seven
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said as a patriotic and homegrown political
party, “the MDC doesn’t call for the imposition of sanctions against the
Republic of Zimbabwe.”
“We would like to participate in the socio-economic regeneration of our
beloved motherland and as such, sanctions remain an anathema in our
“The government of Zimbabwe should allow all its citizens to enjoy their
fundamental rights and liberties as fully provided for by the Constitution
“Political parties should be given the leeway and latitude to lawfully go
about their day to day activities without any undue interference and or
hindrance by any organ of the State,” he said.
The MDC is frequently denounced by Zanu PF as a pawn of white western
interests, despite its largely black urban base.
The ruling Zanu PF party claims some whites have never accepted black
majority rule and are desperate to get “black puppets” into power to
protect their business interests.
Zimbabwe’s hardliner generals have long been regarded as wielding a de
facto veto over the country’s troubled transformation process and as
likely to block transfer of power to the winners of elections that
Mnangagwa insist should take place mid next year should the victors not be
the Zanu PF candidate and his Zanu PF party.
Zimbabwe’s generals were behind the 2008 violence that forced opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai to withdraw from a blood-soaked second round vote
he had been tipped to win after beating Mugabe in the first round ballot.
Successive elections have been blighted by violence and charges of vote
rigging, which saw the European Union and US maintaining sanctions on top
Zanu PF members and army generals.
Godwin told the Senate committee: “One is tempted to indulge in a period
of blue sky thinking to say we have had these sanctions, these
individualised sanctions in place for however long and they have had no
“In fact, what they have done, to some extent, critics will say is
provided Zanu PF with a very convenient excuse for every time the economy
is bad, they say it’s sanctions, it’s sanctions, it’s not us, blame
America, blame the EU.”
Godwin said sanctions shield government from the consequences of their own
“Bear in mind, that Zimbabwe as far as I understand has the fastest
shrinking economies in the history of peacetime economies….It’s pure
incompetence, corruption and patronage.
“…I am almost hesitant to mention this. You flip the sanctions that you
have got now… a reverse sunset clause where you say I will tell you what
we will do. You have got this new government, we will give you the benefit
of the doubt for six months or say until the next elections, we are going
to drop all sanctions, but they will automatically go back on if you don’t
meet these benchmarks, the benchmarks we have all been talking about. The
ones where there is pretty wide agreement on in civic society. That way
you take away the excuse of sanctions and whatever.
“… That will be a way to prioritise the carrot over the stick to see if
it mixes up and if it works. Personally, I don’t think it will work, but
sometimes that can be unlocked,” Godwin told the committee.
The US has said it was prepared to discuss lifting multiple US sanctions
on Zimbabwe if it began enacting political and economic reforms.
In a message for Zimbabwe’s political leaders, acting assistant secretary
of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto said: “Our position has
always been that if they engage in the constitutional reforms, economic
and political reforms, and move forward to protecting political space and
the human rights, then we can start the dialogue on lifting sanctions.”
The US has not given aid to Zimbabwe’s government for many years, but
provides development aid to nongovernmental groups, particularly for
Meanwhile, in Harare on Tuesday, the Cairo-based African Export and Import
Bank (Afrexim) pledged up to $1,5 billion in loans and financial
guarantees to Zimbabwe in a major shot in the arm for Mnangagwa’s bankrupt
The bank’s president and chairperson Okey Oramah told reporters after a
meeting with Mnangagwa and senior government officials that “we support
the stabilisation of the economy, that means providing liquidity to make
sure that the situation where people are rushing every time to look for
cash is dealt with.”