With the demise of despot Robert Mugabe and new elections, Zimbabwe should be enjoying a bright new chapter. Instead, a humanitarian catastrophe is looming. To prevent that disaster, the United States should work with the European Union and African Union to introduce targeted sanctions on top Zimbabwean leaders.
The threat to this nation of around 14 million people is very real. Following her visit to Zimbabwe last month, United Nations special rapporteur for food Hilal Elver described the situation.
While Elver’s testimony carries the typical U.N. mantra of not blaming anyone too much, it does identify critical factors fueling the crisis.
Yes, recent weather events such as the March 2019 cyclone have wreaked havoc on food supplies. But so too are endemic government corruption and idiotic land policies to blame. Elver reports that the government is disbursing food to ruling Zanu-PF party loyalists above all others.
Another issue is Zanu-PF’s penchant for transferring land ownership to those who serve it loyally. As Elver notes, “According to information we received, there does not seem to be any security of tenure or respect of property rights: at any given time lands can be confiscated and re-allocated to individuals deemed more loyal to the ruling party.“
This cronyism, which destroys any incentive for foreign investment, fits with former President Robert Mugabe’s disastrous land redistribution policies. Designed to provide relief to impoverished black communities by giving them access to white-owned land, the Mugabe strategy ended up impoverishing those communities by damaging agricultural output.
It’s clear that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has failed to change his corrupt party to better serve the Zimbabwean people. Indeed, his work alongside China to further control his population suggests he intends to make matters worse.
In short, drastic action is needed to fix Zimbabwe, and soon.
The U.S., EU, and AU should introduce common sanctions on Mnangagwa and his top officials. A special focus should fall on those in the mining, agricultural, public service, and labor ministries. This shared action would snap Zanu-PF and the world’s attention to reform.