President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration this week declared tomorrow a public holiday, as the nation makes a case for removal of sanctions imposed by the United States in particular.
The US, through Zimbabwe Democracy and Recovery Act (Zidera), imposed sanctions on the country, as well as preconditions from the removal of these restrictive measures.
Zimbabwe has over the last two decades adopted alternative means to counter-balance the impact of the sanctions. Lines of credit have dried up and the country cannot access concessionary funding.
Now Zimbabwe faces daunting but not insurmountable economic challenges that have to be addressed by government, in collaboration with other local and foreign stakeholders. Unfortunately the growing berth between Mnangagwa’s government and other non-state actors such as the country’s main opposition party MDC and civic organisations will make this journey a bumpy one.
Zimbabwe’s case has been under the spotlight for many years, with most international actors such as Britain wanting to bring closure to the more than 17 years of political crisis in the country.
Following the ouster of long-time leader Robert Mugabe, Mnangagwa had the goodwill to map out a clear foreign policy, but his message has been ambiguous.
On one hand he is supporting a Palestine state and most recently he announced his plans to re-engage Israel. Zimbabwe’s traditional allies like China and Russia will not be amused by Mnangagwa’s ambiguity.
Apart from the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Zimbabwe’s international relations with Japan (which is not an ally of China) also raise questions on which path the country intends to pursue in an international system of multi-polarity.
Interestingly, the EU, which also wanted to re-engage with Zimbabwe, once offered to restore cordial diplomatic relations with Harare after the 2013 elections. The invitation by the EU to Mugabe to attend the fourth EU–Africa summit in Brussels signalled both a response to African pressure and the desire to normalise relations.
Mugabe, who felt the west had reneged on its promise to assist Zimbabwe implement the emotive land reform programme, however, decided to boycott the summit. Despite Mugabe’s snub, the EU also agreed to suspend most sanctions on Zimbabwe, except in the defence sector and on Mugabe, as well as his wife Grace.
With memories of the 2007/2008 hyperinflation still fresh, as the economy turns topsy-turvy, debate continues in and between Europe and the US over how quickly bilateral relations should be fully normalised.
Harare has hired consultancy firms to normalise relations with the US in particular, but the world’s largest economy wants more on reforms to restore good diplomatic relations.
For a country that has lost millions of dollars to corruption and bad governance, government can no longer blame the West for the country’s continued economic underperformance.
Scholars that discredit the sanctions narrative as the bane for the country’s development, argue that the economy stabilised under the Government of National Unity that was in office from 2009 to 2013.
As it becomes highly probable that economic collapse is not inevitable, Zimbabwe has few options to come out of the woods — all hinged on political will. Authorities in Harare should adopt policies to build international business confidence, support technocratic and entrepreneurial expertise at home, as well as reaching out to a sizable and skilled diaspora population, encourage good governance and reduce inequality.
Political and economic reforms are the way to go, instead of grandstanding. Zimbabwe is a periphery nation that cannot take on a superpower like the US. Give diplomacy a chance. — Econometer Global Capital.