By Celine Debra Matingo
Since then, the sanctions enacted against Zimbabwe by the EU, the US, and the UK have been a major subject of dispute in Zimbabwe, with some citizens believing they are the main cause of the country’s deteriorating economy and the reason why they are all in poverty. Additionally, some citizens believe that Zimbabwe’s inability to export commodities is the reason the nation hasn’t advanced economically on a worldwide scale. A slightly different perspective on the sanctions can be found among opposition leaders and pro-democracy activists who contend that corruption and ineffective leadership in Zimbabwe are to blame for the nation’s deteriorating economy.
Regardless of the various perspectives on how sanctions affect Zimbabwe’s common people, their effects on daily life are incalculable, and the results are dreadful, whether one views sanctions through the eyes of those who believe they are the main reason for Zimbabwe’s faltering economy or not. Starting with the economy, sanctions have an impact on Zimbabwe’s development in two different ways, depending on which ideological camp you belong to, it has been clear from the lengthy discussions on sanctions in the context of Zimbabwe that their detrimental impacts on the country’s financial services or their use as a convenient scapegoat for those elites who frequently mischaracterize them as a total ban on trade and investment in Zimbabwe and claim that these limits, rather than their own mismanagement, are to blame for the country’s economic woes.
This means that sanctions should be abolished, either to stop the ruling party from using them to justify its numerous failures or to free the economy of the nation from the perceived constraints these sanctions have on it. The Zimbabwean government leaders’ lack of commitment to seeing sanctions lifted is what concerns me the most. The Southern African Development Community, which maintains that the economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe are hurting the whole southern African area, has expressed solidarity with the Zimbabwean government and launched a campaign to speak with one voice until the sanctions are repealed.
While such extensive campaigns against sanctions and appeals for unity of purpose from all parts of the international community to fight for the unconditional removal of sanctions for a start are admirable ideas since they will offer those who imposed sanctions an understanding of how Zimbabweans are feeling in these difficult economic times, these are insufficient and they do not appear to yield any beneficial results in the near future as they tend to be confrontational tactics. By utilizing diplomatic means and engaging in genuine, structured conversation on political reform, human rights, and the rule of law, sanctions might be withdrawn in a lasting and successful manner.
All Zimbabweans who value peace and wish to see their country reach its full potential should embrace dialogue, which is essential to nation-building. The political players in Zimbabwe, especially those in positions of authority, should pay attention to the dialogue’s direction for the advancement of both Zimbabwe and the entire region. Zimbabwe is not an island, so the assistance of the neighborhood is greatly praised and valued. The SADC’s backing of the Zimbabwean government in its advocacy for the unconditional lifting of sanctions ought to be seen as a reciprocal appeal for the nation to engage in sincere political reforms and discussion.
Additionally, implementing reforms does not endanger a nation’s sovereignty and is one of the viable approaches to lift sanctions. The United States announced the suspension of sanctions in November 2021, citing Ndayishimiye’s pursuit of reforms as well as altered circumstances in Burundi. Burundi’s withdrawal of sanctions in 2021 after they were put in place in 2015 was a huge step for an economy that had been struggling for a while; similarly, Zimbabwe can achieve the same.
Another tool that might be used to lift the sanctions against Zimbabwe is diplomacy. The moment has come for punishing States and important national stakeholders to start a substantive, structured conversation about political reform, human rights, and the rule of law and to stop using sanctions language as a vehicle for lobbying.
The US, EU and UK sanctions will continue to be ineffective and will merely serve as a tool in ZANU-propaganda PF’s armory without the backing of international organizations like SADC, the AU, the UNSC, or the EU. A fresh strategy is required if U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe are to remain in place. This includes working with international organizations to restore sanctions’ multilateral nature and making sure they are utilized as a tool rather than in place of a bigger plan. It also entails making sure the list of targets is thorough, current, and frequently updated. Such a plan should include not only negative incentives for altered behavior, such as economic partnerships offered in exchange for quantifiable advancements in governance and human rights, but also punitive measures like fines.
The survival of Zimbabwe’s sanctions hinges on President Mnangagwa’s resolve to re-engage the West rather than continue with useless anti-sanctions marches and other lobbying efforts that waste state resources. The countries that imposed the sanctions have insisted that the degree of their support for Zimbabwe in the future will depend on how well the government is able to carry out the required reforms. Lobbying, protesting, and merely expressing support for the unconditional lifting of sanctions won’t accomplish anything unless one takes the chance of becoming oblivious to political realities.
Celline Debra Matingo is an international relations student at Africa University