President Robert Mugabe has over the years blamed the West for ruining Zimbabwe through imposing targeted sanctions on him and his inner circle, a claim that has been dismissed as far-fetched by critics who say he has destroyed a once vibrant economy that survived restrictive measures under the colonial Ian Douglas Smith government.
Most Zanu PF supporters strongly believe in President Mugabe’s claims that targeted sanctions are to blame for Zimbabwe’s past and current social, economic and political problems.
They are adamant that the sanctions imposed by America, Australia and the European Union have ruined an economy whose dollar was once at par with the British pound and other major currencies.
These nations imposed the sanctions after accusing President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party of gross human rights violations and alleged election fraud.
With his back on the wall, the president, who has been in power since independence from British rule in 1980, has come up fighting telling the West to leave his country alone.
Such utterances have attracted friends and foes alike with some Zimbabweans and other nationalities backing him for fighting against what they perceive as Western neo-colonialism.
But there are others like, Takunda Serima, a politics student at a local university, who says the current crisis in Zimbabwe was caused by leaders without a vision.
Serima says, “Mugabe has failed to run this country successfully because from 1980 the Zimbabwe dollar, the currency then used to be at par with the US dollar but right now since Mugabe came into power everything just started to come down. Looking at the policies Mugabe and his party tried to introduce, all of them failed and right now we are still sinking.
“Right now they are even failing to pay civil servants. Mugabe has been blaming sanctions for all these failures but it is actually a political gimmick to mislead the people. The actual fact on the ground is that Mugabe has failed to lead this country.”
Harare resident, Amos Ndodana, concurs, adding that the economic crisis gripping Zimbabwe is due to bad governance.
“Check the amount of money and resources that came from the West and European countries, millions of dollars that were poured in terms of humanitarian aid. A country that is under sanctions not such an amount could have come from these countries. The economy has gone down because of corruption, mis-governance and misplaced priorities,” says Ndodana.
Former Economic Development Minister, Dr. Tapiwa Mashakada, says Zanu PF is insincere in blaming sanctions for problems bedevilling Zimbabwe.
“To blame sanctions for our socio-economic problems is scape-goating because sanctions have not pushed us to where we are. Where we are has been a self-inflicted journey. The greatest cause of our crises is the fact that we haven’t been able to get loans from institutions like the IMF, World Bank and the African Development Bank because of debt arrears. It did not start with sanctions because as early back as 1998 balance of payment the IMF and World Bank cut support because of arrears.”
Mashakada further argues that if the late former Rhodesian leader Ian Smith was able to bust trade sanctions, Harare with good leadership would have developed likewise while under restrictive measures imposed by developed nations.
He says, “Sanctions are only an inconvenience, just a nuisance but not the prime cause of our problems because there is sanctions busting. If we had real sanctions it would have been different for Zimbabwe. There is no trade embargo on Zimbabwe; we can still trade with the European Union, with America or any other country.
“These are just restrictions on personal travels and money transfers. The major crisis issues are corruption and mismanagement of the economy and general lack of political consensus on the way forward in this country."
But Goodson Nguni, director of the Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations, who is also aligned to the ruling Zanu PF party, believes that sanctions are to blame for the crumbling Zimbabwe economy.
Nguni says, “Sanctions play a part in the problems we are having. There are other structural problems but sanctions are a big one because most developed countries work on balance of payment support for economic development and enhancement but for Zimbabwe that has been taken away from us.
“Look at AGOWA where we can take food into America duty free was taken away and various other sanctions that America and the West has put on Zimbabwe but of course there are other problems like corruption and mis-governance. But 70% of the problems are caused by sanctions and some of the sanctions are not very apparent.”
Ambrose Dhliwayo, a Zanu PF supporter, adds that Zimbabwe could be flourishing if the country didn’t have what he called direct sanctions imposed the West.
“Sanctions have contributed to the deteriorating political and economic problems but because we are not living in a vacuum, we are living in a global village where we rely on other countries for survival,” he says.
Zimbabwe is currently being suffocated by a crippling external debt of almost $9 billion, acute power shortages, a diminishing revenue base and dry spell fuelled by the El Nino weather phenomenon, which is generating an unprecedented heat in a nation that needs help from the West and God.
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko has urged Zimbabweans to pray for rains with indications that the nation is facing a severe drought owing to the cloudless skies.
Will President Mugabe’s government start blaming such natural disasters instead of sanctions and his own government for what crippling the nation?