By Tafadzwa Masango
WHEN the issue of sanctions against Zimbabwe was being given an official cover by Washington, the former US Secretary for African Affairs, Chester Crocker, informed Congress that the only way to separate the people of Zimbabwe from ZANU PF was to make the ‘economy scream’.
For years, opposition pundits, embedded journalists and the so-called ‘cashvists’ have sought to maintain the narrative that these US sanctions are ‘smart’ ‘targeted’ and personalised such that they only hurt the political elite.
However, this has not been the case.
The people of Zimbabwe are under US sanctions and will continue to be sanctioned until they vote in the manner that favours US interests in the country.
Some four years ago, Zimbabwean entrepreneur Takunda Chingozho held a one-on-one interview with then US President Barack Obama as part of the Young African Leaders Programme.
Chingozho pointed out to Obama that the supposedly targeted sanctions against political leaders in Zimbabwe were actually hurting the ordinary folk; including him, a young business person who was failing to access technology and funding from US-based companies.
Once companies hear ‘Zimbabwe’, they take a step back because they do not want problems with the State Department and US Treasury.
We are fed the lie that sanctions were imposed as a result of alleged violations of human rights, rule of law as well as flawed democratic processes, and are only targeting Government and the political elite.
It is people such as Chingozho, schools seeking to purchase books abroad, a farmer wishing to sell horticulture produce abroad, an ordinary Zimbabwean wanting to carry out a simple transaction on Paypal who are bearing the brunt of these sanctions.
The lies continue with successive US ambassadors claiming: “Humanitarian aid has continued and is increasing annually. We have the people of Zimbabwe at heart.”
What is lost to those who fall for these lies is that Zimbabwe does not need humanitarian aid as much as it needs developmental funds.
What good are tonnes of beans, cooking oil, corn meal and other food stuffs, which are not sourced locally by the way, when the very people receiving this could produce their own food if they had the necessary tools not limited to inputs, irrigation, dams, technology, knowledge, access to markets and funds!
Why would one boast giving a people food that lasts them a few months of the year, which comes at the expense of those people having access to infrastructure, clean water, health facilities, schools, electricity and other modern conveniences?
It is only a fool who claps in gratitude for being given a fish by the man who has closed off access to the fish pond and has placed all manner of security to deny you the same fish he now donates as though he is some benevolent god.
Sanctions have been in place for close to 17 years and the critical question remains: Have they achieved the desired result?
Sanctions do not discriminate; they cannot tell whether this is a ZANU PF supporter or that is an MDC supporter, their effects are the same across the populace.
We have all lost loved ones, missed family moments, missed opportunities, faced the unnerving uncertainty of not knowing what tomorrow holds.
No one can really stand up and say the sanctions affected the political elite more than the ordinary person.
Call them travel restrictions if you will, did that stop former President Robert and Grace Mugabe from travelling to far much better destinations than Western capitals; did that stop them from accessing the best health care money can obtain; did it mean their children could not have the best education money can buy?
Their life went on as usual.
Travel restrictions, however, affected you and me, the ordinary folk. We are the ones who have to go through humiliating interviews to access visas to travel to the very countries that claim they put sanctions on our leaders.
We are the ones who are called by Afrophobic names – makwerekwere! We are the ones who are called economic refugees and asylum seekers by the very people who claim to be punishing our political leaders on our behalf.
One of my personal inspirations, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, last year came face-to-face with the harsh realities of the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe when her nomination for the CNN Hero Award was considered ineligible.
Amai Gumbonzvanda, who many others consider the true embodiment of civil society activism and an African Union Goodwill Ambassador on Ending Child Marriages, was considered ineligible for the award because she is a ‘citizen’ of a country under US sanctions.
Just like Chingozho, Amai Gumbonzvanda is a citizen who is doing her part in bettering Zimbabwe, and not a ZANU PF politician or Government official.
Unfortunately, sanctions have no consideration for this — all they see is Zimbabwe and every door automatically closes!
Ndikunzwei futi muchiti ‘smart targeted sanctions!’