It is difficult to understand the MDC-A’s continuous pressure to have the financial sanctions against Zimbabwe maintained, and what looks like a willingness to manufacture evidence of Government wrongdoing, acquiesce in the manufacture of evidence, or see a conspiracy theory in everything that could go wrong.
Everyone else, including the bulk of the opposition, now agrees that sanctions need to go, that the damage they do is serious and limits investment, trade and growth and that while debate continues on what reforms are still needed, that debate is neither speeded up nor impaired by the sanctions and, in any case, it is an issue Zimbabweans can deal with on their own.
To clear the air, the sanctions are not targeted measures against individuals. If a couple of dozen senior politicians and Government employees were denied the right to hold bank accounts in a number of foreign countries, denied the right to do business there, and denied the right to travel there, the effect on the economy would be nil.
The problem arises in two areas. First Zimbabwe is, in effect, barred from accessing country support from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and some other global financial institutions. This is because of the way voting rights are distributed, and tend to reflect the dominant position of the US economy in the decades after the Second World War.
Secondly that disconnection, plus the way sanctions are administered, makes it very difficult for even private trade and business to use banking systems in some countries, and impossible for the Government to use those systems.
Generally speaking, banks tend to oil trade with trade finance, they lend money to major investors, they facilitate the payments for exports and imports. This is all routine business banking, but it is not routine for banks dealing with Zimbabwe, since they have to make a number of checks first, which cost money, and in the end many simply do not want to bother.
The sanctions regime is crumbling in part. The European Union has largely ditched its sanctions against Zimbabwe, although maintaining an arms embargo, which is hardly a major point of concern since we are not in that market. The US maintains the full rigidity of its sanctions and because of its dominant position in global financial institutions and because so much global trade finance passes, at least in part, through US banks, that is serious.
Zimbabwe’s business sectors have consistently opposed sanctions, even when a fair percentage of business owners are opposition supporters or at least give that impression; in any case one would assume that the percentage of opposition voters among business people was roughly the same as the percentage of the whole voter block, and perhaps the same as the urban voter block.
The same is pretty much the opinion of many other MDC-A supporters in employment or trying to scratch a living. They want the economy functioning at maximum blast so they can get more pay. Perhaps only those who live off “grants” in NGO-land are the only ones not affected by sanctions and so supportive.
So the MDC-A is harming its own base.
Every time the matter of sanctions comes up for debate or investigation, the MDC-A rush to produce dossiers and always seem to be helped by some “incident” that only happens, quite coincidentally, when there is this external probe or debate.
There are now allegations that Nelson Chamisa is barred from moving around the country. He seems to get around quite a bit. There are allegations of an assassination attempt, but the car he was in has not been submitted for a full ballistics investigation and report, and this sort of thing can be organised with a lawyer hanging around while it is done. Normal people, when shot at, want the police to hunt down the shooter and make a lot of noise if there is a police delay.
The MDC-A likes to produce allegations of abduction at intervals. Again these people are released in some convenient area. But they then behave in a quite weird way. Most people, when subjected to criminal or illegal assault, want to tell their story in full and really seriously want the police to go after the person who hurt them.
One would normally expect those alleging abduction would want to sit in front of a bunch of senior detectives, exercising if they wish their rights of a lawyer to be present and a recorder on, and dredge up every single detail and clue that could help see the alleged abductors caught, charged and jailed and quite possibly bankrupted in a parallel civil suit. A civil suit would not involve State employees if that is something they are dubious about. Instead details are vague and hazy, perhaps because there are none.
It is a pity that so many legal delays have been used to delay the trial of three people who alleged they were abducted last year but who were allegedly caught on a suburban shop’s CCTV hours after that abduction. At least by now we would all know what actually happened after a magistrate had gone through the evidence with a fine toothcomb.
This tendency to go through routes of student politics, and many in the MDC-A cut their political teeth in student politics, rather than deal with the real world is what is worrying. An opposition party, if it is to mean anything, should be making it clear it is an alternative Government, at least after the next election, and be fighting the electoral battle by putting forward better policies and, at the very least, making it clear that it wants to take over a healthy and wealthy country rather than destroying what it there.
Other opposition parties do this. Even the handful of MDC aligned councils that are fully functioning, and they are a minority and unfortunately do not include Harare and Chitungwiza, win local support by behaving like responsible adults, engaging the Government and getting commitments and results. Healthy political debate, even on fundamental issues, always gives positive gains, along with some hot air, but these small-mindedness, and the petty student-politics by the MDC-A will not gain it support or respect.