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What next after anti-sanctions march?

27 Oct 2020 at 07:14hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE on Saturday held an e-gala in Bulawayo to demand the removal of sanctions imposed by the West over human rights violations. Several Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and African Union member States joined the campaign in solidarity.

This was the second year running for the programme since Sadc declared October 25 an anti-sanctions solidarity day last year. Last year's programme at the National Sports Stadium was poorly attended.

The rally came in the background of clashes between Harare and the United States ambassador in Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols. While Harare blamed the sanctions for the deteriorating economic situation, the US blamed corruption and bad governance for Harare's failures.

The European Union waded into the war, declaring that corruption, and not sanctions, was the elephant in the room for Zimbabwe. Both the EU and US denied their embargoes were hurting ordinary Zimbabweans. Similar exchanges marked the run-up to this year's event.

The gala came and went, and President Emmerson Mnangagwa should have some takeaways from the two events. One undeniable takeaway is that the US will not move an inch from its demand for reforms and an end to human rights violations.

"The purpose is simple: to promote accountability for human rights violators and corrupt individuals, and signal that the US will not turn a blind eye to those who undermine Zimbabwe's Constitution and democratic institutions, US top diplomat in Africa Tibor Nagy said on Sunday.

"Some falsely blame US sanctions for Zimbabwe's economic crisis. The truth: the US supports the Zimbabwean people with millions of dollars in assistance. US sanctions those who violate human rights or engage in corruption," Nagy said in a statement.

The Dutch embassy, United Kingdom and European Union all have urged Harare to end human rights violations to gain acceptance into the community of nations.

Mnangagwa should meet his end of the bargain. He should respect human rights and put an end to corruption.

International solidarity to get the US to remove the sanctions without meaningful reforms will just be empty rhetoric.

Mnangagwa himself, when he took over from his former boss, the late former President Robert Mugabe in a coup in November 2017, warned the country not to continue mourning about sanctions.

But two years down the line, after grossly violating human rights and presiding over a failing economy, he has reverted to Mugabe's playbook of blaming the sanctions. Mnangagwa knows that while sanctions could be a factor, corruption and bad governance have become an albatross on his rule.

He should put an end to abductions and corruption. Zimbabwe should play its part and shame its detractors.

Mnangagwa might spend millions of scarce dollars on anti-sanctions campaigns, but as long as he does not invest in his end of the bargain, it will be a lost cause. He has blown away millions of dollars of public funds hiring international PR consultancy firms to try to spruce up the image of the country and lobby for the sanctions to be removed, but all that will remain an exercise in futility.

Action, not grandstanding and rhetoric can save the country from the sanctions. Mnangagwa should be pragmatic in his approach and stop this time-wasting gimmick. People are suffering because his government cannot longer access international lines of credit and yet he knows that the key lies in implementing reforms.

Source - newsday
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