By Alex Bell:
ZANU PF’s quest to seek as much legitimacy as possible, in the aftermath of the widely disputed elections, has brought the issue of targeted Western sanctions back into the spotlight.
The party has in recent days been intensifying its rhetoric about the restrictive measures, still in place against Robert Mugabe and key members of his regime. ZANU PF aligned media have noticeably increased its reportage of the situation, blaming the targeted restrictions for all problems in Zimbabwe, from hyperinflation to cholera. The Herald in particular has virulently slammed the West for the measures, saying the sanctions are to blame for Zimbabwe’s suffering.
The newspaper makes no mention of the destructive policies implemented by ZANU PF that led to the destruction of the economy, which independent analysts have said are the real cause of Zimbabwe’s multitude of problems.
Key African leadership groups have also called for the measures to be dropped, with the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council calling for the immediate and unconditional lifting of the measures.
In a statement released at the end of a meeting in Ethiopia on Tuesday, the grouping said: “In the case of Zimbabwe, council further called for the immediate and unconditional lifting of all sanctions imposed on the country and stressed that the lifting of the sanctions will contribute to socio-economic recovery for the benefit of the long-suffering population of the country.”
The SADC regional bloc has also called for the measures to be dropped, after endorsing Mugabe’s electoral ‘victory’ last month.
Civil society groups and many election observers have all said the polls were not credible, citing serious irregularities and evidence of vote rigging. These concerns have also been echoed by Western nations, with the US and Australia both insisting they will not review their sanctions policies as a result.
Thabani Nyoni, the spokesperson for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said that concerns of vote rigging and electoral fraud were some of the reasons Western nations imposed sanctions in the first place.
“This election is not different from other elections, in that we find it difficult to think it is a true expression of the will of the people. So if the international governments, who imposed the sanctions for these reasons, now decided to lift them, then we would feel betrayed,” Nyoni said.
He agreed that if the Western groups bowed to pressure to remove the targeted measures, they would be giving the Mugabe regime legitimacy.
“Our understanding is that these measures were put in place to pressure Mugabe to allow Zimbabweans to demonstrate their free will in choosing a government. So this a principled stand that must be maintained until this is allowed to happen,” Nyoni said.
Meanwhile, Western funding of African institutions like the AU and SADC has also come into question amid the sanctions debate. ZANU PF’s Patrick Chinamasa said this week that he raised concern about the continued funding of AU programmes by Western governments.
“During the (AU meeting) I made reference to the fact that there is structural weakness in our institutions given that most of our programmes are funded externally. They agreed that this is a point of weakness that needs to be addressed,” he said.
He added: “This is where the notion that he who pays the piper plays the tune and it becomes the justification for seeking to manipulate the assessment of those observers to depart from what they witnessed in Zimbabwe. If Africa is to come of its own it needs to fund its own programmes.”
Some observers have noted that the West should listen to Chinamasa, and remove all funding from the AU and SADC.
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