Since 2002, western countries have slapped targeted sanctions on leading figures of the political establishment and state-related corporate entities, placing Zimbabwe in a serious foreign relations dilemma.
The restrictive measures — financial and travel restrictions on a series of specifically named individuals — were originally imposed as a statement against violent, repressive and undemocratic actions directed by senior state and security sector officials.
By 2004, the list numbered 95 people, then rising to 203 individuals and 40 entities in 2009, following the severe electoral violence of the previous year.
Since then, the EU has progressively curtailed the scope of its measures, both during and after the period of the inclusive Global Political Agreement, essentially as a confidence-building step to improve relations with the Zimbabwean, to foster better, less violent and more democratic governance.
In their streaming, much-reduced state, they have only maintained the sanctions on Mugabe, his wife Grace and the Zimbabwe Defence Industries, a State-owned arms manufacturer, but has not provided direct aid to Harare since 2002, preferring to channel the funds via local non-governmental organisations and United Nations agencies.
Former President Robert Mugabe and the sitting government have constantly denied the allegations and regularly referred to the European Union and the United States America as colonialists and opined that the sanctions were culpable for Zimbabwe’s economic debacle.
Speaking at a Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) dialogue on the economy in Harare last week, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development Executive Director Janet Zhou submitted that while Western sanctions were negatively affecting the economy, it was key to note that gross mismanagement of public funds by the government is largely to blame for the prevailing economic mess.
“I would also like to go beyond the mantra of sanctions being used for regime change and being the major cause of our economic problems,” she said, adding that mismanagement of funds and corruption, among other things, were responsible for the current economic mess.
I believe that we have not done enough in terms of our own domestic resource mobilisation because Zimbabwe is endowed with many natural resources, but we have not done much because of mismanagement of funds.”
Another speaker at the event Nelson Mupunga, the deputy director of the international economic research department at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, said failure to repay loans sourced from international monetary institutions also contributed to the fiscal collapse.
“Following the land reform, we have not been in a position to clear arrears to international monetary institutions. Because of the debt, we are also not in any position to access funds. Adding to that, Zimbabwe has also been falling neck-deep in the economic downfall due to low foreign investment as compared to other African nations, and as a result, our economy has crumbled,” he said.
In the while, Zimbabwe and the European Union had kicked off their first formal dialogue in 17 years, which Harare hopes will thaw frosty relations and lead to a resumption of direct aid to its battered economy.
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