The issue of sanctions and how they have impacted the social and economic welfare of the generality of Zimbabweans is of great relevance to conflict resolution in Zimbabwe.
First, what are sanctions that we should be concerned about their impact on peace building in the country?
Sanctions are a declaration of economic war. Sanctions are warfare by economic means. Sanctions are gunboat diplomacy. Economic sanctions are a supplementary means to the use of force.
In the global context, sanctions refer to penalties prescribed for the breach of international treaty obligations, such as those set out in the Charter of the United Nations. Economic sanctions applied at international level like those against Zimbabwe, involve restrictions on trade, financial transactions, and communications between the target state and the imposing states.
They fall in the intermediate class of collective measures; being more severe than diplomatic or political measures such as votes of protest, votes of censure, expulsion, or suspension from international bodies and non-recognition.
They appear non-violent, yet their impact is extremely violent, as I will explain later in our discussion.
Historically, sanctions were an international instrument to establish peace where it has been threatened by belligerent parties.
Sanctions were imposed on those states that perpetuated conflict in the world or region.
The critical question here is: How has Zimbabwe threatened peace and perpetuated conflict in the world, Africa generally, and Southern Africa in particular?
Sanctions are punitive measures for the breach of international treaty obligations. What treaty obligations has Zimbabwe breached?
Sanctions are punitive measures for causing international conflict.
What international conflict has the country caused by getting back its land, which was the main reason for the liberation war in the first place?
Peace guarantees full existence of freedom and human rights; peace guarantees free political participation in the public affairs of the nation; peace guarantees national social and economic development.
Without peace there can be no development.
Peace guarantees, among others, freedom of movement, gender equality, foreign investor confidence, and agricultural and industrial productivity. Peace promotes a shared vision of the future and guarantees an environment for scientific and technological development.
In an environment of peace, the right of all people to enjoy the universal rights enshrined in all international conventions without hindrance from any individual or groups, is guaranteed.
Peace is the foundation of everything that a nation desires for its citizens.
These are the benefits of peace that these sanctions have continued to undermine.
Institutionally, peace begins at the familial home. The home is the foundation of every society.
There is no better institution for the well-being of the human race than the home. In the family, we learn to be humane, to be peaceable, and to be delinquent.
It is the place where we all learn a culture of peace or conflict. The stability of society is based on the stability of the familial home.
It is the basic sound political and economic unit.
The family unit has been called the “healing place of the soul”, and the nearest many of us will come to that “healing upon earth.”
The home is the true haven of peace. The family is the basic unit of economic cooperation.
And one famous author once said: “The home is the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose and that is to support the ultimate career.”
The family is the foundation and stability of security.
Sanctions have led to the closure of many factories, which provide employment to heads of families. Sanctions have caused serious de-industrialisation of the economy, which in turn has led to unemployment.
The closure of international financial transactions have led to shortages of foreign currency to purchase drugs for our hospitals.
The decline of the nation’s import capacity, due to closure of credit-lines, has led to failure to import new machinery to keep our factories open, and provide jobs.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence”.
Family poverty is the worst form of violence.
Hence, sanctions have perpetrated violence right down to the family unit. They have caused serious social and economic inequalities in Zimbabwe.
The illegal sanctions have led to serious social and economic injustices.
In an environment where everyone is trying to eke out a living in one way or the other, peace suffers. Peace and development are now synonymous, which means any measure that disturbs social and economic development is disturbing peace-building and peace promotion.
Ordinary Zimbabweans have been driven to adopt unorthodox means to sustain their livelihoods.
An attitude of, “everyone for himself and God for us all” has developed among our people, thanks to sanctions and their enforcers!
The objectives are to undermine the capacity of the individual to make a living; to undermine national and local development.
Sanctions are, therefore, instruments for undermining national and local governance, which are the fundamental basis of democracy.
Local governance and development are closely related. The main purpose of local governance is to achieve better development outcomes for all at local levels. This is the objective of the devolution policy.
The effects of sanctions have been to undermine such local development initiatives. They have weakened the resilience of citizens at individual, household, communal and national levels.
People’s capacity to manage and sustain their development momentum and maximise on sound economic transformative potential is hindered.
Sanctions have not been discriminatory in their impact on citizens of Zimbabwe from top to bottom.
Zimbabwe is not the first African country to experience sanctions, as there are many examples on how they were used to undermine democratic processes and the sovereignty of weaker states.
The first African country to suffer economic sanctions was Ethiopia in 1935. Britain and France imposed sanctions on Ethiopia in 1935 and 1936 in support of Italy’s empirical ambitions.
As a confirmation of the motive, Italy’s conquest of Ethiopia was recognised by Britain in 1938.
The only other comparable case outside Africa was the Cuban blockade by the United States of America, because they feared that it would become a dangerous light colony of the Soviet Union.
This was how sanctions were/have been used to undermine democratic processes and the sovereignty of the weaker states by powerful ones. So to that extent, sanctions have been used for economic and political manipulation of weaker states by stronger ones.
Comparisons have been made on sanctions imposed on Ian Smith’s Rhodesia between 1966 and 1979, and those imposed on Zimbabwe; and how Smith bust the embargoes.
This also is an issue that needs clarification.
First and foremost, Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from Britain on November 11, 1965, was an act of political rebellion against the international community.
Zimbabwe did not commit an act of rebellion when it took its land back legally from the minority white settlers to empower the majority of citizens.
The reason why sanctions did not bring Ian Smith and his illegal government to their knees were the disingenuous implementation plans by Britain.
There were certainly some British people who wanted Rhodesian independence to have a fair chance of success.
The failure by Britain to impose economic sanctions firmly, quickly and all at once, permitted the Smith regime to find a partial way round each of them before the next was imposed.
By the time the imports of Rhodesian asbestos and chrome were made illegal by Britain in March 1966, five months after UDI, successful backdoor arrangements had been made with South Africa and Mozambique.
Had there been immediate and effective measures against the exports of minerals, tobacco and sugar; and had full-scale oil sanctions been imposed at the beginning at the same time as imports were rigidly cut and reserves in London taken over, the import would have been greater than doing these things stage-by-stage at lengthy intervals.
There was, therefore, a strong view from Africans in and outside Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) that there was collusion between the British and the Rhodesian governments.
The complete absence of planning to stop UDI was an open case of collusion. Rhodesia was now almost the fifth state of South Africa.
In an environment of sanctions-induced poverty, it is difficult for peace to exist.
However, Zimbabwe has made tremendous achievements in economic, political and technological spheres. The nation is endowed with an abundance of resources — both natural and human.
For our country to achieve its full developmental aspirations, it is vital that it makes significant investments in peace-building, healing and reconciliation. Sanctions are merely slowing the process; they can never stop it.
Bringing and building peace is the responsibility of all Zimbabweans.
Sanctions are a form of economic warfare, and warfare is never peaceful. They have led to economic and social inequalities. They have led to violent conflicts due to economic hardships.
It is crucial, therefore, that Zimbabweans stop being dependent on what other nations are making. We should look inwardly and start eating what we kill, and buy and sell what we make.
South Korea did it, we can do it too, particularly with the abundant arable land in our hands.
The gender impacts of violent conflicts as a result of economic hardships will be there for a long time. The lifetime impacts of sanctions as a source of violent conflicts have long-term effects on Zimbabweans.
To that extent, sanctions are anti-peace in Zimbabwe. We call upon the international community to give Zimbabweans a change to live in peace by removing these sanctions once and for all.
Dr Geoffrey T. Chada was a Commissioner and Spokesperson for the last National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC). He was the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust (ZMMT) chief executive officer and executive secretary from 1990 to 2001. He was responding to questions raised in an interview by The Herald Senior Writer Elliot Ziwira on the impact of sanctions on the livelihoods of ordinary Zimbabweans, and how the illegal restrictions impede peace.