Sanctions – an empty propaganda line! – Jonathan Moyo

WHEN President Robert Mugabe last week publicly made a call for people to "Leave Gono Alone", many besides those who know themselves to be the guilty were left wondering what he meant.\r\n

But after Gideon Gono’s wide ranging and far reaching midterm monetary policy statement this week, one need not guess he meant that the Zanu PF government, including Mugabe himself, should "Leave Everything to Gono". That is why Gono’s monetary statement dealt with everything and everyone in concrete ways. The national breadth, depth and consequences of Gono’s monetary statement stand in sharp contrast to the dire poverty of Mugabe’s speech at the opening of the Second Session of the Sixth Parliament last week.

The speech was full of propaganda platitudes and bereft of policy responses to the economic meltdown that is ravaging the country. In fact, so empty was Mugabe’s address that nobody remembers what he said.

The same goes for Herbert Murerwa’s fiscal policy statement that disappointingly ended up being as a boring presentation of a scandalous $327, 2 trillion (now $327, 2 billion) supplementary budget whose catastrophic impact in the present hyperinflationary environment is self-evident.

Where Mugabe failed to outline the necessary vision and political direction for the nation in his speech, Murerwa failed to proffer the necessary policy blueprint to deal with the economic meltdown. The two statements did not have a common thread.

In effect the policy poverty of the parliamentary addresses by Mugabe and Murerwa last week demonstrated that the Zanu PF leadership is now brain dead, hence its policy delinquency. For example Mugabe claimed, as part of his new propaganda line, that the economic suffering in the country is being caused by so-called illegal economic sanctions imposed by the European Union, the United States and some white members of the Commonwealth.

But to show that this claim is just propaganda, Murerwa’s fiscal policy statement did not address the so-called illegal sanctions at all. This is odd. When, as the Head of State, Mugabe identifies a particular issue as the cause of the country’s economic woes, it stands to reason that his Minister of Finance should prioritise and systematically address that issue.

Given that Murerwa did not tackle the so-called illegal sanctions as a priority of economic policy in his fiscal statement last week, this means one of two possibilities applies. Either Mugabe’s claim that the economic meltdown has been caused by those sanctions is false and therefore mere propaganda or Murerwa is incompetent and thus not up to the task at hand.

Yet on this one Murerwa at least has appreciated that the so-called illegal sanctions are not the real reason behind inflation and corruption which have been cited by the government as the country’s top two enemies. Also, Murerwa seems to appreciate that the economic sanctions in question, however unpalatable or unacceptable they maybe, cannot be said to be illegal.

This is because he should know that sovereign countries have a right to take policy measures and enact laws such as those contained in the sanctions targeted at some individuals in this country including this writer, as long as long as those measures are lawful in the countries imposing them. The same would apply to the provisions of the objectionable so-called Zimbabwe Democracy Act in the United States that require US representatives to multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and even the African Development Bank to oppose any assistance to Zimbabwe. Those provisions are objectionable indeed but they cannot be said to be illegal either in terms of United States law or international law.

If there was any illegality in terms of international law, the government of Zimbabwe would have by now taken the matter up with the appropriate international bodies with the relevant jurisdiction. The fact that no such thing has happened or will happen shows that the mumbo jambo from the Zanu PF government about so-called illegal sanctions is cheap propaganda.

Ironically, when Mugabe and his propagandists claim that the economic meltdown and the resultant suffering are caused by illegal economic sanctions, they unwittingly remind many of the fact that the strong Rhodesian economy inherited in 1980 and now destroyed was built on the back of international sanctions backed by the United Nations and virtually all other key financial multilateral organizations. Yes, those sanctions were breached by some countries such as apartheid South Africa and even Britain but they were there and very effective indeed.

The Rhodesian lesson is that an economy under sanctions can develop through a range of policy initiatives including viable import substitution. In Zimbabwe’s present case, the targeted so-called illegal sanctions should be less effective given the fact that, unlike in Rhodesian days, the same sanctions are not supported by any of the neighboring countries and in view of the ‘Look East Policy’ which is focused on some of the world’s leading emerging economies such as China and India.

Otherwise, despite spirited attempts to attribute the present economic turmoil to so-called illegal sanctions, all available indications suggest that the sanctions issue is indeed nothing but propaganda. That is why there is no response to it either in the fiscal or monetary policy. Since Mugabe has called on truthfulness in government policy, this matter needs to be corrected and put in its proper perspective.

Parenthetically, propaganda is also to be found in the countries that have imposed the so-called targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe for purposes of appeasing some voting and media constituencies. This point was not lost to the Zimbabwean government which initially reacted to these sanctions by dismissing them as irrelevant and ineffectual Western propaganda in so far as the sanctions were targeted at individuals and in so far as they involved actions of imperialist financial institutions such as the IMF whose support is not wanted.

The propaganda tune has now changed from dismissing the sanctions to claiming that they were causing the suffering of ordinary people. That is why observers have been wondering how sanctions which were initially described by the government to be useless and irrelevant can now be said to be responsible for causing the suffering of ordinary people.

Yet Mugabe and Murerwa understand that the sanctions talk is pure Zanu PF propaganda for mobilising political support from the masses by seeking to make them believe that their suffering is due to economic sanctions imposed by imperialist foreigners and not a result of the failure of their government.

But because neither Mugabe nor Murerwa have any practical policy to deal with the economic meltdown, and because they do not want to pay any political price for this, they have very conveniently but quite scandalously decided to literally leave everything to Gideon Gono.

During his policy statement in parliament, Murerwa, who apparently seemed to have forgotten his widely publicised complaints earlier this year that the Reserve Bank had improperly taken on quasi-fiscal responsibilities from his Ministry, specifically deferred to Gono a raft of policy measures on many occasions during his presentation.

Meanwhile, Gono has taken on the challenge like a possessed man determined to perform miracles in an assignment in which he risks being damned by some Zanu PF politicians if he succeeds and damned by the same politicians if he fails. The RBZ governor is now facing this fate, in which he is now between a rock and a hard place, because the political leadership through Mugabe and policymakers through Murerwa have abdicated their responsibility and they have left everything to Gono whom Mugabe says must be left alone.

But surely, while the would-be Zanu PF assassins should indeed leave Gono alone, it is utter political nonsense to expect that the nation should or will leave alone the one person who is visibly doing everything, affecting everyone everywhere in the country when those who should take primary responsibility are playing truant through cheap propaganda such as the sanctions talk.

The notion that Gono alone should make heroes from zeroes through bearer cheques, and that this will constitute a new sun rise, is a hard sell and in fact a non starter. Gono desperately needs real help from Mugabe and Murerwa in the political and policy arenas because the fundamental problem facing Zimbabwe is not just economic stupid but also fundamentally leadership stupid.

Jonathan Moyo, 4 August 2006.