By Freeman Chari
In the past few months the chorus against sanctions has reached an unprecedented crescendo. The common excuse is that targeted sanctions are hitting the common people more than they are affecting the 113 people on them. It is my conviction that the crop of leaders controlling Zimbabwe has never cared a bit about the common man.
They are willing to plunder, expropriate and milk Zimbabwe shamelessly.
In this article, I intend to take you back to the historical circumstances that brought us here, I hope to convince you that we have to intensify targeted restrictions on the current ruling class while seeking innovative ways of creating an alternative economy that provides opportunity to the people of Zimbabwe.
Do they care about you?
In 1993 parliament passed amendments to the War Victims Compensation Act this time allowing for comprehensive compensation of victims of the war of liberation. This was supposed to be a straight-forward exercise especially in a country overflowing with people carrying cicatrices of the protracted struggle. Instead of reaching its intended beneficiaries ZANU PF chefs quickly swooped in.
According to Amen Sithole, a former acting commissioner of the fund almost every “big chef” had written to him wanting their cases to jump the queue, and they had insane endorsements of disability from the Ministry of Health yet appeared physically perfect and there were cases where desperate ex-combatants with visible injuries were awarded zero percentages.
The current Vice President Joyce Mujuru claimed 55% disability and was given Z$389 000 then equivalent to US$47 730. Some of the beneficiaries include Perence Shiri (50% disability and Z$90 249) ,Oppah (Rushesha) Muchinguri (65% disability and Z$478 166).
Mugabe’s brother-in-law, Reward Marufu, who was in 1997 seconded to the diplomatic mission in Canada, is mentioned as having had a 95% disability and was said to have been paid Z$821 668. Colonel Lazarus Gutu who was commander of the Presidential Guard got Z$515 000 for a claim of 103% disability.
Major General Vitalis Zvinavashe pocketed $223 000. Chenjerai Hunzvi received $500 000 for 117% disability. It was only in July 1997, after hundreds of ex-combatants camped outside State House to demand that they too be compensated that Mugabe in embarrassment ordered an enquiry into the looting of the fund. By that time Z$1,5 billion (US$ 184 million) had been looted.
Now tell me, if these people really cared about the plight of the people, especially veterans whom they had stayed with in the bush, would they have engaged in such shameless and immoral looting? During the mid 1990s, government started a program dubbed “Start paying for your house scheme”.
This was a collective fund contributed by civil servants so that they could eventually own a roof over their heads. Only a few flats were built, notably in Chitungwiza and Glen Norah. Unfortunately, the money was channeled towards Very Important Persons (VIP) housing scheme in which ministers built mansions for themselves. $200 million was squandered before a a High Court ordered that they pay back the money. None of the money was ever recovered.
Today there is talk of Indigenization. Mugabe’s rhetoric runs as far back as 1990. Even when pressure was mounting from IBDC and lobbyist groups like AAG, the government would appear in public to be on the side of indigenous people yet behind their backs would engage in activities that undermine their interests.
For example, following Mugabe’s several visits to Malaysia in 1995 and 1996 he, through the then Energy Minister Simon Khaya Moyo approved the sale of 51% of Hwange Power Station to a Malaysian company YTL. The board of directors at Hwange objected to the deal citing that it was contrary to the government’s policy of “indigenisation”. The whole board was subsequently fired. This is just one of the numerous examples.
Let us look at the war in Congo. Hebert Murerwa by 1999 admitted that the war was bleeding the country of US$2 million a month.
To put this into perspective, ANC Daily News Briefing of the 5th August 1999 reported that in contrast, National AIDS Council (NAC) an organization enacted through the Act of Parliament of 1999 to coordinate and facilitate the national multi-sectoral response to HIV and AIDS was receiving US$26,000 a month from government. This was at a time when approximately 700 people were dying every day in Zimbabwe from AIDS.
What makes the Congo issue more important to Zimbabwe today more than ever is that this was the regime’s first flirtation with illicit trade of diamonds. The curse of Marange diamonds in Zimbabwe lies on the fact that, they were discovered after ZANU PF had already created a strong foundation for a parallel economy driven by diamonds. It was therefore so easy for them to exploit the diamonds using the experience gained in Congo.
According to the Final report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe military ellites had business interests in Congo. It is public record that OSLEG, a private company formed as a front for ZDF engaged in illicit mining in Congo. General Vitalis Zvinavashe was the Chairman of the company which had so many complex relationships with other individuals and companies fingered in the looting of the Congo.
Even though it was claimed that OSLEG was a ZDF company, investigations by Fingaz in 2005 showed that the company was actually private and owned by retired ZDF general Vitalis Zvinavashe; Job Whabira, a former Ministry of Defence permanent secretary, Onesimo Moyo, the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe general manager and Isaiah Ruzengwe, a former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) general manager.
What is important though is to note the individuals fingered in the UN report, Emmerson Munangagwa, General Zvinavashe, Wing Commander Mike Moyo, Rtd Brig Gen Sibusiso Moyo, Bredenkamp John Arnold, Charles Dauramanzi, Colonel Tshinga Dube, Air Commodore Karakadzai. Look at their political trajectories and excesses.
A very crucial point to take home is that, the Congo war was financed by the taxpayer’s money only to line the pockets of a select few. There is no evidence of a single remittance to the Zimbabwean treasury by any of these so-called ZDF companies. Where did the money go? Did ordinary Zimbabweans benefit?
Do sanctions affect ordinary people?
Sanctions on the 113 people linked to ZANU PF and companies linked to ZANU PF are indeed affecting ordinary people, however; the way they are affecting them has never been adequately articulated. I believe, the reason why people are feeling the pinch is because of the reach and tentacles of the ZANU PF empire. These people own most of the companies in Zimbabwe and therefore sanctions on them ripple down to the people. To understand my point, let us examine a bit of the business empire hinged around ZANU PF.
ZANUPF itself owns M & S Syndicate and Zidco Holdings which they use as a business front. These in turn have had interests in several companies including Treger Holdings, producers of building materials,Ottawa, a property management company; Catercraft, which runs the catering at Harare airport and also supplies all domestic and international flights out of Harare; Zidlee duty free shops at BeitBridge, Harare City and Harare Airport, First Banking Corporation, AMTregers (Pvt) Ltd, Mike Appeal, Fibrolite, Segmented Investments, Sovereign, Hustonville, Tescrom, Amelia, Ryobi, Printfit, Smoothness, National Blankets, Woolworths and Bindura Nickel Mine.
Individuals in ZANU PF collectively own a lot of companies in Zimbabwe. For example, the Mujurus own stakes in over 50 companies spurning different sectors eg River Ranch, Alamein and Elim farm, Zimasco, Khupukile Resources, Chicken Slice , Willdale Bricks, Dahaw Trading, Benscore Investments, Wedzera etc. It is estimated, although not confirmed that General Mujuru’s estate is worth more than US$1billion.
Now just imagine how many people are dependant on this web of companies? Sanctions on Mai Mujuru means a tough time for all the people employed at these companies. Do sanctions affect her? I believe they do especially judging by the furore and noise that General Mujuru’s closest business associate, Tirivanhu Mudariki made after US$6 million originating from the North Korean Embassy in Zimbabwe believed to belong to the Mujurus was intercepted by United States inNovember 1997.
So while in the short term sanctions appear to be unjustifiably affecting Zimbabweans, we have to look back at the origins of the crisis to see that the wealth that these people are beaming with actually is a product of plunder of our resources. These people and their companies need to be under massive sanctions because they are using their financial muscle to oppress us. Today Zimbabweans have to lick these people to survive.
Having said this, it is important that we begin to think deeply about taking control of the sanctioning system itself. It is important that as we call for an escalation of sanctions on these people we also look for ways to create an alternative economy that milks the ZANU PF controlled system but providing a channel for ordinary Zimbabweans to have a better life. This I hope will be the subject of my next article.
To remove or intensify sanctions?
I have taken you back to the state of things before sanctions were instituted. I did this so that we can appreciate that the path to demise was drawn well before the international community decided to take a stance.
What I want people to appreciate before we tackle ZIDERA and other extra-national restrictive measures on ZANU PF is the kind of sanctions that Mr Mugabe’s government has put upon the people ofZimbabwe.
It is common knowledge that if liberalization is not in the hands of the top elite then it should never happen. Let us look at the potential of airwaves as a business. If Zimbabwe had multiple broadcasters we could potentially have channels for sport, history, movies, news etc.
Let us focus on sport for example, the Premier Soccer League in the country would probably make huge revenue from TV rights especially from advertisement. This revenue would trickle down to clubs resulting in better financial health of the clubs in the country. Talent would also be easier to unearth in different sporting disciplines.
I believe Telecoms and Broadcasting could potentially be a $100 billion industry in Zimbabwe, yet the government of Zimbabwe does not see it that way. Following the recommendations by the Ibbottson Report in 1997 to commercialize and privatize TV2, Radio 4 and for ZBC to introduce a Pay-TV (Cable), a tender was floated which the government awarded to Commtel.
The company was owned by Jonathan Kadzura who recently lost ZANU PF primaries in Mutare West. The company had no capital, and actually applied to the government for a loan yet there were other companies that had the expertise and capital.
We can also look at the case of Strive Masiyiwa who fought a long battle with Mugabe and Joyce Mujuru just for the license of a cellular network. Mujuru had awarded a license to Telecel where Leo Mugabe was a shareholder. Actually James Makamba, the then head of Telecel, listed Information, Posts and Telecommunications Minister Joyce Mujuru, whose ministry was in charge of the tender, as his referee. If Nkomo had not intervened today the 1500 people it employs would be jobless.
We can also look at the case of Capitol Radio, where the Supreme court ruled against the ZBC monopoly in 2000. Mugabe invoked his Presidential Powers to stop any other player. Today, Zimbabwe still has a single TV station and radio stations which are all an extension ofZANU PF.
I will brush through some of the notable post 2000 restrictions on Zimbabweans by ZANU PF. The government banned dual citizenship inFebruary 2001. The government banned diaspora voting. The government banned operation of tuckshops in 2005. In 2009 the then acting and current Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa formalized the use of the US dollar and other currencies.
All Zimbabwe dollar accounts were supposed to be converted to US dollars but nothing happened. In actual fact with the collusion of Gideon Gono who converted all the money in Zimbabwe banks to a paltry US$ 7 million, ZANU PF effectively made all non-elite Zimbabweans paupers.
Let me turn to ZIDERA. The bill was signed into law 21 December 2001. I have given you a historical perspective so that when we talk of what necessitated ZIDERA – at least from the point of view of Zimbabweans who supported it at that time – you can have a feel of the state of things during that time.
Every nation has a sovereign right to choose whom to do business with. It was well within USA’s rights to impose sanctions on ZANU PF-linked individuals and companies. In 1998 Zimbabwe received donor funds;$286.6 from World Bank, US$7.2 million from UNDP, US$ 25.2 million from UK, US$ 33.2 million from Sweden, US$460.6 million from other EU countries. From 1995 to 2000 DANIDA had invested $760 million in Zimbabwean projects and companies. In addition the government had negotiated a 13-month stand-by arrangement with the IMF (SDR 130.7million) in June 1998.
These figures show how reliant we were on external funding. The money from IMF comes with conditions, one of which was for the government to reign in expenditure, which it failed at the backdrop of the War Veterans gratuities and the Congo war.
Now, Mugabe went to war even as Mandela protested. Museveni who was fighting from the other end alongside Rwanda were strong US allies. In this regard, wasn’t the USA justified in flexing its muscle given that it has 16.75 of the votes in IMF? The fact that Zimbabwe defaulted in1999 to pay its US$ 10.7 billion debt did not help matters. Let us also remember the massive abuses in the 2000 parliamentary elections where people like Chiminya and Mabika were killed by the regime.
Now it is upon the USA to withdraw or repeal ZIDERA, and the conditions are clear. Has Zimbabwe met the requirements set in the Act? Things like Restoration of Rule of law, Military subordination to civilian rule, Free and Fair elections; have these been met? If not why then should ZIDERA be repealed?
Sanctions don’t hurt people, ZANU PF does
While I admit that sanctions on Zimbabweans affect ordinary people, they are not hurting them in as much as ZANU PF is. Their hegemony is so entrenched to the extent that every turn is controlled by them. Lifting sanctions at this point will allow these people to do business with the world.
They will buy more guns and more repressive equipment. It would allow them to travel freely and find places to stash their ill-gotten wealth. Lifting sanctions will legitimize the new State in which ZANU PF own 90% of productive land, 51% of all companies, the military, police and government property.
As has happened before there were sanctions, these people’s quest for power and wealth will not recede. Opening their capacity to the world will be catastrophic to Zimbabwe.
Having said this, it is important that we begin to think deeply about taking control of the sanctioning system itself. It is important that as we call for an escalation of sanctions on these people we also look for ways to create an alternative economy that milks the ZANU PF controlled system but providing a channel for ordinary Zimbabweans to have a better life.
I am not going to go deep into what can be done lest I open too many eyes but I believe with over a million people in the Diaspora, Zimbabwe can have a very strong alternative economy that by-passes that which is controlled by ZANU PF.
Central to this is a paperless monetary system that is controlled by Zimbabweans outside the country. This system will be integrated with other international systems like VISA, PayPal, MoneyGram etc. Now, every Zimbabwean would have the ability to apply for a bank card that is issued by a controlling board, the same way Payoneer has done for freelancers across the world. Think of this as a Zimbabwean Bitcoin.
No money will physically exchange hands. People in the Diaspora sending money home will be able to transfer funds within the system, and those within Zimbabwe can use their cards anywhere inside Zimbabwe or neighbouring countries. No company linked to ZANU PF will be allowedto open an account, however people and companies would be allowed to transfer money from Zimbabwean Banks into the system. This way the current economy bleeds.
I am of the opinion that such a strategy if meticulously implemented coupled to tight, unrelenting pressure on the ruling class, by 2025 we would have successfully transferred the economy back into the hands of Zimbabweans.
This to me is the only alternative. Both MDC and NCA are going to be broke soon and it will take greater effort to restore sanity in Zimbabwe. Those who are routing for Mugabe’s death should not forget that Mai Mujuru is one of the most corrupt people in the system so is Emmerson Munangagwa, thus if push comes to shove these people will bunch together for self-preservation.
In the mean time this is what Mugabe as chairman of OAU said inSeptember 1997;
“ The sanctions, I am afraid, are bound to remain. I believe they (the Burundi government) haven’t done anything… (and) there is still the military regime under Buyoya and therefore sanctions should remain”