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Zuma is right on Zimbabwe

I hadn’t really made up my mind on the issue of lifting sanctions against Zimbabwe as proposed by South African president Jacob Zuma. Most of my reticence was due, I suppose, to a deep scepticism of Zuma’s motives. He has not demonstrated at any point that he can be trusted as an honest broker or an incisive analyst.

On the other hand, nothing signals that a country is moving in the right direction more than economic recovery. There is nothing like the reassurance of prosperity to convince people to stick with the path they have taken.

Well, Ray Hartley, editor of The Times(Johannesburg) has made up my mind. I agree with him: Zuma is right.

Here’s what he says:

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s appeal to Britain to lift the sanctions against President Robert Mugabe’s elite may fall on deaf ears.

Zuma’s argument is that the dropping of sanctions is supported by the entire Zimbabwe unity government. He believes the gesture would send a signal to the world that Zimbabwe was on the road to political recovery and once again an acceptable investment destination.

He is right and South Africans ought to move beyond the knee-jerk rejection of any recognition of Mugabe’s legitimacy.

Observers of Zimbabwe, rightly outraged by Mugabe’s shocking anti-democratic record, want the unity government to be a step on the road to removing Mugabe from the state altogether. But the truth is that Mugabe and Tsvangirai are sharing the spoils and there has been no decisive victory of one over the other.

A conditional lifting of sanctions which insists on proper open democratic processes including free-and-fair elections could be just the thing that Zimbabwe needs to move forward right now.

It would be a mistake to allow Mugabe and his cronies free access to global banking facilities as this would free the way for more looting of the state coffers. But such considerations should not stand in the way of efforts to shift Zimbabwe closer to democracy. Instead the lifting of sanctions should not include the freedom of the Zimbabwean elite to move money around the world.

Zimbabwe has shown slow but steady progress and this ought to be recognised by the world. To insist that sanctions remain as long as Mugabe is part of the unity government is to prevent Zimbabwe from moving forward.