SADC and Zimbabwe Sanctions: Which Way Forward?

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October 14, 2010 By Jimmy Kainja

I have never been a fun of sanctions. I believe sanctions only punish innocent people – the same people it meant to be protecting. Zimbabwe is one of the recent examples. Despite improving political atmosphere and economy, Zimbabwe is far from where it once was – sanctions have wrecked the country. Ordinary have paid a heavy price as a result of sanctions that were meant to force President Robert Mugabe’s regimes to improve its decimal human right record.

Zimbabweans who can leave the country have left – It is said to be Africa’s biggest ‘exodus from a country not at war.’ Many have fled to surrounding countries, mostly South Africa where they encounter the fear of having to leave in fear of perennial xenophobic attacks. These migrants lack the ‘refugee status’ as South Africa, just as all the Southern Africa countries, has not formerly recognise Mugabe’s human rights abuses. Most of them end up with the ‘illegal immigrant’ status, as a result. suffice it to say, this leaves them without any protection and therefore prone to exploitation.

Southern Africa’s regional grouping body SADC have now come up with a plan: they are sending a delegation of three leaders to the donor countries with an aim of persuading the donors to revoke the sanctions. The three leaders are South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, Namibia’s Hifikepunye Pohamba, Rupiah Banda of Zambia. The delegation’s argument is that “lifting [the] sanctions would give a chance to the efforts we [the SADC region] are making there and empower Sadc to do more on Zimbabwe.”

It would appear that the elephant in the room is now awake. SADC can no longer look the other way pretending not see; it has realiased that the problems in Zimbabwe are not Zimbabwe’s alone; they are regional. Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown has turned out to be an immigration problem in South Africa and a loss of trading partner for the lest of the region. But why has it taken SADC this long to wake up to the reality?

Nothing is impossible, so they say. But how can the SADC delegation realistically convince the donor countries on Zimbabwe’s human rights situation when the SADC countries did not formerly  recognise it? Is this not double standard?

I have no doubt that SADC has all the good intentions and I hope they succeed, for the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, if anything. Yet I cannot stop wondering what role will Mugabe play in restructuring Zimbabwe should the SADC delegation succeed – having in mind that Mugabe is still enjoying SADC impunity – will SADC ask Mugabe to step-aside? I can only hope there is a plan in place.

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