By Hosia Mviringi
This year on the 18th of April Zimbabwe celebrates 40 years of Independence. Our journey since Independence in 1980 has not been very smooth both politically and economically.
In the journey for total economic emancipation Zimbabwe had to take some serious definitive steps which were meant to address some entrenched economic inequalities.
Zimbabwe had to take some bold steps that were meant to dismantle the colonial systems which were glaringly clear in the resource ownership pattern.
This need for a rebalancing of the scales in as far as national resources, natural or otherwise, saw the government of Zimbabwe mobilizing the people and rallying the nation towards such policies as the land reform programme and Indigenization.
Land reform in Zimbabwe, otherwise referred to as the Agrarian reform involved the compulsory acquisition of excess land from former white farmers for redistribution to landless black majority.
This was a necessary programme which came when a larger portion of the black majority became restless in their demands for fair distribution of the primary source of production.
Veterans of the struggle for Independence then led the masses in demand for land. The government, despite having respected the provisions of the Lancaster House agreement, which had put a moratorium on land reform for ten years from Independence day in 1980, was also becoming impatient.
But it was not until the British government as led by Mr Tony Blair had announced, through their then Foreign Ministry undersecretary Clair Short, disowning their obligation to fund land reform in Zimbabwe.
This was the final straw that broke the horse's back. For the government of Zimbabwe there was nothing remaining to stop the unilateral process to acquire the land for resettlement which was mainly in the hands of a few whites of British descent.
The agreement had been broken, hopes shattered and interstate relations at risk. Despite a spirited attempt by the Zimbabwean government the British were adamant that in fact, they were a different government from the one that led the Lancaster House negotiations for Zimbabwe’s independence which was led by Madam Margaret Thatcher.
Ms Clair Short declared that their government was composed of people of varied descents with her being of Irish origin. She then sensationally claimed that she was actually colonized so her government had no obligation towards Colonial crimes and misdeeds of Britain.
As they say, the rest is history. The land reform went ahead in Zimbabwe and in excess of 300000 families got a piece of marble land each.
Regrettably Britain and Zimbabwe had an unprecedented fallout which saw Britain enlisting the support of their American friends at Capitol Hill as well as the greater European Union. Britain successfully convinced the world that the land reform in Zimbabwe was indeed a human rights violation and thus they internationalized a rather bilateral dispute.
The result was that the EU, which included Britain then slapped Zimbabwe with a comprehensive package of Economic Sanctions.
America did the same when their Senate passed the ZIDERA sanctions bill in 2001 at the instigation of the MDC. Zimbabwe was literally thrown into the dark and cold. The country was isolated. It became an outcast on the world arena. All countries shunned Zimbabwe and no one was willing to violate the American embargo and risk equal retaliation.
We all know that with globalization the world has become an interconnected village in which no single country can thrive or at least survive without cooperation and help from the others.
But this is the situation for the Zimbabwean economy. The Zimbabwean economy is in fact a miracle economy.
It has survived from hand to mouth for over two decades without any outside help besides China and Russia. Zimbabwe has faced unprecedented trade barriers where local companies have lost hundreds of millions of US dollars to the American Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) through confiscation of export proceeds or Bank loans.
This economic annihilation to a greater extent inhibited economic growth and affected the Country's ability to service its obligations with international financiers such as the IMF, World Bank and the Paris Club. Consequently, the nation has seen a ballooning debt with these lenders which could take generations to clear. This isolation has seen the country experiencing monumental institutional collapse as the government tried to prioritize its obligations in relation to available resources. The list goes on.
This in short is the history and extent of the effects of Sanctions and resultant International Isolation.
In 2017 Zimbabwe had a smooth transition which was hailed by everyone in the world including those that had or still keep Sanctions on the nation.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over and finished Cde Mugabe's term and in July 2018 a constitutional election took place which President Mnangagwa won resoundingly with an emphatic two thirds parliamentary majority.
When President Mnangagwa took his oath to serve, he made International re-engagement top of his list. He recognized then, as he still does today, that Zimbabwe’s problem is not economic but it is precisely related to the nation's International relations component of its Foreign Policy.
President ED Mnangagwa did not waste time but he immediately hit the ground running to make sure that he reconnects Zimbabwe to the world again.
President Mnangagwa has visited almost all geopolitical regions of the world and he has emphasized the need to sit down and talk matters over. He has met all influential leaders of the world and has consistently preached the gospel of reconciliation and re-engagement.
This has culminated in the much publicized ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra. The President himself as Chief Diplomat has been very visible and audible in the marathon to rebrand the country. The indigenization policy has been repealed to allow flow of capital into and out of the country and more importantly to grant freedom to establish businesses without mandatory partnership with locals.
This has seen Zimbabwe improving its position on the ease of doing business index.
To boost international confidence in the Country's systems Zimbabwe has over the past year cleared its financial obligations with the IMF and current efforts are directed at clearing the World Bank loans.
This has seen the IMF returning to reopen its office in Harare and resume its advisory role. These are tangible fruits of the re-engagement efforts by the nation's government.
Most countries in the 15-member European Union economic block have voted for the easing of economic measures against Zimbabwe and relations have started to normalize with government to government engagement resuming with the region’s major players. Investment is beginning to flow steadily into the country from these nations. A lot of humanitarian assistance has been extended from these countries as a show of thawing relations.
International re-engagement continues to be the major policy thrust that underpins the nation's Vision2030 policy.
Vision2030 can not and will not become a reality if International capital does not flow freely and generously into the Country's major economic sectors such as Mining, Agriculture, Industry, Commerce, Tourism, Energy and Transport. The nation's thrust is on cultivating warm and enduring relations with all nations if the world.
The United States of America still remains as the major obstacle in this endeavor as they continue to keep and renew their Sanctions policy towards Zimbabwe through the ZIDERA bill and the Zimbabwe continues to engage the American authorities to reconsider this piece of legislation.
In recent years Zimbabwe has received high ranking officials of the American government signaling a resumption of government to government communication between the two nations with Hope’s to continue engaging until relations are normalized.