By Byron Mutingwende
A credible, inclusive and comprehensive national dialogue is important for the country’s international re-engagement agenda, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) has said.
Dr Solomon Muqayi, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe speaking at the Second National Economic Dialogue series under the topic “Zimbabwe’s International Re-engagement Agenda: A focus on Sanctions and Land compensation” held at Kentucky Airport Hotel in Harare today said even though there are no clear results, it can be noted that currently there are several national dialogues taking place in Zimbabwe.
“Dialogues include the political parties dialogue, National Youth Dialogue Platforms, National Dialogue of Churches and Civic Society, National Gender Dialogue and National Dialogue with businesses.
“There are various strategies and key issues to make dialogue a success. One strategy is consultation whereby the dialogue will be meant to work for the people so there is need to consult Zimbabweans in their entirety. The dialogue won’t work without consultations and grassroots participation. Therefore dialogue should be inclusive where we bring all relevant stakeholders to take part. Impartiality in dialogue means fairness and justice should prevail,” Dr Muqayi said.
He emphasised that for successful dialogue, there should be a reputable panel of mediators with international experience to promote fairness.
The issue of sanctions also emerged as a factor that is stalling Zimbabwe’s social and economic development prospects.
Speaking about the issue at the event, Dr. Phineas Kadenge, a Senior Lecturer and Former Chairperson of the Department of Economics at the University of Zimbabwe alluded to the economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union on Zimbabwe.
“Initially the those who imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe cited economic mismanagement, undemocratic practices and the costly deployment of troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The rationale for imposing sanctions by the US and EU was purportedly to cause improvement of democracy, promotion of human rights and enhancement of the rule of law,” Dr. Kadenge said.
On the other hand, the government of Zimbabwe argues that targeted sanctions served to bring about regime change and sabotage the potential success of the land reform programme.
The academic said Zimbabwe is facing targeted unilateral and multilateral sanctions imposed by the US and EU. The targeted sanctions include financial, travel, commodity boycotts and arms embargoes.
“The impacts of the sanctions are multi-faceted. They have resulted in migration of health professionals. The Government of Zimbabwe is unable to access funds from donors. Applications for funding HIV/AIDS programmes (prevention and treatment) from the Global Fund were denied. The Swedish Government Health Initiative was suspended following EU sanctions. This has resulted in the occurrences of medieval diseases like cholera, typhoid and diarrhea as well as the acute shortages of drugs and equipment to use in public hospitals.
“Sanctions also resulted in the closure of public rural schools. In 2009 about 94 percent of public schools in rural Zimbabwe were closed due to the inability of government to fund public schools. There was a massive exodus of teachers from public schools due to poor remuneration. The Swedish Government’s Education Sector Support Programme which supplied textbooks, constructed schools and promoted gender equality in educational systems in Zimbabwe was suspended.”
Dr. Kadenge also said the West discouraged tourists to visit Zimbabwe since it was deemed to be lawless and not safe after white farmers were killed during the land reform programme. Numerous travel advisory warnings were issued by US and EU, warning tourists to stay away from Zimbabwe or for them to visit at their own risk. Travel insurance cover for anyone who was coming to Zimbabwe was removed or premiums were raised for anyone wishing to proceed even in the face of the warnings. Bad publicity led to the decline in tourist arrivals and a reduction in tourism contribution to GDP and employment.
Multilateral financial institutions cannot extend or reschedule loans to Zimbabwe without the approval of the US. Zimbabwe is unable to apply for debt cancellation. This has resulted in acute shortage of forex and basic commodities.
The OFAC continues to fine local banks and companies violating the guidelines in the EO 13288. For example, in 2018 CBZ and Standard Chartered Zimbabwe were fined for breaching OFAC rules. Other foreign banks such as those in South Africa blocked US dollar exports to Zimbabwe in fear of being fined by OFAC.
“However, there has been reasonable progress in addressing the concerns made. This includes to move to compensate former commercial white farmers through the Transitional Stabilisation Programme and the National Budget. There is also marked improvement in the conduct of elections. Through the implementation of the Motlanthe Commission Recommendations, government will promote political tolerance, accountable leadership, electoral reforms and enforcement of rule of law and order. Other reforms include the repeal of Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).
“This demonstrates the determination to pursue meaningful reform agenda thereby paving way for opening up of democratic space and enjoyment of freedoms and rights,” Dr. Kadenge added.
Mr. Walter Chambati from the Sam Moyo Institute of Agrarian Studies said consensus is required to define how best to address the outstanding land compensation issue and to address the contentious issue of valuation.
“The dialogue should explore various methods for land valuations. Dialogue must also reflect on the usefulness of the current replacement cost method taking into account the cost of depreciation to undertake land valuations. Government valuators claim that some of the land values and fixed improvements entailed government subsidies. This issue must be discussed to see as to how it would affect prices, and whether it can be meaningfully used to discount the current market values.
“The examination of different approaches and producing land compensation and valuation scenarios, through an iterative process involving stakeholder consultation, will guide the research as to what options to propose. In computing the land valuations, careful attention must be paid to the fact that the various farms compulsorily acquired by the government are differentiated in terms of their character,” Mr. Chambati said.