November 7, 2013
The US and British administrations have insisted that sanctions against Zimbabwe are targeted against President Robert Mugabe and his henchmen. They claim that the sanctions were put in place to force free and fair elections and to enforce the regime to respect human rights and the rule of law. On the other hand, the Zimbabwean government insists that the sanctions are economic in nature and are intended to change the regime in Zimbabwe to one that is more acceptable to the White House and 10 Downing Street.
Recent reports that the leading mobile company, Econet Wireless, is being negatively impacted by the Western sanctions are clear indications that there is more to the sanctions than what the West would like us to believe.
According to the Zimbabwe Herald, Econet Wireless invested US$1.2 Billion since its inception 15 years ago. Econet Wireless could have done a lot more for the community had it not been for the biting economic sanctions. The Econet Wireless Chief Executive, Douglas Mboweni, was quoted as saying that the company was working under "very difficult environment" because of the Western sanctions.
It only follows that the ability of Enonet Wireless and all other companies in Zimbabwe to positively contribute to the growth of the economy is negatively impacted. Moreover, when important ICT companies like Econet Wireless are slowed down by sanctions, there is a profound impact on the development of ICTs in Zimbabwe and the consequences can be far reaching.
It is widely believed that ICT is a powerful tool for sustainable economic development throughout the world. African countries have particularly put a lot of effort to develop ICTs to foster economic development. Due in part to Western sanctions, this dream remains a mirage for Zimbabweans. Zimbabwe is lagging far behind other countries such as South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria and as long as sanctions are kept in place, it will be very difficult for Zimbabwe catch up and close the digital divide.
The Obama and the Cameron administrations have been as disingenuous on Zimbabwe sanctions as the Bush and Blair administrations been on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Despite their insistence that only companies affiliated to Robert Mugabe and his henchmen are affected by the sanctions, most companies have failed to attract investment and any other forms of financing due to the existence of sanctions.
Econet Wireless definitely has nothing to do with President Mugabe and his henchmen. On the contrary, the Econet Wireless founder, Strive Masiyiwa had to fight a raging battle with the government to gain the license to operate. If Western claims were genuine, the sanctions should not be affecting Econet Wireless.
President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron have to be reminded that when sanctions bring Zimbabwean companies down, the entire economy suffers and the most vulnerable citizens also suffer. It will be surprising if President Robert Mugabe has ever gone to bed hungry as a result of "targeted" sanctions, but many little children do.