I was invited to participate in BBCWorld Service ‘Africa have your say’ call-in programme to discuss Zuma’s request to Gordon Brown that sanctions be lifted. I was given 30 seconds very near the end of the programme, and I handled it poorly. This post is to make up for it :)

Africa have your say

I have blogged about Zimbabwe here before. the bbc programme was prompted by Jacob Zuma’s official visit to the UK, and his request for the lifting of Zimbabwe’s sanctions.

Gordon Brown said Britain’s stance would be reconsidered only if the Zimbabwean commissions for human rights, press freedom and free and fair elections were allowed to operate unhindered.

My initial comment was that lifting sanctions now, when so little has been achieved in the year-old unity government, would send the message that ZanuPF can carry on as usual after token changes and regional (SADC) pressure.

Unity governments

I have previously talked about what I call the ‘Kenyan disease’ - the experiment by the African Union to fix an irretrievably flawed election by a Unity government composed of the major parties. After this was tried again in zimbabwe, i think it can be said that the experiment is a failure.

DidymusMutasa was at the BBC studio to answer callers and present the government line (lift sanctions. There were other invited callers to the BBC programme, in particular John Robertson, a Zimbabwean economist I have read for a few years. His single point was that Zanu-PF have reduced the size of the economy by destroying its largest industry, agriculture, and that Zimbabwe can no longer pay their way in the world. He says that the sanctions call is a ploy by Zanu-PF to blame Zimbabwe’s economic woes on their traditional bete noir - the West, in particular Britain and the US.

Near the end of the programme I was added in, and asked - “if sanctions don’t work, what should be done?” I fluffed the answer, as I had little time and was not expecting the question.


Sanctions have been in place for two years or more, and have not brought about the hoped-for changes, so, indeed, what should be done? After a little thought, I believe the answer mustlie with the SADC

  • an inter-governmental organization of 15 southern African states. The most powerful country, by far, among these is South Africa, with president Jacob Zuma - the very person asking for the sanctions to be lifted.

Zuma has been lauded as a listening president. However, at some point, a president must make a decision, inevitably disappointing one of the parties. He and the SADC must acknowledge the limitations of the Unity government they foisted on Zimbabwe after the failure of the 2008 presidential elections, and recognise the ploy exposed by John Robertson.

Zanu-PF intransigence

Zanu-PF must be called to book. The MDC’s call for equitable power sharing must be recognised. There is little more press freedom than a year ago - despite agreements. The same can be said for freedom of association. The arrangement was for government post to be shared equally. After the uncomfortable Unity government agreement, Zanu-PF sliced the pie. The MDC said at the time - if the pie is sliced equally, we can take either half, right? Zanu-PF scoffed at that - they knew which half they wanted.

These are all SADC problems.

Read the Guardian for another point of view.