PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has condemned British Foreign Secretary David Miliband remarks regarding EU sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe saying the comments were “unhelpful” and likely to complicate the political situation in the country.
Miliband unwittingly strengthened President Robert Mugabe’s hand in the ongoing political dispute with his rivals by suggesting EU sanctions would continue against Zimbabwe until Tsvangirai called for their removal.
Zanu PF has since demanded that the MDC leader call for the removal of the sanctions.
President Mugabe’s party, further, vowed not to make any more concessions in the ongoing dialogue over full implementation of the coalition agreement the parties signed in September 2008 until the sanctions are lifted.
And, as pressure over the issue increases, Tsvangirai told reporters in the Swiss ski resort of Davos where he was attending meetings of the World Economic Forum that Miliband’s comments were ill-conceived and badly timed especially as the country's feuding politicians battle to bridge differences over their power-sharing pact.
He said he had told Miliband during a meeting in Davos that his comments could further complicate the situation in the country.
"I did draw to his attention that his comment was unfortunate, it was uncalled for, because what it literally meant was that the MDC has to accept liability for any restrictions that have been placed on the country, rather than that it is the mis-governance and the failed policies that caused the European Union and the rest of the world to take those punitive measures," Tsvangirai told reporters.
His deputy, Arthur Mutambara, who leads the other MDC formation and was also in Davos took a much more robust position.
Tsvangirai said while he did not support Mutambara's strong language, he emphasised to the British envoy that the comments could easily complicate the political battle over how Zimbabwe should be governed.
The MDC-T leader said a general political agreement must be reached at the ongoing power-sharing talks before he could call for western nations to lift their sanctions, which include travel bans on top officials and some curbs on Zimbabwean companies.
This is clearly happening with regard to sanctions that have been imposed on Zimbabwe by Western countries, which have caused massive suffering on the innocent and defenceless citizens during the last decade. As if this is not enough, these sanctions have now become the single biggest threat to the life of Zimbabwe’s inclusive government.
The current tiff between partners in the inclusive government - ZANU-PF and MDC – is clearly a result of untruths that have been perpetuated over time.
The inclusive government, which will be one year old in two weeks time, has been hanging by a thread ever since its inception because of endless squabbles. These contretemps led to the near-collapse of the shaky power-sharing government on October 16, 2009 when MDC pulled out, only to be coaxed back by an urgent SADC summit on November 5.
Since then, the country’s leaders have been negotiating to deal with a host of outstanding issues to the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that bore the coalition, with ZANU- PF's main concerns being the removal of sanctions and the closure of foreign based radio stations beaming into Zimbabwe.
The MDC's list of outstanding issues include the “controversial” appointments of Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, Attorney General Johannes Tomana, the country's ten provincial governors and the perceived persecution of Tsvangirai's close aide Roy Bennett, who is pending being sworn in as deputy agriculture minister. Before the parties took a break from the negotiations, there appeared to be a breakthrough on the talks as parties covered a lot of ground, clearing most of the issues of the 27-item agenda. The negotiators appeared to be within reach of an ultimate resolution of the issues which have been creating conflict in this shaky coalition until British foreign secretary David Miliband told the truth about the sanctions.
The talks have now been thrown into chaos. They have taken a dramatic turn for the worst after last week’s revelations by Miliband that the EU would only remove sanctions on Zimbabwe at MDC’s request.
Here is what Miliband said while addressing the House of Commons last Tuesday:
“I agree that numerous aspects of the situation in Zimbabwe are of deep concern. It is right to say that, over the past year, the economic situation has changed in a quite fundamental way, although it is not quite right to refer to the detention of Roy Bennett as a continued threat to him through a legal case. In respect of sanctions, we have made it clear that they can be lifted only in a calibrated way, as progress is made. I do not think that it is right to say that the choice is between lifting all sanctions and lifting none at all. We have to calibrate our response to the progress on the ground, and, above all, to be guided by what the MDC says to us about the conditions under which it is working and leading the country. A range of EU sanctions is in place. Some of them refer to individuals, others to so-called parastatal organisations. Different sanctions have been brought in at different points, and different sanctions are the responsibility of different ministries in the Zimbabwean system. I believe that EU sanctions have helped to send a strong message, and that they have had a practical effect without hurting the Zimbabwean people, which would have been a sanction too far.”
Miliband had been asked by North-West Norfolk member of parliament, Henry Bellingahm whether he agreed that sanctions should not be lifted until the arrest of MDC treasurer Roy Bennet and concerns about human rights were addressed.
All along, the MDC has been untruthful and insincere about their role in the sanctions against Zimbabwe by the US and the EU. They have maintained that they have no role in the removal of sanctions. The US and EU have also been untruthful and insincere about the effects of the sanctions. They have maintained that the only sanctions in place are “targeted” at the 203 members of President Robert Mugabe’s inner circle, who are only not permitted to travel or do business in Europe and America.
To the contrary, the sanctions have not affected even one of the so-called targeted individuals. After all, they, including President Mugabe still travel to the US and EU. It is clear for all to see that the sanctions have affected the poor and “untargeted”.
Here is how. It is common knowledge that because of sanctions, the US and EU have suspended all forms of balance of payments support, technical assistance, grants and infrastructural development flows to both government and private sectors and stopped all lending operations to the country. Yes, the humanitarian aid comes in and is channelled through US and European NGOs and agencies, not through the government. Is it not because of sanctions?
The shortage of foreign currency resulted in the country accumulating external payment arrears.
Zimbabwe's balance of payments position deteriorated significantly since 2000 from the combined effects of inadequate export performance and reduced capital inflows. According to government figures, foreign exchange reserves declined as a result, from US $830 million or three months import cover in 1996 to less than one month's cover by 2006.
The foreign exchange shortages severely constrained the country's capacity to meet foreign payment obligations and finance critical imports such as drugs, grain, raw materials, fuel and electricity, leading to hunger, closure of hospitals, fuel shortages, power cuts etc.
We, as a newspaper, have been in Zimbabwe for almost three years now and we have not seen any of the so-called targeted people suffering. Instead, we, along with millions of the poor and untargeted people, have had to deal with everyday problems listed above.
The country has had a significant build up in external payments arrears. Total foreign payments arrears increased from US$109 million at the end of 1999 to US$2.5 billion by the end of 2006.The worsening of the country's creditworthiness and its risk profile led to the drying up of sources of external finance.
The withdrawal of the multilateral financial institutions from providing balance of payments support to Zimbabwe also had an effect on some bilateral creditors and donors who have followed suit by either scaling down or suspending disbursements on existing loans to the government and parastatal companies.
Prior to these developments, Zimbabwe was highly rated in the international financial markets.
The capital account, traditionally a surplus account, has been in deficit since 2000. As such, international investors prefer other countries for investment, depriving Zimbabwe of much-needed foreign direct investment.
Sanctions have also affected the image of the country through negative perceptions by the international community. Zimbabwean companies are finding it extremely difficult to access lines of credit. As a result, they have to pay cash for imports.
As a result of the risk premium, the country's private companies have been securing offshore funds at prohibitive interest rates. This has had a ripple effect on employment levels and low capacity utilisation as reflected by the recent shortages of basic goods and services. Declining export performance has also adversely affected the standards of living for the general populace, and because of the deteriorating economic conditions, the country has experienced large scale emigration, especially of skilled labour, thus further straining the economy. As at last year, three million people were estimated to have emigrated. The country recorded 90 per cent unemployment levels.
The sanctions have adversely impacted on Foreign Direct Investment to Zimbabwe. Investors are shying away and FDI inflows have collapsed from US$444.3 million in 1998 to only US$50 million in 2006.
In addition, Anglo-American companies have been strongly discouraged from investing in Zimbabwe by their home governments. This has adversely affected investment levels into the country, thus accentuating the foreign exchange shortages leading to further shortages of fuel and imported raw materials. The shortage of fuel has a domino effect on all sectors of the economy.
All these things are there for all to see. Zimbabweans themselves have opted to move forward and rebuild their country.
But in order for Zimbabwe’s economic recovery to go ahead, these sanctions must be repealed. This is also a call from SADC and the African Union.
The MDC, which entered into a partnership with ZANU-PF, has always maintained it has no influence over the issue insisting removal of the sanctions
The question is, if the MDC has had no role in the sanctions, why would the British government wait on its advice to remove them?
This only plays into what President Mugabe and ZANU-PF have always believed and have said consistently since 2000, that the sanctions came about following a lobby by the MDC and can only be removed following a similar lobby by the same party. This also plays into what President Mugabe has been saying all along, that actually sanctions were never about conditions in Zimbabwe but about an imperialistic agenda.
The MDC has found itself struggling under the weight of the same sanctions. And as long as these sanctions continue to exist they will undermine the position of the MDC in the unity government. They have been left exposed by Miliband. ZANU-PF can continue to point that the “MDC campaigned for these sanctions, it is their fault this has occurred and we will not implement our side of the GPA reforms until the MDC ask Britain or and the United States to lift these sanctions that these countries campaigned for.” For Miliband to come out and then say we will take the cue from the MDC; we will wait for the MDC to tell us when to lift them; this is what President Mugabe has been saying all along. So Britain has to conduct itself very, very carefully with regard to the GPA in Zimbabwe particularly to sanctions.
US President Barack Obama is also demonstrating unhelpful double standards by directly negotiating with reclusive regimes in North Korea and Sudan and yet refusing to open direct channels with Zimbabwe.
When he campaigned for presidency, he said he would talk to his enemies unlike George W Bush.
He comes into power and has been seen to be doing this. The diplomatic relations and negotiations are going on with Korea, with Iran, with Al Bashir in Sudan, all these leaders of these countries considered human rights violators. But with Zimbabwe, that direct line between the White House and State House in Zimbabwe has not been re-opened. This only goes to show that there is an iota of vindictiveness against Zimbabwe. The US’s exclusive law on Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) - still remains.
For the interest of progress in Zimbabwe, the sanctions must be removed. There is a stalemate in the inclusive government and, as we have stated before, the sticking point is the issue of sanctions.
However, we think the removal of these sanctions must be a collective effort by all concerned. MDC must play its role. ZANU-PF must play its role. The US and EU must play their role.
MDC must play its role by, according to Miliband, advising Britain to lift the sanctions. ZANU-PF must also play its role by ensuring that conditions that brought about the sanctions are done away with. Political violence, human rights abuses and violent farm disruptions, repressive laws, which were reasons advanced by the West for imposing sanctions, must end completely. All agreed reforms must take place. ZANU-PF must realise that these sanctions are not entirely MDC’s baby.
The GPA does not in any way give the obligation of dealing with the restrictive measures on the MDC alone. It is a collective effort in the GPA between ZANU-PF and MDC in the context and within the aegis of the inclusive government.
The US and EU must play their role by removing the sanctions, letting Zimbabweans solve their own problems.
As long as sanctions remain, the inclusive government will not function smoothly. This means that the necessary constitution, political and economic reforms that are necessary to usher free and fair election within the 24 to 36-month lifespan of the inclusive government will not take place. It also means there will be no free and fair elections even next time around and it will be back to square one.
It will be sad indeed for all these things to happen when everyone concerned knows what to do.
Zimbabwe's "sugar daddies" prefer girls below 16
Poverty in Zimbabwe has forced many young girls to engage in immoral relationships with older men infamously known as "sugar daddies" as a means of eking out a living in a country devastated by extreme deprivation of basic human needs, a month long investigation in the major cities by The Zim Diaspora has discovered.
Our undercover reporters, established during investigations in Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru that many school girls, some as young as 13, were now engaged in sexual relationships with much older men, some in their 70’s.
In some instances, the girls skip classes to engage in short-time sexual encounters with "sugar daddies" in exchange for money. The Zim Diaspora can reveal that these school girls say they indulge in unprotected sexual encounters with men many times their age just for the sake of financial rewards.
Moreso, some orphaned school girls, turn into prostitution as the only way to pay school fees and feed their siblings, while others did it for fun and prestige.
The Zim Diaspora also established that the girls are forced into these relationships due to poverty and peer pressure from fellow school mates. Sugar daddies, as they are known also prefer the young girls who appear unconcerned about protection on account of their tender age and lack of appreciation of the consequences.
An evening stroll along the streets of Harare and Bulawayo shows that the daring sugar daddies and their “catches” no longer try to hide their relationships like what used to happen before.
Most city leisure points such as the one located at the Bulawayo Centre and another at Hartsfield Rugby Grounds have since been shut down due to immoral activities there by "sugar daddies" and the young girls. These centres had since been turned into meeting points for sugar daddies and their younger lovers. The older men frequently brag about their quest for "fresh blood".
The most daring of all was that on New Year’s Eve when a popular city businessman who runs a Car Sale in the city centre engaged in a steamy sexual encounter with a 16-year-old girl on top of the bonnet of his flashy car with a crowd of youths cheering them on.
In separate interviews school girls, who cannot be named for legal reasons, shared similar sentiments - saying they had no option but to surrender their bodies to older men in the light of poverty that has gripped most of their families. They said older man usually gave them money and bought them expensive "gifts" which their parents could not afford.
“It’s not like we love dating older man but many a times we are left with no choice as our parents cannot afford to give us enough money to cater for our needs. In most cases you find that we are given 10 rands for transport only and they expect us to spend the whole day without food. I cannot die of hunger when I know that someone can help in return of sexual favours,” said a form four student at Foundation College.
Asked whether they were aware of the dangers associated with dating older men, the girl professed total ignorance.
"I think older men are safer than younger boys because most of older men do not have STIs. In case they contract it, they always make sure that they get immediate treatment," the girl said.
“If the sugar daddy is stingy then we insist on condoms but if he is generous then, in most instances we engage in unprotected sex in line with the greater reward” said a 15-year-old form three pupil at Eveline Girls High.
A 17-year-old Harare Girls High School student said she had in the past 12 months dated four different sugar daddies to ensure that her standard of living was "up to scratch".
"At some stage I double-dated them. This became risky as two of them once clashed at my place. They had come un-announced to pick me up for an evening outing," she said.
The girl added: "Usually these sugar daddies drive the most posh and latest cars. They will also want to parade you to their friends who also in many occasions like dating girls of my age".
Asked if she was doing anything to prevent a possible HIV infection, she said: "HIV is for the unlucky ones, if I contract it then it would be it. It’s part of life".
Asked if she knew about her HIV status, the girl said: "Well as of now I think I am still OK because I don't feel anything and I don't have any symptoms".
A form four boy at Churchill Boys High in Harare said he would not date any girl in Harare because of immoral activities he has seen in the city centre.
"I honestly would not date any girl around the city. I am just waiting to join my parents in London next year; then I can start looking for girls there. It is risky here because most of these girls could be HIV positive," the boy said.
A school in Gweru reported a 14-year-old girl who went missing for five days only to turn up with a 45-year-old man whom she had moved in with.Cases of young girls living with men three times their ages are quite common in Gweru, paradoxically mainly those whose parents died due to HIV illness.
One of the sugar daddies who runs a leisure sports centre at the corner of Robert Mugabe Way and Leopold Takawira Street said dating younger girls in Zimbabwe was now associated with prestige and class. Above all, he said there was a belief that sleeping with young girls made a man look younger and helped fight certain old age diseases.
“We very much love our wives at home and we appreciate that they are the mothers of our kids but honestly speaking who would want to be seen with an older woman when you can get yourself a sweet sixteen.
“And on many occasions they are the ones who approach us and as you know the nature of men, we cannot resist when it comes to ladies,” said the businessman.