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Youths scoff at anti-sanctions propaganda
Francis Rwodzi
April 13, 2011

Youth leaders, civil society and political activists in Zimbabwe have scoffed at the anti-sanctions crusade that is being propped up by Zanu PF which climaxed with a petition campaign launch and outreach that is chaired by Zanu PF second secretary, John Nkomo.

The New Age Voices visited several high density suburbs on the day of the launch and saw that shop owners and roadside traders had been forced to close shop and attend the launch.

Some residents who spoke to The New Age Voices said that many people in their areas failed to report for work while others got into town late for fear of being hauled into trucks and buses that were ferrying people to the event.

At the launch, Zanu PF leader President Robert Mugabe unleashed a tirade against his arch rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai accusing him of inviting sanctions at the Harare show grounds which was attended by Zanu PF supporters, sympathizers and thousands others who were force marched to the venue by marauding youths.

However, Youth organizations have poured scorn at the anti-sanctions rhetoric that the party has been feeding into the state media saying that it is sheer deception that is meant to mislead the nation ahead of general elections expected later this year.

Youth leaders and civil society activists who spoke to The New Age Voices accused Zanu PF of trying to hide their failure over the years to bring a solution to the country's problems on non-existent sanctions.

Coordinator of the Students Solidarity Trust (SST) Masimba Nyamanhindi said that Zanu PF wanted to divert people's attention from the real issues affecting them by employing the blame game tactic which has been their hallmark ever since.

"I am of the opinion that this sanctions mantra is just a blame game by Zanu PF, whereby they are attempting to identify anyone and anything other than themselves, to blame for the political and economic malaise that we find ourselves in as a country.

"They are trying to play victim when they are the aggressors who have put sanctions on the people they are supposed to lead," said Nyamanhindi.

Youth Agenda Trust Coordinator and Board member of the Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC) Arnold Chamunogwa said, "Sanctions have become an albatross on the peoples' struggle as they have stood at the road to democracy in Zimbabwe. Zanu PF has found a smokescreen to shield its crimes committed against the people and justify its looting and plundering of national resources.

"Zanu PF has intensified its war against the people and this has been guised as a "war against sanctions". It is young people who have been causalities of Zanu PF's "war against sanctions". It is therefore important for both the local political leadership and international community to make meaningful steps aimed towards removal of sanctions. The restoration of human rights and dignity is definitely a pre requisite and when such reforms begin the international community should also make steps towards reengagement," Chamunogwa said.

National Constitution Assembly (NCA) press and liaison officer and former Zinasu spokesperson Blessing Vava castigated Mugabe and Zanu PF of trying to fool people into believing that travel restrictions imposed on his inner circle are sanctions.

He said that the party's bigwigs had been used to squandering tax payers money through endless expeditions in the west and so cannot stomach the EU restrictions.

"Mugabe and his cronies have caused untold suffering to the people of Zimbabwe and therefore they deserve to be put on sanctions and now they want to pretend as if the sanctions are economic when it is an open secret that they are travel restrictions.

"However, they have managed to dupe many into buying their propaganda blaming the failure of government programs to sanctions. They have been enjoying the comfort of their children learning in overseas universities at the expense of taxpayers," Vava said.

Youth Forum said that these sanctions were called for by Mugabe himself. "We believe Zimbabwe should not become a cry baby and blame everything on sanctions. Ian Smith managed to 'bypass' real sanctions and not these that Zanu PF is bickering about.

"It is also funny that Mugabe, who once shouted for the whole World to hear, 'So Blair keep your England and I will keep my Zimbabwe', is the one who is crying foul on sanctions. The West is simply doing what Mugabe called for. Let us not lose focus on important issues and concentrate on the so-called sanctions.

"Are the sanctions responsible for the closure of UZ halls of residence? Are they responsible for the violence rocking Harare, lack of media reform and the non functional human rights commission?" asked Youth Forum.

In an interview with The New Age Voices, Political analyst and activist Promise Mkwananzi said that it was important for the West to keep perpetrators of human rights abuses under tight check.

"I think that there is a need to maintain a ban on the individuals who have been at the forefront of perpetrating human rights violations in Zimbabwe. Secondly, the sanctions have been instigated by Zanu PF top officials who have continued to behave in a manner that bastardizes the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

"I urge Zanu PF officials on the sanctions list to expedite the full implementation of the GPA leading to the conducting of free and fair elections whose outcome will be respected. This way the Zanu PF officials will remove themselves from the sanctions list.

"Ray Kaukonde is a classic example of a Zanu PF leader who condemned violence and was removed from the list, he can now trade freely, others should follow suit," Mkwananzi said.

Political analyst with pro-democracy Institute Idasa Sydney Masamvu argues that the two recent calls by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Ian Khama of Botswana are an attempt "to be politically correct". "These leaders know that right now there is a need for a compromise between the EU, the US, SA and the whole SADC region," he said.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Programmes manager Pedzisai Ruhanya says the latest calls are an attempt to "redeem an illegitimate regime". "We have a serious problem with SADC, they do not seem to understand that Mugabe has put internal sanctions on the country through murder, torture and kidnapping.

"As I speak to you right now, I do not know what will happen to me within the next hour, there is no freedom of expression here," Ruhanya was quoted as saying in Business Day of South Africa.

In a statement on its website, the British Embassy said that the European Union has had a series of restrictive measures in place on Zimbabwe since 2002, an arms embargo, a travel ban and an assets freeze targeted at a list of individuals and entities responsible for human rights abuses, disregard for the rule of law and undermining democratic freedoms.

The Embassy said that the measures had no impact on the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.

"The EU has also consistently made clear that the measures would be reviewed at any time in response to genuine reform and respect for international norms," said the Embassy.

Francis Rwodzi is a journalist based in Harare and the Editor of The New Age Voices

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