The European Union recently lifted its 12 year sanctions regime on the Zimbabwe, but the question remains what this means for the African nation.
The sanctions discourse has become central to the political discourse in Zimbabwe, characterised by exaggeration from the government side, while the response from the opposition and civil society has been mute or outright denial.
What is central to this debate is that Zimbabweans failed to have an honest and earnest debate on the extent and the effects of sanctions.
The EU, the opposition and civil society maintain the sanctions were only on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle, while the government insists that the sanctions were quite broad and affected the generality of the country.
In a country where it difficult, nay impossible, to separate truth, propaganda and fiction, it is not possible to know who is telling the truth and who is lying.
While it is undeniable that there are a number of Zimbabweans, who are not connected to Mugabe or his inner circle, who have been affected by the sanctions, it remains debatable what effect they have had on the country
That 12 years since the sanctions were first imposed we continue to have this debate is an indication that as a country we have not thrashed out the issue of sanctions and politicians use them to whip up emotions for their own selfish ends.
Without doubt, sanctions have or had become a red herring, a ready-made excuse for the governing elite for their failures.
Every ill that the country faces, from corruption to lack of service delivery to non-accountability and maybe even the weather, is blamed on sanctions.
The government seems to have folded its hands and allowed the country’s economic and political situation to deteriorate in the knowledge that they will blame it on sanctions.
Where sanctions were supposed to foster a patriotic backlash and entrepreneurial spirit among Zimbabweans, they instead cultivated laziness, unaccountability, greed and theft from the elite.
While for some the removal of sanctions and EU’s direct engagement with the government in budget support, may be seen as a reason to celebrate, the truth is nothing will change and we will continue blaming the west for imposing “evil illegal sanctions”, as President Mugabe is wont to say.
Mugabe has used sanctions as an excuse not to engage with opposition parties and this is not about to change soon, considering that the United States has its own regime of measures targeted at Mugabe.
Until the American sanctions have been removed and until Mugabe is allowed to travel to the west unimpeded, the sanctions debate will not end and the government will continue having an excuse for its failures.