Obert Mpofu: Sanctions affecting strategic road construction. The economic embargo led to the abrupt abandonment of many mega-Western funded projects at a time when the Government was financially incapacitated to complete them. Multi-million-dollar road infrastructure development programmes were underway and some of the roads were left at different stages of reconstruction after they were destroyed by Cyclone Eline in 2000.
The economic sanctions imposed on the country under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) of 2001 affected major infrastructural development projects in the country, among them the strategic road construction.
The cyclone left the country’s road infrastructure littered with potholes while bridges were swept away leaving most roads, both major and minor, completely impassable especially during the rainy season.
In Matabeleland Provinces the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road, Bulawayo-Kezi and Bulawayo-Tsholotsho roads were some of the roads that tell the sad tale of the evil effects of sanctions as their reconstruction was affected by the embargo and up to now — almost two decades later, the roads are still in their unfinished state although the Government has of late been working on them.
These roads have become death traps and no longer belong to the modern road infrastructure era as they still represent relics of the gone-by colonial period where traffic from major cities to tributary and outlying district centres was minimal as cars belonged to the elitist whites. They are still single lane and are chequered with patches of tar and potholes of different sizes and depth.
Former Matabeleland North Governor who is now the Zanu-PF Secretary for Administration Cde Obert Mpofu told Sunday News in a telephone interview that the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road and the Bulawayo-Tsholotsho Road were affected by sanctions as partners pulled out before the work was complete.
He said it was simply the height of ignorance to say sanctions were targeted arguing that those who say so were suffering from serious political amnesia.
“It needs no genius to understand that sanctions are real and are not affecting those in Zanu-PF only as has been argued in some circles. Sanctions cut across the entire economic spectrum, isolating the country and making doing business with the international community not only difficult but impossible.
“I remember the Nkayi Road was being constructed by a company from Italy but it pulled out. Then there was another from Turkey that also pulled out after the US imposed sanctions on us. A lot of other projects that were underway were affected and some of them are still in that state as the Government has no money to complete the work.
“We only did a 40km stretch of the Nkayi Road before the contractors pulled out. A number of other roads were affected too. The Byo-Kezi Road, Plumtree-Lupane via Tsholotsho and many others were affected. We are happy that the Government is working on them now,” said Cde Mpofu.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Cde Joel Biggie Matiza said the Bulawayo-Nkayi and Bulawayo-Tsholotsho roads were two major projects that have seen so many false kick-offs, much stalling, due to sanctions falling under the US$250 million availed by Treasury out of a total US$5 billion required to put the country’s road network in shape.
He said work on the ground points to a serious intention to re-establish the trafficability of most of the country’s roads. “Through the fiscus, an amount of US$252 million has already been availed to the department of roads for the road development programme, targeting to re-establish a proper road network in the country to enhance movement of people, goods and services.
“The Bulawayo-Tsholotsho and Bulawayo-Nkayi roads are among the projects that benefited from the money released by Treasury and I am sure work is already underway,” said Minister Matiza. Some of the targeted roads in Matabeleland include provincial roads such as Gwanda-Maphisa, Maphisa-Mphoengs, Gwanda-Guyu-Manama-Tuli, Ingwingwisi Bridge, Dete-Binga and Binga-Karoi road.
Cde Mpofu said that the US sanctions were not targeted, but instead were comprehensive and economic in nature since they have adverse effects on the economy and the welfare of the entire population could be proved through reference to Zidera itself.
The Act states among other issues that the US intends to influence change of behaviour in the Government of Zimbabwe by preventing the IMF and the International Development Association (IDA), among other International Financial Institutions, from extending financial support to Zimbabwe.
According to Section 4(c) of Zidera titled “Multilateral Financial Restrictions,” until the President of the United States makes the certification described in subsection 4(d), the Secretary of the Treasury Executive to each of the International Financial Institutions must oppose or vote against: “(i) an extension by the respective institutions of any loan, credit or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe. (ii) Any cancellation or reduction of indebtedness owed by the Government of Zimbabwe to the United States or any International Financial Institution”.
Provisions of Zidera therefore confirm that US sanctions against Zimbabwe do have economic elements that inevitably contribute to the country’s economic collapse.
Deputy Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Cde Edgar Moyo weighed in saying sanctions have had a huge impact on Zimbabwe’s education sector.
He said sanctions have led to the mass exodus of teachers from public schools, caused by poor remuneration endangering the opportunity of children from poor family backgrounds to acquire education, since they cannot afford the fees at private schools or travel abroad for education.
Sanctions have put to naught the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recommendations that primary education should be compulsory and free and should be made available and accessible to every child.
“Sanctions have led to brain drain in the education sector where Maths and Science areas are the hardest hit. They talk about the DRC war because the US had interests and they slow down economic activity. Teaching material is now hard to come by and parents are struggling to pay fees,” said Cde Moyo who is also the Member of Parliament for Matobo North.
Furthermore, sanctions affected support programmes provided by foreign donors to Zimbabwe’s educational sector. For example, the Swedish government in 1996 established the Education Sector Support Programme, which was funded to the tune of 95 million SEK. The programme supplied textbooks and other educational materials to Zimbabwe schools. It also constructed school buildings and promoted gender equality in educational systems in Zimbabwe, bridging the gender disparity in schools but was withdrawn after the EU imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe.
The suspension of this project by the Swedish government has a significant negative impact on the beneficiaries. Affected families are now left with the responsibility of providing school materials for their children, even under the terrible economic situations prevailing in their country. It is therefore evident that it is the civilian population that is hit hardest as their basic rights and well-being are subjected to multi-faceted danger.
It remains to be seen what the US and EU will do after Sadc on Friday sent a clear message during the anti-sanctions solidarity march.
Source – Sunday News
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