Zimbabwe: Cyclone Idai, Sanctions and Capitalism

Published on 9th April 2019

About a month ago Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique were devastated by a tropical cyclone which has been described as one of the worst disasters ever to strike the southern hemisphere. Approximately 2.6 million people were affected in the three countries.

Cyclone Idai hit the Mozambican port city of Beira with winds up to 170km/ph., it then proceeded into inland Zimbabwe and Malawi, flattening buildings and took more than 1000 people and others unaccounted for across the countries. Torrential rainfall washed away road networks in Zimbabwe. The United Nations called it possibly the worst ever weather related disaster to hit the southern hemisphere.

The West is to blame largely for climatic changes that cause natural and environmental disasters. Poverty, which is a result of the diabolic and pernicious economic sanctions, has made the poor to build poor and weak structures which do not withstand the heavy winds and storms.

The economic prescriptions of the IMF and World Bank has forced countries like Zimbabwe to reduce their budgets on social services as they wish to impress and attract investors and credit lines in line with the neoliberal path which the country has embarked on. Sanitation, emergency services, disease outbreak prevention are poorly resourced hence the loss of lives.

From the statistics of the past, natural disasters in poor counties like Haiti and New Orleans have the highest death tolls compared to rich countries. The Civil Protection Unit of Zimbabwe developed the National Flood Plan Management framework which is not fully implemented due to resource scarcity. Very little budget is allocated for disaster management.

The Donald Trump Administration and EU have extended their sanctions on Zimbabwe despite its reforms and capitulation to neoliberal dictates in the form of austerity measures.This means Zimbabwe must brace for further economic turmoil because of the renewal of sanctions. To further exacerbate the situation, Zimbabwe is facing drought and trying to recover from the gory effects of tropical cyclone Idai which has killed many and displaced thousands. The entire infrastructure of Zimbabwe is a disaster.

If Zimbabwe was not under sanctions, its response to Cyclone Idai could have been much better. By imposing sanctions, the US is deliberately out to harm the people of Zimbabwe. Every nation under US sanctions has failing healthcare, dwindling government coffers, failed service delivery, food and basics shortages to the extent that Iran took the US to the International Court of Justice where in October 2018, the ICJ ruled that US must stop restricting medical and basic supplies to Iran. What is the impact of ICJ ruling on Zimbabwe’s medical system?

Tropical cyclone brings vital lessons, it’s a stark reminder of the deadly effects of greenhouse effect. The hotter world means more damaging cyclones because they draw their energy from the oceans. The hotter the ocean, the more powerful the cyclones will be. Hotter oceans and melting ice caps also mean a rise in ocean levels.  This means cyclones spin faster, do more damage and have more energy as they get into the interior. Governments are failing to take climate change seriously. It is a threat to humanity and its environment.

The inequalities within the poor global south are caused by the economic systems of the rich North. The legacy of colonialism and apartheid still manifest in most of the African and third world countries. This has adversely hampered human development and economic development. The poor and the working class in these poor countries must push for climate justice. The global North are the biggest culprits in environmental degradation and carbon emissions.  This is what is causing natural disasters.

The rich countries have early warning systems and disaster management and preparedness technologies. Poor countries like Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique bear the brunt of the effects of natural disasters with the biggest number of casualties.

The West must give poor nations debt relief and allow then to chart their economic path using their own natural resources. Zimbabwe at independence adopted the Rhodesian debt whose money was used kill the black people in their quest for freedom and self-determination. South Africa also adopted the Apartheid debt which it is still paying to this day, money that was used to oppress Africans with impunity.

Rich countries can help put up flood defenses, initiate social services and invest in appropriate technology. African countries have the capacity to stand on their own if they are allowed to chart their independent path.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) which is assessing the damage on food crops estimates that about 200 000 Zimbabweans will need urgent food aid for the next three months. Most of the food aid which is provided on humanitarian grounds is genetically modified which pause a serious health risk to the local people.

Because of the rapacious nature of a skewed economic system which has no regard for the environment, we are now confronted with an environmental crisis that threatens to undermine the basis of civilization and survival of human species. Global climate change is potentially the most catastrophic and symptoms of the crisis. There is now a global consensus that the emission of greenhouse gases is caused by use of fossil fuels which global capitalism has relied upon as the main source of energy supply. Global temperatures are precariously rising.

China is now the biggest player in the global capitalist economy and it has overtaken the US as the biggest carbon emission emitter. China and US combined account for 40% of the global emissions of carbon dioxide worldwide. If the levels of emission do not subside, the world will experience extreme floods, drought, storms, disappearance of the Arctic ice cap, dramatic cuts in food yields and the drying out of the Amazon rainforest.

The world needs an alternative economic system that values social equity, justice and environmental sustainability. Today, environmentalist topics are addressed with short term political objectives in mind. Many organizations and political parties are pretending to fight global warming without any practical result. Real polluters are deliberately diversional. They are asking citizens to dispose plastic materials into different waste bins and stop buying cotton buds from supermarkets because they are terrible source of pollution. Billions of tonnes of oil finds its way into the China Sea, while a citizens throw three cotton buds into the wrong bin. Are we going to save this planet through these everyday actions? I believe it’s a claptrap.

While many politicians, world leaders and big corporations speak about the future effects of climate change, poor and impoverished nations are already struggling to battle the consequences of rising global temperatures. It is already happening.

Ordinary citizens are not the root cause of climate change. The skewed global economic order is the biggest culprit .Lets save our environment and nature.

By Mafa Kwanisai Mafa.


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