If countries under much tougher economic sanctions prospering, why is Zimbabwe failing? 

It has become a tired and lame excuse, but the ZANU PF government still seems intent on hiding its perennial economic mismanagement and incompetence behind imaginary economic sanctions supposedly imposed on Zimbabwe by Western countries.

Source: If countries under much tougher economic sanctions prospering, why is Zimbabwe failing? – The Zimbabwean

Tendai Ruben Mbofana


It is common knowledge that these so-called sanctions are nothing more than targeted travel restrictions, asset freezes, and a ban on business transactions aimed at the riling elite, and a few others fingered in human rights abuses, corruption, and electoral fraud – whose impact can never seriously bring an entire nation to its knees.

Nonetheless, for the purpose of this discourse, let us hypothetically assume that what was imposed by these Western countries were truly economic sanctions – just for argument’s sake.

There are countries in this world that have also had economic sanctions imposed on them by the West, and yet have performed significantly very well.

A case in point is Iran, which has had economic sanctions imposed on it by the United States of America (USA) since 1979, after the invasion of its embassy in the capital Tehran, during the historic Islamic Revolution.

Additionally, it has had very severe sanctions progressively imposed on it by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), since July 31, 2006 – as a result of its uranium enrichment programme, which the international community suspected was aimed at subsequently developing nuclear weapons.

It is actually on record that the UNSC sanctions imposed on Iran were the toughest the global community has ever imposed on any country.

This is shown by the number of UNSC sanctions-related resolutions passed on Iran since 2006, which total eight.

Since the July 31, 2006 UNSC resolution 1696, there have been resolutions 1737 (23 December 2006), 1747 (24 March 2007), 1803 (3 March 2008), 1835 (2008), 1929 (9 June 2010), 1984 (2 June 2011), and 2049 (7 January 2012).

Furthermore, soon after the 1979 revolution, Iran was attacked by the then US-backed Iraq led by Sadaam Hussein, in an 8-year war that wrecked havoc on the Islamic Republic’s already fragile economy.

The years of these most restrictive economic sanctions ever imposed on any country came to a brief end in 2015, after the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with the P5+1 group of countries (the five permanent UNSC members, and Germany).

However, this honeymoon was not to last long, as in May 2018, the Donald Trump USA administration re-imposed the sanctions – accusing the country of non-compliance with the JCPOA.

It is widely believed that – just as the previous batch of sanctions – these were the most severe ever imposed on a country.

These included restrictions on: 50 banks and their subsidiaries; the national airline; over 200 members of the shipping industry and vessels; Iranian oil – with only a few countries exempt, as they agreed to reduce imports dramatically; and atomic energy.

With such a history of severe sanctions, would it not be justified for the Islamic Republic of Iran to be undergoing the worst economic meltdown of any country on the planet?

Would it not make sense if the people of that country were the poorest in the world?

Would it not be justifiable if the Iranian government always blamed the ‘US and her allies’ for the country’s dismal performance?

Yet, the answer is a resounding NO!

In spite of all that Iran has gone through – and is currently going through – the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ranks its economy as the 20th largest in the world,, and 9th in Asia, for 2021.

Its GDP (gross domestic product) for 2021 was at US1.4 trillion, and is expected to increase by US$137 billion this year.

I am even ashamed to mention Zimbabwe’s much-touted 7.4% economic growth for 2021 – which left the country’s GDP at a measly US$22 billion.

Therefore, the Islamic Republic of Iran has put to rest the myth that sanctions can be responsible for a country’s economic non-performance, and even downfall.

The sanctions excuse is just that…an excuse – and nothing else.

Iran has shown us that, no matter what gravity of sanctions are imposed on a country, it can still prosper.

In addition, Zimbabwe is not new to sanctions, as Rhodesia had punitive measures imposed on it by the United Nations (UN) after the 11 November 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) – but, it did not resort to excuses.

The Rhodesians looked inside themselves, instead of outside, and came up with home-grown means of survival – such that, despite a raging liberation war simultaneously being waged, the country’s economy was performing rather well.

In fact, the Rhodesian currency was at par with the US dollar.

So, if sanctions are not the real cause of economic problems affecting Zimbabwe, what is?

Let us go back to the Iran scenario.

According to the 2018 Transparency International corruption perception index, Iran ranks 28 out of 100 countries.

What about Zimbabwe?

In 2020 we were ranked a staggering 150 out of 187!

Need I say more?

Zimbabwe is one of the most corrupt countries in the world – and that is the main reason we are in this economic mess.

Admittedly, there are other factors, such as incompetence, skewed economic policies, extravagance on the part of government, and political instability – but, above all these is CORRUPTION.

Therefore, instead of the Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa regime seeking for foreign-originated causes for our suffering, they would be better advised to look themselves in the mirror, instead.

They have to seriously tackle the rampant corruption in this country, drastically reduce their lust for spending, resolve the political standoff, and implement the constitution to the letter.

This is the same message that should also go to regional and continental bodies – the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and African Union (AU) – instead, of merely parroting the government narrative, they should push for the Zimbabwe authorities to look at themselves first.

The answers to our economic and political problems lie squarely between the Zambezi and the Limpopo rivers – and no where else.

Unless, and until we all appreciate this fact – and stop finding others to blame – this country will continue on its freefall.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: mbofana.tendairuben73@gmail.com


  • comment-avatar

    Tendai Ruben Mbofana you know that Zimbabwe’s economic problems are due to the greedy corrupt government we have. Rhodesia had sanctions, and yet it thrived. Whatever, initiatives the people of Zimbabwe come up with, the government taxes it to death.If the government could find a way to do it, they would impose a tax on every fart and sneeze the people make.

  • comment-avatar
    Ndonga 2 months ago

    Jan, I like your style…And I forgive your your truth about Rhodesia…And my parents will be churning in their graves…

    • comment-avatar

      Ndonga, I am not glorifying the Smith regime, they were racist and oppressive. We are in the current mess partly due to them. They should have started to build a nonracial society, instead of imprisoning the mugabe’s and company. The wealth of what was Rhodesia should have been equitable, instead it was entrenched in the hands of the colonialists. What I was pointing out is that we had a functioning healthcare, the best education system on the African continent. We were Africa’s breadbasket, now we are the basket case. In Rhodesia we sometimes got the crumbs from the table. Now we don’t even get that. We got independence, now we have to get our freedom and true democracy so that we can all prosper as well. I am proud to be a Zimbabwean, but I am angry that we have been betrayed and abused by the very people who claimed they fought for us to be free and to be treated with parity.

  • comment-avatar
    Ndonga 1 month ago

    Tendai, I am assuming that your use of the words “riling elite” in the second line was a typo. However, on reflection it actually describes our government.
    (How I hate to use the word “our” when describing the ZANU PF thieves and rogues that claim to lead us).
    I admire all your research to show how badly our government is performing. But Mnangagwa and his people well know that the sanctions against them are as you describe them.
    However, it is the perfect excuse for all their pathetic attempts to govern our country.