Sanctions – then and now

via Sanctions – then and now | The Zimbabwean by Magari Mandebvu

Some readers have asked about the sanctions we had before independence. Those were real sanctions, even if they weren’t complete.

British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s 1960 speech in Cape Town on a “wind of change blowing in Africa” speeded independence for Britain’s African colonies. The then Rhodesia already had a parliament, but it only represented the white minority (240,000 out of a population of 4 million). Successive British governments insisted that there must be “No Independence Before Majority African Rule”. The white settlers did not accept this.

Ian Smith became Prime Minister by a coup within the Rhodesian Front party and tried to lead Rhodesia to independence under white control. In November 1965 he declared independence unilaterally (UDI). Britain insisted that this was an act of rebellion; the UN objected especially to the racist character of the rebel regime and called on member states to sever economic ties with Rhodesia, recommending sanctions barring members from selling petroleum products and military hardware to the rebels. In December 1966, the UN imposed a ban on these and on the purchase of Rhodesian tobacco, chrome, copper, asbestos, sugar, meat and hides.

No international government recognised the rebel Rhodesian regime as legitimate, though South Africa and Portugal, which then ruled Mozambique, broke the sanctions. Britain imposed more sanctions of its own, making it difficult to replace or repair industrial equipment in Rhodesia. It also sent a naval squadron to the Mozambique Channel to monitor oil deliveries in Beira, to the pipeline to Umtali (Mutare), and to deter “by force, if necessary, vessels reasonably believed to be carrying oil destined for (Southern) Rhodesia”.

Switzerland and West Germany, which were not UN members, did business with Rhodesia. Japan continued to accept more Rhodesian exports than any other nation, and Iran provided oil. A 1971 US law amendment permitted American firms to go on importing Rhodesian chromium and nickel because of their “strategic importance.”

So there were big holes in the sanctions, but nobody, not even the South Africans, would defy the UN by openly recognising “independent Rhodesia”. In 1970, the US government declared that UDI would not be recognised “under any circumstances”.

Sanctions did force Rhodesia to ration petrol and reduced tobacco exports to a trickle, which made commercial farmers turn to maize as a crop they could market at home. This benefited the entire population, as maize meal became plentiful and cheap. In spite of ingenious “import substitution” manufacturing equipment was growing old, threatening industry with collapse in the long run. Rhodesians could only travel to South Africa, Portugal and its colonies, and non-members of the UN; the British government cancelled any passports they found, but gave “UK & Colonies” passports to opponents of the regime.

The war added to the pressure on the rebels. During the 1970s half the white schoolchildren left the country; official migration statistics did not record how many adults “took the gap”, but this suggests half the parents went also.

Those sanctions were a far cry from today’s British and EU personal measures that only prevent some of the Zanu (PF) elite from travelling to those countries and accessing their foreign bank accounts. It is the land grabs by the chefs, not their inability to shop in Oxford Street or New York’s Fifth Avenue, that hurt us.

Of course, nobody will do business with people who don’t pay their debts or keep their promises, but that is not “sanctions”; it’s just sensible if you want to survive in business.



  • comment-avatar

    A well reasoned article, but the nuances are lost on the uninformed. Even the word, “sanctions,” does not apply to what’s happening today. It’s a word that has been taken by Mugabe to imply something sinister that applies to every citizen, when in fact the restrictive measures apply only to he and a few of the worst violators of human rights. It’s the same as when he shouts out that the MDC has a “regime change agenda,” which simply means that they want to be elected to run the country. But that term was first used by the Bush administration to describe their efforts at dislodging Saddam Hussain, so it will forever have a negative connotation, even when it also describes what happens regularly within a democracy.

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    Tjingababili 11 years ago

    We have so much to export but because of these evil, illegal sanctions we cannot!Switzerland, please, can we have access to our fat accounts!

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      What you say is factually incorrect. There are no sanctions preventing ZImbabwe from exporting her products. There is no wording in either the US or the EU measures that prevents Zimbabwe from exporting anything. The limitations only apply to named individuals who are prevented from traveling or accessing their own personal funds in those countries. Zim companies are free to sell their products to whomever will buy them. In fact,both the EU and the US are major buyers of Zim products.

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    Zvichapera 11 years ago

    Shows you how the truth has been manipulated for few individuals who have ruined the country in the name of Zimbabwe. The bottom line is no one will invest in Zimbabwe as long as this regime maitains grip on power in this way. Why they invest to prop up tyranny?

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    masvukupete 11 years ago

    We can all read the US sanctions on the following

    The “sanctions” were imposed in 2003 yet I had started sleeping in a petrol que since 1999 or 2000 thereabouts. These sanctions came into effect long after economic problems had already started. Minda takazotora way after the economic problems had already started. Our economic problems we due to mismanagement and not sanctions as I have always said. In 1996 reports started trickling out that the ZPF leadership had been compensating themselves under darkness for “injuries” sustained in the war. All the other “common” vets also demanded compensation resulting in them dancing at the Heroes Acre during the burial of some “hero”. Hard pressed the president decided to give each
    $50 000.00 obviously including those that had been compensated already. Participation in the Congo war exacerbated the worsening situation that had been created by a ESAP. Sanctions had never been in place when all these things were happening. ZPF is very very very very shallow on implementation of policies, starting from the first, i think it was called the leadership code (where all citizens were not allowed to have more than 1 source of income or something to that effect). Because of the insencerity in all their policies and strategies (except for education of course)they have never been able to implement a successful programme. I think education was a success only because uncle Bob is a teacher through and through and he does not understand how all the other things, especially economy, work.

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    Africanson 11 years ago

    No wondor why some people get confused when it comes to the opposition. Tendai Biti said in more than one occassion sanctions against Zimbabwe were hurting economic recovery loud and clear. Some say they are targeted etc. Morgan does not commit himself when it comes to the sanctions issue. So who is fooling who. Who is against who? who is suffering from sanctions. MDC sold out period. The first political party in Africa to advocate for economic sanctions against its own people

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    Sekuru Mapenga 11 years ago

    The ‘sanctions’ are against a targeted list of unsavory individuals misgoverning the country.

    Goods can be freely bought and sold to and from Zimbabwe. There are no trade sanctions.

    Sanctions is an incorrect term. What we have been experiencing is a degree of “withdrawal of donor support”, and yes, it definitely does hurt the poor, and the national economy.

    Whether donor support will continue and even grow depends almost entirely on the political behaviour of the ruling party.

    Given the history, it is unlikely that donors will be prepared to channel funds via government ministries at this time. If they are smart (this may seem an unlikely premise), government will allow donors to channel funds to development programs via for example, NGOs to allow a certain amount of rebuilding of these sectors.

    Sadly the Zanu PF government has long mistrusted any form of ‘patronage’ other than its own, and have therefore been against NGOs.

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    Anold Anderson 11 years ago

    A misinformation on sanctions is dangerous to write about. If you do not know its better to zip your mouth and tell your hand not to write anything uninformed. Thanks.

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    Chivula Mapoti 11 years ago

    If you are confused, ignorant or uninformed regarding the US, UK and EU ‘Sanctions’, I direct you to the legal, UN approved and transparent details of these restrictions – here below.

    The UK and EU have the same exact targeted sanctions – so be informed before ranting!

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    Realist 11 years ago

    Magari its either you are programmed to write MDC propaganda or youre just ignorant. Zimbabwe is under severe economic sanctions. American an EU firms have limited trade with Zimbabwe. Why do you think Belgium is rebelling against the EU. Morgan Tsvangirai will never rule Zimbabwe, he is a puppet and an amateur politician, with all those resources he even failed to win. Busy buying 3million dollar houses and switching girlfriends when one decides to lead a nation all else must be set aside.

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    Zvomukonde 10 years ago

    “Sanctions – then and now” fromthe title the article seems incomplete though.