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Zimbabwe: Demystifying "Sanctions"

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Feb 16, 2010 (100216)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

The European Union formally decided on February 15 to lift restrictive measures against 6 individuals and 9 companies in Zimbabwe that were previously subject to travel bans and asset freezes, but continued the measures for another year on the majority of the 203 individuals and 40 companies on the list. The EU cited the lack of progress in implementation of the Global Political Agreement of September 2008 as the reason for continued measures. Companies removed included the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company.

The measure comes amid continued debate among the parties in the Zimbabwean government on "sanctions." But much of the debate, both in Zimbabwe and internationally, fails to specify what sanctions (or "restrictive measures") are actually in place and which should be removed. The principal measure in place are the European measures targeted at specific individuals and companies, as well as parallel measures decided by U.S. executive order. In addition, the U.S. Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 requires the U.S. to oppose multilateral debt relief and refinancing from international financial institutions until certain conditions are met or the President decides to waive the conditions. But there are no general trade or investment sanctions against Zimbabwe in place comparable to those imposed on apartheid South Africa or white-minority Rhodesia in earlier periods.

The United States and Great Britain have recently expressed support for restoration of voting rights for Zimbabwe in the International Monetary Fund, which may be decided later this month. Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who is also secretary-general of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-Tsvangirai), has expressed confidence that this will make possible a restructuring of external financial support.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from comments on sanctions from Zimbabweans on the SW Africa Radio Hot Seat program on February 5, 2010 (The full text is available on

In the discussion, commentators make a clear distinction between "sanctions" on individuals responsible for human rights abuses and blocking democratization and measures that impact the Zimbabawean economy more generally. As I confirmed in a visit to Zimbabwe in December, civil society activists strongly urge continuation of the "targeted" measures. At the same time they stressed that it was important to encourage, not to discourage, the flow of resources to Zimbabwe that could strengthen the economy.

The European Union sanctions in force are detailed in the Official Journal of the European Union ( / direct link: See also updates for 2009 ( and 2010 (

Information on the U.S. executive order identifying persons and companies subject to asset restrictions related to Zimbabwe / direct link at

The full text of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 is available at

Senate Hearings in September 2009 on U.S. Zimbabwe relations

Africa Action, Zimbabwe Solidarity Update, Feb. 1, 2010

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Zimbabwe, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Sanctions: Should they be lifted? Zimbabweans speak

SW Radio Africa Transcript

Hot Seat Broadcast: 05 February 2010

[Excerpts: For full text see For listeners' feedback and debate on the issue, see]

VIOLET GONDA: Sanctions: Should they be lifted? In this week's Hot Seat Programme, I ask a number of Zimbabweans from various walks of life, what they think about this issue. ZANU PF has warned there will be no more GPA concessions until the sanctions imposed by Western countries are removed. Parliament has seen heated discussions on this topic with ZANU PF insisting that the MDC should demand the removal of the restrictive measures. Some say the time has come for sanctions to be removed, but others claim the sanctions are targeted on particular individuals who are guilty of serious human rights abuses and have still not admitted wrong doing. In the next two weeks the European Union will be reviewing their measures, but what are Zimbabweans saying?

My name is INNOCENT CHOFAMBA SITHOLE. I'm a Zimbabwean journalist based in London , the UK . My view about the sanctions is that first of all we need to be very clear which sanctions we are talking about. ,,,

My view is that with respect to sanctions relating to the country's economy those should go. Those sanctions which bar multi lateral financial institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank from doing business with Zimbabwe and other such financial interests outside of Zimbabwe from doing business with Zimbabwean companies or with the Zimbabwean government, those sanctions indeed must be removed in order to enable the economic recovery, the massive economic recovery that is underway in Zimbabwe to proceed to fruition.


Now with respect to sanctions relating to individuals from ZANU PF and the old ZANU PF government; those sanctions were put in place on the basis of the conduct of those individuals and political party - and conduct which undermined democracy in Zimbabwe . And this is evidenced more so by the last election that we had in Zimbabwe , which was the June 2007 Presidential election, in which untold violence was unleashed on innocent people and opposition politicians. Those people responsible for such heinous crimes against the people of Zimbabwe do not deserve to be removed from the sanctions list unless they show that they have reformed. ...

We still have people who are yet to be punished for crimes that they unleashed on the people of Zimbabwe throughout all the elections and indeed throughout most of this decade since the emergence of opposition, vibrant opposition politics in Zimbabwe and unless they can convince Zimbabweans that they have changed, that they are no longer a danger, a threat, a risk to the people, then I have no reason to argue why they should be removed from the sanctions list. Thank you.

Yes my name is IBBO MANDAZA. I'm Zimbabwean academic, author and publisher. The debate on sanctions: I'm puzzled really as to why the debate has come as it has. Firstly one would like to know what sanctions have been imposed, against whom and why those persons have been singled out? Secondly what has changed in terms of the reasons for which the sanctions were imposed? Thirdly what has been the import of those sanctions? Has there been side effects (inaudible)...? And lastly I'm not sure that sanctions, as they are called, have been the major factor in terms of the economic decline in Zimbabwe . I would like to think that there are bigger issues than sanctions. You have to look at the totality of factors that have been impinged upon Zimbabwe or underpinned the economic decline and the political malaise that we know today. I'm not sure that sanctions really matter in my view. I think they are quite peripheral in Zimbabwe . Thank you.


I'm TONY HAWKINS, Professor of Economics at the Graduate School of Management, University of Zimbabwe . I think that the sanctions should be maintained. I personally believe that this country is not going to emerge fully from its crisis without fresh elections and a change of government. I'm not a supporter of the Government of National Unity, which I think has, as I always predicted, been proven to be a failure because one party or perhaps two parties are unprepared to participate fully. So I think the sooner we get new elections the better and then sanctions will fall away.

As for the impact of sanctions I think they are minimal and I think that their continued existence really plays into the hands of some people in ZANU PF, which sounds a bit of a contradiction from what I was saying earlier, but on the other hand I would argue that in fact any relaxation of sanctions would convince ZANU PF that they are winning and make them even more intransigent than they are already.

I think one should accept that economic recovery and development in this country depends on the full acceptance of the need for a modern democratic society and that means that the measures, the sanctions that have been imposed are a reflection of what is missing. In other words we need a return to conditions that will attract investment, that will foster confidence and so on. The mere existence of sanctions is a reminder that we are deficient in this area and that the deficiency has nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of sanctions but have a lot to do with the failure of the previous government and one of the partners in the existing government to behave according to the norms of modern civilised democratic society.

The name is WELLINGTON CHIBHEBHE, Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. Our position on the so-called sanctions has always been very clear in the sense that from our reading, the so-called sanctions were targeted measures. Targeted at specific individuals and specific companies and/or organisations which had something to do with the violation of human rights in Zimbabwe . Unfortunately for Zimbabweans and fortunately for ZANU PF the issue of the targeted measures has now been reduced to the so-called sanctions in the GPA and ZANU PF is cleverly taking advantage of that drafting of the word sanctions, to now clamour for the removal of the so-called sanctions. But believe you me, the issue of the so-called sanctions is a non-issue because it is linked from our own perspective, it is linked to the violation of human rights and peoples' freedom and from where we have observed the situation on the ground, nothing has changed so far. So if the so-called sanctions or targeted measures were linked to the violation of human rights and peoples' freedom we don't view the hullabaloo that is going on and the noise that is coming from ZANU PF as anything to take note of, it's much ado about nothing. ...

Hallo, my name is JENNI WILLIAMS, the National Co-ordinator of Women of Zimbabwe Arise. We are a pressure group putting pressure on Robert Mugabe and his regime and this power sharing deal to create more respect for civil liberties on the ground in Zimbabwe . We want them to implement the power sharing deal and until they implement that deal we feel international sanctions should remain in place as leverage for them to stop putting their sanctions on us in the country. That is why, as WOZA we are continuing to fight for respect for our human rights. We want to be able to demonstrate on the streets peacefully without someone, a police officer coming, sanctioning us with his baton stick, sanctioning us by putting us in jail and that is why we feel that international leverage helps, to pressure Robert Mugabe to remove sanctions on us or else!

This is BISHOP TREVOR MANHANGA, I am the presiding bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Zimbabwe. Regarding the matter of sanctions, I think that they should be unreservedly and immediately lifted for the benefit of people of Zimbabwe . I think the people of Zimbabwe need to be rewarded for everything they have achieved. We have managed to bring a polarised political situation to a situation where the protagonists are now sitting together, working together for the benefit of this nation. Sanctions serve no further purpose and anyone who advocates for the continued imposition of sanctions is against the people of Zimbabwe . The people of Zimbabwe must not be punished any further - they must be rewarded. We must also see from the west a removal of the double standards, which we are seeing. Why is it that there are no sanctions being imposed on Afghanistan, Pakistan other countries that have had problems, worse problems than Zimbabwe? Is it because Zimbabweans have managed to do something by themselves with a little bit of assistance from their African brothers in the SADC and the AU that the western world wants to continue with these sanctions?

They are now totally unjustified and the continuance of the sanctions on Zimbabwe lends credence to the idea that what is really at stake, it's not really the new political dispensation but a punishment on the people of Zimbabwe for the land reform programme and until that is reversed, sanctions will not be lifted - because all the political indicators that people advocating for in the past are evident now. People that were fighting each other are working together and there is therefore now no more further need for sanctions to be on this country. This country needs to take off and it cannot do that while these sanctions are continuing and affecting the development of the nation.

My name is GERTRUDE HAMBIRA, I represent the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe, a union which represents farm workers. I just want to give a short comment about the issue of sanctions. From the grassroots point of view we are not aware of the so-called sanctions that are hurting the people of Zimbabwe. But from our own observations - we are farm labourers who have lost jobs through the land reform programme. So I don't know if it is the land reform programme which has created these sanctions or not but we have lost our entire livelihood due to the current land reform programme which has resulted in the loss of our jobs, our children being put out of school. So I can't talk more about sanctions because I'm not aware of these sanctions but what I have heard is that they are so-called targeted sanctions, I don't know what that means.

Right now we are currently battling with the issues of trying to attend to displaced farm workers who have been affected by the current invasions which are taken place and also the wages for farm workers which still stand at $32 and no-one can be or is able to survive on $32. And I want to say that we are just watching the civil servants - what they are going to get while we are preparing ourselves for the negotiations for our members, which are going to take place on the 19 th of February. So you will be informed of the outcome of these negotiations but if nothing fruitful comes out it means that the workers won't be happy about it, they are bound to take a very harsh decision.


My name is JOHN MAKUMBE, I'm a Professor of Political Science at the University of Zimbabwe, and I'm in Harare. Sanctions should stay in place, sanctions should not be removed, there's nothing that has changed in Zimbabwe except the fact that the MDC Tsvangirai and MDC Mutambara are now part of what is called the inclusive government. The power sharing itself has not occurred, it has not taken place. Robert Mugabe is reluctant to share any power with Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara and so the sanctions must stay in place. The governors, provincial governors who are supposed to be from MDC Tsvangirai, five of them and one from MDC Mutambara have not been sworn in, they are not in place. The diplomats who were trained, something like six diplomats from the MDC have not been deployed even though they completed their training and a lot of things in the Global Political Agreement have not been done and until they are done the sanctions must stay in place, they must not be lifted at all and even lifting them bit by bit as Morgan Tsvangirai is suggesting is not really wise, it will be very dangerous.

I'm not contradicting myself from my previous appearance on SW Radio Africa, I am actually reinforcing what I said then - which is that I was still optimistic, in other words the sanctions must stay in place in order to make ZANU PF and Robert Mugabe do the right thing. They have to behave themselves.


ELINOR SISULU, writer and human rights activist based in South Africa, I am a Zimbabwean South African. I think that first of all there are no sanctions, there are targeted restrictive measures on certain individuals, those individuals within ZANU PF are still being an obstacle to democracy and I think that if sanctions are removed it would be a very dangerous thing for the ordinary people of Zimbabwe because there would be no pressure on the ZANU PF regime and they can just overturn the GPA overnight. There's no guarantee that if sanctions are removed they are going to fulfil the other requirements of the GPA. So certainly the targeted restrictions should remain but maybe the restrictions on the economy as a whole should be removed.

There's been a lot of mystification about sanctions, there's no way that targeted restrictions on individuals, which prevent individuals from remitting their money abroad or accessing the stolen money from bank accounts in the west. There's no way that those kind of restrictions could have affected the economy. The other issue was the bar on Zimbabwe's borrowing which was to do with Zimbabwe not fulfilling its requirements to the IMF. Those can easily be addressed and also the kind of prevention of Zimbabweans having access to credit lines I think that is the main issue that one might argue that has affected the economy. But even then there's no convincing argument on the whole to say that Zimbabwe is in the state that it is because of sanctions.

Hi I'm ALAN DOYLE. The idea that sanctions should be removed to reward the government of national unity is very, very premature. Even if ZANU had fulfilled its obligations under the Global Political Agreement it could then reverse anything it had done once sanctions had been safely removed in the clear knowledge that they would be unlikely to be replaced again and of course they haven't fulfilled their obligations. There are a number of outstanding issues, the ministers, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, the Attorney General and just recently in the last couple of days the withdrawal of the Prime Minister's duties in terms of having Ministers report to him, so there are a number of outstanding items and it's very, very premature to talk about removing sanctions. It's surprising really that people have been putting forward this argument haven't, are having such difficulty learning from history. The last ten years at least have shown that there's no quid pro quo with ZANU PF, no give and take, there's only take. And I think that regardless what Tendai Biti or the MDC or the AU or SADC asks, these measures, particularly the measures against individuals have got to be kept in place until any political improvements on the ground are irreversible. Thank you very much.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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