Sanctions: Part One…the duplicity of history, ghosts and exit wounds


FOR two decades, from 2001-2021, Zimbabwe has been reeling from sanctions imposed on our sovereign nation by a collusion of Western powers, as the result of the then long overdue justified Land Reform Programme of 1999-2010 and the rightful empowerment of indigenous people of the country. 

Zimbabwe’s indigenous African reclamation and restitution of our land, our legal birthrights, our dignity and sovereignty from the erstwhile colonisers has been a slow and painful realisation.  Many have perished, those that survived pondered and begun to ask: “Is this land really ours”?  

Yes!  You begin to doubt your own sovereignty when you are endlessly punished for claiming what is yours.

Historically the sanctions imposed in 2001, in reprisal to the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme, were the second quota of sanctions imposed on this country. 

Trade, finance and persons sanctions, in the form of an embargo were imposed on Rhodesia by the British government in retaliation for the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), made on November 11 1965, by Ian Smith’s Rhodesian government.  The United Nations and other world governments followed suite.

On November 13 1965, United States passed a trade embargo on sugar, arms and military equipment on the country. 

On November 15 the British Parliament passed the Southern Rhodesia Enabling Act, to allow the British Government to impose sanctions. 

On November 17 1965, seven Orders in council were published, excluding Rhodesia inter-alia from Commonwealth Trade Preference and from the Sugar Agreement. 

On November 21 1965, the United Nations called on all states to support Britain in its efforts to make sanctions on Rhodesia effective.  

On November 23 1965, financial restrictions were placed on persons travelling to Rhodesia and on gifts to persons travelling to Rhodesia.  Here, it must be noted that racism, cruelty, persecution, exploitation and intolerance of African people in townships, mines and factories was at its height at this time.  

Many African nationalist families emigrated to neighbouring Zambia which had just attained independence. 

On December 4 1965, the Rhodesian board of the Reserve Bank was suspended and Sir Sidney Caine was appointed as Governor with a second board. This board tried to fully appropriate Rhodesian assets abroad but was unsuccessful. 

On December 18 1965, an oil embargo was issued by the British Government. This resulted in the imposition of petrol rationing in Rhodesia on December 28. 

On January 30 1966, by decree of a British Government Order, a total ban on trade with Rhodesia was issued from February 2 1966, yet in reality Rhodesia continued trade with most countries particularly South Africa, America and Britain – under the mantra of ‘Sanctions Busting’ and ‘Rhodesia is Super’

The US-imposed a sanctions law against Zimbabwe known as the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) of 2001, although purportedly ‘targeted’, affected the living conditions of ordinary Zimbabweans.

The exit wounds of former Presidents – George W. Bush of America and Tony Blair of Britain and MDC’s former wannabe president Morgan Tsvangirai and the imposition of Euro-American sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2001, have undeniably wrought unbearable consequences that have left most innocent, ordinary Zimbabweans in social and economic turmoil as the country spiraled into economic decay. 

Called the ‘The Lost Decade in 2010, the period persisted to become the ‘Decades of Depravation’.  

Many Zimbabweans fled their motherland for far-flung places without fully understanding why the socio-economic developments in the rich land of their birth had become so regressive – and the ripple- effects of sanctions on the socio-economic status of the entire SADC region.

The prolonged era of sanctions gave birth to the ‘Zimbabwean Diaspora’. 

Historians will know its roots from the first Biblical Diaspora – the dispersion of the Jews after the Babylonian captivity.  

Indeed, ZDERA created, crated and dispersed close to three million skilled, professional Zimbabweans mainly to Europe, America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia which resulted in the national brain drain, adding the country’s socio-economic and industrial underdevelopment.

Sanctions also resulted in many social ills.   

It broke up homes, ruined marriages, separated children from parents, separated families from their extended family and severed sacrosanct traditional ties to the hearth.  

Sanctions resulted in the premature death of many elderly citizens – Black, Asian, Coloured and White, who failed to cope with the ever- increasing food prices. 

As pensions eroded many elderly people died penniless following decades of savings.  HIV and AIDS statistics rocketed as a result of sanctions. 

Cattle died as a result of the lack of stockfeed and veterinary supplies. Dogs and pets were put in homes or abandoned.

Sanctions resulted in the closure of many long-established family businesses. 

Major factories and mines closed down or relocated to neighbouring countries. 

Many citizens lost their life savings as banks shut down; many of those whose houses were mortgaged lost their homes and were rendered homeless. 

BACOSSI – Basic Commodity Supply Side Intervention, was the creation of sanctions as most basic food became short. 

Desperate cooking innovations came with sanctions. 

Ma-Chunks, or soya scraps substituted beef which we were renowned for.  

‘Katsauna’, little 100 ml bottles of cooking oil and mealie-meal by the cup were sold as mothers grappled to feed their families at the height of sanctions.  

It was Zimbabwean sheer willpower and determination to survive that kept Zimbabweans going.  The same will and determination manifested during the liberation struggle. 

Sanctions introduced street vending on the streets of all the major cities and ‘a dollar for two’ became part of the lexicon of Zimbabwe.  

Sanctions gave birth Bearers Cheques (and today’s Bond Notes); sanctions initiated the Money changers – “Ma-change money graduates”. 

Mushikashika, the illegal  pirate taxis were born to ride with sanctions. 

Sanctions created ‘Mazitye’ (nicknamed after the ‘itchy’ fish), second hand clothing, rejects from Western donors which we all wear with pride as high fashion today.  

As a result, the closure of the local clothing industry was the first to suffer, an estimated 20 000 workers lost their jobs – the first of the soaring unemployed.

Children born during ‘Decades of Depravation’ have not experienced scheduled bus rides to school; bread was scarce. 

The stock -market collapsed.  Hyper-inflation in Zimbabwe 2007-2010 entered the Guinness Book of Records!  I still have a Trillion dollar note as an historic souvenir.

Morgan Tsvangirai is deceased and George Bush and Tony Blair are names on the pages of history, but their foul legacy lives on.   

The ghost of their making- ZDERA still hangs in the heart of Zimbabwe, stifling economic growth, smothering any hope of meaningful economic leverage, impinging on the deprived population’s aspirations of a meaningful, normal life.

Though international trade, civic and diplomatic progress and overall development have begun to bear fruit with the New Dispensation headed by President Emmerson D. Mnangagwa, following years of trade and diplomatic lethargy, retrogressive sanctions continue to gnaw at our sincere desire to participate in world affairs for which Zimbabwe has vast potential. 

The vast potential for progress was lost for the majority of Zimbabweans particularly the youth, who were forced to leave school and teachers left in droves.

Sanctions is not just a word – it is all around you.   

It is felt, seen and experienced every day.  

Gloomy, memories of depravation during the height of sanctions are still tangible for many today- especially for those of us who know normal local trade and international trade relations. 

 In the spirit of President Mnangagwa’s positive Mantras – ‘Zimbabwe Is Open for Business’ (2018), and ‘A friend to all and enemy to none’ (2021), are expressed in the true spirit of diplomacy and clearly expresses the country’s willingness to co-operate with the family of mankind and be part of the global village 

The scars of the long-gone Bush and Blair era are still raw and yet to heal. 

Sanctions are still in Zimbabwe. 

The ghost still hovers!  

Let us hope that the new UN envoy will exorcise the ghost of sanctions this time by adjuration. 

Dr Tony Monda is Zimbabwean Socio-Economic analyst and scholar. He holds a PhD, DVM and a DBA in Post-Colonial Heritage Studies. For views & comments,


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