HomeOpinion Our hardships are sanctions-induced: Part One 

 Our hardships are sanctions-induced: Part One 

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 By Rutendo Matinyarare 

ON many occasions, people have sent me an article titled ‘It’s Not Sanctions, It’s Corruption and Lack of Reform’ penned by the US Ambassador Brian Nichols on October 24 2019. 

Those sending this article use it to advance the argument that the economic hardships in Zimbabwe are caused by corruption — and not sanctions. 

So, by deduction, those of us fighting sanctions should abrogate our citizen duties of national defence and fight corruption. 

Unfortunately when this article came out, our media monitoring (at ZUAUWS) never picked it up, as a result we never got to respond to this piece officially. 

Nevertheless, two articles based on the same argument were then written by two media houses: Zimbabwe Online on October 14 2019 and South Africa’s IOL on November 25 2019 with the heading ‘Lifting Sanctions On Zimbabwe Won’t Solve Zimbabwe’s Woes’. 

It would seem that both articles used the same discredited arguments made by Nichols as their source. 

We responded comprehensively and directly to each of the media houses, posting the responses on social media and subsequently the articles were reposted by various publications, like The Herald

Since then, we never got a response from Zimbabwean Voice, which is typical of the unprofessional approach of most ad hoc Zimbabwean publications. 

As for the South African publication, soon after our letter, IOL wrote an article quoting Rutendo Matinyarare as having argued that sanctions are responsible for the demise of the Zimbabwean economy and not corruption. 

Not exactly a retraction, but they were compelled to acknowledge that there is another side to the story of sanctions in Zimbabwe other than the propaganda advanced by the US government. 

Nothwithstanding, in October 2021, the Special Rapporteur for the negative impact of sanctions came to Zimbabwe and measured the negative impact of sanctions which she declared illegal and as violating civilian human rights, 

Considering that there is quite a body of knowledge building around debunking the myth that Zimbabwean sanctions are not hurting the people, I was a bit ambivalent about writing another piece if Zimbabweans lack the desire to read the existing articles. 

Nevertheless, for the purpose of adding to the growing portfolio of intellectual work on the complex subject, I have decided to put another account on record for the benefit of our academics, intellectuals and authors as they work to demystify this economic warfare that is upon the people of Zimbabwe. 

Sanctions from same toolbox as slavery and colonialism.

History must be clear that, in the same way slavery and colonialism were used to under-develop black and brown peoples across the world for centuries, including Nichols’ ancestors, the collective punishment of 15 million innocent Zimbabweans by his government’s illegal sanctions (an extension of that same culture of white domination and criminality that was slavery and colonialism) is unequivocally responsible for the challenges millions of Zimbabweans face today as the US work to hinder economic growth and competitiveness in Africa. 

As with slavery and the genocide of American Indians over the centuries, the US imposed these illegal economic measures to destroy the capacity of black Zimbabweans to control our resources and use them to advance the nation. 

This is something Henry Kissinger promoted in NSSM39, to stop the radicalisation of Africans so that they wouldn’t compete with US economic interests by controlling the region’s strategic mineral resources.

All things being equal, the cause and effect of sanctions is pretty clear when considering that, from 1980, the same Government that is under sanctions today, built one of the most stable economies of some of the most educated people in Africa in just 25 years (from 1980 to 2005). 

By so doing, Zimbabwe attracted many migrants from South Africa, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique and Botswana to seek refuge, education, skills training and healthcare over the 25-year-period, despite corruption being a cancer inherited from the colonial capitalist system.

So let’s address the arguments proffered by Ambassador Nichols:

Sanctions are only on 141 nationals.

The United States have invested a lot of resources to drive the narrative that Zimbabwean sanctions are only on 141 individuals. A claim reinforced by Ambassador Nichols in his propaganda piece. 

However, AgriBank, IDBZ and 10 other parastatals are not individuals.

  • The problem is the claim is false, and by the US recently removing sanctions on AgriBank and the IDBZ in 2020, it’s clear that sanctions are not only on individuals but key national institutions that are central to the critical functioning of the Zimbabwean economy. 
  • By targeting public (national) institutions, the sanctions, like carpet bombing a city to destroy government buildings, factories, hospitals, roads, water and sanitation in wartime, directly target the people of Zimbabwe. 

Suffice to say, such an unnecessary, disproportionate and indiscriminate bombing of civilian infrastructure in wartime is illegal and a war crime according to the Geneva Convention. 

This, by deduction, means that the same collective punishment of civilians by persecution of sanctions in peace time is illegal and a crime against humanity.


  • ZDERA is a clear example of how US sanctions target Zimbabweans collectively through blocking the Government from accessing debt and colonial debt cancellation 
  • To create this coercive measure, we saw the very esteemed US Congress converge to create a specific law for a small ‘insignificant’ little country called Zimbabwe that was threatening the colonial world order by taking back colonised (stolen) factors of production (land, resources, labour and economy) from white settlers to put them back into the hands of their rightful dispossessed black owners.
  • That law was misleadingly called Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act or ZDERA, yet it was crafted to handicap (not recover) the Zimbabwean economy by prohibiting the Government (national and local governments), Ministries, State-owned enterprises and institutions from getting development and reconstruction loans and, more importantly, blocking cancellation of colonial debt by multi-lateral lending institutions like the IMF, the World Bank and the International Development and Reconstruction Bank. 
  • Congress also intended for the act to bring political change by coercion whether Zimbabweans wanted the change or not, hence the policy statement says the act (of sanctions) seeks to assist Zimbabweans to achieve democratic change. 
  • This means, the sanctions affect the ability of the national Government, local governments, Ministries and parastatals to borrow money to deliver basic services like water, sanitation, electricity, education, social development, disaster relief and support of businesses in the country. 

More critically, they limit the Government’s capacity to service the most vulnerable members of our society who constitute over 60 percent of our population.

  • These sanctions also prohibit reconstruction of the country from colonial pillage, the devastation of the 17 years of liberation war which displaced a million Zimbabweans and for which the country never received restitution or reparations to rebuild. 
  • They also prevent the nation from seeking redress for the destabilisation visited upon Zimbabwe and SADC by the apartheid South African government (1980-1992) in pursuit of a negotiated settlement desired by Kissinger’s NSSM39, to preserve white domination and ill-gotten property rights. This destabilisation cost to Zimbabwe was in excess of $2,8 billion ($4,7bil today) and SADC over $60 billion (over $100 billion today). ZDERA transfers the colonial legacy and its debts 
  • As a result, ZDERA has maintained the yoke of short-term, high interest colonial loans of about US$800 million (US$2,4 billion today) taken by the Rhodesian government illegally during UN sanctions, to buy weapons, in an effort to stop Zimbabwean liberation fighters from getting independence.
  • These loans, which had to be repaid by 1987 at interests of above 11 percent/annum, were repaid by the IMF and other multi-lateral institutions forcing the government to take more loans to pay off these colonial debts to maintain a good credit rating. 
  • These repayment loans were bundled into a US$1 billion package from the IMF, Standard Chartered Bank and Barclays, raised to, save Zimbabwe from the terrible drought and recession of 1984; kickstart the construction of 5 709 schools, 1 261 hospitals and clinics as well as the creation of 19 321 new hospital beds; construction of 700 000 houses, Hwange Power Station Phase One-Four to produce 1 500kw of electricity output and 7 000km of roads that were not built by the colonial government in contravention of their human rights legal obligations. 
  • The mathematicians among us would know that any debt above 10 percent interest doubles every seven years because of compound interest.

 The implication being Rhodesian sanctions, their underdevelopment and high interest debts doubling every seven years, were inherited by the Zimbabwean Government to become the first set of sanctions (restrictions) upon the recently independent country.

IMF Sabotage

  • After independence, the Zim dollar was devalued quickly by Government to meet the onerous conditions imposed by the IMF for the country to access loans to develop the infrastructure outlined above. 

Repayment of previous debts and new debts had to be sustained by Government taking more loans as narrated previously. However, the IMF refused to give any loans for reindustrialisation, technology upgrades and retooling in manufacturing (the same thing US sanctions are doing today). 

It was a deliberate strategy to deindustrialise Africa as the Morgenthau Plan that was designed for Germany and then repurposed for Africa, prescribed.

Accompanying that, the Government was also induced to buy back idle land from the colonial settlers at market prices, in foreign currency, in the name of reconciliation. 

These unsustainable financial obligations would lead to ESAP and eventually an inevitable default on compounding colonial legacy debt repayments that the nation can’t cancel today due to ZDERA.

  • ZDERA, therefore, affects each and every Zimbabwean and not a few targeted individuals. 

The colonial debts and their interest, continue to mount, inhibiting reconstruction, capital accumulation, the building of power generation capacity, roads, hospitals and railways to lift ordinary people out of poverty in line with the UN Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals. 

It was for the purpose of stopping economic development in Zimbabwe (in line with the African Morgenthau Plan) that ZDERA was enacted with similar restrictions placed upon blacks during slavery and Jim Crow and the American Indians under the Monroe Doctrine.

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