Harare - For the past decade, Zimbabwe has been under economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union and their allies.
The US legislated the Zimbabwe Democracy and Recovery Act in 2001 while the EU slapped its embargo in 2002, in what Harare says were knee-jerk responses to the country’s land reform programme.
Over 70 percent of Zimbabwe’s prime agricultural land was in the hands of about 6 000 white farmers; land which benefited around 300 000 black families after the land reforms.
Zimbabwe says the sanctions are illegal as they are outside the United Nations system, and - in the case of the EU – are in violation of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. In this regard, Zimbabwe has the support of SADC, COMESA, the AU, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Pan-African Parliament, among other international groups.
But the sanctions largely remain in place, other than a few cosmetic changes made by the EU.
Analysts say it remains unlikely that the sanctions will be totally removed any time soon. This is largely due to the fact that no matter how malicious they are proved to be, the EU and the US would not want to lose face by making such an admission.The US has maintained its blockade of Cuba for around 50 years now, and analysts say Zimbabwe should brace for possible extended exposure to sanctions.
So what can Zimbabwe do?
The Rhodesia Experience
Cuba has been under sanctions for some five decades and survived.
Zimbabwe, with more natural resources and an enviable human resources base should thus fare even better than the Caribbean island under the embargo.
The regime of Southern Rhodesia strongman Ian Smith and the one in apartheid South Africa survived – and even thrived in some instances despite international and UN sanctions.
So can Zimbabwe learn a thing or two from Rhodesia?
The UN Security Council authorised the use of sanctions against Rhodesia through Resolution 216 of November 12, 1965 – a day after Smith unilaterally declared the colony’s independence from the British Crown.
The Resolution stated that: the Security Council had decided to “condemn the unilateral declaration of independence made by a racist minority in Southern Rhodesia” and to “call upon all states not to recognise the illegal racist minority regime in Southern Rhodesia and to refrain from rendering any assistance to this illegal regime”.
These sanctions involved a complete ban on imports into British territories of Rhodesian tobacco; a ban on further purchases of Rhodesian sugar; a total ban on exports to Rhodesia except only items of a humanitarian nature such as books and films; and a total ban on imports. Rhodesia was further barred from oil, arms, motor vehicles or airplanes sales.
The pariah was excluded from the sterling Commonwealth preference area and British financial aid. There were also the prohibition of the export of capital to Rhodesia and the closing of the London capital market to Rhodesian dealing while assets of the Rhodesia Reserve Bank were frozen in London.
Despite all these measures, Rhodesia survived and fought a bitter war against African nationalist forces from 1966 to 1979.
This was simply because Rhodesia was able to bust the sanctions.
Therein lie the lessons for Zimbabwe.
Take a look at “An Inquiry Into How Rhodesia Managed to Survive Under Economic Sanctions: Lessons For The Zimbabwe Government” a paper prepared for the Trade And Development Studies Centre by research fellow James Hurungo in January 2010.
He writes, “The success of sanctions on Rhodesia was largely reliant on whether all the trading partners were to seriously disengage their trading relation with the illegal racist settler minority government of Ian Smith.
“However, not all members of the international community adhered to the sanctions. South Africa, Portugal, Israel, Iran and some Arab nations helped Rhodesia in various ways. In the case of the US, the 1971 Byrd Amendment allowed the importation of chrome, ferrochrome and nickel from Rhodesia. “Rhodesia evaded sanctions in the short-term but few outsiders invested in Rhodesia after the sanctions.”
Hurungo writes that sanctions did not have the anticipated effect for several reasons that included co-operation between government and Rhodesians consolidated and supported their regime.
Some interventions included import controls, evasion and finding new markets, price maintenance policy, import substitution and diversification, dualised cash/non-cash economy which forestalled inflation; steady wage levels, infrastructure development, and freezing payments to foreign creditors.
The Rhodesian government had received several warnings before the imposition of sanctions and both the government and the public had time to take the necessary precautions.
Hurungo adds that private firms such as the Rhodesia Pulp and Paper Industries looked for new lines of production and markets.
As such, Hurungo notes, a number of countries even expanded their trade with Rhodesia.
In addition to apartheid South Africa and Portugal - who had ideological stakes in busting the sanctions - France, a still pro-West Iran, Japan, and West Germany all increased their trade with Rhodesia in 1967.
Countries increasingly busted the sanctions and many goods from Southern Rhodesia were issued South African certificates of origin.
For food security, some white tobacco farmers switched to maize and beef production for the domestic market.
Another report says while the US, apartheid South Africa and oil giants BP and Shell were involved in sanctions busting, it was up to Rhodesia itself to come up with plans on how to go about this.
One report says “Even before UDI the Rhodesian government had already prepared the ground with a number of meetings … Rhodesians were able to exploit the loopholes, the most obvious of which was that material sent to South Africa could simply be trans-shipped, and that most companies were to open ‘Head Offices’ which were often transferred overseas, and a suspiciously large number of companies were to open suddenly in South Africa and its Bantustans.”
The report says the Rhodesian Air Force earned the name of “The Sanctions Busters" as it managed to continue fighting until 1980, even expanding the types of craft in use. This was partly attributable to “local ingenuity”, which meant technologies were adopted and adapted.
Wanted: A New
One man became synonymous with sanctions-busting Jack Malloch.
Malloch was a “sanctions-buster extraordinaire”. He was a World War II pilot, one-time CIA agent and participant in a dozen African wars and coups, according to newrhodesian.net.
His family had a home in Umtali, now Mutare in eastern Zimbabwe on the border with Mozambique.
Malloch founded aircraft companies such as Air Trans Africa and Rhodesian Air Services.
According to sources, Malloch operated a craft under the name Afro Continental Airways for a weekly service from Salisbury (now Harare) to Windhoek, in what was then apartheid-controlled South West Africa (now Namibia).
He also obtained a fleet of aircraft - with the assistance of the Rhodesian government - which were registered in Gabon, when his airline became a major part of the Rhodesian sanctions-busting operations.
They flew beef to Gabon, from where it was flown out by aircraft of its associate company Affretair, and essential materials for the Rhodesian security forces were brought into the country on the return flights.
Malloch operated one of his companies from Oman, which is said to have supported the UDI out of hate for blacks, after allegedly losing controlling economic interests in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Where are Zimbabwe’s Jack Mallochs.
Action So Far
Zimbabwe has made attempts to offset the effects of the illegal Western sanctions, mostly through the Reserve Bank.
The interventions have included parastatal and local authority support, irrigation and dam construction, farm mechanisation and investment in alternative energy.
Zimbabwe has also sought new markets, notably in the Far East.
However, Hurungo says, “Both the Rhodesia government and the Zimbabwean government made some efforts to burst sanctions, but the Rhodesian measures were much more effective than those implemented by the Zimbabwe government.”
He says present interventions are beaten by Rhodesia in areas such as import controls, new markets, foreign aid, import substitution, local business friendly industrial policies and price maintenance policies.
To that, one can add that Zimbabweans have not been effectively rallied around the single banner of beating the sanctions.
Some analysts believe, though, that Zimbabwe has already won the war on the Western sanctions.
Former Zimbabwe Ambassador to China, Chris Mutsvangwa, says the fact that the country did not collapse under economic attack is evidence of this.
“The fact of the matter is that Rhodesian sanctions were mainly political rather than economic and Western countries complied at the UN while busting sanctions.”
He points to the paradox that those countries that helped Rhodesia bust sanctions are the ones that have imposed embargoes on Zimbabwe.
True as that is, there are many countries willing to co-operate with Zimbabwe in busting sanctions as well. Most notably are the emerging economic powers like Russia, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Iran among others.
Further, the country can leverage its impressive natural resources to open markets that can result in significant economic changes in Zimbabwe.
On the whole, perhaps Zimbabwe has been too soft in the way it is tackling sanctions busting.