Zimbabwe and the sanctions5 min read

The country of Zimbabwe celebrated a major holiday last Friday. Many were let off work and given free bus fare to the nation’s capital to celebrate with their peers. The holiday was not due to a major religious celebration or a hallmark of the nation’s progress. It was instead used for the Zimbabwean people to protest the sanctions placed upon them by the United States and the European Union. The sanctions have been placed on Zimbabwe as cited “lack of progress in democratic and human rights reforms” in addition to “restrictions on press freedoms” (BBC). The US and the EU have placed restrictions on “56 companies and organizations” in Zimbabwe, as well as travel restrictions on “85 individuals” (BBC). One of those individuals is the President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa. 

Mnangagwa has stood greatly opposed to the sanctions ever since they were placed. His oppositions have been echoed by various other countries in South Africa, primarily countries who also face restrictions due to their lack of progress. Mnangagwa has stated “sanctions are slowing down our progress, inhibiting our economic recovery, and punishing the most vulnerable” (BBC). Mnangagwa has been adamant on his belief that the imposed sanctions are greatly affecting his country, primarily the economy. The EU have counter these claims by stating that they have no effect on the country’s economy as the sanctions are only placed on organizations and individuals, not the country itself. 

Mnangagwa is not wrong about how his country’s economy has been suffering. Inflation has become a major issue in Zimbabwe with prices rising almost 200% since last year. The country has also suffered through shortages of power, water, and fuel during that time. Data shows that the country’s economy could be shrinking as shown by its sharply decreasing GDP. However, those issues are not believed to be due to the sanctions, as Mnangagwa would make one believe. The US has cited their economic crisis is due to “catastrophic mismanagement” on behalf of the Zimbabwean government (BBC). The country has been cited for dealing poorly with multiple major issues, including the prevalence of HIV and AIDS. While Mnangagwa may be rallying his country in opposition to the sanctions, the sanctions truthfully have little-to-no effect on the country’s struggling economy.

The sanctions on Zimbabwe are greatly brought upon in hopes of preserving and sustaining democracy throughout the world by major democratic superpowers. Zimbabwe’s government is almost a hybrid of the US’ and the UK’s structure. The country operates under a presidential republic with a singular president serving has the head of the country’s executive power. The country’s legislative power operates under a parliament with two houses. The country also runs elections (generally) every five years, in which a party is elected into power. The election decides both the president and the legislation, both of which fall under the same party. This style already raises some questions towards the democracy of Zimbabwe as only one party can lead at a time. That leading party is not contested by others, as they stand as the majority with the president. A government where the executive always holds the legislative majority may not be an ideal democracy.

The President has greatly supported rallies in opposition to the sanctions in the nation’s capital, Harare. He has been willing to allow a national holiday to exist just to cast “shame” on the “oppressive” US and EU. Presidents allowing these events to occur while the real problems are at their doorstep makes me wonder: how long can a President be ignorant for before it truly begins to affect their country? Mnangagwa has not shied away from his belief that his nation’s struggles have come as a result of the sanctions. However, the data proves this to just not be true. Emmerson Mnangagwa became President in the first place due to a coup in 2017. The coup saw the country’s long-time President Robert Mugabe step down from his position and Mnangagwa taking his place. He was officially elected to the position in 2018, but many still question the legitimacy of his rise to power.

The coup to many represents the start of varying issues faced by Zimbabwe post-Mugabe. The economy has suffered, inflation continues to rise, shortages of necessities have occured, their land-reform program was almost a complete flop, and many other issues over the past two years. The sanctions are set to expire in February of 2020 but will more-than-likely be reviewed and possibly continued if the country continues to struggle. There is a bit of a catch 22 going on in Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa has proved to be a weak leader, thus continuing the sanctions and his country struggling. However, Mnangagwa has cited the sanctions as the primary reason his country is struggling. Mnangagwa can only go so much longer before he admits that he is, in fact, the reason why the sanctions exist.

Works cited:

Team, Reality Check. “Zimbabwe Sanctions: Who Is Being Targeted?” BBC News, BBC, 25 Oct. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50169598.

Pariona, Amber. “What Type Of Government Does Zimbabwe Have?” WorldAtlas, 6 Oct. 2016, www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-type-of-government-does-zimbabwe-have.html.

Mackintosh, Eliza. “Zimbabwe’s Military Takeover Was the World’s Strangest Coup.” CNN, Cable News Network, 21 Nov. 2017, www.cnn.com/2017/11/20/africa/zimbabwe-military-takeover-strangest-coup/index.html.

1 thought on “Zimbabwe and the sanctions<span class="wtr-time-wrap after-title"><span class="wtr-time-number">5</span> min read</span>”

  1. I found your article to be really interesting! I do not know much at all about Zimbabwe, nor do I really see much about it on the news, so it was somewhat refreshing to see an article posted from that part of Africa. I had no clue that sanctions had even been posted on the country, and I certainly did not expect the EU to be in accordance with the US in terms of placing the sanctions on the nation. I found the use of the statistics that you included in the reading to be very useful in the further understanding of the point being made and the situation presenting itself in the country of Zimbabwe. I certainly would be in agreement with the idea that these sanctions will likely continue into the future once their original term of existence comes to a close, as it is highly unlikely that Zimbabwe will have made any drastic progressions in terms of democratization over the course of the time that these sanctions have been implemented. The biggest question that I had when reading the article was how is the economy of Zimbabwe not being affected negatively when sanctions have been placed on the country? Aren’t sanctions supposed to essentially teach the country a lesson in order to have the more quickly reach the desired goal? I think it would be interesting to see if there are any other ways that both the EU and/or the US could more quickly promote progressions toward Democracy in this country, and others like it, instead of causing outrage amongst those in government in these particular nations. The idea that the President also created a “national holiday” of sorts so that citizens could go and protest is quite comical in my opinion as well! I enjoyed reading this article and think you did a great job of informing the reader about the topic!

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