John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


U.S. Sanctions and Zimbabwe

by John Campbell
September 25, 2013

Crowds cheer Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe during a rally in the capital Harare March 2, 2011. (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)


Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party repeatedly assert that the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy is the result of Western–especially American–sanctions. He repeats it enough that African public opinion may start to believe it. Mugabe used sanctions as the pretext for refusing to allow U.S. election observers in Zimbabwe during the July elections this year.

Hence U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bruce Wharton did a service by addressing U.S. sanctions in a radio interview on September 20. He highlighted the limited reach of the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, including travel restrictions of 113 individual Zimbabweans and financial restrictions on seventy entities linked to the ruling party. U.S. sanctions are designed “to bring pressure to bear on those people we believe have the power to make decisions that either strengthen or weaken Zimbabwe.” Sanctions, Ambassador Wharton said, are in fact a means by which the United States supports Zimbabwe, and will remain in place until democratic reforms are achieved.

The ambassador said that the reforms the United States looks for include “bringing the new constitution into full force, clarifying how the indigenization program is to work to build confidence in investors, continuing with some reforms suggested under the previous unity government and ensuring the Human Rights Commission is robust and effective.” Such reforms, the ambassador said, “will elicit a positive response from my government.”

There are few if any signs that such reforms will be forthcoming anytime soon.

In fact, U.S. sanctions are highly limited and have little effect on Zimbabwe’s economy. Rather than being the result of sanctions, the collapse of Zimbabwe economy was directly caused by Mugabe and his ruling party’s policies, including its wholesale violation of the rule of law and the employment of violence targeted against their political enemies.

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by cHOGA

    They are not limited but affect us the Zimbabwean populace. Mugabe and his goons are least affected. No matter how you try to spin this one we have our eyes open and we know your issue has to do with land that was taken………
    Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans first and foremost others can only share with us….. That is that sadza rekuboarding….

  • Posted by Nicholas the Wise

    dear America, just get rid of these sanctions because they are now the latest excuse the government uses to deny people of essential services they are entitled to get from the government.Restricting every Zimbabwean from accessing Paypal etc does not have any impact on democracy in Zimbabwe.In fact most “sanction busting” operations are breeding corruption and America is now being used a scapegoat.

  • Posted by Lloyd Manhenhe

    Zimbabweans have wisen up now. We now know that US sanctions were put in place so that we rebel against Mugabe and Zanu PF. The longer the sanctions stay the more i love Mugabe. Your sanctions are hurting the ordinary Zimbabweans. If you place sanctions on my national leaders it means you also place sanctions on me. The US is an enermy of Zimbabweans. Leave us alone pliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiizzzzzzzzzzzzz!

  • Posted by Makusha Mugabe

    Sannctions need to be extended to all those involved in keeping Zanu (PF) in power illegally, including the judges, senior police, soldiers, managers of mineral companies etc, nor should their children be allowed to go to school in the West – then they will really feel it. That will still not affect the economy. It will only make it more difficult for them

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required