US argument that its sanctions do not affect ordinary Zimbabweans is a complete fallacy


The United States is a global superpower. Its political and economic reach is massive and global in character. Look back in history and you can see how the US has so often made real changes to the world economy and political dispensation. In the Second World War it was the entry of the USA into the conflict that turned the tide against the fascist States.

At the end of the war, it was the USA that put Germany and Japan back on their feet and it was the US that led the way in creating the IMF and World Bank and even the United Nations. No one else could have done that and the world should recognise this.

In the following half century, it was the US that led the way on globalisation and free trade. They allowed their huge domestic market to absorb the products of the newly emerging economies of the East. The US almost single handedly created the conditions which were used by China, after 1975, to lift two thirds of their population out of poverty and in the process creating the second largest economy in the world – repeating what they did with the Marshal Plan for Europe and the post war changes in Japan.

In doing so the US has created a world that is more equal and to some extent democratic. That is true in Europe and Japan, not quite so true in China although the social and political changes in China far exceed the changes elicited from the ideological wars fought under Mao after 1949. Having done so by pursuing free trade policies, elements in the US now appreciate that they have created competition for their number 1 slot in the world and want to backtrack. In contrast, China has taken over the lead in the cause of globalisation and free trade – mainly because this is what drives their economy.

Looking back on these massive success stories, it is a puzzle that today their main focus on trying to remain influential and to secure changes, are sanctions. The US once again leads the world in the application of sanctions in their efforts to change the world into their image. Today 62 countries – that is 32 per cent of all the countries in the world operate under sanctions imposed by the USA. In this group – Zimbabwe stands out as the only country under a US sponsored sanctions regime imposed by an Act of Congress. The rest are all administrative imposed by Presidential dictate.

There was a flurry of interest yesterday when the State Department issued a notice that the ordinary sanctions on Zimbabwe were being scrapped and the list of the individuals and companies to remain under US sanctions was being adjusted. It caused some excitement but the reality is that they changed very little, kept the worst elements of the sanctions in place and even reinforced their policy of isolation and coercion for change.

It is clear that the ZDERA Act has been kept in place for the 22nd year, as such it must be one of the longest running sanctions programs ever. I was surprised when the State Department described the ZDERA restrictions as not being “sanctions”. Strange definition when this piece of legislation was passed by Congress in recognition of the violations of property rights and human rights violations that characterised the 2000/2005 “fast Track Land Reform Program”.

Under this Act, the United States explicitly denies Zimbabwe access to all Multilateral lending and imposes financial penalties on banks which trade with Zimbabweans under sanction. In consequence Zimbabwe banks do not have significant relations with international banks described in the industry as “Correspondent Banks”. So, to make a transfer in US dollars we have to use an intermediate Bank that is not so restricted and our Banks have stated that this costs them up to US$1 billion a year. That might not seem a lot of money to the USA but its 12 percent of our export earnings. It could have fully paid our national debt over the past 20 years.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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