Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Mnangagwa regime doing the work of US sanctions in Zimbabwe!

06 Mar 2024 at 23:01hrs | Views
My own views on this sanctions issue have always been that we needed to prove these measures were the cause of our suffering.

I have never denied that there have been targeted sanctions imposed by the US and her allies on particular individuals and entities in Zimbabwe since 2001.

This was after the chaotic and murderous land reform program as well as shambolic and violent elections.

However, in the midst of the raging debate over the real impact of these sanctions, I have unflinchingly stood on one point.

Regardless of what the stated or unstated motives of these targeted measures, what evidence do we have that they have actually caused the economic meltdown we have witnessed in Zimbabwe in the past two decades?

I once gave an example of someone who threatened to or, in fact, confessed to poisoning his enemy with the full intent of killing him.

As it so happens, the targeted individual eventually died after a few days.

There is no competent court of law that will automatically convict the one who made the threats or confession (to poison the now deceased) without incontrovertible evidence to support this claim.

Just because someone planned or confessed to doing something does not necessarily mean he is the cause of the result.

After a forensic post-mortem examination, it can be discovered that he actually died from a long-standing cardiac problem that had absolutely nothing to do with the poisoning.

Although traces of the said poison could indeed be present in his body, this may have been too small to cause his death or even prompt the heart attack.

This logic also applies to the issue of targeted sanctions on some individuals and entities in Zimbabwe.

What evidence do we have that can directly link specific provisions of the ZIDERA (Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act) to the unimaginable economic decay and poverty endured by most ordinary Zimbabweans?

How have these sanctions caused, for instance, a wildly unstable currency, the highest inflation in the world, woefully low salaries, and widespread unemployment?

There are those who point to the fact that state-owned enterprises such as ZiscoSteel (Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company), MMCZ (Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe), and ZMDC (Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation) were under sanctions by the US.

Of course, the entities were subsequently removed two days ago, after US President Joe Biden scrapped Executive Orders that had been used to impose sanctions on specific targets in Zimbabwe since 2003.

Nonetheless, did ZiscoSteel, for instance, really collapse due to sanctions?

Was the state-owned enterprise not already on the brink of imminent demise when these targeted restrictive measures were first imposed in 2001?

We have already read government-commissioned inquiry reports categorically implicating rampant corrupt and misappropriation of funds by both some senior management and government officials.

Problems began to show as far back as 1986, after an official inquiry into the state-owned enterprise's operations discovered “mismanagement, poor planning and nepotism” at the company.

The report also found that, due to antiquated equipment that had not been refurbished in years, the plant had become very expensive to run.

By 1993, the company was now operating at 30 percent capacity - with the Number 4 blast furnace frequently breaking down.

In 1996, a Chinese firm was awarded a tender worth $500 million to resuscitate the blast furnace, but the work was never done - such that by 2000, this was no longer functional while ZiscoSteel's plants and equipment were now obsolete.

This was all way before any sanctions were imposed!

In 2005, auditors discovered that money (possibly in the millions of US dollars) from the sell-off of the company's foreign subsidiaries was missing.

The National Economic Conduct Inspectorate handed Obert Mpofu, then industry minister, a dossier on corruption - whereby he told a Parliamentary committee that it “contains names of my colleagues in the ministry, MPs and employees at Zisco”.

Nevertheless, then security minister Didymus Mutasa later said the report “does not exist”, leading to Mpofu himself backtracking on his own words.  

On top of this, company assets vanished into thin air, with some disposed (mostly to those aligned to power) at ridiculously low costs.

Furthermore, those appointed to top positions at the company, such as Chris Mapondera - who was reportedly related to then president Robert Gabriel Mugabe - were ill-qualified for an undertaking of this magnitude.

As a matter of fact, ZiscoSteel workers had fiercely resisted Mapondera's appointed - but then Labour and Manpower Development Minister Kumbirayi Kangayi would have none of it.

Instead, according to the same commission reports, Mapondera spent his time plundering and looting the company to the tune of millions of dollars through questionable dealings.

So, who is to blame for Zimbabwe losing its own mega iron and steel company?

By the time these sanctions were imposed, ZiscoSteel was already on its deathbed and on the verge of dying.

Maybe the restrictive measures pulled the plug on ZiscoSteel's life support system - which was not a good thing - but the company's demise was imminent and inevitable.

In other words, with or without sanctions, the iron and steel making giant was already destined for a Goliath-like fall.

The same logic applies to the issue of lines of credit.

Indeed, under ZIDERA, US nationals are prohibited from supporting the extension of any debts to the Zimbabwe government by international creditors such as the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank.

No one can deny that this can be quite damaging to a country's economy since most need these lines of credit for developmental programs and balance of payment support.

Nonetheless, in spite of this provision within ZIDERA, was the US ever compelled to prevent lines of credit to Zimbabwe?

Is it not true that the ZANU PF regime did the work for the US for them by defaulting on an over US$14 billion debt to international lenders?

This effectively disqualified Harare from receiving any such lines of credit without the US lifting a finger.

Even the Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa administration acknowledges this fact.

Is that not why they have been engaging international lenders through an arrears clearance and debt resolution program facilitated by the President of the African Development Bank Dr. Akinwumi Adesina and former President of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano?

In all these negotiations, the Zimbabwe regime never, even once, accused the US of blocking lines of credit to the country under the pretext of some sanctions.

The government has been very honest (at least in these fora) that the reason we are not receiving any more credit from international lenders is that we have not been paying back our debts.


In a nutshell, as much as these restrictive measures by the US have been in place since 2001, seldom have they actually been implemented.

Most of the damage on Zimbabwe's economy had been at the hands of our own government.

The few times ZIDERA has actually been enforced, especially by OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control), these have had a negligible effect on the broader Zimbabwean economy.

Indeed, Standard Chartered Bank was fined US$18 million in 2018 for handling transactions of sanctioned entities.

However, just how detrimental was this move on the economy of Zimbabwe as a whole?

Can we honestly say the country was brought to its knees as a direct result of such measures?

Let us never forget that, despite these sanctions, even on the MMCZ and ZMDC, the country was still able to trade in its diamonds, gold, platinum, lithium, and many other minerals freely.

That is also why, in response to the Al Jazeera 'Gold Mafia' investigative documentary last year, RBZ (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) outgoing governor John Panonetsa Mangudya made it abundantly unequivocal that Zimbabwe's minerals were not under any sanctions.

The country was and is still free to trade its vast mineral deposits with any country on the planet.

Is that not why we were recently declared the seventh largest seller of diamonds in the world?

Are we not boasting of a US$12 billion mining industry?

In fact, the sector accounts for about 12 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and 80 percent of national exports.

This means that, had we managed our natural resources diligently and faithfully, no amount of sanctions would have really mattered.

We are already wealthy enough, in terms of natural resources, to be one of the most prosperous countries on earth - ZIDERA or not.

Why are we not?

Is it not because we are misusing these resources - through grand looting and pillaging primarily at the hands of those in power?

Are we not losing over US$3 billion each year to the smuggling of our minerals, illicit financial transactions, and other corrupt activities?

Were we not left dumbfounded after watching 'Gold Mafia', where some of the most powerful people in Zimbabwe were directly and indirectly implicated by their associates who unwittingly confessed on camera?

Did we not hear and even see big names agreeing to and planning massive gold smuggling and money laundering?

In fact, was this gold smuggling and money laundering not the justification used by the US (two days ago) to place Mnangagwa and his wife Auxillia under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016?

It is actually a huge embarrassment that Mnangagwa is the first and only sitting head of state in the world sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act.

It then goes without saying that Zimbabwe is its own enemy when it comes to the demise of its economy.

The fact is that US sanctions have had minimal effect in bringing the untold suffering and poverty endured by millions of ordinary Zimbabweans over the past two decades.

If the intention of the Americans was to make the Zimbabwe economy scream through these targeted sanctions, then is it the Mnangagwa administration itself that has done the work for them.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email:, or visit website:

Source - Tendai Ruben Mbofana
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.