Has the economic sanctions on Zimbabwe crippled it’s economy?

There are various ways to coerce change and when it comes to governments’ the most widely used have been economic sanctions. These sanctions are diplomatically designed to induce a target country to change some policies it would not otherwise change. In many cases, these economic sanctions have been effective as they implore deliberate and systematic acts of destructive engagement. However, in Zimbabwe, the sanctions have not been effective in enforcing the expected political reforms and it’s said to have crippled the country and the entire Southern African region.

Presently, Zimbabwe is reeling from high inflation and shortages of basic supplies like fuel, power, water and bread which stands at a five-year high. Despite Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s political and economic reforms which saw some constraints on foreign investors removed and restoration of land to farmers, the economy still crumples and the people are suffering. About five million Zimbabweans are currently in need of food aid, according to the United Nations. Little wonder the president blames the sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union for crippling development in the country.

Even Tanzania’s President John Magufuli, who is also the chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have noted that the sanctions were hurting the region.

“These sanctions have not only affected the people of Zimbabwe and their government but the entire region. It is like a human body, when you chop one of its part it affects the whole body. Therefore, I would like to seize this opportunity to urge the international community to lift sanctions it imposed on Zimbabwe,” Magufuli said.

Meanwhile the question remains, are sanctions punishment for deviance and dysfunctionality or are they merely an institute for compliance? 

Zimbabwe has been under economic sanctions for close to two decades. In 2001, the United States began imposing restrictions on U.S. support for multilateral financing, followed by financial sanctions against selected individuals and entities, travel sanctions against selected individuals, a ban on transfers of defense items and services, and a suspension of non-humanitarian government-to-government assistance. Zimbabwe was affected.

Since the Zimbabwe’s fall out with the International Financial Institutions in the late 1990’s, the sanctions have added to the investment woes in the country. This year alone, fuel prices have increased by more than 200 percent and in the past week alone, the country has lost over $300 million to loss of productivity, according to the President of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI),Sifelani Jabangwe. No thanks to protests over economic woes.

While it is believed that punishment is a good tool to make a person or an institution comply, the effectiveness and success of an economic sanction are decided by the sender of the sanctions. Regardless of its outcome, the affected country’s populace bears the brunt as these sanctions are achieved through the systematic reduction of customary trade, withdrawal of financial relations and systems thereby causing maximum damage to the target country as is the case with Zimbabwe.