Zimbabwean vs Rhodesian Sanctions
Updated: Aug 9
Many Zimbabweans often bring up the comparison between Rhodesian and Zimbabwean sanctions to drive the narrative that Rhodesia had more stringent sanctions that they managed better than Zimbabwe is managing under ZDERA, EO13469, EU, IEEPA and extra-jurisdictional third party secondary sanctions.
Well, the facts are that sentiment is an ill-informed failure to appreciate colonial history, the purpose of colonialism and objectives of economic blockades or sanctions by a sanctions sender.
How Do You Sanction A Tool?
An immediate question that should arise is could Europeans practically sanction [blockade, restrict or punish] an instrument they created specifically to syphon wealth out of an African territory for the enrichment of Europe?
I use this as the fulcrum of discovery because Rhodesia was a commercial instrument created by the Britons, through the British South Africa Company, to enrich Britain and other European countries through the exploitation of this Southern African territory.
The people who called themselves Rhodesians were British subjects and Europeans adminstering a system of looting MaDzimbabwe.
Everything these Britons had in Rhodesia was looted from that country. What they built was derived from exploiting our resources, labor, livestock, taxes and depriving Africans of progress for the benefit of Europe.
The only thing that belonged to these Rhodies was just an instrument, a system and administrative mechanism to loot Africa and enrich their home, Europe.
Rhodesia Never Existed
In many ways, Rhodesia was a mythological territorial creation formed out of the land of MaDzimbabwe and the exploitation of its natives for the enrichment of the British, and once they had extracted all the wealth, the British would have left as quickly as they did Nyasaland [Malawi] and Northern Rhodesia [Zambia].
Almost everything the Europeans looted in Rhodesia was externalized and stashed in Europe, where they could benefit from it in the common wealth of their nations. The little that was reinvested in Rhodesia (electricity, roads, railways, telecommunication which only served 5% of the people) was to facilitate the transfer of wealth from MaDzimbabwe to Europe.
Once we understand the nature of the colonial system of exploitation that prevailed in Rhodesia, it becomes clear that it was almost impossible for Europeans to sanction their own cashcow [Rhodesia] in the strictest sense of the word because it would mean sanctioning their own lifeline.
Rhodesia Supported Europe
British survival and standards of living were greatly dependent on the systematic exploitation of colonies like Rhodesia. This is illustrated by how Britain has fallen economically ever-since the end of colonialism.
Therefore, if Rhodesians were sanctioned and didn’t have to repatriate wealth back to England, they would have elevated their standards of living to some of the highest levels in the world and they might have even elevated the lives of the Africans they were impoverishing, to stop them from ultimately overthrowing them in the end.
That’s why when people say Rhodesia was under punitive sanctions, it’s an oxymoron because Britain would not survive without exploiting colonies like Rhodesia.
Additionally that illogical perspective also fails to recognize the simple reality that Zimbabwe exists today and Rhodesia doesn’t, precisely because Rhodesia fell when the majority got tired of Rhodesian exploitation and rose violently to overthrow the exploitative establishment.
Why Were Rhodesian Sanctions Lenient
Now that we have laid down the foundation of why there were no real sanctions upon Rhodesia, let me now qualify my argument with empirical data.
1. Legal Sanctions vs Illegal Imperial Sanctions
Rhodesian sanctions were imposed by the U.N, meaning they were legal as the U.N‘s multi-national General Assembly and Security Council, guided by the Human Rights Commission’s Human Impact Assessment, are the only bodies in the world that can legally impose sanctions on a nation according to the U.N. Charter.
In Rhodesia‘s case, the country was placed under sanctions by the U.N General Assembly and Security Council for perpetrating a crime against humanity upon the people of maDzimbabwe. This is after their Unilateral Declaration of Independence from their principal, muted the US and British veto against sanctions on them.
These were unlike the illegal, unilateral US and EU sanctions on Zimbabwe that have not been sanctioned by the U.N. and contravene Human Rights law by collectively punishing civilians for political ends.
The unilateral sanctions on Zimbabwe are essentially neo-colonial restrictions imposed by the same Berlin Conference cabal, which imposed similar restrictions upon Africans during colonialism, to create tools like Rhodesia and other colonial territories for the raping and pillaging of Africa.
This time as before, their collective restrictions and punishment are designed to force the Zimbabweans to capitulate to exploitation of their land, resources and labor, to enrich Europe.
2. Byrd Amendment
During the Rhodesian sanctions, the US congress wrote a special bill amendment called the Byrd Amendment to circumvent the UN sanctions on Rhodesia.
This was done to enable America to continue to buy strategic minerals -which were the engine of the colonial economy- from Rhodesia, to keep their manufacturing industry viable.
Between 1967 and 1980 the United States bought more than 37% of their high grade chrome used in their military, automotive, aerospace, steel and chemical industries from Rhodesia since Rhodesia held 83% of the world’s high grade chrome. This was done over a period in which sanctions were supposed to have been at their tightest upon Rhodesia.
3. Multi-National Companies
The biggest companies and land owners in Rhodesia controlling in access of 80% of the economy were British, American and apartheid South African proxy companies such as BAT, Rothmans, Lonhro, ITT, Union Carbide, Anglo America, Barlow, Old Mutual and Rio Tinto. These European, US and apartheid South African western proxy companies never left Rhodesia so that they could continue exploiting maDzimbabwe on behalf of their western owners.
Instead, Rhodesia created two private state companies called UNIVEX and Rhodesian Corporation, which held foreign accounts in Europe and South Africa to control some of these foreign entities.
Nevertheless, when we look at Zimbabwe, we witnessed how, many western companies like Holiday Inn, Sheraton, VISA, Coke, Schweppes, Shell, BP, Mobile, SASOL, Microsoft, Paypal, BHP and many other multinational companies divested from Zimbabwe the moment land was returned to its rightful owners and sanctions imposed.
This was done to isolate and suffocate the Zimbabwean economy, accompanied with the fear of nationalization of these companies to compensate black Zimbabweans for colonial exploitation.
It’s always vital to understand that since independence of colonies in Africa, colonialism evolved from western governments governing territories politically, to their companies exploiting the same territories commercially, to harvest these markets and extract supernormal returns without European governments assuming political responsibility for social ills emanating thereof.
According to the 1976 US Congress Hearings on Rhodesian sanctions. Western countries were afraid to fully enforce Rhodesian sanctions because they feared that they would result in the flooding of mines and them losing their mining investments due to a lack of maintenance of the mines.
According to the statement of the US government Deputy Assistant Secretary of The Bureau Of Commerce. He highlighted that if sanctions were fully implemented to stop Rhodesian mines from operating, mines in the Great Dyke and Selukwe areas would be flooded within six months and those mines could not be resuscitated after two years.
As a result this would lead to the United States losing access to 480 000 tonnes of high grade chrome per year, while investments of companies like Anglo America, Riot Tinto and Union Carbide subsidiaries would be lost in the process.
For that reason he and other experts did not recommend the US fully enforcing sanctions by divesting from Rhodesia or repealing the Byrd Act because western investments [in this case American and British investments] would be lost.
4. Agencies Busting Sanctions
Taking it a step further, companies like Rio Tinto, Anglo America and Union Carbide remained in operation. Forming resource trading agencies in Europe, particularly Switzerland to bust sanctions and transfer money out of Rhodesia into European banks.
Anglo America for example had two companies based in Switzerland called Salg and Incontra AG. While Rio Tinto Zimbabwe had Centrametall AG. All three formed to sell Rhodesian and Botswana‘s nickel and copper to Europe and America.
Using these entities that were established outside Rhodesian law, metals, which were being produced by slave labor in Rhodesia and Botswana would now be sold through the Rhodesians arm to these three Swiss entities at a fraction of the price. From here these Swiss entities would then pass them on to other subsidiaries at a higher price in a corrupt transfer pricing value chain.
The Rhodesian government, politicians and business people would then get their cuts in overseas bank accounts and that money would then be accessible for future transactions and sanctions busting outside the sanction territory.
The loser here was clearly not Rhodesia or sanctions senders but the owners of the resources: maDzimbabwe, because that money made off their resources never came back to reinvest or compensate them for their labor or the resource that was lost.
To expand its monopoly and extend apartheid South African sphere of influence into Africa during the period of #TotalOnslaught or SADC destabilization. Anglo America, Barlow, Rothmans, Old Mutual and Sanlam expanded their industries into Rhodesia as a means of import substitution and controlling African value chains.
In reality it was a means of building a white/western monopoly bulkhead and market penetration lance into Africa with a western backed apartheid state license. This is why even when Zimbabwe got independence, unbeknown to most Zimbabweans, these five South African companies owned most of the manufacturing companies that were in Zimbabwe and through them Zimbabwe’s industrialization policy was influenced.
Anglo America with a 22% shareholding in ZISCO and majority in Haggi Randi, together with Voest from Austria were greatly influential in the collapse of Lancaster Steel and ZISCO because of their level of value chain control in the global steel industry.
5. Loans For Kariba Dam
It’s through these sophisticated tactics that Rhodesia was able to continue the Kariba Dam second phase under sanctions with loans from the IMF and the mining companies that needed the electricity.
These were loans taken at the exorbitant interest rate of 5%/annum on the dollar in 44 biannual payments, for electricity that was all used by the same transfer pricing mining companies, industry and the remainder in white suburbs.
Again exorbitant commissions were paid overseas to the deal makers, and guess what, Zimbabweans are still paying off the same debt (50yrs later) with a $115mil bond which was issued in 2017 to finish off the payments to Zambia who amortized the debt.
Another very smart party trick used by the west to circumvent these sanctions was allowing the Rhodesian government to set up state owned companies called Univex and Rhodesian Corporation, to take over management of some key British, American and European companies.
These companies were not nationalized as such, but the Rhodesian government just took over managing them to remove liability for contravening sanctions from western countries.
So in essence these companies continued to be going concerns in a sanctioned country to assist the Rhodesian economy. Money would be transfer priced overseas to shareholders, while the Rhodesian government made its cut in overseas accounts.
What is interesting is how at no point did any western country take action against the Rhodesian government for these purported hostile take overs of their companies.
7. Many Countries Were Not Enforcing Sanctions
Over and above that, countries like Switzerland, South Africa, Israel, Brazil, Jordan, Italy, Germany, Japan, Portugal, Poland, Iran and many others did not adhere to the sanctions. Hence they were used to bust sanctions by other western allies to keep propping up the Rhodesian regime and ensuring that it wasn’t overthrown by the guerrillas.
All this was done to ensure a negotiated transfer of power to black majority rule, in a manner that safe guarded western property rights and investments to protect the exploitation apparatus.
This is how a loan of $700mil was eventually given to Zimbabwe to build Hwange 1,2,4 and 4 for the benefit of Anglo America with the construction contract being given to a British company without a competitive bid.
8. Capital Purchases
During the same period Air Rhodesian bought 3 Boeing 720s through a Swiss company called Jet Aviation, all at a time no country in the world should have been selling Rhodesia machinery.
They also continued to buy arms from France, America, South Africa, Israel and even Britain, to keep fighting the war to try and stop black Rhodesians from getting independence. In the process they clocked up a debt of $800mil ($2.7bil in today’s terms) that the black Zimbabweans they were fighting and exploiting are still paying off today.
So how was this possible if U.N. sanctions were being fully implemented? Many writers have postulated that the Americans, Europeans and Britain signed off on Rhodesia’s UN sanctions but also turned a blind eye on such illegal loans and sanction busting, so that the new black government would inherit the debt, war and sanctions underdevelopment. This would then be used as a means for western countries to maintain hegemonic influence by debt and reconstruction aid on the newly independent country.
Under the US treasury’s #EO13469 and EU regime of sanctions, Zimbabwe can’t even buy riot gear from western nations because of prohibitions placed upon sales of military equipment to Zimbabwe. More critically because of restrictions placed on US and EU banks not to clear international US dollar or Euro payments made to or from Zimbabwean banks, government and companies.
9. Licenses And Prohibitions
Today, any person, company or institution that trades with Zimbabwe for any amount above $50 000 needs a license from the United States treasury. Otherwise they run the risk of their assets in US and partner territories being confiscated, directors arrested, being sanctioned and or prohibited from doing business in America, Europe and partner countries by what are called third party secondary sanctions.
Software companies like Microsoft, PayPal, Visa and many banking software companies, long closed their doors to Zimbabweans, confining Zimbabwean businesses to using pirate or outdated software to make operating in Zimbabwe difficult and risky for most companies.
All these and other factors have obviously isolated Zimbabwe from investment in ways that Rhodesia was never exposed due to her open european partnerships.
These were not the same conditions that were upon companies that were trading with Rhodesia as illustrated above.
In Rhodesia there was collusion by western governments, investors, companies and financial institutions to prop up their kith and kin in Rhodesia. Support that clearly is not on offer for Zimbabwe for obvious reasons.
This is why in 1974 Voest from Austria was able to finance a $124mil investment into new technology and machinery for RISCO Steel, to make it one of the biggest steel makers in the Southern Hermisphere with the support of South African buyers. Something the IMF and Anglo America, which was a shareholder in ZISCO put an end to in Zimbabwe soon after independence.
10. Third Party Transfer Agreements
According to Third Party Transfer agreements signed by US and European companies with manufacturers in other countries. No company in the world can sell machinery, software or services that have patents, IP or input from American or western companies to countries under their sanctions.
This means even companies in China or other parts of the world are prohibited from selling any of their products that have US or European parts or IP to any other country without express approval from the westerners.
However, as we have shown with the buying of arms, machines and planes, such restrictions didn’t apply on the Rhodesian sanctions even though US executive orders 11322 and 11412 had those restrictions.
11. Subsidiary Excuse
Another issue was that Rhodesian sanctions were not enforced upon western subsidiaries by the Americans and Europeans. This left the door open for most sanction busting to be done through western subsidiaries in Rhodesia for western benefit. Such sanctions busting was done all on the premise that subsidiaries were non-US or European personas, therefore out of the jurisdiction of American and European legislators.
Under the ZDERA and US executive orders sanction regimes, sanctions are not just on subsidiaries but the government, it’s ministries, companies, private companies, investors, business people, financial institutions. Additionally there are extra-jurisdictional third party secondary sanctions upon any person, investor, company and institution that assists, trades, supplies, services or does business with any of the 144 #SpecialDesignatedNationals or those who do business with them.
Strangely, South Africa, Israel, Iran and many other countries, openly did business with Rhodesia, assisting them in the war against black Rhodesians. We even had US, Canadian and European mercenaries coming to join the war but we never saw any secondary sanctions extended upon them.
But, US citizens lobbying against Zimbabweans sanctions today like Turner, have been arrested and sentenced to jail terms for assisting enemies of the United States.
12. Banking Exclusions
International partner banks never cut their relationships with Rhodesia, we even saw Barclays, Standard Bank, Rhobank and MBCA which is a Rothschild Bank, moving gold and assets for Rhodesia from Europe into South Africa, from where they guaranteed Rhodesian debt.
South African, Swiss, German, Portuguese and Austrian banks also guaranteed Rhodesian loans and facilitated international payments, hence transfer pricing, payments and clearances of US dollar payments for weapons and planes still took place with ease.
That’s besides the fact that as Europeans, Rhodesians had European citizenships to access accounts, funds, banking services, markets and suppliers in their home countries.
All but 9 partner banks have cut their relationships with Zimbabwean banks, which essentially means Zimbabwe has been excluded from the global financial, banking, settlement and payment systems.
13. Colonial Debt Equals Colonial Sanctions
Zimbabwe took on Rhodesian military and infrastructure development debt. Only to then incur the additional debt for building 5709 schools, 1161 hospitals and clinics, giving 53% of the citizens access to water, sanitation, electricity and 7000km of roads not developed by Rhodesian governing power, in contravention of U.N Charter, Human Rights Declaration and ICESCR obligations.
In the name of reconciliation, they also took on debt to buy back land in foreign currency from white farmers in the willing buyer willing seller period. Shouldering additional costs to raise the literacy and skills of essential medical, nursing and teaching of black Zimbabweans.
They were basically taking on the obligations of the administrators of the non-self governing territory of Rhodesia. Costs, which according to the Lancaster Agreement, should have been cancelled by the multi-lateral lending institutions in the long run.
Nontheless, those debts are not being cancelled because ZDERA prohibits US directors from approving Zimbabwean debt cancellation. A situation that has indebted Zimbabwe and suspended it from borrowing more money or accessing approved development and reconstruction loans agreed at Lancaster.
As a result of the British not paying reparations or damages to Zimbabwe for 90yrs of exploitation, dispossession and underdevelopment. Has left Zimbabwe in a legacy of underdevelopment and additional colonial debt sanctions.
Yet during the Rhodesian reign, they inherited no debt, stolen land; native taxes, an abundance of easy to reach resources, livestock, slave labor, and no competition due to globalization.
15. Zimbabwe’s Resources Made Rhodesia
It’s very critical at this point to highlight to proponents of the Rhodesian argument that it was MaDzimbabwe resources extracted with the enslaved and unpaid labor of our parents, over 3mil stolen cows, over $2bil in native taxes (over $1bil), the exclusion of natives from receiving public services; their exclusion from the property, job and business markets that funded Rhodesia’s illusion of success, that kept Rhodesia going for a few years.
The culmination of that exploitation is the legacy of poverty and debt that we are still paying for today for Rhodesian corruption.
16. Rhodesia Failed
Nevertheless, after stealing our land, livestock and resources and stashing the wealth overseas without compensation or reinvestment, Rhodesia still struggled to keep its citizens happy. Poverty stood at above 90%, black infant mortality was well above 200 babies for every 1000 born, which means one fifth of the black babies who were born died of malnutrition and other poverty diseases.
On the education front, less than 32% of the country had any education above standard six, resulting in the country having less than 1000 black graduates by 1980 after 90yrs of colonialism.
The consequence was 92% of the black workforce being consigned to menial labor on farms, in mines or white households, enjoying no union rights and forced to work for the nation as slave labor whether they wanted to or not.
The few who were privileged were nurses, teachers, headmasters, policemen, chiefs and government administrators. It’s from this small black administrative class that we usually hear the most praise for the Rhodesian establishment.
Meanwhile, in line with the Industrial Conciliation Act. The few good jobs had to be preserved for whites because Rhodesia, with all its western FDI, failed to create quality jobs as any progressive economy should.
The People Revolted
Fed up with this Malthusian level of existence, young people, knowing fully well how formidable the Rhodesian army was, took the risk of walking to Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and as far as Egypt. To train with the sole purpose of coming back and overthrowing this incompetent government.
What Rhodesian proponents never ask is, why would a generally passive and cowardly youth, go to the extents of risking their lives to overthrow a government that was surviving sanctions and serving them well?
In 1980, after 17yrs of war, the Rhodesian government was defeated by young boys and girls in slippers who in many cases had to share AK47s. All because of their desperation to remove a regime that had exploited their parents and failed to deliver basic services to them.
On the other side, after 18yrs of direct and punitive sanctions, a century of colonialism and colonial legacy sanctions preceding that, Zimbabwe is still going strong. Even though western nations and some of its own citizens are attempting to destabilize it, it’s still holding on.
The reasons being in a nation of well educated and skilled people who have opportunities to mine, farm, start businesses, facilitate deals, trade resources and make their fortune.
In a nation where people might not have jobs but they have land to grow their own food to escape hunger and resources to mine, unlike Rhodesia, they have too much hope to risk their lives starting a war.
Even with the pressure of sanctions, with a great education and skill in their arsenal, Zimbabweans can take the quality education they were given by the liberation movement to a foreign country and get a quality job. A job that will enable them to earn enough for them to collectively repatriate over $2bil every year to support their families, invest and mitigate the impact of sanctions on the country.
It’s all these successes of the current government that have made Zimbabwe weather these sanctions without wanting to overthrow the government, which makes these sanctions seem non-existent or trivial. Yet in reality they are some of the most punitive sanctions upon any nation in the world today.
By Rutendo Bereza Matinyarare