The Role of the International Community in Domestic Politics

The Case of Zimbabwe's Targeted Sanctions

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2011

25 Pages, Grade: A-



This paper examines the impact of the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe. It provides an in-depth analysis of the effects of targeted sanctions in compelling the targeted group to act favorably. The paper scrutinizes the nature of the targeted sanctions and gives empirical evidence on how their impact has been severely curtailed by non participation of other nations, lack of clarity, inconsistencies in implementation and challenges on the legitimacy of the sanctions among other issues. This article also goes further to analyze the spillover effects of the targeted sanctions particularly on the economic and social service sectors. The article argues that despite the weaknesses inherent in the nature of these sanctions and their spillover effects, the sanctions have facilitated better aid management that has resulted in successful implementation of aid projects without sidelining the government and without the donors being meddled in political squabbles.


Sanctions are a method of compelling governments to adopt certain favorable policies without resorting to violence. They provide a sort of punishment to governments presumed by the international community to be adopting unfavorable policies until they exhibit favorable behavior. Hufbauer et al (2000) indicates that concern over the impact of comprehensive economic sanctions on the poor and vulnerable members of the society led scholars and the international community to rethink and fine-tune sanctions to direct their force against those in power. Hence, targeted sanctions or smart sanctions are meant to focus their impact on leaders, political elites and segments of society believed responsible for intolerable behavior while reducing collateral damage on the general population and third world countries’ economies.

New Zealand, United States (USA), European Union (EU) and Australia instituted smart sanctions on Zimbabwe between 2000 and 2003. The theoretical basis was to enforce the government to change its stance on several controversial issues. The reasons given in all cases include widespread allegations of election violence, human rights abuses, media censorship, violation of property ownership rights and disrespect of rule of law among other governance issues which according to these countries have the potential of destabilizing the region and the international community. The countries that instituted these sanctions claim that these are purely targeted sanctions involving some restrictive measures meant to compel the government to institute several political changes in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe. Hence the terms ‘restrictive measures’, ‘targeted’ or ‘smart’, have been used to describe the measures imposed against Zimbabwe.

The sanctions incorporate the following:

- Travel bans, financial sanctions, freezing of funds and economic resources, and ban on provision of services on certain individuals. EU sanctions 200 people and 40 firms (EU Sanctions list), US Sanctions 132 individuals and 54 companies (US Sanctions list), New Zealand sanctions 249 individuals and companies (New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade 2007) Australia sanctions 124 individuals and companies (Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)
- Embargo on arms and related material
- Suspension of budgetary support
- EU ban on export of selected agricultural products

The US Sanctions include financial restrictions on credits and loans from multilateral organizations as explained in the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (ZIDERA) and the Australian sanctions include downgrading of government-to-government contacts at multilateral forums and downgrading of cultural links as indicated in the Australian Government document entitled Zimbabwe Government Sanctions Regime (2002).

This paper seeks to analyze the effects of the sanctions or measures imposed on Zimbabwe. The paper will thus analyze the nature of the sanctions and examine whether they have had an impact on compelling the targeted group to act favorably.


The problem under consideration is the effectiveness of the use of targeted/ smart sanctions or restrictive measures by the international community as a means for compelling national states to adopt certain policies without any spillover effects on the population and the economy in general.


The main question that this research seeks to answer is:

3.1 How effective are the measures imposed against Zimbabwe in compelling the target group to change and act favourably?

The following questions are also going to be addressed by this paper.

3.2 What are the spillover effects of the targeted sanctions?

3.3 How has the sanctions impacted on aid management?


This paper hypothesizes that to a larger extend the impact of the targeted sanctions in compelling the targeted group to act favourably has been limited by weaknesses inherent in the nature of the sanctions. The sanctions have had severe spillover effects in the economy as well as the social services sectors. Despite these factors, the sanctions have promoted better aid management and aid effectiveness.


The study of targeted sanctions shall be analyzed by looking at the experiences in Zimbabwe under the targeted sanctions imposed by the US, EU, New Zealand and Australia. Historical and archival research methodology shall be utilized as the researcher will analyze secondary data and written articles and papers concerning the subject matter. The following shall form the basis of the research methodology to be employed in the development of the paper.

i. A study of the policy documents that legalized sanctions against Zimbabwe, including the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA), sanctions lists and the policy papers on Zimbabwe’s sanctions.
ii. Speeches and government documents on the subject matter.
iii. Media articles on related subjects, reports, published articles, journals


6.1 Travel Bans

Indeed the existence of travel bans have in a way restricted the freedom of movement of the elite that is under the sanctions list. Moreover, their dependents that are listed under the sanctions list have not always enjoyed entrance into the countries that imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe. For instance, this saw visas being denied as well as an immediate deportation of the beneficiaries of the targeted group who were in temporary or permanent residence in EU, US, New Zealand or Australia for various reasons like work or education. Certainly, this can be an inconvenience that can have the effect of motivating the targeted group to act favorably. However, this was an initial impact and over time the impact has been constrained by several factors.

Non compliance by other nations has impacted on the effectiveness of travel bans. Smith-Hohn (2007:4), indicates that the fact that travel bans apply only to certain countries and allow exemptions for participation in meetings coordinated by international organizations have meant that the bans can be circumvented either by travelling to countries that have not imposed such bans or by attending international events while at the same time pursuing private interests. Eriksson (2007:42) also highlights this factor and further indicates that preventing those on the list from travelling is not so efficient in the long run since they can adopt some other strategies which include shopping elsewhere, shopping on the internet and using different names. Since in this case the targeted individuals are not grounded in Zimbabwe, they can enjoy splendid and luxurious spending in other parts of the world or access whatever products that they want using other means. The effect of this might be to lessen the pressure on the targeted group to change their behavior in order to have the restrictions lifted.

Additionally, a closer look at the implementation of the travel bans by the different nations illustrates lack of clarity and inconsistencies. As indicated by Chingono (2010), targeted people have not always been restricted. For instance in January 2003, French Government invited Mr. Mugabe despite the travel bans (BBC News 23 January 2010), Gideon Gono, the central bank governor went to UK despite the travel ban ( 28/10/10) and in 2002, some weeks after being placed on the EU travel ban Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri traveled to Lyon ( These and many other cases cannot be applied to the exemption clause given; namely that travel can only be considered in the case of international summits and international conferences. In the minds of the ordinary Zimbabwean citizens as well as the citizens in the countries that imposed these sanctions, it would be very problematic to practically conceptualize the existence of travel bans, if the targeted people sometimes visit the countries. Moreover, for the targeted group it would seem unpredictable that visas will always be denied if they are sometimes given, which can therefore have the effect of giving them hope to apply for visas even though they are under travel bans. Inconsistencies have also been shown when some people that are not on the lists have been denied entry into EU, UK or US. For instance, when Zimbabwe Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s delegation met President Obama in June 2009, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Tourism, an advocate for reform within the ruling party Zanu PF was barred from the meeting even though he had been allowed to get in the US for the purpose of that meeting and even though he is not on the US Sanctions list as reported by the Zimbabwe Metro 15 June 2009. The effect of all this is to weaken the capability of the travel bans to enforce change on the intended group.

To add on, the sanctions lists do not coincide, which implies that a person who is on the US list but not on the EU list might not be denied entry into EU. Definitely, the impact of the travel ban for such a person would not be excessive compared to the impact posed on a person who is on both lists. This weakens the forceful effect that the travel bans would have in the case of a consolidated list that denies visa requirements into all the countries that are imposing sanctions. Moreover, it gives an impression that the sanctioners themselves do not agree as to who should be on the sanctions list.

6.2 Legitimacy of the Sanctions

This paper argues that it is vital for the sanctions to have a legitimate basis that is understood both nationally and internationally in order for them to be effective in compelling action on the targeted group. Eriksson (2007:37), provides that the legitimacy of the EU Sanctions have been questioned by many who raise the issue of proportionality arguing that Zimbabwe deserves not to be harshly treated considering the existence of more severe cases of human rights violations in other African nations. Moreover, the President of Zimbabwe, Mr Mugabe has not wasted any slightest opportunity in regional and international forums to try and convince the international community that the sanctions are ‘illegal’ and the only cause of the economic problems in Zimbabwe. Examples include SADC Conferences (The Standard 22/08/2010), African Union (AU) Conferences, UN Summits and other international forums such as the U.N Food Summit in Rome (Zimbabwe Metro News 17/11/2009) and the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen. The terminology adopted by the targeted group to describe targeted sanctions as they continue to call for lifting of sanctions include ‘illegal’, ‘western imperial attitudes’ ‘targeted at influencing regime change’, neo-colonial’ among others. Though one would not expect a different attitude from the targeted group, the influence of these statements cannot be underestimated given the potential that they have in influencing public opinion and challenging therefore the legitimacy of instituting the targeted sanctions against the Mugabe regime.

Indeed the impact has been that the majority of those in the AU and SADC also started to call for removal of the sanctions in solidarity with Zimbabwe’s ruling party including leaders like the President of Botswana, Seretse Khama who had initially been very supportive of the sanctions as reported by the New Zimbabwean on 5 October 2010. In this regard, the motivating force of the targeted sanctions is weakened as the targeted people are viewed as victims.


Excerpt out of 25 pages


The Role of the International Community in Domestic Politics
The Case of Zimbabwe's Targeted Sanctions
Ewha Womans University  (Graduate School of International Studies)
International Political Economy
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ISBN (Book)
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The author appreciates and values the support received from Prof. Kalinowski who assisted in editing this paper.
role, international, community, domestic, politics, case, zimbabwe, targeted, sanctions
Quote paper
Tsitsi Muvunzi (Author), 2011, The Role of the International Community in Domestic Politics, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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