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Targeted sanctions as a new political discourse in Zimbabwe: a transition or obstacle to democracy from 2000-2013.

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The main aim of the research was to critically analyse the potential impact of targeted sanctions in promoting or impeding democracy in Zimbabwe. The research was centred around the conflicting views on the use of targeted sanctions as a tool in coercing and dissuading the target governments pursuing retrogressive policies deemed undemocratic. The use of targeted sanctions is a fairly new discourse in international relations and the efficacy of which is highly debatable. Due to the failure to recognise and promote human rights and its covenants on economic, social and cultural rights, Zimbabwe has been under targeted sanctions for over a decade. Disputed elections, the chaotic land reform program, and poor monetary policies compounded the problem. To understand democracy and sanctions, two theories were used, namely; the substantive approach to the theory of democracy and the institutional theory of sanctions. In order to achieve the objectives of the study, a triangulation was used where both qualitative and quantitative research designs were used. In depth interviews were conducted with key informants who were conveniently selected. Questionnaires were self-administered in order to achieve a high return rate. The researcher made use of thematic data analysis by examining themes and patterns emerging from the data. Furthermore, secondary data in the form of historical statistical data, journals, newspaper articles and government reports were used to complement the study. In total 85 usable questionnaires were returned, and eight interviews were successfully conducted. The empirical evidence shows that generally, there is a negative perception with regards to controversial laws passed by the government in 2002 and 2004 respectively. Interviewees differed in their perceptions with regards to ZANU PF’s repressive laws. However, there was consensus on the partial success of sanctions in aiding democracy in Zimbabwe. Suggestions are that, sanctions fuelled the party’s quest for power and domination which had a negative domino effect on the economy and ultimately on the ordinary people. Ironically, the Government of National Unity formed in 2009 assisted in reversing some of the stringent policies, measures and laws passed by the Government in response to the sanctions. The study concludes that the use of sanctions as a protest action on undemocratic regimes should consider the country’s socio-political factors. Considering the above issues, for the country to be re-integrated into the international community, there is need to mend its diplomatic course for the sake of its citizens and transition to a more viable democratic system. This would aid in forging an appropriate sanction package without harming ordinary citizens both economically and socially.


Master of Social Science in International Relations. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College 2016.


Sanctions, Administrative--Zimbabwe., Democracy--Zimbabwe., Democratization--Zimbabwe--International cooperation., Zimbabwe--Politics and government., Theses--International relations.