Sanctions (and sanctions-busting)

Following UDI and the imposition of sanctions (including strict controls on oil and petroleum product sales) the Bingham report in 1978 in the UK was to reveal that Shell’s local offices in southern Africa, along with those of BP had been breaking the UN's oil embargo from the start, conflicting with previous statements that Shell and its companies had no interest in Rhodesia. The Bingham report revealed that shipments to Rhodesia had arrived in Lourenco Marques before a complicated trail leading through Shell Mozambique (a British-incorporated firm) into South African brokers, who sent it through Mozambique to Rhodesia. Senior executives of Shell were criticised in the report for failing to monitor what local employees were doing. In 1979, the US was pressured by Congress to lift sanctions, but refused. 

The assumption of sanctions was that in a few weeks the vehicles (which were mainly owned by whites, or run by the military) would run out of fuel after the closure of the Beira pipeline. The temporary British naval blockade at Beira only created the "Beira Corridor" (essentially a 100 km wide channel for the movement of goods to and from the interior of Southern Africa to the port of Beira on the Indian Ocean, which was to operate until Samora Machel took over Mozambique). By this time, in any case, Durban in South Africa had become more important. 

The rapid economic collapse of Rhodesia had been forecast as Rhodesian tobacco, coffee, animal, textile and mineral products were all banned; imports and exports were supposed to cease; that Germany ceased to print the banknotes for Rhodesia (a German firm until quite recently was supplying the paper which Zimbabwean notes were printed on) it was assumed that Rhodesian banknotes would grow old and unusable. It was also believed that the inability to access machine parts would cause mines to close, and on a more emotional level, Air Rhodesia flights to and from London would be stopped.

However, even before UDI the Rhodesian government had already prepared the ground with a number of meetings. Ken Flower gives some details of how the Rhodesians were able to exploit the loopholes, the most obvious of which was that material sent to South Africa could simply be trans-shipped, and that most companies were to open . "Head Offices" which were often transferred overseas, and a suspiciously large number of companies were to open suddenly in South Africa and its Bantustans. Occasionally things would got out of hand; funds would be abused, it would be suggested that children of key ministers would take advantage, and make fortunes.


The title of one of the works on the Rhodesian Air Force - "The Sanctions Busters" (African Aviation Series 9 (Brent, Winston)) effectively summarises how the Rhodesian military managed to continue fighting until 1980, even expanding the types of aircraft they used.  Local ingenuity was to mean that some could be adapted locally, occasionally the overseas suppliers realised what was being done, and the order was cancelled. Jack Malloch, sanctions-buster extraordinaire, operated one of his companies from Oman – it is suggested that Omani dislike for black Africa through their loss of a controlling economic interest in Zanzibar led to support for Rhodesia.


It now appears that the European Union is tightening the sanctions on Zimbabwe; these sanctions have been imposed against a number of individuals and companies which continue to do business there (click link for more from the BBC). Mugabe continues to claim that these sanctions are aimed at the entire population of Zimbabwe, even though any unbiased surveyor can see this is clearly not the case. Lacking a Zimbabwean Jack Malloch, Mugabe has for too long been able to rely both on people turning a blind eye to his behaviour, and looking increasingly to Asia for support.