The EU sanctions were first imposed on the Southern African country in 2002 as a response to human rights abuses by the Robert Mugabe regime during the land reform exercise.
While the majority of individuals and entities have over the nearly two decades been removed from the sanctions list, only Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda, former First Lady Grace Mugabe, and Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) remained on the list.
However, Chiwenga and Sibanda have been on the suspended sanctions list since 2014, while Mugabe was added to the same in 2020.
But over the weekend the 27-member bloc totally lifted the sanctions on the three while renewing the embargo on ZDI.
Lamenting the worsening human rights situation in the country, the EU in a press statement said intimidation of the political opposition and other government critics continues to restrict democratic and civil space in Zimbabwe.
The EU said the country’s democratic space risks shrinking further through the Data Protection Act, Private and Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill, the envisaged Patriotic Act, among other pieces of legislation.
“The EU is concerned about these developments,” said the bloc. “Perpetrators of human rights violations should be swiftly brought to justice to end impunity. The EU has decided to renew its restrictive measures while lifting the already suspended restrictive measures against three individuals. The arms embargo and the targeted assets freeze against one company, Zimbabwe Defence Industries, remain in place taking into account the situation in Zimbabwe as well as the continued need to investigate the role of the security forces in human rights abuses.”
Vusumuzi Chirwa, a political analyst said the renewal of sanctions was expected since the government has not addressed conditions that attracted them.
“With anti-human rights bills like the PVO Amendment Bill being proposed and drafted, it was obvious that sanctions were going to be renewed,” Chirwa told CITE.
Sipho Nyoni, another political analyst believes sanctions against the ZDI were extended for another year owing to human rights abuses that “continue to grow.”
“Our security forces haven’t really helped the situation; they have instead more or less become an institution of dishonour and more than anyone they have tainted the image of this country through violence at every period and interval before and even after the Covid-19 era,” said Nyoni.
“These sanctions won’t be lifted anytime soon because we happen to have an army that thinks it is an appendage of a certain political party and so is open to use by it, in order to suit or fulfil personal agendas. From time to time, you will get the military and government turning on their very own people using that institution which is meant to protect them and hence it can only attract sanctions from the international community.”
But Chirwa thinks the embargo is likely to be lifted in the future considering that most individuals who were initially targeted in 2002 are now off the hook.
Effie Ncube, also a political analyst said Zimbabwe has not embarked on any meaningful reforms to justify the complete lifting of the embargo.
He added that the behaviour of the government will only determine when sanctions eventually go or remain.