THE United States and European Union have extended sanctions against Zimbabwe by another year amid calls by various stakeholders for a relook at the embargo, which analysts say is no longer serving its purpose.
The West announced an extension of the sanctions accusing Zimbabwe’s political leadership of gross economic mismanagement and incessant undermining of democratic processes and institutions.
US President Joe Biden last week said his administration would extend the embargo for a further year citing that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration was implementing policies threatening America’s foreign policy.
“The actions and policies of certain members of the Zimbabwe government and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States,” Biden said.
“For this reason, the national emergency declared on March 6, 2003 and the measures adopted on that date, on November 22, 2005 and on July 25, 2008 to deal with that emergency must continue in effect beyond March 6, 2022.
“Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for one year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13288,” he added last week.
Biden further noted that Harare had pursued actions and policies that have contributed to a deliberate breakdown in the rule of law in Zimbabwe, politically motivated violence and intimidation as well as political and economic instability in the Southern African region.
A week earlier the EU decried the failure by the Zimbabwean government to improve its human rights record. The economic bloc announced the lifting of sanctions on Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Valerio Sibanda Zimbabwe Defence Forces and former first lady Grace Mugabe.
Chiwenga and Sibanda have been on the sanctions list since 2014, while Mugabe was added in 2020.
The EU, however, maintained its embargo on the Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI).
In maintaining the embargo on ZDI, the EU said the renewal of sanctions was a result of the human rights situation in the country which had not changed as evidenced by closure of democratic space.
“The situation in terms of respect for human rights has not improved in Zimbabwe,” the EU said, adding that intimidation of political opposition and other government critics continues to restrict the democratic and civic space.
However, political commentators this week agreed that maintaining sanctions against Zimbabwe was becoming a matter of principle and symbolic without any meaningful results.
Political commentator Professor Stephen Chan argued that the EU sanctions were maintained in part as a general principle, while they were in fact lifted from selected individuals.
“Few people or institutions are now EU sanctioned. The US sanctions are somewhat extensive. It seems they were renewed without thought as the US is utterly preoccupied with war in Europe at the moment, as well as economic competition with China,” he said.
“The sanctions regime has in fact passed its usefulness. The government is now using them as a cover for its own economic mismanagement and lack of proper national productivity. It is the lack of economic planning and management that hurts citizens much more than sanctions.”
Professor Chan also predicted that all sanctions on Zimbabwe could be lifted next year.
“I think all sanctions will be lifted next year, unless the national elections are regarded as violent or fraudulent. If that is the case, they will not be fully lifted,” he added.
Speaking from South Africa, another political analyst Ricky Mukonza said the recent extension of sanctions against Zimbabwe by the West was largely symbolic.
“Nothing is going to change because of this extension. Studies on sanctions in Zimbabwe have demonstrated how they are ineffective as far as influencing behaviour of the ruling elite is concerned.
“The ruling elite have continued to live their lavish lives and where they have been barred from London or New York, they go to Shanghai or Abu Dhabi. If anything, these sanctions are hurting the ordinary man and their businesses,” Mukonza said.
In buttressing the argument that EU sanctions against Zimbabwe could be lifted next year, another analyst said the EU was never in conflict with Zimbabwe but the sanctions on the Southern African country were in solidarity with the United Kingdom (UK).
“Remember, the Zimbabwean government, especially the former president Mugabe’s regime was in conflict with the UK leading to the sanctions. With Brexit more European countries are not interested in the conflict between Zimbabwe and the UK and would want to engage the Southern African country for prospective business and investment.
“We are likely to see more European countries engaging Zimbabwe going forward especially if authorities in Harare conduct elections without conflict otherwise the sanctions regime has not worked at all,” the analyst said requesting anonymity.
The economic restrictions, especially imposed by the US, have been cited as the reason behind untold suffering among the ordinary Zimbabweans with a UN report last year confirming the same.
The sanctions have also led to Zimbabweans based outside the country dragging Biden and his government to court after failing to get loans because of the economic embargo.
The economic embargo has triggered massive economic instability in the country where the government to some extent ended up implementing various sanctions busting measures.
This has therefore culminated in the creation of various cartels and questionable businesses all in the quest of evading the ruinous sanctions.