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US Sanctions Stir Debate in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe President Mnangagwa (Credits:

In March, the US announced sanctions on 11 individuals from Zimbabwe, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his wife, citing corruption and human rights violations. Three companies were also sanctioned for similar reasons. The Zimbabwean government denounced these accusations as unfounded and slanderous.

This decision follows a reassessment of the sanctions initially imposed in 2003, now aligning them with the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016, which targets global officials for human rights abuses.

This adjustment signifies a reduction in the number of individuals and entities affected, with Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo stating the aim is not to penalize the Zimbabwean people but to promote accountability and address human rights issues.

Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa (Credits: Fox 59)

Rutendo Matinyarare of the Zimbabwe Anti-Sanctions Movement saw this as an opportunity for progress, urging the country to move forward without excuses.

The US maintains its stance on pushing Zimbabwe towards a more democratic governance model, highlighting its significant humanitarian aid contributions to Zimbabwe, amounting to over $3.5 billion since its independence.

The impact of these sanctions, especially those by the US and European Union, has been contentious, with Zimbabwe claiming substantial economic losses.

The UN Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures observed that sanctions exacerbated existing challenges, hitting the vulnerable populations the hardest. The debate continues on the effectiveness of sanctions versus internal issues like corruption in stalling Zimbabwe’s progress.

Economist Gift Mugano emphasized that internal corruption is a more significant hindrance to Zimbabwe than sanctions, which he argues do not impede trade with Western nations.

Emmerson Mnangagwa (Credits: The Trent)

Meanwhile, economist Eddie Cross highlighted the massive financial drain corruption has inflicted on Zimbabwe since independence, suggesting that addressing both sanctions and corruption is crucial for the country’s development.

The US still enforces the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA), limiting Zimbabwe’s access to international financial support and contributing to higher banking costs due to fears of sanctions compliance.

For ZIDERA to be repealed, Zimbabwe must meet several conditions, including holding free elections and withdrawing its military and police from politics.

The effectiveness of sanctions remains debated. Some argue they fail to curb corruption and limit political freedoms, while others see them as necessary to pressure the Zimbabwean government. Despite this, Zimbabwe seeks stronger ties with nations like China and Russia, diversifying its international relations in response to Western sanctions.

This complex scenario underlines the intricate dynamics of international sanctions, their impact on national development, and the ongoing debate over the best pathways to encourage positive change in governance and human rights practices.

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