Zimbabwe’s leaders escaped fresh sanctions by the European Union on Monday despite growing repression.
The EU Parliament last week called for individual sanctions to be widened against top government and military officials, but EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels only agreed to maintain travel restrictions and an asset freeze on former President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace, as well as the Zimbabwe Defence Industries.
Suspended sanctions against Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander Phillip Valerio Sibanda and Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri were also maintained, while former police chief Augustine Chihuri and former CIO boss Happyton Bonyongwe were removed from the list.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, briefing journalists, said: “This decision was taken in light of our objective which is to encourage commitment to uphold the rule of law and human rights as set out in Zimbabwe’s constitution.
“We have seen a crackdown on demonstrations in January as well as disproportionate use of force by the authorities and that called into question this commitment. Now the key question is to understand whether the old system [of Mugabe] has been dismantled definitely or if it remains in place under different leadership.”
Mogherini said “all decisions… on listings, including new listings, can be swiftly adopted if the situation requires it” and they would “keep monitoring the situation very closely and stand ready to adjust our decisions accordingly.”
Joseph Devanny, a lecturer on war studies at the Kings College in London, said the EU stance was “arguably the worst possible decision that was available”.
“Whilst this isn’t surprising, it highlights the moribund status of the restrictive measures policy. The EU chose the least intellectually coherent renewal: active measures continue on two people who hold no government posts; two names removed from the suspended list because they no longer hold a government post; and no-one currently in power are subject to active measures.”
Zimbabwe government spokesman Nick Mangagwa said: “It’s encouraging that the EU has vindicated President Mnangagwa’s engagement and re-engagement policy by not escalating sanctions as campaigned for by some of our own citizens. The progressive de-escalation whilst not as good as a total removal is positive.”zimlive