The European Union (EU) has extended by a year its arms embargo against Zimbabwe while underplaying the impact of its sanctions against the southern African country.
Zimbabwe has been under sanctions from the EU and the United States for the past two decades and this has impacted negatively on its economy that has been in decline for years.
The EU has eased its travel bans and assets freezes against government officials and security chiefs, but maintains an arms embargo and asset freeze against the Zimbabwe Defence Industries.
In its latest review of the embargo, Brussels said it decided to keep the arms embargo in place because of concerns that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is not keeping its reform promises.
“The EU will continue to closely follow developments, with a particular attention to the human rights situation and recalls its readiness to adapt the whole range of its policies accordingly,” the EU said in its review.
The remaining restrictive measures in place do not affect the people of Zimbabwe, its economy, foreign direct investments, or trade.
Exports to EU
“Zimbabwe continues to benefit from duty free and quota free access of its exports to the EU, while negotiations are ongoing to deepen the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Economic Partnership Agreement.
“There is significant potential in terms of investments and job opportunities, provided that the government promotes political and economic reforms, facilitate a conducive and more predictable business environment, tackle corruption and foster respect for human rights and the rule of law.”
Zimbabwe has been lobbying for the lifting of the Western sanctions, arguing that they are unjustified and a strain to its struggling economy.
African leaders have also joined the lobby and have in the recent years used global platforms to push for the removal of the embargo with no success.
The US, United Kingdom and the EU insist that Zimbabwe must show a commitment to political and economic reforms for the sanctions to be lifted.
Zimbabwe was first hit with sanctions after a disputed 2002 presidential election where then leader Robert Mugabe was accused of electoral fraud and human rights violations.
The EU said it was concerned about President Mnangagwa’s moves to introduce legislation that will severely limit the civic and democratic space.
“Other developments are of concern from a democratic and civic space perspective,” the Council of the EU added.
“These include the Data Protection Act and, if enacted, bills such as the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill and the envisaged “patriotic provisions” in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill.
“The EU also maintains its concerns that the recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry have not been followed substantially and the perpetrators of violations which occurred in August 2018 and January 2019 are to date still enjoying impunity from prosecution.
“It is important that international human rights obligations are adhered to and the constitutional rights of the people of Zimbabwe respected.”
Zimbabwe will hold parliamentary and presidential elections later this year and Western countries, including members of the EU, say it is crucial for the country to organise free and fair elections if its international isolation is to end.