Biden renews US sanctions on Zimbabwe

March 4, 2021

The new United States of America president, Joseph Biden has renewed restrictive measures against 83 Zanu PF officials and 37 companies perceived to be responsible for human rights abuses.

Brenna Matendere

The Zimbabwean administration led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa hoped for thawed relations with Washington when Biden was inaugurated on January 20 this year, replacing Donald Trump, the extended targeted sanctions will dash hopes of re-engagement with the USA.

The current measures were set to expire on March 6.

Biden feels there are no material political and economic reforms since the Mnangagwa administration wrested power from the late ex-president Robert Mugabe in late 2017.

He sent a notice to the US congress on Thursday (March 4 2021) in which he noted that the restrictive measures would be extended to March 6 2022.

The targeted sanctions were put in place in March 2003, through Executive Order 13288, targeting government officials, persons and institutions perceived to be undermining democracy in Zimbabwe.

This followed a violent presidential election in early 2002 which pitted the incumbent Mugabe against the late Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).  

The opposition party reported then that thousands of its supporters had faced gross human rights violations which included extrajudicial killings in the build up to the polls and after.

“President Emmerson Mnangagwa has not made the necessary political and economic reforms that would warrant terminating the existing targeted sanctions program.

“Throughout the last year, government security services routinely intimidated and violently repressed citizens, including members of opposition political parties, union members, and journalists,” read Biden’s notice.

“The absence of progress on the most fundamental reforms needed to ensure the rule of law, democratic governance, and the protection of human rights leaves Zimbabweans vulnerable to ongoing repression and presents a continuing threat to peace and security in the region,” he continued.

The measures include financial and visa sanctions against selected individuals in government, a ban on transfers of defence items and services, as well as suspension of non-humanitarian government-to-government assistance.

On November 8 2020, Mnangagwa congratulated Biden for winning the US presidential elections against Trump.

In his message, Mnangagwa said he hoped to see a softened stance on Zimbabwe by Biden.

However the latest development means frosty relations between Washington and Harare might continue.

The Mnangagwa administration stands accused of a series of gross human rights abuses dominated by the military, which helped push Mugabe out.

The army has been accused of killing protesters in cold blood, mass rape and persecution of civilians, journalists and human rights defenders.

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