US targets Zim leaders with new sanctions


The US on Monday imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and senior leaders, but scrapped the 20-year-old sweeping campaign and replaced it with targeted action.

Pres. Joe Biden’s administration, citing rights violations and corruption, imposed sanctions against 11 Zimbabweans, including Mnangagwa and three companies.

The sanctions prevent them from accessing any of their assets in the US and prevent unofficial travel to the country.

At the same time, Biden ended the earlier sanctions campaign, which was introduced in 2003, against Zimbabwe. Restrictions originally imposed by the US on Zimbabweans will be lifted, except for those imposed on Monday.

“The changes we are making must clearly state what has always been the case: Our sanctions are not intended to target the people of Zimbabwe,” said the deputy finance minister, Wally Adeyemo.

“We are refocusing our sanctions on clear and specific targets, namely Pres. “Mnangagwa’s criminal network of government officials and businessmen who are most responsible for corruption or human rights abuses against the people of Zimbabwe,” he says.

According to Foreign Minister Antony Blinken, the new measures are part of a “stronger, more targeted sanctions policy” against Zimbabwe. Blinken also expressed his concern about “serious cases of corruption and human rights abuses”.

“Key persons, including members of the government of Zimbabwe, bear responsibility for this action. This includes the looting of the public treasury which robs Zimbabweans of public resources,” Blinken said in a statement.

“Several cases of kidnapping, physical abuse and murder have left citizens living in fear.”

The US has the largest economy in the world and applies sanctions on a large scale. However, its critics argue that Washington’s sentence is indeterminate, with no appeals process. This means there is little incentive for those on the blacklist to change their behaviour.

The earlier sanctions – while they were also mainly aimed at the Zimbabwean leadership under veteran President Robert Mugabe – were part of a major pressure campaign led by then Pres. George W Bush, in collaboration with England, after a campaign of forced takeover of land from white farmers.

According to US officials, there are individuals in Zimbabwe who were targeted under the previous sanctions program who no longer work for the state or even have died.

Zimbabwe welcomes new action

The Zimbabwean government welcomed the lifting of the previous sanctions. The country has long shouldered the blame for its dismal economy and one of the world’s highest inflation rates.

“This is enormous,” government spokesman Nick Mangwana said on X (formerly Twitter) and described it as “justification” of Mnangagwa’s foreign policy.

“That being said, as long as there are sanctions against our president, Zimbabwe is subject to illegal sanctions; as long as members of the president’s family are subjected to sanctions, Zimbabwe remains under illegal sanctions; as long as senior leaders have sanctions against them, we are all subject to sanctions,” he said in a statement.

Matthew Miller, spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, said in response: “It is rare for a government to say that sanctions on the sitting president are a victory for the government.”

Pres. Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia, who is becoming an increasingly ally of the US because of his commitment to democracy, praised Biden for suspending the 2003 sanctions.

“This is another proof that Biden pays attention to his African partners. We hope that this offers a chance for Zimbabwe to take a new turn and for regional involvement,” Hichilema said on X.

After an election in August that was criticized by foreign observers because it did not comply with democratic principles, Mnangagwa, whose party has ruled for more than 40 years, was declared victorious for a second term.

After Mnangagwa deposed his predecessor in 2017, there were temporary signs of an upswing in relations between the two countries. Rights organizations and Western countries claim that the government still does not tolerate opposition and protests.

Those targeted by the latest sanctions include first lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, as well as Zimbabwe’s first vice president, the defense minister and army chief.