All about the US removing sanctions on Zimbabwe and what it means going forward

Leonard Sengere Avatar

As I live and breathe! Who thought we would see the sanctions the country was on lifted? The United States of America removed its sanctions on Zimbabwe, hallelujah. Then the USA began a new sanction regime, wait, what?

To understand what’s going on, let’s go back to Executive Order 13288. Following the terribly planned and executed land reform programme and rampant political violence in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s, the USA, under George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13288 in 2003. It had the following provisions:

  • it declared a national emergency and blocked the property of certain individuals and entities in Zimbabwe
  • it cited the “unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States” posed by the actions and policies of certain members of the Zimbabwean government
  • its justification was that the Zimbabwean government was engaged in actions and policies that undermined democratic processes and institutions, including violence, intimidation, and repressive legislation
  • it authorised the US government to freeze the assets of individuals and entities deemed responsible for undermining democratic processes in Zimbabwe.

This Executive Order was terminated yesterday by the US under Joe Biden.

Biden says he is concerned about human rights abuses and corruption in Zimbabwe – we all are, Joe. However, he believes the national emergency is no longer necessary. Makes sense.

This is great news and some of you owe the Zimbabwean govt an apology. You thought they were lying when they said the country was under sanctions. Right?

That’s where the good news ends. If you were having a good day up to this point, just stop reading right here and it won’t be spoiled.

Sanctions remain

The US is removing the designation of a national emergency regarding Zimbabwe. This doesn’t mean a change in their stance on human rights and other issues that warranted the sanctions.

It merely demonstrates a shift in how they will address them. The US will still use existing sanctions to target individuals involved in corruption and human rights violations. Exactly like Executive Order 13288.

Executive Order 13288 was terminated by Executive Order 14353 and in Shona they say, ‘ngoma ndiyo ndiyo’ loosely translated as ‘more of the same’.

The only things that have changed are that the national emergency designation was lifted and some new individuals and corporations were added to the list of sanctioned persons.

The US will continue to utilise existing sanctions authorities to hold accountable individuals it deems are involved in corruption and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

Following the new order, National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson released a statement which included the following excerpt:

In response to new and continuing corruption and serious human rights abuse, the United States is refocusing and elevating its efforts to hold accountable the individuals and entities that are responsible for this exploitation.  Today, the United States is employing a new set of tools in Zimbabwe,…

…Specifically, the Department of the Treasury is designating three entities and eleven individuals, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Brigadier General (Retired) Walter Tapfumaneyi, and businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei…for their involvement in corruption or serious human rights abuse.

…These designations build on recent U.S. Government actions, including pausing U.S. participation in the African Development Bank Dialogue…

Targeted sanctions

The above are textbook targeted sanctions. They are not imposed on the country but rather on certain individuals and entities. In fact, Watson makes it clear,

Sanctions on these individuals and entities do not represent sanctions on Zimbabwe or its public.

This was the case with the terminated Executive Order. It targeted specific individuals whilst the country remained unsanctioned.

That all sounds good but in practice, it doesn’t quite work out like this. Though targeted, the sanctions end up disproportionately affecting the very people under oppression by the Zimbabwean govt.

Yes, these sanctioned individuals may struggle to travel to some countries and their business interests might face some challenges. However, as we know, they are looting the country dry and are living like kings. The same can’t be said for the rest of us.

Strive Masiyiwa has stated that the targeted sanctions have affected his company’s ability to work with Western firms, particularly concerning capital-raising efforts. Many other individuals and businesses not under sanctions have raised similar concerns.

OFAC penalties

Some of this comes from American companies being overly cautious. There are severe penalties to working with a sanctioned person and for a small market like Zimbabwe, not many investors are willing to take on that risk.

Here’s what some OFAC lawyers have to say about the penalties:

Civil penalties of up to $289,000, or twice the amount of underlying transaction, may be imposed against persons who violate Zimbabwe sanctions.

My friend, even in the US, $289,000 is a lot of money. Worse still, the penalty could be as high as twice the amount of the transaction.

A multi-million-dollar deal with a Zimbabwean firm that turns out to have significant shareholding by a sanctioned individual could bankrupt someone.

Do you remember the allegations against the former ICT Minister Mandiwanzira about using shell companies to hide his shareholding and providing preferential treatment to some companies? Western companies have to consider that risk before working with a Zimbabwean individual.

The OFAC lawyers add,

For individuals with business interests in Zimbabwe, it is critical to screen any transactions in the country or with the government for sanctions compliance. Since the penalties for sanctions violations can be severe, individuals should exercise due diligence and ensure their transactions are permissible.

More of the same

So, Executive Order 14353 does not change anything really. We are where we were before it came. It’s just that this is no longer considered an emergency.

So, expect the Zimbabwean govt to use the sanctions as an excuse for all their failings. An activist is assaulted? – but the country is on sanctions. Corruption runs rampant in govt? – those sanctions man.

As they play that game, abusing human rights like it’s a sport, the sanctions will remain.

The US is aware that the sanctions are counterproductive, but they won’t lift them to maintain consistency and avoid appearing weak. You may have noted that the “unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States” is probably the biggest reason the sanctions remain.

The Zim govt gets its all-important excuse and life goes on. All this could end if the Zim govt just stopped its corruption, intimidation and violence but I’m not holding my breath for that.

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  1. Blacky

    Still for Mr Jones and the Gold Mafia it is difficult to resist corruption as it brings to their coffers billions of USD.They are doing it at industrial scale while millions struggle just to put a loaf of bread on the table.

    They have no mercy as can be seen by refusing civil servants a living salary and giving a payment of Z$ 60 000 to pensioner.It’s not even enough to buy 5kw of electricty

    1. HE.

      Thank you President Biden. Welcome relief. Now we get to work because we really do not have time for excuses. Life is really short at best you have 100.

  2. cc263

    All want to do is to receive money into my paypal account without having to get an external line to do so.

    1. George

      You can say that again.

    2. Anonymous

      Is it now possible then to set up a PayPal Account in Zimbabwe?

    3. Anon

      Inability for individuals to get payments via Paypal has nothing to do with sanctions. It is RBZ which is the problem. Situation is some what similar to Star Link saga. Its not sanctions, its the regulator thats holding us back.

      1. Dominic

        It slightly had to do with sanctions since the RBZ was a Sanctioned entity. This mean they will be slight changes regarding international Online payments and decentralized currency transactions. Also note that it was worthless to have a crypto wallet in Zimbabwe since you couldn’t convert your crypto to cash after receiving them. So this had everything to do with Sanctions because It was illegal for American companies to work directly with Zimbabweans.


    Was ZDERA repealed? If not, hatisati tatanga!!

  4. Michael Laban

    So has the arms embargo (the only sanction against Zimbabwe, the country) been lifted?

    1. Munya01

      I thought I was going to read about the impact of these developments on TECHinZ

  5. G’Day Mate

    Lol! 100% of the ads I got on this article are trying to get me to emigrate to Australia! It must be sign from on high😂

    Well, it was cute of the US to do this. I’m sure there were a couple of all-night parties in some mansions out there to celebrate, but these sanctions were never a real issue for most of us. It’s Loota Continua for the chefs and Aluta Continua for the rest of us.

  6. Rayz

    I had to read this before getting excited and I was right haha

  7. Richard Bvuwayi

    Corruption and human rights abuse did not start in Zimbabwe and it’s preposterous to think that the government of Zimbabwe is the worst in that regard. Zimbabwe’s only crime is taking back its land from the colonialists and to keep Africa at bay they lynched us with their sanctions. Now if anyone talk about land reform be it in SA or Namibia etc, their deterrence is the question from their people “Do you want us to be like Zimbabwe?”

    1. Sir Kaffir

      So how do the targetted sanctions affect you.? You have everything you need yet you are crying out loud .

      The so called sanctions are nothing but a sham.Smith went for a long time under UN embargo but this country was a jewel at independence.He was not targetted sanctions but a whole UN EMBARGO,and survived while also waging a war against terrorism.
      If we were in the same situation I do not think we would last two days.The sanction narrative is for Mafia regime to strip the country of its assets by Zanu pf .

  8. Taurai mirimi

    The way of the world (human beings) is that if it’s pulling to your side it’s perfectly fine and correct, if it’s going away it’s totally very very bad. Unfortunately Africans( dark skinned fellows) can’t help themselves because they are not gifted to create institutions for development.

  9. Sir Kaffir

    Vakapiwa masanctions akapiwa Smith vano nyarara Kuti zii.They are waffling too much targetted sanctions are ineffective.

    Taneta nekunyaudzwa. They should just shut up and enjoy their looting.

  10. Always Off Topic

    “This is great news and some of you owe the Zimbabwean govt an apology. You thought they were lying when they said the country was under sanctions. Right?”

    WTF??? How dare you!!!!

  11. Ash Stash

    I was hoping you’d say something about whether Zimbos can now engage in ecommerce but alas…..

  12. Munya

    I thought I was going to read about the impact of these developments on TECHinZIM.

  13. Munya01

    I thought I was going to read about the impact of these developments on TECHinZIM.

  14. Yoga Postnatal à Dubai

    Very useful info. Hope to see more posts soon!. Yoga Postnatal à Dubai

  15. Adi Ticha

    I f you ask an astronomer, “Are time machines real?” you might be surprised to hear the response: “Of course!” Now, I’m sadly not talking about a big blue phone box (Dr you-know-who) or speedy DeLorean (back to you-know-when). Instead, I’m talking about telescopes. And the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the most amazing time machine we’ve built yet.
    Orbiting around the Sun at a distance of about 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, JWST is seeking to answer some of the biggest questions in science. What were the fi rst stars? How do galaxies evolve? How do stars evolve and could there even be life out on distant exoplanets?
    To do this, JWST uses the power of science to look back over billions of years of universal history.
    In this wonderful universe of ours, we have sev-eral laws of physics that govern throughout. One of these, and my personal favourite, is the speed of light.
    A universe can have a speed limit, and in our case it’s how fast light can travel in a vacuum. Light, no matter what its energy is, can only travel at the peak speed of 299,792,458 metres per second. Mighty fast from our perspective, but pretty slow across the grand scheme of the universe.
    Every time we look up at the night sky, we are looking back in time to space as it once was. Even our own Sun appears as it was a whole eight minutes ear-lier. For our brightest stars, this time gap might only be a few hundreds or thousands of years back in time.
    But for distant galaxies, it can be billions and billions of years. This is what JWST was built to do: to look back into time, like never before, and unveil the beginnings of our universe.
    As we see it from Earth with our own eyes, the night sky is only the tip of the iceberg. Our galaxy and the gal-axies beyond it often need much better ‘eyes’ than our own – these come in the form of specialised telescopes, which can see dif f erent types of light to our visible spec-trum. To really get 20/20 vision, we need to leave the fuzz of our atmosphere behind. JWST does just this. It allows us to peel back how galaxies looked and evolved, right back to the beginning.
    To see light from very distant galaxies, we need a very large collecting area. As light travels through space, it follows yet another law: it decreases in brightness Before and after the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): Viewed from the Hubble Space Telescope, the nearby galaxy NGC 628 (above) is a grand design spiral galaxy with symmetrical spiral arms dotted with clusters of young blue stars. A colourised combination of image datasets from JWST (opposite above) reveals in NGC 628 cooler stars and dusty structures only hinted at in earlier images.
    Previous pages: NGC 3324, in the Carina Nebula, is impressive enough (top) in the composite image built from Hubble data.
    Seen from a JWST image (bottom), previously obscured areas of star birth are revealed in stunning detail.

  16. Anonymous

    You are pro American at the end of the end we all by in the same shop with one of your relatives one way or the other.Ask Libyans now they are regretting.Sad

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