The United States says the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe are not meant to punish ordinary citizens but to punish corrupt officials.
Last week, the US renewed sanctions on targeted Zimbabwe officials for another year as has been the case since March 2003.
Current US President Joe Biden, in a note to congress, said President Emmerson Mnangagwa has failed to make “the necessary political and economic reforms that would warrant terminating the existing targeted sanctions programme.”
“Throughout the last year, government security services routinely intimidated and violently repressed citizens, including members of opposition political parties, union members, and journalists,” Biden said.
Speaking on a podcast on Zimbabwe’s Sanctions programme, US Department of State Director for Economic Sanctions Policy and Implementation, Jim Mullinax, said sanctions were not a punishment but were applied ‘extremely’ carefully, after gathering specific verifiable evidence that individuals engaged in sanctionable activity.
“We do not sanction people to punish them for bad acts they may have done. In addition, sanctions are meant to be temporary. We use sanctions to disrupt the sanctioned individual’s ability to access resources that further their bad actions,” he stated.
Biden noted the absence of progress on the most fundamental reforms needed to provide the rule of law, democratic governance, and the protection of human rights left Zimbabweans vulnerable to ongoing repression and presents a continuing threat to peace and security in the region.
However, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has blamed the sanctions for causing Zimbabwe’s economic collapse.
Mullinax said America used sanctions to disrupt corrupt individuals, human rights abusers, terrorists and other bad actors who undermined democracy, stoke instability and provoke violence.
“Sanctions are intended to impose a cost on their behaviour by preventing sanctioned individuals and entities from using the US financial system, we cut off their access to resources they use to fund their nefarious activities,” he said, adding the American sanctions programme prevents officials from using the US as a safe haven for their ill-gotten gains.
“We also use sanctions to influence the behaviour of sanctioned individuals and to encourage them to cease malign activity. Sanctions are not intended to be permanent. The US can lift sanctions under various circumstances, for example when sanctioned individuals or entities stop engaging in the behaviour that landed them on the sanctions list in the first place.”
The US official who has spent his career promoting American trade and economic relationships said his team works in embassies, US department of the Treasury to implement US sanctions.
“When US sanctions an individual or an entity such as a company it prohibits US individuals and companies from transacting with the sanctioned individual and entity. This means the US financial system cannot provide services to that sanctioned entity and US individuals or entities cannot do business with them.”