EU calls for “substantial reforms” in Zimbabwe, maintains arms embargo and suspends sanctions on Grace Mugabe

EU Zimbabwe sanctions

The European Union says Zimbabwe’s failure to bring “substantial reforms” is behind the country’s deepening economic crisis, as the bloc extended sanctions on the Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) and suspended restrictions on Grace Mugabe.

The EU imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe after then President Robert Mugabe deported its chief election observer in 2002, but has gradually peeled back its measures to leave only sanctions on the ZDI and a travel ban and asset freeze on the late Mugabe and his wife, Grace.

In a statement on Monday, the EU said the absence of reforms and corruption had contributed to the crisis in the country.

“The lack of substantial reforms, the further shrinking of democratic space and corruption, have however contributed to the current deteriorating humanitarian crisis and to the economic and social situation,” said the EU.

Zimbabwe opened formal talks with the EU in 2019, which was the first time since the EU withdrew support to the country and imposed sanctions. The talks were an early sign of thawing relations, but the EU said full ties would be restored if Zimbabwe institutes reforms, including bringing human rights violators to book.  

“The EU calls on the government to accelerate the political and economic reform process as a matter of urgency, for the benefit of its population. Perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses should swiftly be brought to justice and the recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry should be implemented without further delay,” the EU said.

“Seizing opportunities for real transformation would facilitate steps towards deeper re-engagement of the EU, based on mutual commitments and shared values in line with the 2030 Agenda, and focused on human rights, democracy, governance and the rule of law.”

The EU said it would retain sanctions against ZDI for a further year, “taking into account the situation in Zimbabwe, including the yet to be investigated alleged role of the armed and security forces in human rights abuses. The restrictive measures against four individuals are suspended.”

The four are Grace Mugabe, VP Constantino Chiwenga, Agriculture Minister and former Airforce chief Perrance Shiri and ZDF commander Philip Valerio Sibanda. The latter three already had restrictions on them suspended, although they remain listed. This now also applies to Grace.

The ZDI is the Zimbabwe Defence Forces’ arms manufacturer and supplier.


The statement also urged an “inclusive national dialogue” which it said was “key to finding structural and durable solutions to the challenges faced by Zimbabwe”.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his rival, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, are deadlocked over how to approach talks to end the row over the 2018 elections. Mnangagwa says Chamisa should join other parties under POLAD, the platform Mnangagwa set up in 2018 to allow cross-party dialogue. However, Chamisa, who disputes the election results, wants direct talks that would lead to a new transitional authority leading the country.

The Zimbabwe government says its economic reforms have been crippled by Western sanctions. However, the EU, in its latest statement, says “sound political and economic governance are paramount if the business and investment climate in Zimbabwe is to be improved, and inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development are to be achieved”.

In 2018, the EU was Zimbabwe’s fifth largest trading partner, with Zimbabwe exporting goods worth 450 million Euro against imports of 223 million Euro.