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The United States recently imposed sanctions on 11 Zimbabwean individuals, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his wife, as well as three businesses due to allegations of corruption, human rights violations, and election rigging. Mnangagwa’s office dismissed the accusations as defamatory and slanderous, emphasizing that the sanctions were unjust towards Zimbabwean leaders and people. The US has shifted its sanctions on Zimbabwe to focus on individuals and businesses listed under the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016, with the aim of reducing the number of affected entities.

The US stated that the sanctions are intended to promote democracy, accountability, and address human rights violations in Zimbabwe. Despite providing over $3.5bn in humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980, the US believes that the government needs to take steps towards democratic governance, tackle corruption, and ensure the protection of human rights for all citizens. However, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga claimed that the country has lost over $150bn due to sanctions imposed by the US and the EU, exacerbating existing social and economic challenges.

While some argue that sanctions hinder Zimbabwe’s economy, others believe that corruption, rather than sanctions, is the major obstacle to the country’s progress. Experts estimate that corruption has cost Zimbabwe $100bn since independence, with Transparency International figures indicating significant financial losses due to corrupt practices. The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) restricts access to loans and investments from international financial institutions, affecting the country’s economic development and increasing costs for local banks.

Critics of sanctions question their effectiveness in promoting democratic behavior among Zimbabwe’s ruling elites, highlighting ongoing human rights violations and political restrictions in the country. Amnesty International and other organizations have raised concerns about threats to freedom of expression, arrest of journalists, and harassment of opposition members. Despite the use of smuggling gangs to sell gold and mitigate the impact of sanctions, Zimbabwe continues to face economic challenges and political repression.

Members of the Broad Alliance Against Sanctions in Zimbabwe have called for an end to all sanctions, accusing foreign powers of using punitive measures to effect regime change. However, some Zimbabweans support sanctions as a means to pressure the government to stop harassment and silencing of opposition figures. The complex relationship between Zimbabwe and the US has seen leaders adopting different strategies to address the sanctions, with varying degrees of success in re-engaging with the international community.

The relationship between Zimbabwe and the US has been marked by disputes and tensions, with recent incidents such as the deportation of USAID officials further straining bilateral relations. Both countries have exchanged accusations and engaged in verbal spats, reflecting the challenges in navigating a diplomatic path amidst the imposition of sanctions and ongoing human rights concerns. Despite efforts to improve relations and address the issues for which sanctions were imposed, lasting solutions remain elusive.

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