The United States Treasury has officially lifted the sanctions imposed in 2003 on Zimbabwe, as confirmed through the publication of a final rule to remove the Zimbabwe Sanctions Regulations. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued this final rule to eliminate the Zimbabwe Sanctions Regulations from the Code of Federal Regulations. This action occurred yesterday, marking a significant development in the relationship between the two nations.

Last month, US President Joe Biden issued an executive order repealing the initial order issued in March 2003, which had blocked the property of several political leaders in Zimbabwe for allegedly “undermining democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe.” The decision to remove these sanctions comes after years of strained diplomatic relations and economic restrictions.

The sanctions were originally imposed during the administration of former US President George W. Bush. At that time, the US government accused certain members of the Zimbabwean government, including the late President Robert Mugabe, of contributing to the breakdown of law and order in the country. The order also cited the promotion of politically-motivated violence and intimidation by the Mugabe administration, which was deemed to have caused political and economic instability in the southern African region.

Former President Bush declared a national emergency to address what he described as an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.” Consequently, the sanctions were periodically renewed over the years until their recent removal.

The US Treasury Department confirmed OFAC’s action, stating that it was taken because the national emergency, upon which the sanctions were based, was terminated by President Biden on March 4, 2024. The final rule removing the sanctions regulations is currently available for public inspection and is set to take effect upon publication in the Federal Register on April 17, 2024.

Despite the removal of these sanctions, OFAC designated 11 individuals and three entities last month for their involvement in corruption or serious human rights abuses, pursuant to Executive Order 13818. This order builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Notably, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, along with his wife Auxillia and Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, were among those designated. Other individuals and entities included Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri, Midlands Provincial Affairs Minister Owen Ncube, Central Intelligence Organisation Deputy Director Walter Tapfumaneyi, businessman Obey Chimuka, and tycoon Kudakwashe Tagwirei and his wife Sandra. Additionally, companies linked to Tagwirei and Chimuka, namely Sakunda and Fossil Group, were also added to the new list.