Zimbabwe sues EU over sanctions on Mugabe

Sanctions have cost country $42bn in potential revenue, claims attorney general

The Zimbabwean government is suing the European Union for loss of earnings stemming from sanctions it has imposed on President Robert Mugabe and his allies for more than a decade.

Earlier this week Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper quoted attorney general Johannes Tomana as saying the lawsuit has come before the European Court of Justice.

“The case has been allocated a court and what is left is for us to be told of the set down date. That court will advise us of the date,” Mr Tomana said.

The Herald, which espouses the ruling Zanu-PF party's positions and policies, stated that sanctions have cost the country more than $42 billion (€30 billion).


Mr Mugabe and his party maintain the sanctions have been hurting the Zimbabwean people. In addition, they insist they are in violation of the Cotonou Agreement which governs relations between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

Indeed, the ruling party’s depiction of sanctions imposed on its members has been used to good effect during election campaigns.

In 2011 Zanu-PF launched an anti-sanctions campaign with the aim of collecting two million signatures on a petition it took around the region to garner support. However, the sanctions imposed by the EU, the US and other western countries have been targeted at individuals and companies linked to Mr Mugabe and Zanu-PF rather than broadly against the country.

They were originally introduced because of human rights abuses linked to the illegal takeover of white-owned farms and allegations of election rigging against Zanu-PF in 2000 and 2002.

The restrictions against those targeted include freezes on assets and bank accounts, as well as travel bans. The legal action has come less than a month after the EU removed its asset freeze against the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, which was blacklisted for allegedly channelling funds to Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Belgium’s foreign minister Didier Reynders said last month the sanctions were lifted because the firm “did not participate in the financing of electoral campaigns”. Mr Reynders added that the decision would help efforts to fight the trade in blood diamonds by enabling their export to Antwerp, “a centre that offers great guarantees of transparency and respect of certification rules”.

But the sanctions have remained in place against Mr Mugabe – re-elected in July under questionable circumstances – and about 10 of his party allies because of concerns over the election’s legitimacy.

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South Africa