Twenty-one members of Robert Mugabe's regime have been removed from the European Union (EU) list of targeted 'sanctions', with the European leadership bloc facing criticism for putting its economic interests ahead of human rights.
EU diplomats met in Brussels on Monday to decide Zimbabwe's sanctions future, with the measures set to 'expire' on Wednesday. Officials had indicated that the EU would be lifting some measures to reward Zimbabwe's 'progress', as a result of the finalising of the constitution reform exercise.
The EU said it "welcomes the breakthrough in the constitution making process as a significant step forward in implementing the Global Political Agreement."
21 people, including Masvingo 'war vet' Shuvai Mahofa, have now been removed from the list, along with one company named as Divine Home (Pvt) Ltd. Visa bans on six government ministers, including Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi and Media Minister Webster Shamu, have also been lifted.
The other ministers now free from European travel bans are: Herbert Murerwa (Lands), Sylvester Nguni (State in the VP's Office) Sithembiso Nyoni (Small & Medium Enterprises) and Francis Nhema (Environment).
The other individuals removed from the 'sanctions' list are: David Parirenyatwa, Dani Rangwani, Richard Ruwodo, Patrick Zhuwao, Isaac Mumba, S. Mutsvunguma, John Nkomo, Michael Nyambuya, C. Muchono, Isaac Mudenge, Mudonhi Columbus, Mugariri Botwell, G Mashava, Gilbert Moyo, S. Mpabanga, Cephas Msipa, David Chapfika, TInaye Nzirasha, Tongesai Chipanga, R Kwenda.
The decision by Europe comes after days of speculation that the state-run Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) would also be removed from the list, with Belgium leading the call for the company to be allowed to resume European trade.
Belgium has since been slammed for putting its own interests before the human rights of Zimbabwe, because such a move will allow the Belgium diamond capital Antwerp to trade in Chiadzwa diamonds from Zimbabwe.
The ZMDC has not yet been removed from the list, but there is more speculation that this will happen later this month. Reports over the weekend, quoting European 'diplomatic sources', said that a deal had been struck between Belgium and the UK for the ZMDC to be removed from the blacklist later this month.
Farai Maguwu, the head of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance in Zimbabwe, said Monday that if Belgium's call for the ZMDC to be removed from the list is heeded, it will cast the EU's credibility into doubt.
"The EU will then become part of the problem. There is lots of research that clearly shows that Zimbabwean diamonds are controlled by the security forces and are used by Mugabe to retain control. So trading in Zimbabwe diamonds is the same as trading with ZANU PF," Maguwu warned.
There still remain 91 individuals and 10 companies on the list, although it is becoming increasingly clear that Europe plans to drop the measures altogether after the completion of a 'credible' referendum.
Political analyst Clifford Mashiri told SW Radio Africa on Monday that the EU's attempts to normalise the situation in Zimbabwe stems from their own economic interests.
"The EU is putting its economic interests first and human rights in Zimbabwe second. Nothing has changed to warrant the measures being lifted, but the EU wants to get involved in Zimbabwe for economic gains," Mashiri said.