EU eases restrictions on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s government

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Despite its reputation for violating human and LGBT rights, the EU has suspended the majority of its sanctions against Zimbabwe’s government.

The decision removes restrictions against 81 people and eight firms, but President Robert Mugabe and two companies, including a state-run diamond miner, remain on the list.

European officals took the decision after Zimbabwe held a “peaceful, successful and credible” constitutional referendum over the weekend.

Among the measures in the new constitution is a two-term limit for the president. However, it will not apply retroactively, so Mugabe could still theoretically rule for the next decade.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell last week criticised the decision of Pope Francis to greet Mugabe at the pontiff’s inauguration mass.

Mugabe, 89, a Catholic, is subject to an EU travel ban, but Italy – where the ban does not apply – allowed the notorious anti-gay leader to visit the Vatican as a guest of the new Pope, earlier this month.

Mugabe previously referred to gay people as being “worse than dogs and pigs,” and has repeatedly been accused of inciting homophobic hatred against LGBT Zimbabweans ever since becoming Zimbabwe’s president in 1987.

More than half of the country’s six million voters took part in the referendum, which was backed by both Mugabe and his main political rival and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Earlier this month, Tsvangirai was criticised by gay rights campaigners in the country for denouncing homosexuality and reportedly saying marriage “should be between a man and a woman.”

Although the referendum passed without any problems, critics seized on the arrest of four staff members from Tsvangirai’s MDC party and a leading human rights lawyer as evidence that Mugabe’s Zanu-PF is trying to intimidating rivals ahead of elections.