Australia announced on Monday it was easing its sanctions on a number of Zimbabwean officials from President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party accused of gross human rights violations.
Acting Foreign Minister Craig Emerson said his country had removed 82 officials from its travel and financial sanctions register, seen as no longer posing a threat to the restoration of democracy in Zimbabwe.
But Emerson said Canberra will maintain restrictions on President Mugabe and some 153 individuals and four entities. The European Union took the same action last month.
Emerson was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying “restrictions on defense and a ban preventing the children of listed individuals from studying in Australia will also remain in place”.
Australia imposed the travel ban and an asset freeze on Mr. Mugabe and his allies in 2002, citing rights abuses, election fraud and an unwillingness to institute democratic reforms.
ZANU-PF blames the economic crisis on the sanctions, but human rights groups say while challenges remain, the restrictions have somewhat contributed to the democratic agenda.
ZANU-PF Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo told VOA that the move by Australia is meaningless.
“They can keep the sanctions; life goes on," Gumbo said. "In the first place these sanctions should not have been imposed because they don’t mean a thing to those who are being targeted. The people who are suffering are the ordinary people.”
However, Charles Mangongera, director of policy and research for the MDC wing led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said there has been significant progress in the country.
He said ZANU-PF would not have agreed to form a coalition government had it not been put under pressure by the Western sanctions, among other measures.
"The ZANU PF narrative on sanctions has been a misplaced because it has been couched around issues of land reform... whereas we know it was essentially for democracy and human rights,” Mangongera said.