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Zimbabwe Welcomes Removal of Its Banks from US Sanctions List

FILE - Demonstrators hold placards as they chant slogans and wave Zimbabwe's national flags during a rally to denounce U.S. and EU economic sanctions, at the National Stadium, in the capital Harare, Oct. 25, 2019.

Zimbabwe welcomed the U.S. decision Thursday to remove two of its banks from the sanctions list, saying the move will allow them to easily obtain credit to address the country's moribund economy.

However, the ruling ZANU-PF party is calling for more from the U.S. and other Western countries that imposed the sanctions in 2002.

The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control gave Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe and Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe a clean bill of health.

Mthuli Ncube, the country's finance and economic development minister, could not hide his joy over the news to reporters in Harare.

"Of course, any removal of any institution, especially a financial one, is very positive indeed," he said. "This will help the bank access credit lines and remove any restrictions that pertain to KYC — know-your-customer — challenges, which is really what happens when a bank is on the spotlight, the way they were. Now that they [sanctions] have been lifted, the banks will find it easier to do business going forward. So this is a very welcome development indeed."

Tafadzwa Mugwadi, the director of information in the ruling ZANU-PF party, said the party is not satisfied, though President Emmerson Mnangagwa's efforts to reengage the West are bearing fruit.

"We are not happy as long as part of these sanctions, the major parts of these sanctions are still in place," Mugwadi said. "Our position as ZANU-PF is that the illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe from the United States of America have no place in this civilized world, so that the people of Zimbabwe can fully realize their full potential without any hinderances, so that the government can be measured on the basis of its capacity without these hinderances, without sanctions in place."

The U.S. and several Western countries and institutions, like the European Union, imposed sanctions on some state institutions and some senior party officials in 2002 following reports of election rigging and human rights abuses. Harare blames the sanctions for the country's moribund economy, while critics blame bad government policies for causing the economy to catch a cold.

Rejoice Ngwenya, an independent political commentator, said the U.S. may have lifted sanctions on the two banks to help the country fight the COVID-19 pandemic but ruled out giving in to ZANU-PF demands.

"The present government has not shown any appetite for reforms. Given their response to the abductions of the [opposition] MDC Alliance youth leaders, it would be really unlikely that the local American embassy recommend removal of any political leaders, unless those political leaders are targets of possible liberal reform," Ngwenya said.

The U.S. Embassy in Harare was not immediately available for a comment.

Earlier this month, three members of Zimbabwe's main opposition party were allegedly abducted and tortured after taking part in a protest demanding that the government pay those affected by the ongoing coronavirus lockdown. The government has said it is investigating the matter.