The EU's suspension of sanctions on top Zimbabwean officials, except Mugabe and his wife, met with an angry response from the ruling ZANU-PF party. The opposition says the Mugabe travel ban is "probably justified."
The European Union imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 on the grounds of political violence, human rights abuses and the failure to hold free and fair elections, eventually targeting almost 200 people and some 30 firms and state utilities.
The sanctions were progressively lifted from February 2012 in reward for a deal between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition. That agreement ultimately led to the formation of a government of national unity, it also paved the way for general elections held last year.
This week the EU suspended sanctions - asset freezes and visa bans - against members of Zimbabwe's political and military elite. They included defence Forces commander Constantine Chiwenga, army commander Philipp Valerio Sibanda, intelligence chief Happyton Bonyongwe and the minister of state for presidential affairs Didymus Mutasa.
However, sanctions will remain in force against President Robert Mugabe, who turns 90 on Friday, and his wife Grace.
MDC had no say over sanctions
Douglas Mwonzoro, the spokesman for Zimbabwe's main opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) told DW on Wednesday (19.02.2014) he agreed with recent remarks by the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. She has said that more reforms were needed in Zimbabwe to ensure that future elections in the country were free and fair.
Zimbabwe's opposition had denounced elections held on July 31, 2013 as "a massive fraud."
The need for reform probably justified the travel ban on Africa's oldest leader, Mwonzoro said. He added that the MDC regarded targeted sanctions as "a bilateral between the European Union and ZANU-PF."
According to Mwonzoro, the EU imposed the sanctions in response to certain things they saw that were wrong with ZANU-PF.
"We would like to think that the lifting of sanctions on some of these people has been matched by a quid pro quo response on the part of ZANU-PF. But that has been a bilateral issue and the MDC has no say in it" he said.
Rugare Gumbo, a spokesman for ZANU-PF, described the retention of sanctions against Mugabe as unacceptable. "The head of state is the epitome of independence and sovereignty of Zimbabwe. Once the head of state remains under sanctions, the entire state remains under sanctions," he told DW.
Mugabe has been invited to an EU-Africa summit in April despite the travel ban, but has not yet responded.