Southern African Development Community leaders have called for the European Union and US to lift all sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe after endorsing President Robert Mugabe’s win in disputed elections last month.
Malawian President Joyce Banda said Zimbabweans had “suffered enough”.
The EU and US imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 after accusing Robert Mugabe of brutally cracking down on his opponents – a charge he rejected.
Robert Mugabe, 89, is due to be inaugurated for a seventh term on Thursday.
The EU has a travel ban in place against Robert Mugabe and nine other of officials of his Zanu-PF party and has sanctions imposed on two companies.
The US also has a travel ban on Robert Mugabe and other top Zanu-PF officials, and has blacklisted companies linked to them from doing business with US companies.
Robert Mugabe won with 61% of the presidential vote against 34% for Morgan Tsvangirai, the outgoing prime minister and leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
On Friday, the MDC dropped plans to challenge Robert Mugabe’s victory in court, alleging it would not get a fair hearing.
The MDC had alleged that the poll was marred by widespread fraud, a view rejected by African Union (AU) and other international observers.
Ending a meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in the Malawian capital, Lilongwe, on Sunday, regional leaders said in a statement that “all forms of sanctions” imposed on Zimbabwe should be lifted following the holding of “free and peaceful” elections.
“I believe Zimbabwe deserves better, Zimbabweans have suffered enough,” said Joyce Banda, Malawi’s leader and incoming chairperson of the 15-nation regional body.
In a further display of support for Robert Mugabe, regional leaders appointed him as the next SADC chairman and said the group’s next annual summit would be held in Zimbabwe, AFP news agency reports.
The EU described last month’s election in Zimbabwe as generally peaceful, but said it was concerned about alleged irregularities.
In March, the EU suspended sanctions against 81 individuals and eight entities in Zimbabwe after hailing a referendum to approve a new constitution expanding civil liberties as credible and peaceful.
However, it kept sanctions in place against two firms and 10 top officials, including Robert Mugabe.
Zimbabwe did not invite the EU and the US to monitor the elections, with Zanu-PF accusing them of bias.
The US described the vote on July 31 as “deeply flawed” and did not regard the results as a credible expression of the will of Zimbabweans.
The MDC has said that more than a million voters were prevented from casting their ballots – mainly in urban areas considered to be its strongholds, allegations backed up a 7,000-strong group of local observers, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network.
Allies of President Robert Mugabe have dismissed the allegations of voting fraud and accused Morgan Tsvangirai of being a bad loser.
Robert Mugabe’s victory heralded the end of the power-sharing government he formed with Morgan Tsvangirai in 2009 under pressure from regional leaders following elections marred by violence and allegations of rigging.
Robert Mugabe has governed Zimbabwe, a former British colony until 1964, from independence in 1980.