March 3, 2011

EU to review sanctions periodically / Mugabe launches anti-sanctions petition

The European Union (EU) is willing to review sanctions against Zimbabwe and corporations periodically, departing from the annual examination based on real positive political developments in the country, the bloc's Ambassador to Zimbabwe has said. According to Aldo Dell'Ariccia the delisting of 35 personalities, who include wives of army, police, intelligence and senior government officials, was taken in the framework of the re-engagement between Zimbabwe and the bloc since the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in 2008 and the institution of the Government of National Unity (GNU) in February in 2009. Dell'Ariccia: "The important part that has been underestimated by many observers (after the council's meeting to review the sanctions last week) is that the EU has declared to be ready to revisit the decisions at any time if we receive, from Zimbabwe, the evidence of further developments in respect of the rule of law, human rights and democratic reforms."

The ambassador also noted that its decision-making process was informed by "the parties" commitment towards the GPA and towards the elections to permit the will of the people to prevail." The delisting of 35 personalities from the sanctions list was seen by some sectors as ineffectual especially because the spouses of army, police, intelligence and government listed persons could transact business on behalf of their partners. Dell'Ariccia emphasised that the wives and other politicians were delisted in their own capacities and they could do their own business as they were seen not to be undermining the rule of law, respect for human rights and democratic reforms.

The review came against a background of a surge in violence blamed on Zanu PF although the party has vehemently denied the accusations and in turn blamed the MDC-T. "The review was a result of the assessment since February last year; the EU took stock of the progress in addressing the economic crisis and the improvement in service deliveries, in particular education and health," said Dell'Ariccia. "Unfortunately the progress on the political front was not equivalent and that is why we could not go any further (remove more people). Whenever we receive a message from the country that the situation is improving, we are ready to review the decision." He added that there was also a possibility of further tightening the restrictive measures should the political situation worsen with the eruption of political violence.
The EU slapped Zimbabwe with "targeted sanctions" in 2002 after violent polls which led to the re-election of President Robert Mugabe. During the election, Zimbabwe had invited individual countries from the EU to observe the elections, but evicted Pierre Schori, then Swedish ambassador to the United Nations, as the head of the bloc's observer mission. The institution of the GNU saw Zimbabwe re-engaging the bloc and in July 2010 a team of ministers representing the three political parties in the inclusive government met the EU High Representative for the European Foreign and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton. Dell'Ariccia said that further to that meeting, and based on the presentation by the three re-engagement team ministers on the progress in the implementation of the GPA, the EU had notified to the government of Zimbabwe that 138 million Euros from the European Development Fund (used to support development in African/Caribbean/Pacific countries) were earmarked for Zimbabwe.

In the meantime, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe threatened to expropriate foreign corporations in retaliation for Western economic sanctions targeting him and his supporters over alleged rights abuses. Speaking at a rally to launch an anti-sanctions campaign in Harare, Mugabe singled out British-controlled banks and businesses, saying British interests controlled 400 businesses in the former British colony. "It is time that we take steps to take what is ours. Indigenisation should start with the British companies and we are not ashamed to do that because they imposed sanctions against us." The rally was boycotted by Zimbabwean PM Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy PM Arthur Mutambara who accused Mr Mugabe of "posturing." In London a Foreign Office spokesman said any takeovers would "deter foreign investment."

The campaign aims to gather two million signatures. It has also won the support of Namibias Minister of Regional Local Government and Housing and Rural Development, Jerry Ekandjo, who was quoted as saying during his visit to Zimbabwe, that the call by President Mugabe to take over the companies was a positive move. "Zimbabweans you are capable of managing those companies on your own," Minister Ekandjo said. He added that "after all it is Zimbabweans managing those companies now while the Europeans enjoy coffee in ivory towers in Europe."

Ekandjo was apparently the first senior government official from one of Zimbabwe's neighbouring states to become signatory to this petition. Ekandjo was reported by Zimbabwe's Government-published paper The Herald as saying that "Zimbabwe was being punished for repossessing its land". "We add our voice to unconditional lifting of the sanctions and we are going to launch the Anti-Sanctions Campaign in Namibia in solidarity with our comrades in Zimbabwe," he was reported as saying. "Namibia will start a solidarity campaign in support of President Mugabe and his government. We supported Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe supported us even during the days of the struggle," Ekandjo was furthermore quoted. (Zimbabwe Independent/BulawayoNews/The Namibian)

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