By Staff Writer
European Union (EU) foreign ministers are set to meet on Monday to discuss the possibility of easing sanctions against President Robert Mugabe’s government. Reports from the EU headquarters in Brussels say in return for the easing of sanctions, European government shall expect political reform and a credible referendum on the country’s new constitution.
The continuation of sanctions after the formation of a government of national unity has made life so difficult for Morgan Tsvangirai the opposition leader who joined the Mugabe government in a coalition that made him Prime Minister. Mr Tsvangirai has gone out of his way to literally beg Western governments to ease sanctions so that he can be able to effect change. With his own man being the country’s Finance Minister, Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party risked being side-lined during the next elections without being abler to show what changes they have created during their time in government.
According to a copy of the statement obtained by AFP news agency and expected to be adopted by ministers of the 27 nations, a “peaceful and credible constitutional referendum would justify the suspension of the majority of the European Union’s restrictive measures”.
While Western governments have considered easing sanctions since a power-sharing deal was agreed between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai following the disputed 2008 elections, nothing has ever been put in place with countries like Britain and France insisting President Mugabe did more to stop political violence against his opponents.
Information that sanctions are to be eased come barely four months since this paper’s CEO Dr David Matsanga took it upon himself to file a case against the European Union for prolonging the sanctions against Zimbabwe. In a 48-page document he filed with the European Court of Justice in Brussels in April this year, Dr Matsanga wanted all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe stopped immediately. “It is true that the sanctions were and continue to be a serious and blatant violation of human rights as they have inflicted unnecessary, unjustified and great harm to the people of Zimbabwe,” Dr Matsanga then said.
Part of the conditions for easing the sanctions would be that fresh elections must be held by next year, with a new constitution drawn up and a credible referendum held on reforms. “We think now is a critical moment to encourage the process of reform and [offer an incentive to] the reformers,” one anonymous European diplomat told AFP. “It is time for the EU to shift its positions.” Ministers are also expected to offer to lift sanctions against most of the 112 Zimbabweans still under an EU asset freeze and travel ban imposed in 2002, according to the news agency. All but a small core of individuals close to and including Mr Mugabe would be included, it said.
The EU has already lifted some of its sanctions against top Zimbabwean officials, to support what it said was the power-sharing government’s “significant progress” on tackling the country’s economic crisis. One EU diplomat told Reuters that all sanctions on development aid would also be suspended, allowing the EU to deal directly with the Zimbabwean government rather than it having to be directed through non-governmental organisations, as is currently the case. The EU’s executive Commission channels around 100m euros a year ($123m; £77.8m) in development assistance to Zimbabwe.