Zim-EU mission impossible

The head of the European Union (EU) Southern Africa Division, Claudia Wiedey-Nippold, was in Zimbabwe on Monday where she met Foreign Affairs ministry permanent secretary Joey Bimha ahead of the May 10 Zimbabwe-EU re-engagement dialogue in Brussels.

Wiedey-Nippold made a pledge that the EU would revise its development co-operation with Zimbabwe before August 20 this year, depending on the political and economic reforms obtaining in the country at that time.

The EU and United States imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 in protest at violations of human rights by President Robert Mugabe’s government when it was losing power to Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party.

The formation of the inclusive government in February 2009 to end a decade-long political and economic crisis saw the unity government resolving to engage the EU to lift sanctions against the country. The EU has since set benchmarks to be achieved by the inclusive government before the embargo can be scrapped.

There is little hope ahead of the Brussels meeting that the EU will lift the sanctions because Harare has dismally failed to address its democratic deficits in line with the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed in September 2008 which gave birth to the inclusive government.

The 27-member EU bloc’s main benchmark was the full consummation of the GPA, a task we have notably failed to execute. The mere fact that we have failed to implement the GPA in full exhibits our lack of seriousness and commitment to move the country forward. It would be foolhardy for anyone to yearn for the EU, Australia and the United States to lift the sanctions until and unless we address our democratic deficits.

Fresh reports of political intimidation and violence in the countryside are of concern to the EU and other progressive nations. Why are we failing as a nation to put an end to all forms of political intimidation and violence and ensure prosecution of perpetrators? Some politicians see personal gains from these heinous acts at the expense of the country.

We need to robustly address our democratic and human rights shortcomings if the sanctions are to go. One way of doing that, and which will cost us nothing, is the abrogation of provisions of the Public Order and Security Act relating to the conduct of political activities such as public meetings and demonstrations, which is limiting freedom of association and is being used as an instrument of political repression.

In fact government should immediately abrogate all draconian laws that unduly restrict media freedom and plurality, among them the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act; the Broadcasting Services Act; Official Secrets Act; Prisons Act; Censorship and Control of the Entertainment Act; Courts and Adjudicating Authorities (Public Restrictions) Act; Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act; and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

The common law of criminal defamation and publication of falsehoods which has a chilling effect on media freedom should also be abrogated.

We should immediately embark on genuine security sector reforms to restore professionalism in the police force and the army. We need a security sector which is accountable to the electorate. Soldiers need to return to the barracks and remain apolitical.

The ball is in our court to do what is right to have the EU sanctions lifted. Otherwise, the Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi-led mission to Brussels next month will be stillborn.

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