LONDON — Britain and the European Union are preparing to lift sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle in an effort to persuade the veteran ruler to hold fair elections.
A review of the measures that banned the 88-year-old Mugabe, his military allies and key officials from travelling to Europe and froze suspect bank accounts will conclude that sanctions should now be conditionally suspended.
The sanctions were imposed in 2002 after Mugabe oversaw a violent campaign to drive out white farmers that pushed the economy into a disastrous slump.
European officials told The Daily Telegraph there was agreement to bring Zimbabwe in from the cold, but only if new conditions were met.
These include publication of a new constitution, adoption of human rights laws, a successful referendum and free elections next year.
The MDC-T, which has been in a fragile power-sharing pact with Mugabe since 2009, has said a new constitution will be issued as soon as next week — a development that has paved the way for a meeting in Brussels next month where the sanctions deal will be approved.
The officials said the EU would present a unified position designed to encourage reforms ensuring that Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF party could not repeat the 2008 “stolen” election. Diplomats said the British position remained key.
“We know that British interests and priorities are important here and cannot be overridden,” one official said.
“We are working out a compromise that will see the EU use its influence positively while making the measures conditional.
“The Sword of Damocles must hang over Mugabe so that he cannot cling to power.”Meanwhile, Zanu PF politicians welcomed the move, saying it would give succour to “ordinary Zimbabweans”.
Jonathan Moyo, the former Information minister and a member of the Zanu PF politburo, said the “evil and illegal” sanctions “should never have been imposed in the first place”.
But he said that the threat to reinstate them was “patronising”.
“It’s very destabilising to say ‘We are holding a big axe over your head if you don’t run elections in a way that’s acceptable to us’ because it will be used by some political parties to get what they want,” he said.
“It will create a situation where it’s heads, MDC wins and tails, MDC wins.
“If the Europeans want to help us, they must leave us to run our own affairs — we don’t need to be treated like naughty children rewarded with sweets. It’s a very patronising attitude.”
Didymus Mutasa, Zanu PF’s secretary for administration and Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, said the suspension of sanctions would make little difference to the ruling class.
“It makes no difference to me whatsoever,” he said.
“I won’t be going to London, it’s very cold and the people are very unfriendly — I would rather stay here.”
Ian Makone, Prime MinisterMorgan Tsvangirai’s chief of staff, said they would wait to see the evidence of the suspension. — The Telegraph