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D-Day for Mugabe

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The European Union (EU) meets on Monday in Brussels to review sanctions imposed on President Robert Mugabe and some senior Zanu PF officials amid optimism by Zimbabwe’s three government parties that the decade-old embargo will be relaxed.

EU Foreign Affairs ministers will make their decision public this afternoon following indications that the bloc was ready to resume development aid to the southern African country. But a travel ban and an
asset freeze on Mugabe and his close allies are likely to remain in place, according to diplomats.

Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo told NewsDay on Sunday that his party remained hopeful the EU would lift the sanctions unconditionally.

“We have seen reforms and right now, the constitution-making process is nearing completion,” he said.

“We don’t see the reason why they should not remove the sanctions.”

He claimed the EU wanted to make life difficult for Zanu PF in a bid to ensure that the party’s opponents win the next elections.

“We know they have an agenda but as Zanu PF, we will continue fighting them,” he said.

“Whether they lift them (sanctions) or not, it makes no difference, we never called for them.”

Last week, former British Cabinet minister Peter Hain told the House of Commons that lifting the embargo would be a mistake as he had evidence that Zanu PF was using resources from the Marange diamond mines to prepare for a violent election campaign.

British ministers last week said their government was working with other EU members to relax the restrictive measures but maintained it would be premature to remove the travel ban on Mugabe.

MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said they expected the sanctions to be lifted but urged Zanu PF to reciprocate the move by denouncing violence.

“The position of the MDC is exactly the position taken by the engagement team that had been in Brussels to lobby for their removal,” he said.

“We hope they will be removed. We call upon Zanu PF to change its behaviour and stop abusing human rights.

“Right now, there are a lot of cases of violence recorded against the MDC-T with soldiers working at the instance of Zanu PF. Zanu PF should justify why they need the sanctions to be removed.”

Mwonzora said Zanu PF wanted the sanctions to stay so that the party could justify a violent crackdown against its opponents. The Welsham Ncube-led MDC said removing the sanctions would boost the country’s economic recovery prospects

“As partners in the inclusive government, we hope we are engaging each other in good faith,” Kurauone Chihwayi, MDC spokesperson, said.

“We expect the issue of sanctions will be put to bed once and for all.”

The sanctions were imposed in 2002 after the Zimbabwean government deported an EU election observer mission ahead of the disputed presidential poll that pitted Mugabe against then opposition leader and now Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The EU was also reacting to the violent land reform programme that began in 2000 where white commercial farmers were killed and thousands of farm workers displaced.

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