CANBERRA — Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday urged the Australian government to suspend economic sanctions on Zimbabwe until after the elections next year.
Tsvangirai told The Australian newspaper that sanctions could be imposed again if President Robert Mugabe and the “securocrats” who backed him again prevented free and fair elections in 2013.
The MDC-T leader became Prime Minister in January 2009 in a power-sharing agreement which followed years of civil rights abuses and brutal physical attacks that left him badly injured.
Tsvangirai told his Australian counterpart Julia Gillard that while there was still much to be done in Zimbabwe, a lot had changed and the time was right to lift the sanctions.
“What you need to do is make an assessment,” he said.
“Is there sufficient reform to warrant a reward and the encouragement of that reform?
“I think there is justification for the international community to remove the sanctions because I think they’ve outlived their usefulness.”
The hyper-inflation the country was facing had been tamed, political reforms had been instituted, the new constitution was ready, electoral and human rights reforms had been accepted.
Media reforms and other political reforms had still not been implemented, Tsvangirai said.
“But generally I think things are moving in a generally positive way,” he said.
The PM said his once acrimonious and deeply polarising relationship with Mugabe had evolved into a working relationship.
“We’ve moved on,” he said.
Australian Trade minister Craig Emerson also said his government was considering lifting sanctions.
“We will be listening to advice from Prime Minister Tsvangirai about the issue of sanctions,” Emerson told ABC Television.
He said Tsvangirai had a history of fighting for freedom in Zimbabwe.
“If he indicates to us that there is a case for easing some sanctions, that is to reward the reformers and show the hardliners that reform does actually pay dividends, then we will be open to those sorts of arguments.”
Australia has targeted travel and financial sanctions against 153 individuals and four entities allied to Mugabe to pressure his regime to restore democracy and end violent oppression.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key yesterday said his government was open to reviewing the travel and financial sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Key said the sanctions would be discussed during a visit by Tsvangirai tomorrow (today).
He said he would find out from Tsvangirai whether the sanctions were still applicable and working.
– The Australian/Radio New Zealand