NGOs fate hangs in balance

THE fate of several non-governmental organisations which used to operate as conduits for European Union (EU) development aid to Zimbabwe now hangs in the balance as the bloc mulls plans to deal directly with the Zanu PF government.

Everson Mushava/Taurai Mangudhla

EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell’ Ariccia told NewsDay over the weekend that the final decision will be made at its council meeting in November this year.

“The council will decide whether to ratify an Article that requires the EU to channel developmental aid through developmental aid organisations in November if there are no more human rights disruptions,” Dell’ Ariccia said.

He said the 28-member bloc will also meet next February to decide on whether to completely remove sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe in the wake of positive political developments by President Robert Mugabe’s government.

The EU envoy said he was pleased with the positive direction Zimbabwe’s politics was taking and the two meetings were expected to make key decisions towards the bloc’s re-engagement efforts with Harare.

“Depending on the evolution of the situation in Zimbabwe, the council will decide to lift measures on Zimbabwe,” Dell’ Ariccia said.

The ambassador made the remarks during a tour of a sugarcane project funded by the EU to the tune of $40 million through Canelands Trust in Chiredzi.

About 125 cane outgrowers received funding from the EU to rehabilitate their cane projects which had collapsed during the hyperinflation period.

He also toured the $11 million Nandi-Mkwasine railway rehabilitation project funded by the bloc to ease the transportation of sugarcane from Chipiwa to the millers.

The EU imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe over a decade ago citing human rights abuses, bad governance and several other factors by the Mugabe government following the fast-track land reform in 2000 and a series of disputed elections.

Under the sanctions, development aid to Harare was no longer channelled directly into government coffers, but came through partners chosen by the EU.

With positive developments in Zimbabwe’s political and economic landscape, Dell’ Ariccia said the November council meeting will likely scrap that condition, while the February meeting would completely scrape sanctions imposed on Mugabe.

Dell’ Arricia, however, said, the decision is heavily hinged on Zimbabwe’s ability to convincingly maintain a good political image that is not tainted by bad governance and in particular human rights abuses.

“We are closely watching. We will be observing the situation in Zimbabwe and at the moment, we have received positive reports.

“President Mugabe and (Finance) minister (Patrick) Chinamasa’s decision on the indigenisation programme is a positive move. We also hope that the laws would be aligned with the new Constitution,” Dell’ Arricia said.

The EU ambassador said the EU was keen to work with Zimbabwe in various sectors of the economy and hopes to avail budgetary support to Zimbabwe in the long run.

Currently, Zimbabwe enjoys preferential trade with Europe under the Economic Partnership Agreement (Epa), which allows goods from both destinations to trade duty free.

Dell’ Arricia said the EU was also assisting Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Agriculture to reactivate beef exports.

“The decision to suspend beef trade was made because of rising concerns of foot and mouth not sanctions. We are currently working with the Ministry of Agriculture to reactivate beef exports from Zimbabwe by ensuring zones are clearly marked so that the source of the meat is known,” he said.

“It’s up to the government of Zimbabwe to put their house in order.”
Zimbabwe signed an interim Epa in March 2013 with Europe, giving the country unlimited opportunities to export its products to countries in the bloc duty free.

According to 2013 figures, trade between Zimbabwe and the EU doubled in the first four years of the transition to multi-currencies in 2009, reaching a total of $800 million by the end of 2012, with the terms of trade being $200 million in Zimbabwe’s favour.

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