BY BLESSED MHLANGA
THE European Union (EU) has indicated that it does not recognise President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s pet project, the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) as adequate to resolve the problems in Zimbabwe and said it would engage Sadc and the African Union (AU) to put pressure on his administration to have more inclusive talks.
Yesterday, the bloc said the failure by the Mnangagwa administration to implement reforms was behind the country’s deepening economic crisis.
It extended sanctions on the Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI), but suspended restrictions on former First Lady Grace Mugabe.
“The lack of substantial reforms, the further shrinking of democratic space and corruption, have, however, contributed to the current
deteriorating humanitarian crisis and to the economic and social situation,” the EU said following its council meeting.
The EU imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe after then President Robert Mugabe deported its chief elections observer in 2002, but has gradually loosened the measures, while Harare sought to resume relations after Mugabe was deposed in November 2017 through a coup.
“The recommendations of the (former South African President Kgalema) Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry should be implemented without further delay. In addition, an inclusive national dialogue is key to finding structural and durable solutions to the challenges faced by Zimbabwe,” the statement read.
Mnangagwa has insisted that he will have no other talks outside Polad, which has been snubbed by main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the MDC.
The EU said it would soon turn to Zimbabwe’s friends, the Sadc and AU, to ensure that the inclusive dialogue happens and help stem what the council said was further shrinkage of democratic space.
“The EU will seek increased collaboration with international partners, most importantly the African Union, Sadc and its member countries, and international financial institutions, which can play a key role by supporting Zimbabwe in enabling an inclusive dialogue and in accelerating progress in reforms,” the statement read.
Two weeks ago, Mnangagwa told diplomats at a luncheon that his government had implemented major reforms and a large part of the Motlanthe recommendations was in play, particularly as expressed in Polad.
Despite his charm offensive, the EU said Mnangagwa needed to start reforms by bringing to justice those who shot and killed civilians on the streets during the post-election demonstrations on August 1, 2018.
“The lack of substantial reforms, the further shrinking of democratic space and corruption, has, however, contributed to the current deteriorating humanitarian crisis and to the economic and social situation. The EU calls on the government to accelerate the political and economic reform process as a matter of urgency, for the benefit of its population.
Perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses should swiftly be brought to justice,” the EU said.
The EU last year suspended sanctions against Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, Lands minister Perrance Shiri and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander Philip Valerio Sibanda.
“The EU has decided to renew its arms embargo and to maintain a targeted assets freeze against one company, Zimbabwe Defence Industries, for one year, taking into account the situation in Zimbabwe, including the yet to be investigated alleged role of the armed and security forces in human rights abuses. The restrictive measures against four individuals are suspended.
The arms embargo, as well as the asset freeze against Zimbabwe Defence Industries, do not affect the Zimbabwean economy, foreign direct investment or trade,” the EU said.
Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo immediately responded to the EU council recommendations, saying the move by EU was acknowledgment of progress on the work being done by Mnangagwa’s government.
“We view this development as an acknowledgement of progress made in terms of the broad reforms agenda we have set ourselves and to which we are fully committed. The reform agenda is a process rather than an event and it will take time to complete,” He said.
Moyo said it was important for the EU to totally remove the sanctions because they were outdated and unjustified.
“We maintain that these and other sanctions, measures imposed against Zimbabwe, are unjustified and outdated, that they actually hinder our reform trajectory and that all such measures should be removed, especially when government is faced by daunting consequences of natural disaster and devastating drought,” he said.
Sadc executive secretary Stergomena Tax said: “Sadc welcomes suspension of restrictive measures against individuals in Zimbabwe and the continued EU support. This is a positive gesture to continued engagement and co-operation for Zim’s prosperity. Sadc calls for total uplifting of embargo.”