EU chief warns of relapse

HARARE - The European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe regrets the recent arrest of a Cabinet minister and journalists by police in moves he says are a form of political intimidation.

Aldo Dell’Ariccia told the Daily News in an interview that the timing of Energy minister Elton Mangoma’s arrest, in particular, was questionable.

Mangoma was arrested in the capital last week for his alleged Mugabe must go jibe during a political address to MDC supporters in Bindura five months ago.

“We respect the law of the country and we acknowledge that it is unlawful in Zimbabwe to insult the President. Now the fact is that the arrest of Mangoma about five months after the alleged insult and barely 10 days before the All-Stakeholders Conference is regrettable.

That generates a situation that might lead to an interpretation of this arrest as political intimidation,” the EU chief told the Daily News.

Dell’Ariccia said the MDC deputy treasurer’s arrest at a time the three political parties in the power sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA) were preparing for the Second All-Stakeholders Constitutional Conference, was disturbing.

The Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference gives political party representatives and the civic society organisations an opportunity to discuss the draft from the Constitution Select Committee (Copac) after an outreach programme in which people’s views were gathered.

It is not a drafting conference.

“With all due respect to the course of justice in the country, intimidation would be regrettable in a moment like this when the country is preparing to take a crucial step in the completion of the constitution, an exercise in which minister Mangoma himself has a crucial role to play.

“We have seen in the past cases of political harassment and intimidation in the run-ups to previous elections in Zimbabwe and even at that time it has been a matter of concern that we have expressed to the authorities,” said the EU head of mission.

“We hope the arrest of Mangoma and other arrests or harassments of political activists are not an indication that we are back to that negative trend because if this were the case, this could undermine the credibility of the whole process.

“And in particular, it would be in contradiction with President Robert Mugabe’s calls for a non-violent atmosphere and peaceful environment for the elections,” he said.

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