Civil society prepares sanctions fight

HARARE - Civil society groups are girding for a fight as the European Union (EU) moves to ease travel and financial sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle after the referendum.

Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai recently cleared a major hurdle after they agreed to a draft constitution, which is widely considered as key foundation for future elections.

The EU last year revised its targeted sanctions list and also announced that it could remove most restrictions if the country holds a peaceful vote on its Constitution.

The EU’s stance comes in response to what the bloc sees as positive developments in the troubled southern Africa country but civil society thinks the situation is still volatile.

Warmed by a mellowing Mugabe, sources say the EU is eager to re-engage the 88-year-old if he holds a peaceful referendum.

The Daily News has heard EU could have dangled the promise to lift sanctions, a factor that contributed to the completion of the constitution-making process.

According to the source, the EU is considering suspending the sanctions and will continue to monitor developments in Zimbabwe before permanently lifting the measures.

Zimbabwe is likely to go for a referendum in March paving way for a watershed election to be held most likely by June.

Since the formation of the “unity” government in 2009, there has been a thawing of the strained relations between Mugabe and the West.

EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell’Ariccia told the Daily News that the referendum will provide the 27 nation bloc with a chance to further soften its stance.

“This referendum could provide a milestone for the EU to remove some people from the sanctions list,” said Arricia.

Last year, the EU removed 51 people from the targeted sanctions list as well several companies and promised to do more depending on the respect of civilian liberties by Mugabe’s government.

Arricia said the complete removal of targeted measures on Zimbabwe will be guided by “the fairness and transparency of elections.”

“The issue is more complex, if the elections are peaceful and free from violence and reflect the will of the people and if the results are accepted by everybody it means that there will be no need to maintain the measures,” said Arricia.

Mugabe used to attack western countries whenever he got the chance, but now the vitriol is subdued as he prefers to preach peace.

A ministerial team which comprises of officials from Zanu PF and MDC has been meeting with its EU counterparts for re-engagement.

However, civil society sources say they will campaign to ensure the sanctions remain in place.

They allege the military is keeping a presence in villages to intimidate people, the arrest of civilians on “spurious” charges by police and the general clampdown on democratic space.

At the just ended African Union, summit, civil society groups expressed disappointment that African leaders failed to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe.

They demanded:

- Expeditious finalisation of the constitution-making process according to the provisions of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) so that Zimbabweans can decide on the draft constitution presented by Copac in a referendum.

- Elimination of State-sponsored violence and the creation of a peaceful environment.

- Disbanding of all violence related militia groups such as Chipangano and Al Shabab.

- Immediate cessation of raids and harassment of civil society organisations and other pro-democracy movements.

- Immediate release of all political prisoners who are in prison on trumped up charges.

- Full implementation of electoral reforms which will pave way for the holding of a free and fair election in Zimbabwe and peaceful transfer of State power.

- A non-partisan security sector that prioritises the security and safety of citizens and restricts itself to the barracks.

- Transparency in the management of natural resources so that they benefit the majority of Zimbabweans.The control of diamonds by the military elite breeds ground for funding conflict not only in Zimbabwe but to our neighbours.

Comments (1)

Who are the 'Civic Society' and who are they fighting for? If the representatives of the people on both sides of the political divide are in agreement and if Europe wishes to work with them both, then where is the problem?

ScottM - 31 January 2013

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