Australia unveils roadmap for sanctions removal

HARARE - Australia will reward efforts by Zimbabwe’s leaders to pave way for a free referendum and fair elections, Foreign minister Bob Carr said yesterday.

Carr announced a three-stage roadmap for the lifting of sanctions on Zimbabwe, including requirements for a credible constitutional referendum and subsequent free and fair elections.

The Australian Foreign chief spoke in the wake of an agreement in Zimbabwe last week on the text for a new draft constitution, which sailed through Parliament yesterday.

Australia, which has maintained sanctions against Zimbabwe since 2002, will lift most of the restrictions imposed on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle if the country holds a “credible” referendum on a new constitution.

“Zimbabwe’s reform process has been painfully slow,” Carr said.

“However, leaders such as Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai make the case for genuine progress in democratic reform, including during his visit to Australia in July 2012.

“Australia will therefore review its sanctions and tie any reductions to the achievement of democratic norms.”

Mugabe’s Zanu PF has been manipulating the sanctions issue politically and propagandising it as part of efforts to frustrate reform and mobilise against perceived threats to national sovereignty.

The veteran ruler’s party has argued that reform is contingent on the removal of sanctions and accuses the MDC wing led by Tsvangirai of reneging on power sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA) commitments to facilitate this.

MDC argues it has no control over sanctions, and there would be a stronger basis for their removal if GPA and human rights violations ended.

Under the three-stage roadmap, Australia will ease sanctions when a date for the constitutional referendum is announced; a peaceful and credible constitutional referendum and free and fair elections take place and a democratically-elected government takes office.

Sanctions can be re-imposed if the process towards free and fair elections is derailed, the Australian Foreign affairs chief said.

The phased reduction of sanctions on Zimbabwe is consistent with approaches being pursued by the United States and the European Union.

Australia’s current sanctions include travel and financial restrictions on 153 individuals and four entities and an arms embargo and prohibition on defence links.

Carr endorsed the positive role being played by Sadc, especially South Africa, in facilitating efforts to return Zimbabwe to democracy. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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