EU to decide on sanctions next week

HARARE - Senior members in President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF are likely to be removed from the European Union (EU) sanctions list this week after the 27-member bloc endorsed the referendum which it was using to gauge democracy in the country.

Last June, the EU promised to review travel bans and financial embargoes on Mugabe and his inner cabal if the country holds a free and credible referendum.

Although Zimbabwe blocked the EU from observing the referendum, the grouping of Western countries says  the Sadc assessment of the referendum process that took place on Saturday was satisfactory and could see more of Mugabe’ s loyalists removed from the travel bans.

EU ambassador Aldo Dell’ Ariccia who managed to observe the referendum along with four other embassy staff, said the bloc will decide on rewarding Mugabe this week.

“We need an agreement of all parties in the European Union, discussions will be carried and we expect results end of this week,” said Ariccia.

“The referendum — if we consider the Sadc observer team — was a very successful and democratic exercise.”

Rugare Gumbo, Zanu PF spokesperson yesterday said Zimbabwe does not depend on the goodwill of the EU.

“We don’t have to depend on the EU for anything. We have said it before that they should lift sanctions unconditionally,” said Gumbo.

Last month the EU lifted an asset freeze and travel ban on 21 Zimbabweans including six ministers from Mugabe’s Zanu PF out of 112 currently on an EU blacklist after Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to a draft constitution.

While there were isolated incidents of violence particularly in the volatile Mbare Constituency — the referendum that was held on Saturday last week was largely peaceful and received endorsement from the Sadc observer team — which has the highest number of monitors.

The Zimbabwe Election Commission run by Supreme Court judge Rita Makarau acted “professionally” to the delight of monitors including the EU.

“The referendum was professionally carried out and we think that Sadc statement responds to the event. The only problem was the presence of the police in polling stations but all in all it was a good exercise,” said Ariccia.

“The EU has made it clear that a peaceful referendum would justify an immediate suspension of the sanctions,” Ariccia said.

In 2002 the EU imposed targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his inner cabal allegedly because of human rights abuses by the then Zanu PF regime.

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