Sanctions spark debate

HARARE - The recent removal of 81 Zanu PF members from the European Union, EU sanctions list while leaving 10 others has created a debate among Zimbabweans from across the political and social divide.

President Robert Mugabe’s potential heirs, Vice President Joice Mujuru and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa are among those off the EU travel and financial sanctions.

Mugabe, his wife Grace and service chiefs including army general Constantine Chiwenga and police commissioner general Augustine Chihuri remain on the targeted sanctions which bar them from travelling to Europe and also limits financial transactions in Europe.

Last week, EU deputy ambassador to Zimbabwe Carl Skau announced the bloc’s potentially divisive step as Mugabe’s Zanu PF heads towards a do-or-die poll with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC in the next few months.

The EU, which trimmed sanctions in February, says the decision to remove the 81 individuals was influenced by the successful holding of the recent constitutional referendum.

However, the bloc says the recent spate of arrests on human rights defenders and staffers in Tsvangirai’s office are a cause of concern which warrants the continuation of sanctions on Mugabe’s inner cabal.

Wallace Chuma, a lecturer at a South African University, said the removal of the 81 Zanu PF officials was work in progress and a tactic by the EU.

“I think what matters is the symbolism of the lifting. My sense is the EU wants to encourage Zanu PF moderates to accept an MDC victory at election, therefore isolating the hard-liners,” said Chuma.

Daves Guzha, a renowned theatre producer, said the recent removal of individuals was EU’s way to deal with Zanu PF.

“It is divide and rule, period! The EU knows it is time for Zimbabwe’s real transition. They are looking at the country’s future and are fully aware that those remaining on the list thwart growth,” said Guzha.

Social commentator Thomas Deve said Zanu PF has scored a major diplomatic victory as this signals acceptance by some quarters in the western world that Zimbabwe is experiencing positive reforms.

“The EU is showing that the country will remain on the watch list and are prepared to give people who have been touted as possible successors to Mugabe enough room to breathe and prove that they are not against a new dispensation in the country.

“The few who have remained on the list are being told that they continue to be stumbling block in the struggle to have a political outcome where Zanu PF dictatorship should end with President Mugabe,” said Deve.

Phillip Pasirayi, director of Centre for Community Development (CCD), said the EU is in a quandary in terms of its foreign policy stance towards Harare and that it will be difficult for the bloc to maintain a hardline stance even if the next elections are rigged.

“They (EU countries) are more concerned about their strategic and economic interests in Zimbabwe and we are seeing a situation whereby the bloc is trying to balance these economic interests with political issues such as democracy and human rights,” Pasirayi said.

“The sanctions were imposed on Zanu PF for rights violations but can we say the situation on the ground has improved to warrant the removal of sanctions on Zanu PF? I don’t think so.”

Pasirayi said part of the problem is that the EU is feeling the pressure from Zanu PF especially being marginalised in such lucrative sectors like the extractive industry which is dominated by the Chinese at the moment.

“The MDCs in government have also not helped the situation. In the first, it is the MDCs who advocated for the sanctions claiming human rights abuses but they are now the ones exhorting Europe to remove the sanctions because ‘they are not helping anyone’. This policy incongruence or incoherence from the two MDCs in the coalition government has also left the EU bloc confused.”

Playwright Cont Mhlanga said the EU is playing the old fashioned divide and influence politics with Zanu PF and doing it badly — “I’m sorry to say.”

Mhlanga said the EU was making it look like the Sadam Hussein comedy of weapons that they could not show to the world after killing him.

“Was it not the EU saying they are imposing sanctions on Zanu PF top brass because of rule of law related issues and human rights violations?” Mhlanga asked.

“As we go towards elections, we are witnessing increased human rights violations and now the same EU is turning a blind eye and lifting the sanctions they claimed they imposed for that reason in the first place,” said the playwright.

“Maybe I’m just a silly cultural activist, but to me something is not adding up. Were these sanctions about human rights violations in the first place or human rights to EU are selective?

“Is EU not confirming what President Mugabe has always said that they are fighting his party just because he has touched their white relatives in Zimbabwe by redistributing land?”

Mhlanga said in his opinion it was “a blue lie” that EU is rewarding Zanu PF for the new constitution.
“Why reward them by removing the sanctions when the battle for the new constitution was fought for by all Zimbabweans and not by the Zanu PF top brass?” he asked.

“By this move, EU is exposing itself that it is not on our people’s side. It is just pushing and fronting an agenda that will take Zimbabweans a long time to understand, long after President Mugabe is out of the picture.”

He added that the most logical move for EU to have done was to lift these sanctions unconditionally to everyone and all companies for a year or so with an option to re-impose them if Zimbabwe does not manage its transition affairs to the benefit of the masses within that window.

“Now to tell us that minister Mnangangwa and VP Mujuru are of a different class than other top Zanu PF brass is very mischievous of the EU,” the playwright said.

“All they are doing is positioning these two for a violent race of taking over leadership of Zanu PF ahead of others in the party and in the process create far-reaching implications for Zimbabweans before and after the coming elections.”

Davison Gomo, an international lawyer and political analyst, said the recent EU decision to delist some people from an illegal list is as sterile as it is barren.

“It has no meaning in political terms and no reasonable people are going to be fooled by this non-event because thats exactly what it is,” Gomo said.

“For me, I want to congratulate the people of Zimbabwe for ignoring the EU and forcing them to climb down from their unreasonable political posturing. Of course, in this case, they simply do not know how to say sorry to the people of Zimbabwe, but that’s the only option left for them.”

He said Zimbabweans have suffered a lot and have been persecuted unnecessarily by the imposition of these sanctions “but sometimes it is better to suffer than accept dehumanising conditions and in the process, lose your dignity as a people and even your country at worst.”

Media expert and former MISA-Zimbabwe director Rashweat Mukundu said the EU is pursuing its rapprochement policy with Zimbabwe that will culminate in the removal of the sanctions measure.

“The EU is using a carrot-and-stick approach as a way of encouraging Zanu PF to reform and adhere to democratic practice,” Mukundu said. “Whether this would work, time will tell. By keeping the few on the sanctions list, the EU has essentially identified them as the core of the repressive machinery in Zimbabwe.”

He added that this might also be a warning to those still on the list that the international community is watching them.

“Overall, this might divide Zanu PF more so with the succession question remaining unresolved. Those removed would be seen as lackeys while those remaining would see themselves as better placed to fight the West.”

Playwright Leonard Matsa said the EU has realised that sanctions as a political leveraging strategy is now too archaic and “ineffective” in the ever-changing Zimbabwean political environment.

“Engagement now appears the hit song. By removing minister Mnangagwa and VP Mujuru among the 81 others, the European bloc is giving substance and the required seriousness to sanctions removal as per GPA schedule,” he said.

“I expect more removals. In fact I would prefer to see a full removal of the sanctions so that we dilute our political environment as we enter the election phase. It would be interesting to see how our elections would play out - less political violence or sanctions,” said Matsa.

He added that as long as key individuals within the Zimbabwean political dispensation remain on the list, the removals will remain hollow.

Precious Shumba, Harare Resident Trust, HRT director says the EU wants to see a reformed Zanu PF, and the only way to strengthen the reform agenda is through acting reasonably towards them than continue antagonising them.

Shumba said so far the sanctions have not really proven effective to really affect individuals holding senior positions as they have the means to travel to other destinations, or even use their proxies to enter into restricted territory and get what they want.

“The only major negative impact of the sanctions has been the sale of Zimbabwe’s diamonds, which has allowed those who loot the resources to use private conduits that will always act with impunity, because the formal structures and systems will argue that diamond trade is barred,” Shumba said.

He also believes that there has been a policy shift in the United Kingdom about who is suitable to be in charge of Zimbabwe, preferring to work with anyone elected by the people of Zimbabwe to occupy State House.

“The removal of the sanctions, in my view, does not represent a belief that the situation has improved socially, economically and politically, but that it is time to take away the Zanu PF campaign angle by removing sanctions, which opens their way for improved diplomatic relations with all political players,” he said.

“Whatever the major reason for that action, the other parties, especially the MDCs have to strategically position themselves to engage Zanu PF on a level of post-election plans, strategies to safeguard British investments in Zimbabwe and dealing with such issues as the land issue, indigenisation and the issue of the rule of law.”

He said the EU is conveying a message to Zanu PF that “we are ready to forgive you and embrace you if you also play your part in making Zimbabwe a haven for investment, tourism and development, where the respect of human rights is undoubted.

“This means that those pardoned will do everything to restore the confidence of their European partners and contacts, and even enjoy shopping trips. Once those off the hook feel secure and can enjoy British trips, they will also encourage those still sanctioned in the politburo to behave well, and be more responsible, and uphold the constitutional order in Zimbabwe,” said Shumba.

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