HARARE - Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa, yesterday criticised the European Union (EU) for the travel ban on President Robert Mugabe and wife, Grace, as the trading bloc signed off a $270 million aid deal with Harare.
Chinamasa said relations between the two were going to remain frosty until the bans were permanently lifted.
“While we have taken significant steps towards normalisation of Zimbabwe- EU relations, we must remain cognisant of the fact that there is still unfinished business. Zimbabwe Incorporated has a chief executive and as long as the chief executive remains under sanctions, our relations remain poisoned and unproductive. I therefore take this opportunity to call for the unconditional lifting of sanctions against our head of State and the First Lady,” Chinamasa said.
He added that officials who had been excused from the ban still found it ironic that the EU maintained its stance as far as the Mugabes were concerned.
“All you are saying to us is that we can visit you but we can’t bring our father, dialogue must be between equals and we will never be equals until the president is removed from these illegal sanctions,” he said.
EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Philippe Van Damme, however said he was not in a position to comment on the issue as he had not received communication on the way forward.
“I have no power to comment on this particular issue, as we are still waiting for the Committee to deal with the issue and decide on the final outcome. However, all I can say is that the direction is clear, once the factors that led to the restrictions are eliminated the restrictions will be eliminated as well,” he said.
The EU recently eased its travel ban on Mugabe, while he serves as chairman of the African Union for the next year. EU spokesperson Catherine Ray said the “ban will be lifted when he is travelling under his African Union chairmanship capacity”.
The EU imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 over abuses linked to national elections, banning travel in Europe and freezing the assets of dozens of officials and business representatives. The measures have been gradually lifted in recent years to encourage reform but the 90-year-old Zimbabwean leader and his wife Grace remain on the EU blacklist. The role of rotating AU chairman is largely ceremonial, therefore, Mugabe will still be largely restricted.
Meanwhile, the EU and Zimbabwe signed a $270 million (EUR 234 million) National Indicative Programme (Nip), under a joint cooperation, funded by the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), to fund numerous projects that include health and the constitutional alignment.
The EU and government anticipate the formulation of projects worth over EUR 160 million by year end. Zimbabwe last received direct aid from the EU about 13 years ago.