The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: EU Sanctions Extension Non-Event

Government has dismissed as a non-event the European Union extension of illegal sanctions by another year.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told journalists in Harare yesterday that Government wanted the EU to unconditionally lift the embargo.

He said the EU does not have the mandate to supervise implementation of the Global Political Agreement as a precondition to lift the sanctions.

Political commentators also weighed in condemning the extension, saying it was a violation of Zimbabwe's sovereignty.

However, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was yesterday singing from a different hymn book from his colleagues in Government and welcoming the EU announcement.

Minister Mumbengegwi said the GPA was an internal document that has nothing to do with the EU.

"In May, we sent a three-member delegation of the ministerial re-engagement committee which represented all the parties in Government to Brussels at the invitation of Lady (Catherine) Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

"The delegation carried a clear message that Zimbabwe was demanding an immediate and unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.

"Yesterday (Monday), the EU issued a statement in which they demonstrated that either they did not listen to the demand of our delegation or they did not understand.

"But whatever the case, their statement is just a demonstration of the EU's arrogance. As we all know, the GPA is an agreement among Zimbabwean parties and the EU is not part of that agreement.

"Now they have arrogated themselves the role of supervising the agreement which they are not party to.

"They have no power or responsibility to supervise our GPA. That is the height of arrogance which is not acceptable," he said.

Minister Mumbengegwi said anything short of an unconditional lifting of the embargo was not acceptable to Zimbabwe.

He said the sanctions were imposed unilaterally and Zimbabwe stood by its position demanding unconditional lifting of the sanctions.

Minister Mumbengegwi said the EU sanctions were illegal and had received worldwide condemnation from all progressive forces such as the African Union, Sadc, the Non-Aligned Movement and Comesa.

He said more than two million Zimbabweans also made a strong case against the sanctions after signing Anti Sanctions Petition forms in 2010.

"They (sanctions) are illegal in terms of the African Caribbean Pacific and the EU statutes themselves . . ."

The minister said as long as one person or one company remains on sanctions, Zimbabwe would not be satisfied.

Minister Mumbengegwi said the European bloc was playing cheap propaganda tactics by claiming that it had suspended part of the sanctions regime.

"What is suspension? It is either they are there or they are removed. How can you suspend something which is not there? This is cheap propaganda to try and deceive the people of Zimbabwe and the international community.

"The statement by the EU is totally irrelevant and meaningless," he said.

Minister Mumbengegwi said Zimbabwe rightfully possessed its land that was stolen by the British and it should not be punished for that.

"All we did was repossessing our land. Anyone who says that is an offence then obviously they are colonialists and there is no room for colonialists in independent Zimbabwe," he said.

Minister Mumbengegwi said the fight against sanctions was a continuation of the liberation struggle that Zimbabwe was destined to win.

However, PM Tsvangirai in a statement issued from Australia welcomed the EU announcement.

"My preference remains for a full lifting of the measures in keeping with the agreement between the GPA parties in Zimbabwe and resolutions of Sadc," he said.

PM Tsvangirai said linking the suspension of the sanctions to successful conclusion of the constitution-making referendum was evidence that the EU was willing to respond to progress in reform of the democratic process in Zimbabwe.

However, Minister Mumbengegwi insisted that Government's position was for the immediate and unconditional lifting of the sanctions.

He said individuals were entitled to their personal opinions but that would not change Government position.

Former president of the Zimbabwe Union for Democrats Mrs Margaret Dongo said the EU was violating Zimbabweans' human rights.

"The extension of the sanctions does not make any sense. We have the inclusive Government and the sanctions should have been removed from the first day we entered into the inclusive Government for it to work.

"The EU is not seeing the suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans here and there is a lot of hypocrisy surrounding this whole issue."

She called PM Tsvangirai and his party to lead the call for the lifting of the sanctions as they called for the embargo. Political analyst Ambassador Chris Mutsvangwa condemned the sanctions extension.

He said: "The EU sanctions are an unleashed arrow that is getting even weaker as they search for an elusive target. Ten years ago the original aim was to avert or overthrow national liberation movements and install a puppet neo-colony and reverse land reform. Now their purpose change at each new EU meeting as they wither in the face of Zimbabwe's resilience."

He said the EU meetings have turned into confusion and cross purpose.

"Terms of debate changed to how we remove them, not how to make them (sanctions) more potent. Confusion is now a new order among EU allies. Meanwhile, they lose business opportunities like Marange and Zisco to China, India and other BRICS countries."

He said the land reforms were permanent and irreversible.

"This EU soft power punch has landed on hard Zimbabwe ground."

Observers said it was pertinent to note the behaviour of senior MDC-T officials who had developed a penchant for playing to the gallery whenever there was an international meeting to discuss Zimbabwe.

Ahead of the International Monetary Fund team for Article IV consultations, Finance Minister Tendai Biti announced that the army had recruited more soldiers illegally.

When the Kimberely Process Certification Scheme was meeting in the United States, Mr Biti also went public to say that Anjin was not remitting diamond proceeds to the fiscus. This is despite the fact that Anjin has remitted $30 million in royalties and other taxes to the fiscus.

And on Sunday ahead of the EU Council meeting on Zimbabwe, Mr Biti claimed that MDC-T supporters had been barred from holding a rally at Murombedzi Growth Point in Zvimba and that some of them had been assaulted allegedly by Zanu-PF supporters. All this, the observers said, was aimed at putting Zimbabwe on the international spotlight and give ammunition to the EU and its allies to maintain sanctions on Zimbabwe.

But analysts said in spite of the sanctions, Zimbabwe will continue with its quest to empower its people through the indigenisation and economic empowerment programmes.

"Zimbabwe has not buckled. We seek no favours from Europe. The sanctions were imposed over land reforms but the struggle has continued. We are now moving towards mines, which will antagonise the British," said an analyst.

The extension of the EU sanctions against Zimbabwe comes at a time there are moves by the British Conservative party to re-assert control over Zimbabwe by breaking ranks with the Labour party, under whose tenure the sanctions were imposed.

Last week, British Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt argued with MPs in the House of Commons that if a peaceful and credible referendum on reforms was held ahead of "free and fair" elections due next year, the EU should suspend its ban on direct development aid, its asset freeze and its travel ban on all "but a small core of people around Mr Mugabe".

Political commentators in Britain were of the view that it was time for a new direction on Zimbabwe. There was also growing realisation within Conservatives that Britain was losing out on Zimbabwe and they therefore wanted the country back in the Commonwealth as its former colony.

"All these palliative measures are meant to recognise Zimbabwe as a colony of Britain. They want to reinstate aid, but it will not come because the EU does not have the money. It cannot help Spain and Greece which are facing financial crises," said an analyst.

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