18 February 2014

Zimbabwe: White Lobby Group Wants Mugabe Restrictive Measures Lifted

Photo: IRIN
A fresh produce market in Mbare, Harare.

A predominantly white pressure group has been formed to press Western countries to lift the remaining restrictive measures against ZANU PF officials.

The group, which calls itself Zimbabweans Against Sanctions, blames the restrictive measures imposed on the Mugabe regime 12 years ago for the collapse of the country's economy.

Speaking in Harare on Monday, the chairman of the group Mathew Smith, a hotelier and contract miner, said they want western countries to remove all the measures which he said were imposed on all Zimbabweans.

His father Gary who is also a member of the group is the finance director of a transport and trucking business.

Mathew said his group believes that the targeted measures are hurting the country and Zimbabweans, and should be lifted unconditionally.

"We are forming this lobby group because the truth about Zimbabwe needs to be heard and for that truth to be heard it needs to be told from our perspective, especially as white Zimbabweans on whose behalf these damaging sanctions were supposedly imposed," he said.

In a passionate speech delivered at a press briefing in Harare the leaders of the group denied that the motive behind the formation of the group is to protect their businesses from ZANU PF's property grabs.

Speaking to SW Radio Africa Tuesday, Mathew Smith said he has never felt the need to protect himself in his 33 years living in Zimbabwe, "and we are starting now because the time just feels right".

He said the country has just had a "fantastic, peaceful, free and fair election and it is time that the citizens are freed from the sanctions yoke. Our interest is Zimbabwe and ordinary Zimbabweans".

Defending ZANU PF's controversial indigenisation law which requires foreign-owned businesses to cede a 51 percent stake to locals, Smith said this was a good policy that was benefitting every Zimbabwean but which has been misunderstood due to the negative perception the world has on the country.

The restrictive measures were imposed 12 years ago on some ruling party ZANU PF officials by the United States, Britain and the European Union following a sustained campaign of human rights abuses by the Mugabe regime.

Explaining his government's position, US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton said: "The underlying principle is that the US targeted sanctions programme seeks to limit the economic activities of that very small number of individuals and entities that have shown a willful disregard for the rule of law, democratic process, and human rights in Zimbabwe.

"In our view, those are the activities that have weakened this country's economy. Targeted sanctions are our means of expressing concern and trying to encourage decisions that will strengthen Zimbabwe," Wharton said.

But Smith said this was a misconception, and criticised Monday's decision by the EU to retain restrictions on Mugabe, his wife Grace and arms dealer the Zimbabwe Defence Industries.

Prominent retired Zim cricketer Heath Streak is one of the members of the Zimbabweans Against Sanctions lobby group whose membership comprises almost 3,000 others.

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