SW Radio Africa (London)

Zimbabwe: EU Lifts Sanctions On Members of Mugabe's Inner Circle

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

The EU has suspended targeted sanctions against eight ZANU PF officials but kept the restrictive measures on President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace.

This was announced by a visiting EU parliamentary delegation, the state media reported Tuesday. A Herald report said the head of the delegation, Mario David, told journalists that the decision to lift targeted sanctions followed 'deliberations with various groups'. The announcement comes barely a week after EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell'Ariccia, attempted to give the impression that such a decision had not been taken yet.

Among those removed from the travel ban are army commanders Constantine Chiwenga, Phillip Valerio Sibanda and Perence Shiri. Also removed from the targeted sanctions list are presidential affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa, police commissioner Augustine Chihuri and leader of the war vets, Jabulani Sibanda.

UK-based pressure group the Zimbabwe Vigil said the EU has 'betrayed' the people of Zimbabwe. The Vigil's Ephraim Tapa said by easing the restrictive measures the EU has literally given members of Mugabe's inner circle the opportunity to 'enjoy their loot.'

Tapa said: 'This is like awarding them an opportunity to strengthen their stranglehold on the economy and the people of Zimbabwe. They will widen their business connections and get even richer and more powerful.' Tapa added that the EU move will send a 'wrong signal to other African countries' who might be tempted to pursue Mugabe's repressive rule.

Ahead of the announcement the Vigil led calls to the EU not to ease the restrictive measures against Mugabe and his inner circle. The Vigil argues that the ZANU PF government is still hell bent on abuses, rampant corruption and electoral theft.

Only a few days ago the Vigil wrote a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameroon, urging him to boycott April's EU/AU Summit to which Mugabe has been invited. The summit will explore ways of enhancing 'political partnership' and co-operation between the EU and African countries.

According to the Vigil Cameron must stay away because Mugabe continues to hate the West in general and the UK in particular. Mugabe will attend the Brussels summit from 2nd to 3rd April.

Since February 2002 Mugabe and his inner circle have been banned from visiting the EU under the targeted sanctions. The EU imposed restrictive measures against Mugabe and his cabal following the expulsion of the head of the EU observer mission Pierre Schori, amid an increase in human rights violations.

However, over the years the measures were carefully relaxed in response to specific reforms. Until the latest EU move only 10 members of Mugabe's retinue and one company remained on the restrictive measures list.

For years ZANU PF has sought to blame the country's economic decline on these restrictive measures. The party reacted characteristically to the latest EU gesture saying it was 'nonsensical.' ZANU PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo called on the EU to remove the sanctions on Mugabe and his wife.

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A fresh produce market in Mbare, Harare.

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