There was rare praise for the European Union from the corridors of power at Munhumutapa Building after the bloc removed Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, Lands minister Perrance Shiri, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda and former First Lady Grace Mugabe from its sanctions list.
This followed a Council of the European Union 3747th meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday. The EU, however, renewed its arms embargo and maintained a targeted assets freeze against the Zimbabwe Defence Industries, for one year, "taking into account the situation in Zimbabwe, including the yet-to-be-investigated alleged role of the armed and security forces in human rights abuses".
While welcoming the removal of the targeted sanctions, Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo called on the EU to completely remove the remaining measures, arguing they "are unjustified and outdated".
Moyo also argued that the remaining measures would "actually hinder our reform trajectory." He stated that the removal of sanctions was "an acknowledgement of progress made in terms of the broad reform agenda we have set ourselves and to which we are fully committed."
But if truth is to be told, government has done very little to honour the 2013 constitution and fulfil the reform agenda it promised Zimbabweans and the world. In fact, it does not need one to have a deep analysis of the EU Council resolutions to see that the bloc did not remove the targeted sanctions because of positive moves by the government. It was rather a demonstration of goodwill to nudge government to implement reforms. The EU Council resolutions are clear.
The bloc wants government to speed up reforms, observe human rights and tackle corruption among other ills plaguing the nation."The lack of substantial reforms, the further shrinking of democratic space and corruption, have however contributed to the current deteriorating humanitarian crisis and to the economic and social situation," the EU said.
"The EU calls on the government to accelerate the political and economic reform process as a matter of urgency, for the benefit of its population. Perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses should swiftly be brought to justice and the recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry should be implemented without further delay. In addition, an inclusive national dialogue is key to finding structural and durable solutions to the challenges faced by Zimbabwe."
By easing restrictive measures, the EU has basically demonstrated that it is willing and ready to engage and shift its position in line with the measures government takes.
Government should, in turn, set itself on the reform path in reciprocation to the goodwill exhibited. In other words, concrete action instead of hollow words and empty promises is expected if dialogue is to be scaled up and relations elevated to a new level. The ball is firmly in government's court.