Zanu-PF rejects sanctions offer
Every year in February, the European Union (EU) council of ministers meets in Brussels to decide whether to lift the sanctions it imposed on President Robert Mugabe and a coterie of his inner circle more than 10 years ago.
The outcome is always the same, with the 27-member bloc partially lifting sanctions and saying it will reward further political reforms by scrapping the sanctions.
In turn, every year Zanu-PF dismisses the EU moves “with contempt”.
This week, the EU lifted travel bans on six top members of Zanu-PF and promised to remove more if Zanu-PF edged closer to political reform.
Anger is running high in Zanu-PF over this week’s EU decision. The party, political observers say, is keen to have the sanctions against its members dropped to gain international legitimacy for Mugabe.
The Zanu-PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, said: “It is outrageous and preposterous that the EU would come up with such a decision. The whole exercise is sinister. We wanted the sanctions to be dropped unconditionally.”
But, he said, the decision to drop some sanctions showed that the EU was rethinking the sanctions because of economic rivalry with China and India, which had increased their trade with Zimbabwe. “These sanctions are losing ground, as more and more countries are coming to invest into the country,” Gumbo said.
Didymus Mutasa, the Zanu-PF secretary for administration who remains on the sanctions list, said: “Why would I want to go to Europe, even if I was removed from the sanctions list? Europe is cold, in recession and is unwelcoming.”
A Zanu-PF politburo member who declined to be named said this week the party had begun to "play all the right notes" about reform, Mugabe was persistently making calls for peace and the coalition government had pushed through the draft constitution in Parliament, which were enough reasons for the EU to have lifted all the sanctions.
In the run-up to the EU decision on Monday, speculation ran high in political and diplomatic circles that the European bloc would announce a major decision on sanctions. Fuelling the speculation were allegations that Belgium was keen for the EU to delist the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Company (ZMDC) and allow the sale of diamonds from Zimbabwe's Marange fields to Europe.
But the human rights organisation Global Witness issued a strong rebuke of Belgium, arguing that the move was motivated by selfishness.
Zanu-PF, it appears, covertly remained hopeful that Europe's interests in Zimbabwe's diamonds would move the union to lift all sanctions. Also strengthening its hopes were the campaigns by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in recent months calling for the removal of sanctions.
The party president Morgan Tsvangirai and his secretary-general, Tendai Biti, recently had meetings with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Canadian officials and asked for the sanctions to be repealed.
The March 16 referendum on the constitution and proposed elections appear to be on the EU's radar.
The EU said in a statement it was ready to further adjust its policy to recognise progress by the Zimbabwean government and that "a peaceful and credible constitutional referendum would represent an important milestone justifying an immediate suspension of the majority of all remaining EU targeted restrictive measures against individuals and entities".
Twenty-one individuals on the sanctions list were removed and a company linked to a top Zanu-PF official. Among those removed are the late vice president John Nkomo, the tourism minister, Walter Mzembi, who needs to travel to facilitate the United Nations World Tourism conference, and the lands minister, Hebert Murerwa, who earlier this year said the country would no longer occupy farms protected by government-to-government agreements.