Robert Mugabe has been feted by his supporters and allies in the region, but it will be a while before the West rolls out the red carpet for him.
Western powers, angry at the outcome of an election that the opposition says was rigged, are likely to keep sanctions on Zimbabwe in place.
The United States this week said that it would not lift sanctions against Zimbabwe.
“We have made clear to the government of Zimbabwe and the region that a change in US sanctions policy will occur only in the context of credible, transparent and peaceful reforms that reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people,” said state department spokesperson Jen Psaki.
But could the different reactions among Western nations, from the shrill calls for a rerun by Australia to the more muted response from the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom, point to a shift?
“These varied responses, something that would have been unthinkable a decade ago, is the most clear sign yet that the old consensus in the West on Zimbabwe might be fraying,” said political analyst Simukai Tinhu.
Punishment for Mugabe
The US and the EU have maintained sanctions on Zimbabwe since 2001 to punish President Robert Mugabe for rights abuses and for driving white farmers off the land.
The sanctions comprise of personal sanctions against Mugabe and his inner circle, and restrictions on trading with Zimbabwe.
There are sharply contrasting views on the impact sanctions have had on the country. Zanu-PF blames them for everything that has gone wrong in Zimbabwe – from poor harvests to bad roads – but the Movement for Democratic Change insists sanctions only target a few individuals. The truth lies somewhere in between.
Zanu-PF, in its campaign manifesto, makes the extravagant claim that the sanctions have cost Zimbabwe a total of $42-billion in lost investment, aid and foreign loans.
“Since 2001, the illegal sanctions have put the Zimbabwe economy under siege with negative downstream effects on vulnerable groups, communities and civil society,” Zanu-PF said.
Many believe the sanctions have been useful to Zanu-PF as an excuse for its failures.
No general sanctions
But contrary to Zanu-PF’s claims, the US says data for trade with Zimbabwe provide evidence that there are no general sanctions. The United States is Zimbabwe’s 11th largest trade part
ner, with about $110-million in bilateral trade. The US, according to the American Embassy in Harare, has provided more than $1.2-billion worth of aid to Zimbabwe since 2001.
The EU was Zimbabwe’s third-largest trade partner last year, with trade worth $875-million. Trade with the EU stood at $447-million in 2009.
Zanu-PF’s Patrick Chinamasa, who has led Zimbabwe’s efforts to reach out to the EU, says Zimbabwe is ready to continue talks with Europe.