The European Union’s decision to lift a travel ban on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe while he serves as African Union chairperson is “inconsequential”, his ruling party said on Wednesday.
Zanu-PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo told the official Chronicle newspaper that the temporary lifting of the ban, announced in Brussels on Tuesday, was “an effort to hoodwink the continent”.
“The announcement is inconsequential,” Moyo was quoted as saying.
European Commission spokesperson Catherine Ray on Tuesday announced that Mugabe would be allowed to travel to the EU in his new capacity as AU chair. Mugabe will hold the post for a year.
“This ban will be lifted when he is travelling under his African Union chairmanship capacity,” said Ray.
Asked if that would also apply to Mugabe’s wife if she accompanied him, Ray said she would have to check.
The EU issued a special invitation for Mugabe to attend the EU-Africa summit in Brussels last year but he turned it down in disgust when his wife Grace was denied a visa to travel with him.
The EU imposed a travel ban and an asset freeze on Mugabe, his wife Grace, and dozens of his associates in 2002 in response to allegations of rights abuses and vote rigging.
It has recently eased some of the measures in the hope of normalising relations with Harare, but 90-year-old Mugabe, Africa’s oldest head of state, and his wife remain on the banned list.
Moyo said: “Our position as Zanu-PF remains that all sanctions imposed on President Mugabe as head of state and citizen of Zimbabwe be removed unconditionally. Any effort to hoodwink the continent is futile.”
Mugabe is well known for his uncompromising stance towards the West and the colonising powers he blames for many of Africa’s ills.
Taking up the one-year rotating AU chairmanship last week, Mugabe said he cared little for what the West might say.
Mugabe said that he and his country had been under sanctions for over ten years. “If they want to continue it’s up to them but these sanctions are wrong.”
At the same time he added: “If Europe comes in the spirit to cooperate and not the spirit to control us and control our ways, they will be very welcome.” – Sapa, AFP