EU extends travel restrictions, asset freeze on the Mugabes

Robert and Grace Mugabe have had their travel and asset restrictions extended by the EU. (Zacharias Abubeke, AFP)

Robert and Grace Mugabe have had their travel and asset restrictions extended by the EU. (Zacharias Abubeke, AFP)

The European Union (EU) on Friday extended for a year travel restrictions and an asset freeze on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace, in the wake of continued human rights abuses in Zimbabwe and failure to implement political and economic reforms.

EU diplomats told the Mail & Guardian that the Council of the EU also resolved to maintain an arms embargo on Zimbabwe, meaning Zimbabwe Defence Forces’ arms manufacturing company, Zimbabwe Defence Industry, also remains under the targeted measures.

Head of the EU delegation to Zimbabwe Ambassador Phillipe Van Damme confirmed the development although he did not give details.

Assisting Zimbabwe
Ironically, the EU took the decision on the eve of Mugabe’s birthday and during the week the block signed the National Indicative Programme under which the bloc will assist Zimbabwe with $270-million for socio-economic programmes.

Mugabe celebrates his 91st birthday on Saturday.

EU ambassadors told M&G travel restrictions on Mugabe, would remain despite improved relations between Zimbabwe and the 28-member bloc as he had shown lethargy in implementing reforms.

The decision means Mugabe will not be allowed to travel to Europe, unless he is travelling on African Union (AU) business. He assumed the chairmanship of the AU last month.

“It is difficult to remove the restrictive measures when Zimbabwe is still attracting negative headlines. I am talking about human rights abuses, the respect of the rule of law and so on.
EU capitals are willing to remove the measures, but it does not help when farm invasions carry on and court orders ignored,” said an EU diplomat.

“What happens in Mazowe (where the First Lady has evicted more than 200 families from Manzou farm) matters. Despite bilateral investment protection agreements (BIPPAs) we are still having farm invasions while the government has been slow to implement reforms which will move the country forward, such as the aligning the country’s laws to the new constitution.”

EU diplomats said the block would make another review in February next year.

Police burnt homes
Zimbabwean police last month burnt homes of 200 villagers at Manzou Farm in Mazowe, Mashonaland Central to force them off the property on which the Mugabes want to establish a private game reserve. 

Despite a high court order barring the government from evicting the villagers, without providing them an alternative place to settle, the government has moved zebras onto the farm in a bid to force villagers out.

The zebras have destroyed the villagers’ crops.

EU ambassadors also told M&G that despite the signing of the National Indicative Program the block will not consider assisting Zimbabwe with direct budgetary support at least until 2017. 

The EU is supporting socioeconomic programs in Zimbabwe until 2020, but the funds are being channeled through civil society and multi-lateral institutions.

Development programmes
The EU last year scrapped Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement on Zimbabwe last year, significantly improving diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe in the process, while also allowing the country to benefit from the 11th European Development Fund, which supports development programmes in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific countries.

The EU imposed a travel ban and an asset freeze on Mugabe and his inner circle in 2000 under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement which suspended the EU’s direct aid to government. The block, however, continued providing humanitarian aid through civil society.

The measures, the bloc said, were in response to gross violations of human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law by government. The measures were however suspended in July 2012 allowing the bloc and Zimbabwe to work at a technical level to see how the two parties could start co-operation in future.

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