BRITAIN’S House of Commons last week heard calls for the extension of European Union sanctions on Zimbabwe to include all key figures in the governing Zanu PF party.MPs compla
ined that EU sanctions against President Robert Mugabe’s regime were not tight enough. They called for the extension of the EU sanctions list to include a travel ban on Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono who they said was bankrolling the ruling party through his monetary policies.
“The Zimbabwean government is threatening to starve millions of people, spending extortionately on defence and sending the head of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to this country with his begging bowl to stump up cash to sustain their brutal tyranny,” said John Bercow, a Conservative MP.
“Wouldn’t it be better to seek to extend the EU sanctions so that the head of the Reserve Bank, Gideon Gono, is included in them? In my view that would be a vital contribution in humanitarian terms to helping the people of Zimbabwe who have suffered too much for too long with too little help from the outside world.”
Gono two weeks ago travelled to Washington where he held meetings with International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank officials for balance of payments support. During the trip he pleaded with the Bretton Woods institutions not to expel Zimbabwe for its arrears.
The RBZ governor proceeded to the United Kingdom where he attempted to persuade the estimated 400 000 Zimbabweans to use a new government initiative, Homelink, to send money to relatives back home. By offering the same exchange rate as the black market, the scheme is expected to inject millions of dollars in hard currency into the government’s bankrupt coffers.
International development minister Hillary Benn told the House that Britain’s sanctions policy against Zimbabwe was coordinated with the European Union and the Commonwealth.
“As the honourable gentleman will be aware, the sanctions that were reviewed earlier this year were extended,” said Benn.
“There is always an argument to be heard about which names should be included on that list and which should not, but the list was extended. The action that he advocates in relation to Dr Gono would not affect Dr Gono’s current visit, but the government has always said that, along with our EU colleagues, we shall continue to review the effectiveness of the sanctions to make sure that we take the right steps to affect those who are responsible while not further harming the people of Zimbabwe.”
Although Gono has played a key role in sprucing up Zanu PF’s battered image, he is not on the list of 95 Zimbabwean officials banned from visiting the EU.
Other MPs blasted the Zimbabwean government for its misguided policies. Sir Nicholas Winterton said he was angered that despite the serious problems facing Zimbabwe including the chronic fuel, food and currency shortages, a contracting economy and growing starvation, the government had ordered 12 jet fighter aircraft and 100 military vehicles from China.
Benn said the international community should continue to apply pressure on Zimbabwe to halt the continuing erosion of democratic principles. He said although the EU had imposed an arms embargo, assets freeze and visa ban against Zanu PF officials, other African states needed to exert more pressure on Zimbabwe.