Sanctions, Land, Violence Sticking Points In Talks

LIFTING of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, addressing the land question and restoring the rule of law are some of the challenges a government to come out of the on-going talks for a negotiated political settlement to the country’s decade-long crisis between Zanu PF and the MDC will face.

 

The agenda of the talks being facilitated by South African President Thabo Mbeki has a number of issues the protagonists should find solutions to before the negotiations’ August 4 deadline.

These include the rule of law, which implies the need to stop the prevailing culture of violence and impunity, upholding property rights and free political activity, and reforming state organs and institutions.

Many of the state institutions have been militarised and the army is now interfering with civilian affairs to the extent of threatening to refuse to salute elected officials.

Respecting the principle of the separation of powers, including an end to interference in the judiciary, would be a major challenge for the new government.

The new government would also have to address the chaotic land reform programme which has sabotaged agriculture and precipitated the current economic meltdown, while spawning starvation.

The new government would also have to stop the persecution of political opponents, ethnic minorities and other weaker groups which have borne the brunt of state brutality for years. Zimbabwe has been plagued by repression, violence and corruption since 1980.

The sanctions by the United States and the European Union are linked to these issues and they would be difficult to remove unless underlying problems are first addressed.

Political analysts argued that it would be difficult for sanctions imposed by the United States, Britain and European Union to be lifted overnight even if a political solution to the crisis is found.

Sanctions, especially those imposed by the US, would take longer to be removed because they were imposed by Congress through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001. The Act would have to be repealed, the analysts said.

In the memorandum of understanding signed between Zanu PF and the two formations of the MDC, the parties agreed to find solutions aimed at restoring economic stability, revisiting the land question, and promoting equality, national healing and the rule of law.

They also agreed to find a solution on how to deal with institutional reforms, among them the demilitarisation of parastatals and government departments.

Most of the issues on the agenda, analysts observed, would take a long time to deal with.

Meanwhile, the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC has denied instigating the imposition of US sanctions on 17 Zimbabwean entities propping up President Robert Mugabe’s government arguing that the matter was a bilateral issue between the southern African nation and the super power.

The US last week slammed Zimbabwean companies with sanctions, among them parastatals, linked to Mugabe’s regime.

Acting MDC spokesperson Tapiwa Mashakada said his party neither played a role in the imposition of the sanctions nor benefited from them despite Zanu PF accusations that they were behind the embargoes.

Tsvangirai however has been on record as supporting targeted sanctions against top Zanu PF officials and supporters.

Mashakada said: “The MDC is a political party and the sanctions are a government to government affair. The MDC has nothing to do with that, the sanctions are a dispute between two independent governments and it’s up to them to solve the disputes.

“If we were in government we would have a say in as far as sanctions are concerned, but we are not. Zanu PF has blamed us on the sanctions but that is just propaganda.”

He said instead of looking at the sanctions, people should think broader and find out why they were imposed.

“The debate should focus at the causes of the sanctions. These need to be looked at and solved. We are not beneficiaries of the sanctions but we want to be beneficiaries of a functional government.”

US President George Bush last Friday signed a new Executive Order that expanded sanctions against the “illegitimate government” of Zimbabwe which he said perpetrated politically-motivated violence.

The US passed a sanctions law on the country in 2001, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA).

The objectives of the ZIDERA were to support the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle to effect peaceful democratic change, to achieve broad-based and equitable economic growth and restore rule of law.

The Zimbabwe government argued that the sanctions were hurting ordinary people and were meant to effect regime change in the country. US ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee this week said the US had nothing against the ordinary people and that the recent sanctions were meant to force Mugabe to respect the will of voters as expressed in the March 29 elections.

Tsvangirai out-polled Mugabe in the presidential election but failed to garner the required votes to assume the presidency.

The opposition leader withdrew from a presidential run-off that was set for June 27 in protest at escalating political violence against his supporters, but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission went ahead with the poll arguing that his pull-out had no legal effect.

“Ordinary Zimbabweans clearly stated a desire for change in the March 29 elections and the US wants to see the will of the Zimbabwean people respected,” McGee said in written responses to questions from the Zimbabwe Independent. “Pursuant to that goal we have sanctioned those people responsible for thwarting the will of ordinary Zimbabweans.”

McGee said the new sanctions built upon existing embargoes put into force in 2001 and 2003 against more than 100 individuals in the inner-circle of the Zimbabwe government who have contributed to the undermining of democratic processes and institutions in the country.

“These are targeted sanctions that focus on the regime and its supporters not on the people of Zimbabwe or the broader economy. American businesses are free to do business with any Zimbabwean, individuals or companies that are not on the sanctions list,” McGee said.

“The US is committed to provide humanitarian assistance for as long as it is needed by the people of Zimbabwe,” he said. “In addition to this assistance, the US government committed up to $2,5 million from the US emergency refugee and migration assistance fund to assist Zimbabwean refugees and asylum seekers who have been displaced due to the ongoing violence in the country.”

The 17 entities designated on July 25 by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (Ofac) include the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company, the Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe, the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe Ltd, the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe, Zimre Holdings Ltd, ZB Financial Holdings Ltd, ZB Bank Ltd, Intermarket Holdings Ltd, and Scotfin Ltd, among others.

By Wongai Zhangazha

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