SOUTH AFRICA Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe says there is no point in devoting all efforts in dealing with the Zimbabwean crisis on PresidentÂ Mugabe because of his â€œadvancedâ€ age.
Speaking in his countryâ€™s House of Assembly on Wednesday, Motlanthe said focus should be on getting the Zimbabwean economy pumping again.
He said: â€œPresident Mugabe is of an advanced age. It is not very helpful to devote all our efforts to dealing with him as an individual.â€
Analysts say Motlanthe comments could be a reflection that his country’s focus on Zimbabwe could now be on theÂ post-Mugabe period.
Motlanthe defended Sadcâ€™s call to remove sanctions against Zimbabwe saying the regional bloc took â€œa very responsible approachâ€ towards the country and its efforts to revive the economy.
He said the calls to lift sanctions against Zimbabweâ€™s ruling elite were not aimed at protecting the 85-year-old Mugabe, but to ensure that the troubled country attracts â€œnecessaryâ€ investment.
Motlanthe added: â€œMugabe is an individual. The lifting of sanctions is meant to attract necessary investments into Zimbabwe so that economic recovery can take effect. We know that, once political stability returns, the region can only benefit from that development.â€
The South African government had taken its cue on sanctions from the political parties of Zimbabwe, said Motlanthe.
â€œThe answer, in short, is that continued calls for sanctions would serve no useful purpose. (They) would not serve the ordinary people of Zimbabwe,â€ he said.
Mugabe blames sanctions imposed by the European Union and other Western countries for Zimbabweâ€™s economic ruin.
But Mugabeâ€™s critics argue that the sanctions were targetted at Mugabe and Zanu PF officials.
The sanctions involve an extensive travel ban and a freeze on foreign-held bank accounts.
Motlanthe said his government told Zimbabwean political parties that human rights violations would not be tolerated.
â€œWe have spelt out that when (British Prime Minister) Gordon Brown and (US President) Barack Obama and the EU want progress, these are the issues the Zimbabwean political leadership ought to address to ensure that investors come to the party,â€ he said.
Motlanthe added that the Zimbabwean parties should realise that this was their last chance to â€œpull themselves out of the morassâ€.
Meanwhile, a top European Union team would be in Zimbabwe this weekend to work on smoothening relations, the first such visit since 2002.
Swedish International Development Co-operation Minister Gunilla Carlsson and EU Aid Commissioner Karel De Gucht are expected in Harare today and would hold meetings tomorrow and Sunday with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, President Mugabe, ministers and representatives of non-governmental organisations.
In a statement, De Gucht said the meetings were meant â€œto discuss the way forward towards the normalisation of EU-Zimbabwe relationsâ€.
The weekend visit comes three months after the EU and Zimbabwe held their first official talks since 2002, with the EU promising to fully restore ties once â€œsticking pointsâ€ to the Global Political Agreement are overcome.
But analysts doubt Mugabe would iron out outstanding issues with Tsvangirai and Mutambara, relating to the appointments of central bank boss Gideon Gono, Attorney-General Johannes Tomana and provincial governors. Also unresolved is the refusal by Mugabe to swear in Roy Bennett as deputy Agriculture minister, and the continued farm disruptions.
The EU also wants an end to politically motivated violence and for the security services to come under government control.
The bloc is also demanding the restoration of theÂ Â rule of law, opening up of media space and more transparency in the financial system and key reforms to the central bank.
Tsvangirai in June embarked on an international tour looking for assistance to help Zimbabwe emerge from years of economic crisis characterised by runaway inflation.
Head of the EU Commission delegation to Zimbabwe, Xavier Marchal, last week told delegates to the Zimbabwe Farmers Union annual congress in Esigodini, Matabeleland South, that EU would fund the countryâ€™s economy once the GPA is fully consummated.
In the meantime, he said, the EU would provide â€œtransitionalâ€ funding.
â€œThe EU is increasingly supporting Zimbabweans in tune with Zimbabweâ€™s priorities (the Sterp) with transitional funding. The EU is to that respect implementing a vast short term strategy of which the main part goes for agriculture/ food security,â€ said Marchal.
The short-term strategy was announced in June during Tsvangiraiâ€™s three-week tour of Europe on his re-engagement mission.
â€œFull normalisation is what Zimbabwe needs. For that to be possible we have to positively conclude EU-Zimbabwe dialogue, then massive EU assistance can be offered to Zimbabwe,â€ he said.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch yesterday said sanctions against Zimbabwe should not be lifted until rights violations end in that country.
â€œThe sanctions debate is a red herring since none of them prevent the country from moving forward,â€ said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at HRW, in a statement. â€œPower sharing will only work when repressive laws are repealed and human rights irreversibly improved. Sanctions must not be lifted until then.â€
Chris Muronzi/Nqobile Bhebhe