The European Union (EU)’s sanctions must and are likely to stay put until Mugabe does more than just heed Julius Malema’s call to denounce violence.
There is nothing more indicative of the stinging and now unbearable effects of the targeted sanctions than the increasing complaints and calls for those sanctions to be removed and removed as soon as yesterday. Any psychologist would surely tell you that what that means is plain and simple: now is precisely the wrong time to relax the sanctions. If anything, now is the opportune time to go a gear up and intensify their effects.
The mob has been hit where it matters the most — in their pockets. While the travel bans have curtailed the lavish spending of individuals, preventing them from indulging their shopping passions in places like Paris, London and Rome, the bulk of the mob have been barred from sending their children to study at expensive colleges in Australia, the UK and America as the once highly esteemed University of Zimbabwe lamentably falls into decay.
There is no way the European Union would decide to ease the pressure on those who have hurt us for so long while never bothering to do anything to mitigate our suffering except to mouth empty words denouncing violence at an Independence celebration, after having inflicted 30 years of perennial misery. Even the Bible warns against words without action. Accordingly, Mugabe’s message of tolerance on April 18 must be ignored for what it is: mere talk.
In case they need reminding, sanctions are there for a reason and that is that a handful of people have vandalised the country in a way almost too frightening to comprehend. Hundreds of innocent and law-abiding citizens have been tortured and killed simply for expressing their democratic desire to elect a government of their choice.
Their best opportunity for reform came when Morgan Tsvangirai who won the last presidential election agreed to form a government of national unity with Mugabe. It is fair to say that while Mugabe has somewhat become less of a dictator after the September 15 2008 agreement, he has not done enough for the people of Zimbabwe to warrant any mitigation of the targeted sanctions.
Political reform is not coming as quickly as it could. For instance, while the country was “celebrating” Independence, political activists were being held in the dark, cold and miserable cells of the notorious Harare Central Police Station. Frivolous though their protest may have been, the attention-seeking ladies of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) should not have been forced to endure an entire Independence weekend in primitive, cells.
While Mugabe says he regrets the low pay for teachers, he customarily takes a delegation of 60 or so people with him on international trips to Copenhagen for instance, for an entire week, and they are paid scarce foreign currency.
Progress on human rights and related issues is key to the relaxation or removal of targeted sanctions. However, despite the setting up of a media commission responsible for the licensing of new media houses, not even one has been licensed. Instead, the under-fire Attorney General Johannes Tomana is to head that process.
If Mugabe and his henchmen are serious about the lifting of sanctions, they must genuinely promote human dignity, freedom of speech and the rule of law, end arbitrary arrests, apply Zimbabwean laws to the full extent without bias, and bring to justice all perpetrators of politically-motivated violence. They must also act in conformity with the letter and spirit of the global political agreement.
The people of Zimbabwe have suffered far too long at the hands of a bunch of self-interested individuals who have unconscionably abused their power. Our consolation, however, is that the targets of the sanctions are clearly stung hard by them. We applaud this and wish the sanctions could be intensified until we witness real change.
Psychology Maziwisa is interim president of the Union for Sustainable Democracy and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.