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Editor’s Memo: EU mission impossible!

THE Zimbabwe-European Union (EU) re-engagement meeting is on in Brussels today with little hope that the union will lift sanctions against the Harare regime given its failure to address its democratic deficits.

Energy minister Elton Mangoma is leading a three-member delegation made up of Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa and International Cooperation minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga on a mission impossible.

Mangoma’s task to convince the EU to lift all forms of sanctions and measures in line with the September 2008 global political agreement (GPA) is a mammoth one because the inclusive government has failed to meet benchmarks set by the bloc. Moreover, it is failing to fully consummate the GPA.

Mangoma, Chinamasa and Misihairabwi-Mushonga’s mandate is to convince the EU to lift sanctions
against a backcloth of the appointment of constitutional commissions and the licensing of new newspapers. They would argue that these developments exhibit Zimbabwe’s commitment to deliver democracy, albeit at a glacial pace.

The sanctions were imposed on Zimbabwe after it flagrantly violated provisions of the Cotonou Agreement to uphold respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms based on the rule of law and transparent and accountable governance in line with other obligations under international human rights treaties.

For the sanctions to be lifted the EU set various benchmarks we were supposed to meet, among them the full implementation of the GPA –– a product of our own negotiations that gave birth to the inclusive government in February 2009.

That we have failed to consummate the GPA demonstrates the lack of seriousness of our leaders and their quest to cling tenaciously to positions that do not move the country forward. In fact they threaten to plunge us into civil strife.

Unless there is the will to address our democratic deficits, it will be foolhardy for anyone to yearn for the EU, Australia and the United States to lift the embargoes.

Reports of political intimidation and violence during the current constitution-making outreach programme are of great concern to the EU and other progressive organisations such as the Commonwealth. Why are we failing as a nation to put an end to all forms of political intimidation, including farm seizures, and ensuring prosecution of perpetrators? Some politicians see short-term gains from these heinous acts at the expense of the country.

We need to robustly address our democratic and human rights deficits if the sanctions are to go. One way of doing that, and which will cost us nothing, is the abrogation of provisions of the Public Order and Security Act relating to the conduct of political activities such as public meetings and demonstrations, which is limiting the freedom of association and which is used as an instrument of political repression. Sadc’s Mauritius terms for elections which underline public participation are also violated by Posa.

While government has through the Zimbabwe Media Commission licensed new newspapers, little has been done to free the mass media. Airwaves remain the preserve of the publicly-owned but state-controlled ZBC with no indication as to when private broadcasters would become operational.

If sanctions are to go government should abrogate the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act to ensure freedom of expression. There is also need to withdraw charges against journalists in the country and guarantee those in exile a safe return.

These are government sanctions against the media that could be immediately lifted if the political will was there.
Other benchmarks to be met include the immediate implementation of all court rulings, ensuring an independent audit of the land reform, and enforcement of all bilateral agreements on the promotion and protection of investments.

The Fishmongers Group, made up mainly of EU member states, which met in Oslo on June 1 was unequivocal on what benchmarks Zimbabwe should meet before sanctions can be lifted and balance-of-payments support and lines of credit extended to it.

From this it can be seen the ball is in our court to have the sanctions lifted. Otherwise, Mangoma’s mission will be stillborn.


By Constantine Chimakure

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