EM: The debate about sanctions has been going on for years in Zimbabwe and is now increasingly becoming controversial. Wherever you officiate you are usually confronted with the “sanctions” term, yet you call them “restrictive measures”. What is the difference between the two?
AA: Sanctions are measures against a country and government. They have an immediate effect on a country and there is an immediate impact on support that (the) EU can give to a country. And in the case of Zimbabwe, we do not have sanctions. The EU has been supportive of the Zimbabwean government.
We have diplomatic relations, we exchange ambassadors, and that is why I am here. Under sanctions, we would not have this scenario. We are meeting the Zimbabwean government officials regularly, for example, when we signed our fund agreements with the education and the health sectors. Yes, we do not call them sanctions, these are targeted restrictions only. So what we have in Zimbabwe are restrictions targeted at companies and individuals perpetrating or acting in cahoots with those implicated in gross human rights abuses.
EM: Tell us when will you completely remove these targeted restrictions?
AA: We have always repeated our mantra that restrictions can be removed when the individuals targeted have shown some improvements; when human rights abuses are eradicated; when Zimbabwe can hold free and fair elections; when people in Zimbabwe can be allowed to move freely and vote for a candidate of their choice; when the Sadc roadmap for elections in Zimbabwe is adhered to and when there is public media reform to an extent that opposition political parties can get equal coverage by the media during their campaigns. Then the restrictions can go. When the electoral reforms are implemented then we can talk of total removal of these restrictions. Yes, we are saying play your part then we will also play our part. A fair deal, isn’t it?
EM: The Attorney-General is pressing ahead with a lawsuit against the EU/US sanctions. What is your response to this?
AA: I can’t say anything about the lawsuit because the communication was between the Head of State (President Robert Mugabe) and the EU president (Herman van Rompuy). However, the EU respects the rule of law and governance. In the framework of the rule of law, whatever decision can be challenged before the courts.
EM: Do you think conditions in Zimbabwe right now are conducive for free and fair elections?
AA: We do not set dates and the conditions when elections in sovereign nations could be held but our call is for Sadc and (the) AU to say yes Zimbabwe can go ahead and hold elections. We follow them, we support them, and we believe in their professionalism. We accept their responsibility to allow Zimbabwe to go for polls. We stand ready to consider any request for further support to national or regional efforts aimed at fostering a conducive environment for democratic elections. The EU will not favour one party over the other. The EU will accept any outcome of a credible election process.
EM: Given Sadc leaders’ common history of the liberation struggle with Mugabe, do you think they can stand up to him on critical issues if push comes to shove?
AA: That is not for us to judge their relationship. We have mechanisms to check such unholy alliances. On the election roadmap, for example, Sadc cannot say all has been done when there is evidence that a lot still has to change. Like I said earlier, we believe in the honest and professional engagement with Sadc and AU.
EM: If Mugabe persists and succeeds in his call for early elections, are you going to send observers?
AA: We are ready to send observers into the country well before the elections date to monitor the progress, the campaigns, preparations and monitor how the polls will be held. We are ready but it all depends on whether we will be invited. If not invited then we monitor the polls through the eyes of Sadc and AU. We will then check what Sadc and AU say against the views of a lot of other non-governmental organisations that will be monitoring the elections.
EM: Going back to the restrictive measures issue, some quarters are saying the EU is trying to divide Zanu PF by removing some people from the EU restrictive list. What is the EU’s intention and what criteria did you use to come to such a conclusion?
AA: Well, certain sections may say so as everyone is free to say whatever they want. As for us, we perform our yearly assessment of these measures and our criteria were based on the activities of the individuals in as far as their involvement in human abuses is concerned. It was seen that the delisted people and companies were no longer actively or directly participating or involved in gross human rights abuses hence the decision to remove them. Whatever the effect this has caused to other interested parties, it is for them to say, not us. We do not have any other interests in this matter.
EM: What is your position with regards to the issue of diamonds in Marange?
AA: Our position is clear, and it is based on respect of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS). We are happy the government of Zimbabwe has accepted visits by civil society through the facilitation by the Ministry of Mines. So Zimbabwe is moving towards the right direction. The EU has been instrumental in building consensus on an agreement enabling Zimbabwe to sell diamonds from its Marange mines under the KPCS. The agreement –– brokered by the KPCS chair (DRC) with the support of the EU –– brought an end to the suspension of exports. This is a positive outcome for the people of Zimbabwe who will be able to benefit from the revenues derived from the export of their natural resources.
EM: Has the EU cut down on aid to Zimbabwe since the imposition of restrictive measures?
AA: Not at all, and this is why we say these are not sanctions because under sanctions we cut down or remove our support.
With Zimbabwe, we have so far donated close to US$1 billion in development assistance with emphasis on supporting the provision of social services and food security, reinforcing democratic institutions and processes as well as fostering economic recovery. Trade has, in fact, increased to 36% between 2010 and 2011 showing there are no sanctions to talk about.
EM: When should we expect the EU-Zimbabwe re-engagement process to resume?
AA: We have already written a letter to our member states so when a response comes then we will be ready to re-engage Zimbabwe. All I can say right now is that we are in the process of re-engagement.