By Nyasha Chingono
THE European Union (EU) has upped pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, demanding political and economic reforms backed by a judicious implementation of the Kgalema Motlanthe-led commission of inquiry into the August 1, 2018 extrajudicial killings.
Last week’s visit by the EU managing director for Africa, Koen Vervaeke, revived calls for Mnangagwa to walk the talk on political and economic reforms.
In various meetings held last weekend, Koen called for implementation of the commission’s recommendations following an inquiry into the August shootings which claimed the lives of six people in Harare’s central business district.
The military was again deployed in January to contain protests, resulting in the killing of 17 people. Scores of people were also assaulted while some women were raped by suspected security forces.
Speaking to the Zimbabwe Independent this week, the EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen, said the call for tangible political reforms was at the top of the agenda when Vervaeke met officials from the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice.
“In several of the discussions, the events of last August and last January, as well as the recommendations contained in the Motlanthe commission of inquiry, were touched upon,” Olkkonen said.
“It is clear that measures need to be taken in order to avoid a repetition of past tragic events.”
Mnangagwa, who rose to power through a military coup that toppled former President Robert Mugabe in November 2017, is skirting critical recommendations contained in the Motlanthe report.
The report recommended that disciplinary action be taken on soldiers and police who shot and killed six unarmed civilians during the post-election protests.
Some of the soldiers were caught on camera firing live rounds on protesters in the full glare of international media and election observers.
“Those particular members of the military and the police found to have been in breach of their professional duties and discipline on August 1, 2018 should be identified as soon as possible for internal investigations and appropriate sanction, which should include hearing from the victims and their families for impact assessment and to provide the necessary compensation,” the commission recommended.
No action has been taken on security forces who committed atrocities while the victims are yet to be compensated.
The EU, the United States government and other Western countries have set political reforms that include the repealing of repressive laws, opening of the democratic space and the holding of free and fair elections as conditions for normalising relations with the Zimbabwean government.
“Credible and tangible reforms on the political and economic front and a sincere effort towards constitutionalism are crucial factors in our relations,” Olkkonen said.
The EU says Vervaeke’s visit was an indication of the bloc’s interest and readiness to engage with Zimbabwe.
“We heard reassurances from the government that it is serious with the reform agenda and intends to push ahead. This was very positive and we are looking forward for further concrete steps in this regard. The violent events of August 2018 and January 2019 were a setback for the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and the re-engagement with the international community,” Olkkonen said.
“Human rights and the democratic space need to be a part of our open and honest dialogue with Zimbabwe. The respect for human rights and the rule of law are cornerstones of a democratic society, and we hope that the Government will address the past events and translate its planned reforms in this area into tangible action.”