Lincoln Towindo and Norman Muchemwa
Government is confident that it has “done its part” in the ongoing formal dialogue with the European Union to warrantee a “fair assessment” when the EU Council of Ministers meets later this month for the annual review of sanctions the bloc imposed on Zimbabwe nearly two decades ago.
The EU Council of Ministers, made up of the foreign ministers of all 27 member countries, will meet during the second week of February, when the bloc traditionally reviews what it calls “restrictive measures”.
Last year, the council resolved not to extend the sanctions against any individual ostensibly to, “encourage the rule of law as set out in the Zimbabwean Constitution”.
Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga, Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Perrance Shiri and Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander Dr Valerio Sibanda remain on the “inactive” sanctions list.
Only former president the late Robert Mugabe, his wife Grace Mugabe and the Zimbabwe Defence Industries remain on the “active” list.
Harare and Brussels last year initiated an historic formal dialogue after over two decades of estrangement with primary focus on good governance, development cooperation, trade and investment and human rights among other key mutual cooperation areas.
The dialogue, which will soon enter into the third round, is being held under the terms of Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement, the charter which guides cooperation between the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of nations.
Ahead of the crucial Brussels meeting, Deputy Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister David Musabayana told The Sunday Mail that dialogue between the two sides has opened avenues for broader cooperation.
He said dialogue opened the scope for removal of the restrictive measures.
“We are not privy to the possible outcome (of the council meeting) because the ambassadors that are here and the ambassadors in the region all contribute,” said Deputy Minister Musabayana.
“Regarding the outcome of the review, the bold decision will be taken when the submissions are made to the council, we wait to see whether the Council of Ministers will be able to review and make a (positive) decision.
“It’s a process and we are still working on the improvements so that we make sure there will be no issues going into the future.
“But as you can see, the European Union has been positive with its engagements with us and there are positive pointers that we are working together in terms of our economic cooperation.”
He said Government remains optimistic that the political and economic reforms being will be considered when the council meets.
“As Government, we are optimistic that the sanctions will be reviewed in a progressive manner because a lot has happened in terms of political reforms, electoral reforms and in terms of the dialogue that is taking place between the ruling party and other players in the political constituencies,” said Deputy Minister Musabayana.
“So we believe that level of positive engagements has never happened before. Also, the level of freedoms that we are seeing being exercised, freedom for people to express themselves is very encouraging.
“The repeal of POSA and its replacement with MOPA is a very progressive legislation that has been accepted by the rest of the progressive society.
“We also have the repeal of AIPPA and its replacement with a more progressive legislation, that is work in progress and we think all that is working favourably for the positive review of sanctions.”
Responding to questions from The Sunday Mail, Ms Dorothe Grebe, who is in charge of public affairs and cultural diplomacy at the EU embassy in Harare, said dialogue between the two sides was a step in the right direction.
She described the formal dialogue as an evolving process.
“The political dialogue that was launched in 2019 is based on the Cotonou Agreement, to which Zimbabwe and the EU as well as the EU member states are parties,” she said.
“Its objectives are to exchange information, to foster mutual understanding and to facilitate the establishment of agreed priorities and shared agendas.
“By its nature, it is an evolving process.
She added: “The dialogue is a welcome development and a useful platform.
“Any decisions on the restrictive measures, however, will be taken by the Council of the European Union on an assessment of developments in Zimbabwe, particularly regarding human rights.”
She, however, said the reform process needs to be expedited to pave the way for quicker normalisation of relations.
“It has been one and a half years since the elections of 2018 and more than a year since the publication of the report of the Motlanthe Commission.
“Many of the commitments in the Transitional Stabilisation Programme are also without follow-up and the alignment of secondary legislation to the 2013 Constitution is inconclusive.
“We would have hoped to see a faster pace in the implementation of the Government’s own reform agenda.”
As the US digs in
While progress in mending relations between Zimbabwe and the EU appears to be heading in the right direction, the United States has remained obstinately intransigent in refusing to accept Zimbabwe’s outstretched hand.
In the latest development, the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week began agitating for the expansion of sanctions against Zimbabwe under the pretext of increased human rights abuses.
Committee chairperson Senator Jim Risch and Senator Chris Coons, who is a member of the subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, wrote to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting that the US Department of the Treasury update the list of sanctioned persons in Zimbabwe.
The development follows an embarrassing episode where last week, the US Embassy in Botswana claimed on its official Twitter account that Sadc Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax and Ambassador Craig Cloud had discussed how economic policies and corruption, and not sanctions, had wrecked the Zimbabwean economy.
The claim was quickly refuted by Dr Tax, who responded on Twitter saying: “This was not part of what was discussed. (It) might be the position of the Embassy, but definitely not Sadc’s position.”
Government efforts at rapprochement appear to be falling on deaf ears with current US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols appearing unwilling to find compromise. Since his appointment, the US has progressively hardened its posture towards Zimbabwe with the most recent episode being the imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Tanzania Anselem Sanyatwe and his wife, Ms Chido Machona.
Ambassador Sanyatwe is former Zimbabwe National Army Commander of the Presidential Guard Brigade.
Africa stands with Zimbabwe
Intense lobbying by Zimbabwe particularly among its African peers has witnessed increased calls for the removal of the US embargo.
Last year, Africa presented a united stand against sanctions at the United Nations General Assembly when Heads of States and Government condemned the sanctions in the addresses to plenary.
Only last week, Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo called for the immediate removal of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe saying they are “unacceptable and unjustifiable” and hindering efforts to grow the country’s economy.
Speaking while receiving Zimbabwe’s new ambassador to Ghana, Mr Kufa Edward Chinoza, at Jubilee House in Accra, last week President Akufo-Addo said: “We will continue to call on our peers on the continent to do everything we can to see that the sanctions are lifted as soon as possible so that Zimbabwe will have the freedom to develop to its full potential.
“Hopefully, soon, rather than later, we all should hear the good news from the collective efforts of all the African people.”