In his latest partisan move on Zimbabwe, South Africa’s PresidentJacob Zuma told Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs on Wednesday 29 September that “the international community should lift sanctions against Zimbabwe,” and claimed credit for giving leadership “before anybody else did and the current power sharing deal was facilitated by South Africa.”
Before the EU lifts targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle, they should note that the whole of Zimbabwe is “a giant crime scene” based on what happened before and after the 2008 elections as well as what is happening on the ground now. Until a full investigation is carried out into electoral violence, political murders and human rights abuses in the country leading to the prosecution and conviction of the culprits, targeted sanctions must stay. A more balanced mediation would see Zuma also putting pressure on Mugabe to prosecute all perpetrators of the tragic violence that was witnessed in 2008 rather than helping him get a tourist visa.
What are the EU sanctions against Zimbabwe? According to an EU statement , they ban the sale “of arms and of equipment that can be used for internal repression,” prevent Mugabe and his allies from “entering or transiting the EU member states” and impose an asset freeze on people and firms suspected of supporting the regime. The sanctions are supposed to remain in effect until February 20, 2011 – the eve of Mugabe’s 87th birthday
The restrictive measures were imposed in 2002 in reaction to allegations of electoral rigging and human rights abuses by Robert Mugabe’s regime. Jacob Zuma’s South African government has declined to release a report of the role of the Zimbabwe military in the 2008 election violence. Also of concern is the claim by the Democratic Alliance that South Africa gave a total of R600 million rand in “economic assistance” to Robert Mugabe’s regime under the African Renaissance Fund (ARF) even though the ARF “does not track how the funding is spent”.
Further abuses were revealed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, Gideon Gono, in a huge advert in 2009 that he had spent US$18 million destined for accounts belonging to tobacco growers. In the absence of a Freedom of Information Act in Zimbabwe, it is unlikely that the full extent of the raids on foreign currency accounts by the Mugabe regime and their use will ever be audited transparently. However, the cash strapped government was said to be paying back the farmers with fertiliser!
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), there were human rights abuses by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the Airforce of Zimbabwe in the Marange diamond fields including extra judicial killings, beatings, torture, forced labour, and child labour between October 2008 and June 2009. “The first three weeks of the operation were particularly brutal over the period October 27 to November 16, 2008 the army killed at least 214 miners. The army has also been engaged fully and openly in the smuggling of diamonds, thereby perpetuating the very crime it was deployed to prevent,” the HRW report stated.
On Monday, 27 October 2008 elements of the ZNA, AFZ and CIO agents reportedly launched Operation Hakudzokwi (No Return) in Marange District. The report goes on to disclose that there were massacres in Chiadzwa during the period of 27 October to 16 November 2008. “Five military helicopters with mounted automatic rifles flew over Chiadzwa and began driving out local miners. On the ground, over 800 soldiers were ferried to Chiadzwa in seven large trucks, several smaller trucks, and an army bus. From the helicopters, soldiers indiscriminately fired live ammunition and tear gas into the diamond fields and into surrounding villages,” says the human rights organisation.
Prospects of any criminal investigations into the alleged human rights abuses have dwindled with Mugabe’s recent declaration that there would be no trials. Furthermore, it has been alleged that economic inducements and threats of physical harm have kept Zimbabwe’s judiciary “beholden” to Robert Mugabe, with the new coalition doing nothing to re-establish the integrity of the compromised bench.
Unimpressed by the failure of the coalition government to prosecute perpetrators of violence, in January, HRW slammed Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party for shielding abuses by Zanu-pf “in the name of trying to save Zimbabwe’s coalition regime. But that did not stop MDC from promising amnesty to Mugabe and senior army officers “implicated in atrocities if they voluntarily vacate office” according to press reports quoting the party’s Secretary General Tendai Biti.
Have the sanctions been effective? Who are they hurting if at all, and how? It is the contention of this opinion paper that the smart sanctions, though not perfect, have worked and are working, therefore should be retained and only reviewed when they expire on 20 February 2011. In view of the fact that in July, the EU invited sanctioned Zimbabweans to make individual cases for delisting, it is very worrying to note that the same EU is reportedly “ready to take a fresh look at sanctions against Zimbabwe”.
The EU should not flip flop on this crucial issue. The German Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Albrecht Conze recently made a pertinent observation: “For the past three years those that have put restrictive measures on about 200 people in this country regarding travel and assets have helped this country with between 600 and 800 million dollars per year. I fail to understand how travel restrictions and restrictions on personal assets for a small number of people can be considered a threat to the economic revival of this country.”
However, the South African-based Institute for Security Studies argued in a report in June that the targeted sanctions “are not smart enough” saying, “targeted individuals can therefore easily find ways to circumvent the ban – either by travelling to (and shopping in) countries that have not imposed such restrictions or by attending international conferences or humanitarian events while at the same time pursuing their private interests in whichever countries they visit”.
On the contrary, evidence that the sanctions are working is documented in Mugabe’s endless moaning and whining about “illegal sanctions” at almost every forum, including funerals at Heroes Acre and conferences he has attended at the SADC, EU, and UN. And he has not been short of sympathisers. South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, as well as Malawi’s Bingu WaMutharika, have all lined up to call for the lifting of the “illegal sanctions”, which we are being made to believe are ineffective. Isn’t that a contradiction?
It’s said that a week is a very long period in politics. A snapshot of Zimbabwean events in one week paints a gloomy picture of the so-called progress that some are demanding is rewarded - for example:
“Mugabe abuses cover up will be rejected: Analysts” published by Zimonline on September 15th;
“Zimbabwe flogs 400 000 carats at secret auction”, published by Zimonline on September 16th;
“Tsvangirai hints at poll boycott” should resurgent political violence deteriorate, and the polls are virtually reduced to warfare, published by Zimonline on September 21st;
“Zim halts reform exercise in Harare” because of violence, also published by Zimonline on September 21st; “Victims of violence arrested: MDC” published by Zimonline on September 22nd;
“Military intimidating civilians: Tsvangirai”, published by Zimonline on September 23rd;
“Memorial for murdered activist postponed,” published by SW Radio Africa on September 28th;
“Security forces violating rights” says Zimbabwe Peace Project, published by Zimonline on September 28th;
“Parties must negotiate new charter: PM” because of Zanu-pf violence at COPAC meetings, also published by Zimonline on September 28th;
“2300 rights abuses during constitutional reforms” published by Zimonline on September 29th.
The EU needs to realise that the ordinary people of Zimbabwe are anxiously waiting for justice and it is therefore not surprising to note that eighteen Zimbabweans, including a five year old boy, who were arrested on trumped-up charges of terrorism in 2008 have reportedly brought an exemplary lawsuit of US$22 million against Robert Mugabe’s government. Where in the EU is that happening?
Before sanctions were enforced, it’s alleged, Mugabe planned to buy his wife a Scottish castle and that, when in London, Grace Mugabe would insist on taking over a suite at the exclusive Claridge’s Hotel. On one of her shopping sprees, it is alleged she spent £40,000 in an afternoon. By failing to get Mugabe implement the co-called global political agreement which he signed 2 years ago, Jacob Zuma should concede failure in his mediation role on Zimbabwe.