By Moses Matenga
The European Union (EU) has renewed sanctions against the Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI), a military-controlled company, over “persistent” human rights abuses by the Harare administration.
The EU has, over the years, rolled back sanctions against Harare, leaving only an arms embargo against ZDI, while its travel bans and asset freezes on former First Lady Grace Mugabe, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Philip Valerio Sibanda remain suspended.
It warmed up to Mnangagwa after the 2017 coup that deposed long-time ruler, the late former President Robert Mugabe, but yesterday accused the government of breaking promises on reforms and criticised continuing human rights violations.
The government denies any wrongdoing, with Mnangagwa insisting that they were only dealing with “bad apples” allegedly causing divisions.
“In light of its continuing concerns, the EU has reviewed its restrictive measures, recalling their purpose to encourage a demonstrable, genuine and long-term commitment by the Zimbabwean authorities to respect and uphold human rights and the rule of law,” the EU said yesterday.
“The EU has decided to renew its arms embargo and to maintain a targeted assets freeze against one company, Zimbabwe Defence Industries, taking into account the situation in Zimbabwe, including the continuing need to investigate the role of security force actors in human rights abuses.”
The bloc first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe after Mugabe deported its chief election observer in 2002, but gradually eased the restrictions.
“Violations of human rights and limitations on the democratic space are also persisting. The EU is especially concerned about a proliferation of arrests and prosecutions of journalists, opposition actors and individuals expressing dissenting views and the use by high-level officials of speech that could be interpreted as incitement to violence,” the bloc said.
The EU said it was worried over “lack of substantial reforms” that has allowed the continued deterioration of the humanitarian, economic and social situation in the country.
“The Government of Zimbabwe has committed to adhere fully to its constitutional and international human rights obligations which imply respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, including addressing impunity.
“Perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses should swiftly be brought to justice and the recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry should be implemented as a matter of priority and urgency.”
A total of 23 civilians were killed in August 2018 and January 2019 after the regime unleashed soldiers to deal with protests over election results and fuel price hikes, respectively, and despite a commission of inquiry recommending action on perpetrators, Mnangagwa has remained mum.
The commission of inquiry on the August 1, 2018 shootings was led by former South African President Kgalema Monthlante.
The EU recommended that perpetrators of human rights abuses be brought to book, adding that it would continue to closely follow developments.
“These measures do not affect the people of Zimbabwe, its economy, foreign direct investment, or trade and Zimbabwe continues to benefit from duty free and quota free access of its exports to the EU, with negotiations to deepen the Eastern and Southern Africa Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)
“Accelerated political and economic reforms, respect for human rights, boosting trust in the rule of law and tackling corruption would contribute significantly to investor confidence, build a steady business climate and facilitate Zimbabwe in taking full advantage of the opportunities the EPA provides,” the European bloc said.
“The EU reiterates its readiness to support credible and sustainable economic and political reforms, based on tangible commitments made by the government of Zimbabwe.
“The EU regards electoral reform as an important element to strengthen democracy in Zimbabwe and is ready to continue its support in this field in line with the recommendations made by the 2018 EU electoral observation mission.
“The upcoming political dialogue with Zimbabwe will provide an opportunity for exchanging views and deepening mutual understanding as well as looking for constructive co-operation.”
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo refused to comment, saying he needed to see the statement and how it was presented.
“I need to see the statement and how it is presented and then comment,” he said. NewsDay