South African President Jacob Zuma continued Wednesday to develop the case for lifting sanctions on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle, telling the European Parliament in Brussels that ending such restrictions would allow the Southern African country to improve economic and social conditions for its citizens.
Mr. Zuma argued that maintaining sanctions was “playing into the hands of those who would want tensions to remain in Zimbabwe.” He continued: “As we head for elections, we are likely to get increased tension. If we remove all these issues, we do not offer people an excuse to say we have got a problem.
The EU imposed travel and financial restrictions on Mr. Mugabe and about 200 senior officials of his ZANU-PF party several years ago over alleged human rights violations by Harare and the breakdown of the rule of law.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said Tuesday after a meeting with Mr. Zuma that the EU was ready to review sanctions – but insisted the measures “do not harm ordinary citizens or impede development” in Zimbabwe.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo welcomed Europe’s new stance, adding that his party was particularly grateful to Mr. Zuma for campaigning for the removal of sanctions, a divisive issue in Harare's unity government.
“The European Union can do whatever they want. They imposed the sanctions and they also can lift them if they want," Gumbo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo. "We are happy with president Zuma’s efforts in engaging the EU.
Research director Alex Vines of the London-based research institute Chatham House said however that he does not see the European Union lifting all of its present sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and his associates.
“The sanctions review is not a signal necessarily for the lifting of sanctions. It may be a signal of reconsidering names of some individuals on the EU sanctions list,” Vines said.
The EU early this year removed some Zimbabwean companies from its sanctions list in an annual review while extending most of the measures by another year.
Political analyst Trevor Maisiri told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that contrary to the arguments made by Mr. Zuma, President Mugabe and other ZANU-PF officials, sanctions did not cause the country's economic slide.