The European Union (EU) has extended restrictive measures imposed on President Robert Mugabe, his wife, Grace, and the Zimbabwe Defence Industries(ZDI) for another year.
This comes at a time President Mugabe held a meeting with an American delegation in Harare yesterday in which he expressed dismay over the restrictive measures also imposed by the United States.
The EU announced in a statement that its council adopted a decision on Monday to extend the restrictive measures until February 20, 2017. It said the decision followed an annual review of EU sanctions imposed on Mr. Mugabe and his inner circle, accused of allegedly rigging elections and human rights violations.
The European Union noted that the sanctions will continue to apply on Mr. Mugabe, his wife and ZDI while measures against five high ranking members of the security apparatus will remain suspended.
It said 78 persons and 8 entities against whom the sanctions had been suspended will be removed from the list though an arms embargo remains in place.
The EU’s move comes at a time when President Mugabe met with an American congressional delegation, which is in the country to discuss animal conservation measures. Mr. Mugabe is said to have told the delegation led by Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona that the sanctions should be removed.
It is not yet clear who was accompanying the American delegation when it met President Mugabe as US ambassador designate, Mr. Harry Thomas Junior, has not yet presented his credential to the president.
Some Harare residents like Andrew Svosve said the renewal of these sanctions shows that the EU is confused about the current situation in Zimbabwe.
Svosve added that the restrictive measures have lost meaning.
Tonderai Karirangwe, a Zanu PF supporter, blasted the EU for extending the sanctions saying the West is still angry over Zimbabwe’s land reform programme introduced in 2000.
He pointed out that the EU may have extended the sanctions as a way of punishing Zimbabwe for the disappearance of Occupy Africa Unity Square leader, Itai Dzamara.
“We do not know anything about this Dzamara issue. The police are busy searching for Itai Dzamara. Now, why they are bringing in sanctions we do not know the reason. They are always hiding on the human rights issue. As a country we have a democratically elected government which observes the rule of law. Maybe it is because we took our farms from the British that is why they want to further the embargoes,” said Karirangwe.
Dzamara was abducted by unknown assailants almost 11 months ago. His organization was calling for Mr. Mugabe to step down, claiming that he has failed to rule Zimbabwe.
But Garikai Nhekede, a human rights activist, says sanctions imposed on Mr. Mugabe and his inner circle should remain.
“The European Union from 2002 when they imposed sanctions it was because of the human rights abuses which the Harare administration was perpetrating on its citizens. These issues are still pending, for example, now Itai Dzamara who was a journalist and human rights activist is missing. He was abducted last year and is yet to be found.
“We also have a recurrence of land grabs from the remaining few white commercial farmers. These are the issues America and the EU have been highlighting since 2002. It is also my position that until Mr. Mugabe and his administration start to respect human rights as well as to observe the constitution, the EU and America then only will they wholly remove the sanctions.”
Ostallos Siziba, a student at a local university, concurred saying the EU got it right.
Zanu PF has over the years claimed that the sanctions are unjustified. The party's spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said the restrictive measures should be removed.
But Dewa Mavhinga of Human Rights Watch said Zimbabwe has not yet responded to calls for political and electoral reforms being demanded by the West and its citizens.