In a continuation of its carrot-and-stick policy of gradually easing sanctions against Harare, the European Union has suspended the so-called targeted measures on eight senior military officers but maintained them on President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace.
The 28-member bloc imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe in 2002 alleging poll rigging and rights abuses by President Mugabe’s Zanu PF party.
EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell'Ariccia told VOA the process to lift the sanctions against the eight, including Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Constantine Chiwenga, Air Marshall Perrance Shiri, ZNA commander Valerio Sibanda, police chief Augustine Chihuri and Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Didymus Mutasa, has started and will culminate in An official statement Wednesday.
EU Foreign Affairs Chief Catherine Ashton will formally announce the suspension Wednesday, according to Dell'Ariccia. The main meeting to formalize the suspension will be held Tuesday.
But EU insiders say the decision to suspend the travel bans and asset freezes targeting the eight remaining government and Zanu PF officials on the sanctions list was taken Monday in Brussels after the bloc’s government had already formally agreed to the changes.
Also expected to be announced Wednesday is the EU’s decision to resume channeling development aid directly to Harare in 2015 after years of working with non-governmental groups and charities.
Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo dismissed the concessions by the EU saying his party wants the total and ‘irrevocable’ removal of the sanctions.
“As long as they keep our president on their sanctions list then nothing has changed,” Gumbo told VOA. “The removal of the eight from the list is a non-event. This is ridiculous because it is the people of Zimbabwe who are suffering.”
The sanctions, which were reviewed annually, will however not stop President Mugabe from attending the EU-Africa summit in Brussels in April.
The EU invited him following protests from African leaders prompting some British politicians to call on Prime Minister David Cameron to boycott the summit. In 2007 then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown boycotted the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon, Portugal, after President Mugabe was invited to attend.
Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said the EU is lifting the sanctions in the absence of major policy changes in Harare.
“There’s no such change on the ground in Zimbabwe in terms of attitudes and the culture of the Zanu PF government that would warrant that kind of shift,” said Mavhinga.
“The removal is largely symbolic but we encourage the EU and the rest of the international community to continue to exert pressure on President Mugabe’s government to reform and encourage positive change in the country.”