The European Union (EU) has completely removed the late former president Robert Mugabe from the active list of people under targeted sanctions, because he is deceased, and moved his widow, former first lady Grace Mugabe, to the suspended list. This brings to four the number of people on the suspended list. Others are Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Zimbabwe National Army Commander, Valerio Phillip Sibanda and Agriculture Minister Perence Shiri. Zimbabwe Defense Industries is the only company under the active sanctions list, which is under an arms embargo. The sanctions, which were put in place in 2014 and are reviewed annually. Ambassador Olkkonen speaks with VOA Zimbabwe Service’s Blessing Zulu about the latest developments with indications that the sanctions will only be lifted fully when Zimbabwe addresses issues pertaining to human rights.
Blessing Zulu: Ambassador there seems to be confusion on the statement the EU released on the review of targeted sanctions. Is it correct to say only the late former President Robert Mugabe has been completely removed and the rest remain on the suspended list or inactive list?
Olkkonen: Indeed, on the list we had a number of individuals who were under those restrictive measures, asset freeze and visa ban. So, we had three persons earlier on that suspended list and had two persons on the active list under active application of those measures: That was the former presidential couple. And now in the most recent review of those measures, the former presidential couple, Robert Mugabe, who of course, is deceased was removed completely from the list. Then the former first lady Grace Mugabe was added to the suspended list, which then means we have four persons now on that suspended list.
Zulu: So, technically, we can say you did not review the sanctions on those who were already on the suspended list for example Vice President Chiwenga who has been under that classification since 2014?
Olkkonen: That is true on the suspended list. The only difference is that Grace Mugabe was added to the suspended list, moved from the active to the suspended list.
Zulu: Harare is blaming the restrictive measures for its economic crisis and further allege they are hurting ordinary Zimbabweans, is this an accurate description of the sanctions regime?
Olkkonen: Well, the new restrictive measures are not economic sanctions. They are not related to trade or investment. On the contrary, the EU has a free trade agreement with Harare. There is an economic partnership agreement with Zimbabwe that is guaranteeing duty free and quota free access of Zimbabwean produce entering the EU market. In addition, there's no hindrances for investment. Apart from the companies that would be under the targeted measures and the only company that is listed is the Zimbabwe Defense Industries. In addition, there's an arms embargo. So, the claim that the EU restrictive measures would be the cause of economic problems in Zimbabwe is simply not true.
Zulu: Lastly, what should Harare do to ensure that all restrictive measures are removed?
Olkkonen: Well, what would be required for the remaining measures on the Zimbabwe Defense Industries and the arms embargo to be lifted is, you know, clearly linked to the human rights situation prevailing in Zimbabwe. It is also linked to how the security forces in the country are operating. There are a number of human rights violations that have transpired in Zimbabwe in the recent past. What is important is that those violations be investigated and that similar events would not happen in the future. Therefore, if the human rights situation is addressed, that would be a major contribution going forward. (In the past two years, The Zimbabwe National Army has been accused of shooting and killing civilians and some women have alleged that they were raped.)