Zimbabwe

Emmerson Mnangagwa's plea to lift sanctions

With EU set to renew restraints, president seeks help in Africa

10 February 2019 - 00:00 By RAY NDLOVU


President Emmerson Mnangagwa will today plead for support from African allies as fears grow that the European Union is poised to impose new sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa will attend the 32nd ordinary session of the African Union in Ethiopia at the start of a week in which EU foreign ministers meet to review sanctions.
When EU sanctions were introduced in 2002, they targeted 200 Zimbabweans. The list has shrunk to just two: former president Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace.
Three members of Mnangagwa's government - Deputy President Constantino Chiwenga, agriculture minister Perrance Shiri and army commander Valerio Sibanda - remain on the "inactive" list.
Political observers who spoke to the Sunday Times this week said sanctions against the trio could be activated to show the EU's disapproval of Mnangagwa's human rights record. Much more pointed would be a decision to impose sanctions on the 76-year-old president.
Tara O'Connor, the director of Africa Risk Consulting in London, said Mnangagwa had been given "the benefit of the doubt" by the international community after his election, but he had wasted his chance.
'DISPROPORTIONATE USE OF FORCE'
Harriett Baldwin, the UK's Africa minister, has made clear that London will neither support Zimbabwe's debt clearance plan nor its bid to be readmitted to the Commonwealth.
Her statement to the House of Commons international development committee came after the UK called out Mnangagwa's administration for human rights violations and the "disproportionate use of force" by the military during last month's three-day stayaway, in which 16 people died. The protests followed Mnangagwa's decision to hike fuel prices by 150%.
"As of today, the UK would not be able to support this [Commonwealth] application because we don't believe that the kinds of human rights violations that we are seeing from security forces in Zimbabwe are the kind of behaviour that you would expect to see from a Commonwealth country," said Baldwin.
She said the UK was in favour of the EU increasing the reach of its Zimbabwe sanctions by activating them against more individuals.
Mnangagwa has turned to African countries for support as Western enthusiasm for his government has waned. In the run-up to the AU summit he sent special envoys to Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda, Zambia and Kenya.
Their mission was to explain to heads of state the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe after last month's protests. Foreign affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo led an advance team to Addis Ababa and met the AU Commission chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat.
Zimbabwe is in arrears to various international financial institutions and owes the African Development Bank $610m, the World Bank $1.16bn and the European Investment Bank $212m.
Mugabe withdrew Zimbabwe's membership of the Commonwealth 16 years ago at the height of tensions with its former colonial master over farm seizures. A return to the Commonwealth under Mnangagwa would have been the culmination of what had been a thaw in relations with the UK.
With that dream scuppered, Mnangagwa inched closer towards domestic dialogue over the political and economic logjam this week. Twenty presidential candidates met at State House to discuss "the framework for dialogue and interaction".
Mnangagwa said his "door was open" to dialogue with political opponents, but his arch-nemesis, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa, was absent. At a prayer meeting on Thursday, organised by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Chamisa said he wanted to meet Mnangagwa. "Dialogue is the only answer, we can't run away from each other.
"When I go to platforms where I expect to see him, he disappears. When he invites me to platforms where he knows I will not be able to come, he then pitches up. We have to avoid this cat-and-mouse game," said Chamisa.
Morgan Komichi, one of the MDC's vice-presidents, told the Sunday Times his party had a five-point proposal to resolve the political and economic crisis through a process underwritten by the Southern African Development Community, the AU and the UN.
"We must resolve the legitimacy crisis around Mnangagwa's presidency and Zimbabwe should sit down and come up with a comprehensive reform agenda pending free and fair elections, and also resolve the issue of national healing and national building," said Komichi.
"We must come up with a comprehensive economic rescue package developed by the entire Zimbabwe sector and collectively deal with the international community engagement. This holistic approach would resolve the Zimbabwe crisis."

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