European Union set to review sanctions on Zanu PF mob

THE European Union (EU) is set to ease the restrictive measures imposed on President Robert Mugabe and members of his Zanu-PF party when it meets next week in Brussels.

In separate interviews with diplomatic sources this week, the Sunday Times gathered that the EU is considering easing the measures as a way of helping the political reform agenda in Zimbabwe.

"There is a high possibility that we can see a huge shift in the EU position on Zimbabwe soon," said one.

Another source questioned why the EU would want to continue with the measures when they are "clearly not working".

"If at all they are there, then they should be removed. We know they have been used for convenience sake by those who imposed them and by the supposed recipients."

Mugabe and a coterie of his party members, senior civil servants and individuals accused of human rights abuses, were slapped with restrictive measures by the EU in 2003.

The measures include an asset freeze, travel bans to Europe and a ban on EU businesses from doing business with companies owned or linked to Zanu-PF and its members.

Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party has invoked the sanctions debate at every turn of the life of the Global Political Agreement (GPA). The party has vowed not to concede any further political concessions until the sanctions are gone.

Some critics of the EU have questioned why the grouping continues to maintain measures that are clearly not working, save for being used as a convenience for avoiding implementing agreed positions in the GPA by Mugabe and his party.

Zanu-PF is drafting a two-millionperson petition to lobby for the removal of sanctions which, it says, are hurting ordinary people of Zimbabwe.

The Zanu-PF position has been bolstered by the stance taken by the Southern African Development Community, African Union, regional leaders and other civic bodies, which have called for their removal.

Under the GPA the country’s three political parties agreed to collectively call for the removal of sanctions.

The EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Dell Arica, told the Sunday Times on Friday that the EU is to review the measures imposed on Zimbabwean government and Zanu-PF officials but did not say if the review will scrap the measures outright.

"The EU ministers will be meeting on the 16th in Brussels to take the final decision on Zimbabwe. We can’t anticipate anything but we are reviewing the positive and the negative to see whether the conditions have improved," Arica said.

"That review will lead to the decision on the sanctions. The situation in the country will also be looked at and if there are growing signs of improvement, these factors will be taken in account."

He said a lot of other aspects will also be factored in, citing the context of the Government of National Unity, the Zimbabwe-EU re-engagement plan currently under way, input from SADC-appointed negotiator, South African President Jacob Zuma, political parties and civic groups.