By A Correspondent- The European Union (EU) has told President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration that the bloc cannot fully engage with Harare unless it institutes far reaching political and economic reforms.
The EU early this year extended by a further year sanctions it imposed on Harare, initially in 2002, arguing that they would remain in place until government stops rampant human rights abuses and vicious clampdown on dissent.
The bloc said in a statement following a closed-door meeting between government and representatives of the delegation of the European Union to Zimbabwe it made clear to government that respect for human rights was a key pretext to a full-fledged restoration of relations, which soured at the turn of the millennium when the Zanu PF government embarked on a chaotic land reform programme, which resulted farmers of European origin being driven from farms across the country.
The meeting, which was held in Harare on Thursday, allowed for the continuation of discussions on topics that are of common interest and are priorities in EU-Zimbabwe relations: human rights, democratisation, rule of law and good governance, economic development, investment climate, free trade, the economic partnership agreement, development co-operation, humanitarian assistance and regional and global partnerships, the bloc said in its statement.
“The EU and its membership expressed concern over a curtailed democratic space in Zimbabwe over the last year and reports of continued violations of human rights such as reported cases of enforced disappearances, and lengthy unjustified detentions, arrests of journalists and other limitations to the freedom of expression and the media. The EU urged government conduct impartial investigations of human rights violations and bring perpetrators to justice,” the EU said.
It added that although it acknowledged government’s efforts in stabilising the economy and improve the socio-economic situation in the country, it was worried by lack of commitment to structural reforms by the government.
Government was represented by Foreign Affairs and International Trade minister Frederick Shava while EU head of delegation to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen was joined by ambassadors of EU member States, France, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, The Netherlands, Spain and Romania.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said the EU had demonstrated its sincerity on dialoguing with Harare, but as long as the Zanu PF regime does not reform, there would be no smiles for Mnangagwa.
“The EU is setting a foundation for continued dialogue with Zimbabwe, but I don’t see the EU reneging on its position that government must respect human rights and adhere to constitutional provisions and reform some of its undemocratic policies. There is no change of the EU looking aside when government is committing abuses in the interest of promoting dialogue,” he said.
“It is only giving government an opportunity and showing they are sincere in their call for dialogue, but there has to be tangible action from the Zimbabwean authorities in terms of respecting human rights.
“It’s not only a matter of talking but acting on the part of the Zimbabwean government on concerns the EU has been raised. The issue is there a match on the ground in what the Zimbabwe government is saying and doing.”