Monday, July 11, 2011

Zimbabwe-European Union Talks: More of the Same?

Zim-EU: More of the same?

Monday, 11 July 2011 02:00

By Tichaona Zindoga
Zimbabwe Herald

Can one not be forgiven for having a feeling of déjà vu? Zimbabwe and the European Union are set to reactivate dialogue expected to explore ways of normalising relations between the two sides that soured in the last decade after Zimbabwe embarked on its land reform programme to address colonial land ownership imbalances.

In 2002, the European Union imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe against the tenets governing relations between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries espoused in the Cotonou Agreement.

A report compiled by a team of EU countries established that the EU wanted to effect regime change in Zimbabwe given the impending 2002 elections.

The EU says it slapped sanctions on Zimbabwe because of the latter's poor human rights record and alleged breakdown on the rule of law.

In 2009, the inclusive Government of Zimbabwe established the re-engagement team to see off sanctions as agreed to under the Global Political Agreement of 2008.

This was in line with the tenets of the GPA that set among its main focus the removal of the illegal economic embargo.

There have been two trips to Europe already and the third and newest round of meetings will be held at officials' level between Zimbabwe and the EU. The meeting is also set to review meetings that have been held to date.

Zimbabwean members of the re-engagement team include Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi (both Zanu-PF); Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Energy and Power Development Minister Elton Mangoma (MDC-T) and MDC's Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube and Regional Integration and International Co-operation Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga.

The Zimbabwe Government has said it is committed to the dialogue and is keen to reach a common ground with the EU. For all its past commitment to normalising relations with the bloc, Zimbabwe has seen precious little from the talks.

The greatest victory was the removal of dead people, Zanu-PF members perceived to be no longer effective in Government and wives of Government officials from the list early this year.

During its annual review of sanctions in February, the European Union removed 35 people conforming to the above description from its hit list.

But, the EU left 163 people and 31 businesses on the list.

The 27-nation bloc called for further reforms on the rule of law, human rights and democracy to pave the way for "credible elections".

Essentially, the sanctions remain, as does their grave intent to torpedo the status quo that seeks to consolidate the gains of the land reform and the greater liberation of the country from European domination.

Britain, not so long ago said it would remove sanctions on the request of the MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Apparently, that request has not been made - at least whole-heartedly.

There have been revelations that while the PM and his party might publicly call for the lifting of sanctions, (which PM and the MDC euphemistically call restrictive measures), they Nicodemusly go to the EU and call for their maintenance.

A Wikileaks cable reveals that MDC-T's secretary-general, Biti also extends his duties to become a local secretariat for EU sanctions by compiling names of those who must or must not be on the EU hit list.

As such the dead whose names were removed from the EU owes it to Biti, it is said.

The treatment that Zanu-PF members like Chinamasa have received at the hands of the EU has shown that the EU is selective in its treatment of the supposed whole called Zimbabwe's inclusive Government.

That is, if that is not natural, given the duplicity of MDC part of the same. So what will come out of this new round of talks?

This question has little to do with the fact the latest foray will inevitably gobble up money, which many people would think Biti was averse to, if recent media reports are anything to go by.

It does not matter, too, that there is going to be another duplicity of the kind of against-sanctions-by-day-but-for-them-at-night practiced by the MDC.

So little has changed.

In particular, the regime change that the EU wanted has not been achieved and the EU definitely trusts the pressure of its sanctions to help them remove President Mugabe, someday.

And if one were to believe for a moment the reasons of sanctions according to the EU as relating to human rights, then the current attitude of the EU and its Western allies towards Zimbabwe's diamonds provides a clue of what to expect of the meeting.

The EU and its allies have been blocking consensus by the Kimberley Process and Certification Scheme on the unconditional sale of diamonds from Marange.

They have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe's diamonds and some reports suggest that EU banks have been urged not to deal with cash from Zimbabwe diamonds.

They argue that Zimbabwe wantonly violates human rights, which claim EU and American sponsored human rights groups peddle with the frequency of a mantra.

Much of this is figment of the imagination and lies fabricated by groups thousands of miles across oceans or locals who have never been to Marange.

The MDCs also feed mendacity to the West concerning human rights.

No doubt the EU holds on to all this to use it against Zimbabwe and one can imagine EU officials repeating the same tired claims of human rights abuses.

And to think that they use lies to assume moral high ground to lecture Zimbabwe on human rights!

One can surmise that the EU team will be looking down upon their noses from the high pedestal of being the human rights policeman of the world at the Zimbabwe team.

They are likely to be as intransigent as ever and this kind of deadlock cannot be expected to be broken any time soon.

The EU is on a position of strength, or so it believes.

By the same token, Zimbabwe is in a weak position, given the fact that it does not seem to believe in its own power as defined by its resources including the diamonds and land, which the West could kill for.

But Zimbabwe, or at least part of it, is known to have a modicum of pride that will not allow it to be lectured on non-existent human rights abuses by perpetrators of worse crimes.
This same part does not allow the country's resources to be stolen under the guise of human rights.

It is for this latter part that sanctions are reserved as it touches the fundamental aspects of sanctions.

As it is a war over Zimbabwe's resources as envied by the West, the presence of those who are able to defend Zimbabwe will likely cause the EU to hold on and screw tight on sanctions.
The latest excursion will have to show that it is not an exercise in futility.

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