Zimbabwe wants all EU sanctions lifted

EU officials say they could take more people off sanctions list if country holds free and fair elections this year.


    I got a phone call from a colleague in Harare. He says police are raiding the offices of a non-governmental organisation (NGO).  They broke the gate and left with documents, files and computers.

    The police say they believe "there is subversive material, documents and gadgets on the premises as well as illegal immigrants".

    Twenty-two organisations have been targetted recently, but it hasn't made the newspapers locally or internationally.

    One reason is the culture of fear here. People are afraid to talk for fear they will get victimised.

    For example, I tried to interview someone who works for the NGO that was raided and I couldn't even get the security guard to open the gate for me. 

    He was afraid I was an undercover policeman, or someone from government intelligence.

    When I asked about taking pictures of the premises I was warned it is under 24-hour surveillance and not to create problems for myself.

    Zimbabweans will vote on a new constitution in March and a presidential election is expected to take place in July.

    Everytime the country prepares for an election things get tense here.

    McDonald Lewanika, from Crisis Coalition, says it very bluntly: "The political climate in Zimbabwe is getting worse and worse. A storm is brewing in Zimbabwe.

    "The situation for non-governmental organisations is becoming difficult, especially given the amount of raids, arrests and disruptions of marches that is taking place at the moment."

    That's one reason why European Union officials have not lifted targetted sanctions on Zimbabwe - only removing a few names and delisting one private company.

    They say they want the country to hold free, fair and credible elections first.

    Frustrations with EU

    President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party has dismissed the decision by EU foreign ministers to only lift some sanctions against Zimbabwe. 

    I meet Rugare Gumbo at the ZANU PF headquarters in Harare. He is frustrated with the EU.

    "It's outrageous, it does not make sense. We don't understand why the EU should take that position," says Gumbo. 

    "The sanctions are there to punish us but that won't work because people are supportive of ZANU-PF. Robert Mugabe and his indigenisation policy."

    Sanctions were imposed in 2002 for alleged human rights abuses. EU officials say they could take more people off the list if Zimbabwe holds free and fair elections this year.

    Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai are telling their supporters to campaign peacefully. But violence has traditionally been the weapon of choice for politicians during elections.

    I remember the violence and chaos during the 2008 presidential election. I saw people being beaten, and villages burnt down. I will never forget filming in a morgue in Jerera, where two bodies had been set alight.

    Some people locally and abroad fear this year's polls will again be marred by violence and intimidation.

    I honestly don't know what to expect. The referendum should be straightforward - a dress rehearsal for the presidential election. 

    Most people will vote "yes" to the new constitution.

    It's the election that could be problematic. ZANU PF does not want to share power again with Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for Democratic Change.



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