Home » Governance » Engage Zim On Democratic Values, Tsvangirai Tells EU

THE European Union (EU)’s re-engagement with Zimbabwe must be premised on the promotion of values that promote democratic transformation in the country and not just be an ‘open-ended’ process, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai told a meeting at Chatham House in London on Friday.

Reiterating the MDC-T’s claim that President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF party cheated their way to victory in the July 2013 elections, Tsvangirai accused the government of deliberately dragging its feet on implementing the new Constitution. He accused Mugabe of creating ‘conditions that subvert the will of the people’ by reducing electoral contestation to a sham exercise.

“The EU has made a decision to re-engage the Zimbabwe government. We have never opposed re-engagement when I was Prime Minister we started re-engagement, so it is the right thing. The only thing is that it cannot be just an open-ended re-engagement because the EU believes in certain values.

“So what we expect is for the EU to insist on those values to be observed in Zimbabwe. And for me that would be the most progressive contribution to creating a democratic society in Zimbabwe,” he said.

The EU has embarked on a de-escalation of its standoff with Zimbabwe following the disputed outcome of the 2002 presidential election when it imposed sanctions on key members of the ruling party, government, the military, and several state-owned enterprises.

But it has stuck to its carrot-and-stick policy of gradual easing of sanctions with the objective of nudging Mugabe to pursue reforms. Thus it kept the 90 year-old leader and his wife Grace under an asset freeze and a ban on travelling to the EU for another year. The 28-member bloc also retained an arms embargo on the country and the state-owned Zimbabwe Defence Industries.

Addressing Zimbabwe’s economic situation in its regional context, Tsvangirai said South Africa as the spearhead of the SADC bloc, and also as an interested party, had a role to play in terms of ‘ensuring that this current meltdown does not lead to further political crisis.”

“For South Africa the Zimbabwean issue is not a foreign policy issue, it is a domestic issue because two to three million Zimbabweans – because of the economic hardships that we face back home – are in South Africa. And it is in the interest of South Africa that we don’t have these floods from Zimbabwe of economic refugees,” he said.

About a quarter of a million Zimbabweans who were issued with permits four years ago to live and work in South Africa are currently waiting anxiously for that country’s immigration department to pronounce on their fate. Pretoria is wary of paving the way for their qualification for citizenship after five years of legal residence in the country, fearing such a large number of new citizens would overwhelm its systems. A decision on their fate is due in August.

Only a significant bounce in the country’s economic performance can dissuade hordes of economic refugees from voting with their feet to South Africa and other neighbouring countries. However, that does not look likely in the short term as Zimbabwe’s economic growth estimate for 2014 has now fallen from the initial 6.1% announced in Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa’s budget statement early this year to a lowly 3.1%, due to depressed economic activity.

The IMF and the World Bank had already revised downwards the country’s economic growth rate to 4 percent and 2 percent respectively citing poor mining performance and low foreign direct investment into the country. The central bank had also done likewise, reducing the growth rate to 3. 1%.

Zimbabwe’s re-engagement with the EU, which is the country’s third largest trading partner after South Africa and China, is to be smoothened by a 234-million-Euro comprehensive aid package from the European bloc if a decision is taken this November to entirely remove sanctions on Zimbabwe.

But while relations are moving onto positive turf with Europe, the same cannot be said of the US, which imposed more stringent sanctions on Zimbabwe through its Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (2001) and has continued to maintain them with little variation.

During the tenure of the coalition government between Zanu PF and the MDC, Tsvangirai’s appointee to the finance ministry, Tendai Biti, argued gly against the maintenance of financial restrictions by the US. He bemoaned how futile efforts to improve the Zimbabwean economy were while the US measures remained in place.

In separate comments to Newzimbabwe.com after his Chatham House address, Tsvangirai also admitted that the American position seemed intractable, but urged engagement as the only way forward.

“They’re not impressed by what has happened in Zimbabwe, and I don’t think they’re going to make any move on the question of lifting any restrictions,” he said. “It’s a very difficult assessment on their part, and unless there is a show that Zanu PF is able to move substantially from their current mindset, I don’t think (US President Barack) Obama will move.”

Source : New Zimbabwe