The European Union’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Philippe van Damme’s remarks during the signing ceremony of the $270 million development assistance on Monday expose some of the critical issues that need to be tackled as a matter of urgency. He asked: “Does this mean that everything is suddenly sorted out and that we are entering a new honeymoon? No, we have cleared some obstacles in our partnership and as in any partnership new problems may emerge, old problems may reappear.”
In our view, part of the answer to the ambassador’s question was found in Tuesday’s editions of the private media, which the EU has been giving moral and financial backing since 2000. While the international media reported on the story, to Zimbabwe’s private media, it was a non-event. They are realising that the cash cow is running dry.
They also realise that the lies they have fed the EU with for close to two decades were nothing, but lies. While Zimbabweans heaved a sigh of relief that the re-engagement process is now reality, they also hope that relations continue to improve for the better as both parties develop mutual trust.
Granted it might take time, but commitment and singleness of purpose can help expedite the process.
We also point out in Tuesday’s edition that the $270 million deal signed on Monday was a step in the right direction, because we know that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. That was the first step since 2002.
However, we have a long way to reach the desired destination. In as much as we commend the first steps made by the EU and the Zimbabwe Government, we also want to put the current issues into proper perspective.
Firstly, this is not a one-sided partnership, where the other partner lords it over the other. This is a bilateral relationship between the Government of Zimbabwe and the 28-nation EU bloc. This partnership should not be mistaken with the bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and its former coloniser Britain.
Since 2002 when the EU imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, there was the realisation that the EU as a bloc had decided to join in the fight between Zimbabwe and Britain, meaning that the EU as a continental bloc was equating itself with one country Britain.
Instead of acting as an arbitrator, the EU sided with Britain. The EU has also removed all personalities it had put on sanctions. What does that mean in terms of the EU doing business with Zimbabwe? Was the EU extending an olive branch to a Zimbabwe that is in dire straits?
Monday’s gesture is incomplete as long as President Mugabe and the First Lady remain on their illegal economic sanctions list. The illegal sanctions imposed on the Zimbabwean leader must be removed without further conditions.
When his kith and kin in the Sadc region and the African Union are satisfied with his leadership, outsiders cannot interfere with the process. This is the major obstacle that the EU has to deal with, and if it wins, it will have provided leadership that is lacking among its allies such as the United State. It will also open Britain’s eyes.
Zimbabwe cannot be silenced about this because if it accepts the $270 million without demanding the removal of sanctions, it would look like it has been bought off. We would not be different from our colleagues in the civil society who received funding to pave way for their nation to be illegally sanctioned.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa also raised other important issues. Zimbabwe is not extending a begging bowl to the EU.
It wants to normalise relations so that it also becomes a big player in the economic arena. Zimbabwe can only manage to do this when all obstacles to trade have been unconditionally removed. This is why he is making that clarion call regarding the removal of the illegal sanctions to allow Zimbabwe to be a competitive economic player.
China, India, Russia have realised that it pays to do business with Zimbabwe. We are therefore happy that the EU has had its Damascene moment. Soon, it will be Britain, the United States, Australia and others.
Source : The Herald