via Put Zimbabwe government on 12 month probation | SW Radio Africa by Mthulisi Mathuthu December 4, 2013
As Zimbabwe struggles to shed its rogue image a leading human rights activist, Arthur Gwagwa, is recommending that the government be put on a probation period of 12 months until it makes ‘clear choices’.
Gwagwa, an official at the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, was speaking to SW Radio Africa following the recent release of a document by his organisation titled Zimbabwe-EU relations – a Balancing Act. The document observes the conflicting developments within the country and the dilemma the EU faces ahead of the February 2014 meeting during which a decision on the targeted sanctions is expected.
According to the document the EU’s dilemma over its relations with Zimbabwe stems from the fact that the EU agreed to rely on the judgment of both the African Union and the SADC on the outcome of the July 31st election.While the African bodies endorsed the election, the view that they were not free and fair is widely held across the world, something which has left the EU in a dilemma.
Already there seems to be conflicting signals from the EU member states, with some calling for the lifting of the remaining restrictive measures against nine key members of President Mugabe’s inner circle and one company.
Gwagwa told our Cutting Edge programme that the government is involved in a calculated effort to clean up its image with a view to gaining acceptance but is already finding it difficult to make ‘clear choices.’ According to Gwagwa the conflicting developments are highlighted by the fact that as human rights activists Beatrice Mtetwa and Abel Chikomo were both being acquitted in the courts, the WOZA women were being beaten and assaulted by the police.
On being acquitted two weeks ago on charges of obstructing justice and running an unregistered organisation, both Chikomo and Mtetwa warned that their victories were not worth celebrating because abuses are still commonplace in the country.
But Gwagwa said the government is trying to exploit such developments, as their acquittals, as evidence that there is rule of law in the country. Gwagwa said rather than try and score cheap points the government had better ensure a ‘consistent application of the rule of law’.He urged the Zimbabwean government to be ‘humble and diversify its international relations’ to engage with the rest of the international community as opposed to just relying on China.
Gwagwa said while the EU is in a dilemma as to what to do ahead of the February 2014 meeting, Harare is equally under pressure from some of its regional neighbors who want reforms.
The EU imposed the restrictive measures in 2002, following the expulsion of the head of its observer mission Pierre Schori and the deteriorating human rights situation in the country. Over the years the targeted sanctions regime has been carefully eased for specific reforms. But Mugabe’s government blames the targeted sanctions for all the country’s economic problems and wants them lifted immediately.