via Rights group slams Belgium’s push for targeted sanctions removal | SW Radio Africa by Nomalanga Moyo
An international rights group has described as worrying Belgium’s push for the removal of sanctions on the ZANU PF-run Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC).
On Thursday, an official at the Belgian foreign ministry told Reuters news agency that the European Union had agreed in February to lift sanctions on the ZMDC, within a month of the poll outcome being deemed accepted.
“For us, there is an agreement,” Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hendrik van de Velde said, adding that the EU has not refused to recognise the election and so the February agreement must be respected and the restrictive measures on the ZMDC lifted.
Belgium is the hub of the international diamonds trade.
But international rights group Global Witness said these calls are premature and the EU should not rush into lifting the measures imposed on the ZMDC.
Speaking to SW Radio Africa Friday, the group’s diamonds campaigner Emily Armistead said: “We are concerned that Belgium is calling for the immediate removal of the sanctions when there is strong evidence of electoral fraud.
“Our research has shown that the ZMDC, and some of the joint venture companies that the group operates in Zim, have links with the military and senior members of ZANU PF.
“We are worried that ZANU PF may have used these companies as some form of off-budget financing for the elections. We are especially concerned because there seems to be major concerns that electoral fraud took place,” Armistead said.
Global Witness has been very vocal in calling for tighter mineral trade restrictions on Zim, citing rampant human rights abuses and corruption in the local industry.
Armistead called on the EU to take enough time to make a proper assessment of what happened in the election.
“There seems to be strong evidence and enough allegations of fraud, particularly around discrepancies in the electoral roll. These merit proper investigations before making a call on whether it was fair or not.
“We also need the EU to look carefully at some of the allegations that have appeared publicly, that some of the mining companies such as Mbada and Anjin partly funded the activities that influenced electoral fraud.
“The EU shouldn’t be coming to an immediate decision on sanctions without carrying out proper investigations into these concerns,” she added.
In February, western powers said their decision on the remaining targeted sanctions will be guided by the Southern African Development Community’s verdict on the Zim poll process.
This was after ZANU PF barred missions from the countries it deemed ‘hostile’ from observing the July 31st electoral process.
President Robert Mugabe went on to claim a 61% poll win, with his main rival Morgan Tsvangirai managing 34%.
However, the EU now finds itself in a tricky position after African observer missions declared the poll credible and free, despite overwhelming evidence of ballot fraud.
The Western states of Britain, Canada, Australia and the US have already questioned the credibility and integrity of the poll outcome, that saw ZANU PF romping home to a two-thirds majority ‘win’ in parliament.
British ambassador to South Africa, Nicola Brewe,r last month said she did not think the elections were credible or “complied with even SADC’s electoral rules”.
An Australia envoy described the elections as farcical.
Both MDC parties have accused Mugabe and his ZANU PF party of massively rigging the election and said the outcome does not reflect the will of Zimbabweans.
Despite the lack of unanimity regarding the outcome Belgium, which has always wanted the sanctions against the ZMDC to be removed, insisted the measures were on their way out.
Meanwhile, senior South African official Lindiwe Zulu has also called on western states to lift the remaining targeted sanctions against Mugabe and his ZANU PF associates.
Zulu was a key member of SA President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team in Zimbabwe’s just-ended negotiated unity government.
She was quoted by Bloomberg news agency saying western powers should instead engage with the Mugabe regime.
“Europe and America must stop this stop-and-watch approach that they have for Zimbabwe,” Zulu is quoted as saying.
She also reportedly defended the country’s landgrab-style indigenisation programme, through which ZANU PF has been taking over foreign-owned firms.
Calls to Zulu’s mobile phone were not being answered, but according to the same Bloomberg report, she said, “it is time that the economic benefits from our countries benefit Africans as well.”
Zulu also suggested that the two MDCs lost the July 31st poll because they went into the elections divided.
Zulu had in the run-up to the elections consistently expressed concern that Zimbabwe was not ready to hold the poll, citing the outstanding issues in the GPA such as media and electoral reforms.
But following a public dressing down by Mugabe who called her “an idiotic streetwoman”, Zulu appears to have warmed to the ZANU PF leader.