Restoration of relations between Zimbabwe and Western countries is dependent upon the Southern African country upholding the values of democracy including holding credible polls, the European Union has said.
The EU imposed targeted measures against Zimbabwe in 2002 following a wave of human rights violations and the continental bloc is on record saying that free and fair polls as well as respect for human rights are a pre-requisite for the restoration of relations between Zimbabwe and European countries.
In an interview with The Zimbabwean, the EU Head of Delegation to Zimbabwe, Philippe Van Damme acknowledged that Zimbabwe had a history of disputed polls that have come with negative impacts on the Southern African country’s economy.
As a result of disputed elections as well as the controversial Indigenization Act which compels foreign owned firms to cede majority shareholding to locals, Van Damme said European investors had lost confidence in Zimbabwe.
“For this country to reintegrate into the international community fully and create an environment which creates confidence for investors to come back, it is critical that these (2018) elections are peaceful and lead to an acceptable result which means that there should be aminimal level of transparency and fairness in the system. If you don’t have that you create a new cycle of instability which will scare off investors.
“The conclusion of everybody (European investors) is always the same, they are all charmed by this country ad impressed by the potential of this country but they all have the same type of concerns. The legal framework remains very uncertain,” said Van Damme.
He said the EU was committed to assisting Zimbabwe to hold democratic polls that are in line with internationally recognized standards adding that they were also assisting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in terms of capacity building.
Van Damme said it was critical that key provisions ofZimbabwe’s constitution such as equal access to the voters’ roll are respected.
“We have ongoing discussions with ZEC, the Ministry of Justice, Parliament and I think we have come up with some common understanding of what thedemocratic process in the run up to the 2018 elections has to look like and on that basis, we agreed with ZEC and the United Nations office in Harare to support the capacity building of ZEC.
“Some of the critical elements in this agreement are that all stakeholders agree that this election must be an inclusive process and that ZEC must have regular dialogue with the political parties and that the key provisions in the constitution including access to voters’ roll are guaranteed. So I think on that basis,we can go ahead but of course the test of the pudding is in the eating. So we have to see over the next months whether this will be implemented,” said Van Damme.
On the implementation of Zimbabwe’s constitution adopted in 2013, Van Damme said the EU was working with civic society organizationsand the government to develop a constitutional culture in the country.
“What is important is that we continue dialogue with stakeholders to see how we can entrench a democratic culture. Constitutionalism is aboutaligning the laws to the constitution. It is also about peoplebeing aware of the contents of the constitution and what are the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution and knowing what are the consequences of that to their daily lives,” said Van Damme.
He however expressed over the wave of human rights violations in the country saying “all this does not create a positive image for the country”.
Zimbabwe has of late been hit by a series of protests over the continued economic decline in the country and law enforcement agents have responded with brutality. The result has been a series of torture, arrest and abduction of protestors.
In September this year, the EU challenged the Zimbabwean government to desist from authoritarian tendencies and release hundreds of protestors who had been arrested for protesting against misgovernance.