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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • EU unmoved by Zim's objections
    Kudzai Mashininga, Mail and Guardian (SA)

    October 11, 2013

    Zimbabwe's statement last week that it was limiting diplomatic ties with the West by putting a stop to its re-engagement policy until Western countries lifted sanctions, has done little to move the European Union (EU) from its position.

    The EU, the United States, Britain and other Western countries have kept the sanctions in place, saying the recent electoral outcome did not reflect the will of the people.

    It sparked severe criticism from President Robert Mugabe, who said they had no right to go against the African Union (AU) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), who endorsed the poll.

    The impasse has now grown into a bigger diplomatic tiff, with the declaration by Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi that Zimbabwe was "fed up with the West's lack of sincerity".

    He said Zimbabwe was not happy about the West's intransigence and lack of objectivity as shown by its refusal to endorse the July 31 polls, which were endorsed by the "rest of the world".

    Recent events may only further exacerbate the diplomatic stand-off.

    Mugabe attacks US and Britain

    At the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly last month, Mugabe attacked the United States and Britain, calling them "shameless".

    Last month, Harare summoned the EU head of delegation to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell'Ariccia, for seeking a meeting with Electoral and Constitutional Court judges.

    Dell'Ariccia wrote a letter, dated August 29 2013, to the chief registrar of the supreme court, Walter Chikwana, requesting a meeting with the judges to "exchange views on electoral petitions".

    But the government took exception to Dell'Ariccia's move and said he had overstepped his diplomatic mandate. He was summoned by the foreign affairs ministry.

    Then this week, another summoning took place. The US ambassador, Bruce Wharton, was called in to give an explanation concerning the "humiliation" suffered by Mumbengegwi in New York.

    Mumbegegwi's office says he was denied diplomatic privileges that exempt foreign dignitaries from rigorous airport searches on his return from the UN.

    EU position unchanged

    Dell'Ariccia told the Mail & Guardian this week that the EU had not changed its position on Zimbabwe.

    He said the EU was still waiting for final reports from the SADC and AU observer missions before deciding whether or not to "normalise" relations with country.

    But he refused to comment on Mumbengegwi's declaration that the country was no longer engaging them.

    "We are still in a situation where we haven't taken a decision because there are some elements missing for us to take a final decision. We are waiting for the final reports of the regional African observer missions, because, as you are aware, the AU and SADC have not released their final reports," Dell'Ariccia said.

    "We are waiting to see their recommendations to make sure the next elections are free, fair and credible, because, in their preliminary reports, they highlighted a number of shortcomings. Our position, therefore, remains the same."

    Since 2002, the EU has been sticking to measures taken against Zimbabwe under the Cotonou Agreement, which suspended the EU's direct aid to the government, although humanitarian aid has continued through civil society.

    The measures, the bloc said, were in response to violations of human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law by government.

    Dell'Ariccia said the EU had, in July last year, suspended the application of article 96 of the agreement and was working at a technical level to see how the two parties could start co-operation in future.

    This, if successful, means Zim­babwe could benefit from the 11th European Development Fund which supports development programmes in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific countries.

    Aid and elections

    Dell'Ariccia said the EU's ultimate goal was to normalise relations with Zimbabwe but the decision would have to unanimous. The EU would have to be satisfied that the country was taking steps in the right direction.

    Despite suspending direct aid to Zimbabwe, Dell'Ariccia said the EU and its member states had spent more than $2-billion since 2009 on humanitarian assistance in areas such as education, water and sanitation and governance.

    Before the elections, the EU said it would be guided by SADC's verdict. Both the EU and Britain said they were willing to work with whoever won a free, fair and credible election.

    But SADC and the AU refrained from fully endorsing the polls and voiced concern about the high numbers of voters turned away, the late publication of the final list of polling stations, the high numbers of assisted voters and the last-minute availability of the voters' roll.

    It was made public only two days before the elections, "rather late for meaningful inspection and verification by voters, parties and candidates", according to the AU.

    They still described the elections as free and peaceful but refrained from calling them "fair and credible". The EU said its concerns are enough to cast doubt on the credibility of the polls.

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