Zimbabwe can expect no major financial aid or lifting of sanctions until it carries out promised democratic reforms, the first European Union delegation to visit for seven years has warned.
“We still have a lot of reports of human rights abuses, that’s unacceptable,” said Gunilla Carlsson, Sweden’s development aid minister. “We want to see changes on the ground.”
As the first EU delegation to Zimbabwe since 2002 prepared to leave Harare, the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, also increased the pressure on the autocratic President, Robert Mugabe, criticising his failure to honour their power-sharing agreement.
At a rally for his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Mr Tsvangirai said that it would not stand by as Mr Mugabe “continues to violate the law, persecutes our members of parliament, spreads the language of hate, invades our productive farms . . . ignores our international treaties”.
Travel and investment restrictions target Mugabe and 300 of his associates. Mr Mugabe wants them removed and foreign reconstruction aid totalling $10 billion (£6 billion).
Mr Tsvangirai toured Europe and the United States in June and said his country was ready for increased aid, but he has shown increasing frustration as Mr Mugabe has continued his suppression.
Ms Carlsson said: “We are entering a new phase . . . However, much remains to be done. We need to see the media situation to improve, the working with constitutional reform.” The EU continues to pay humanitarian aid and is due to pay more than ¤90 million (£78.8 million) this year.
But the EU’s aid commissioner, Karel De Gucht, said that the resumption of large scale financial aid “can only come with completion of the benchmarks of the agreement, with a roadmap on how to fulfil its completion”.
Mr Mugabe’s rule has brought economic ruin to Zimbabwe but he has made few of the concessions to Mr Tsvangirai required to win Western finance and investment. A Western diplomat said: “He knows if he allows free elections and asserts the rule of law he will never survive an election. But if he rejects that, the economy will crash again, and he will risk being overthrown by a discontented army.”
Mr De Gucht rejected Mr Mugabe’s contention that sanctions against the Government caused the country’s meltdown. “The restrictive measures only hurt individuals, not the population. This [removal of sanctions] cannot be a precondition for political dialogue, we made that very clear.”
An EU official said that Mr Mugabe maintained that he had met all of his obligations under the power-sharing agreement. “He didn’t get angry, he wasn’t aggressive at all,” the official said. Mr Mugabe had declared them welcome “with open arms”. But “he didn’t budge on his position,” the official said. “We have a foot in the door now, and we have to push very hard to make this issue move, and maintain consistent pressure.”
In the seven months since the coalition government was sworn in, Mr Mugabe has delayed on the major issues in the agreement. He has failed to appoint a central bank chief and attorney-general, continued with the seizure of white-owned farms, prosecuted Mr Tsvangirai’s MPs and refused to swear in the Prime Minister’s popular deputy agriculture minister, Roy Bennett.
Mr Mugabe’s side has also blocked the appointment of media, electoral and human rights commissions.