British minister's utterances expose Zimbabwe PM's role in sanctions

21:27, January 22, 2010      

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Tuesday's utterances by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband give President Robert Mugabe more ammunition to demand that the MDC calls for the lifting of the embargo.

David said that his country will only lift sanctions against Zimbabwe on advice from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC party.

The sanctions, which were imposed a decade ago following a fall- out between Britain and Zimbabwe over invasions of white-owned farms and governance issues, have seriously affected Zimbabwe's economic performance and left many people poorer.

Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party want Tsvangirai and his party to call for the removal of sanctions, arguing that they had contributed to their imposition.

Although Tsvangirai's party has said it has no capacity to have sanctions against Zimbabwe lifted, Miliband's statement showed that the MDC had an important role to play in the sanctions game.

"In respect of sanctions, we have made it clear that they can be lifted only in a calibrated way, as progress is made. I do not think that it is right to say that the choice is between lifting all sanctions and lifting none at all.

"We have to calibrate our response to the progress on the ground, and, above all, to be guided by what the MDC says to us about the conditions under which it is working and leading the country," Miliband is reported to have told the House of Commons.

According to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed in 2008 by Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara of the smaller MDC faction, sanctions had contributed to the deterioration of the living standards of many Zimbabweans.

The GPA, which led to the formation of an inclusive government by the three political parties represented in parliament, came about after the disputed 2008 presidential election and lack of an outright winner in the parliamentary elections.

The three principals in the GPA noted the enactment of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act by the United States Congress which outlaws Zimbabwe's right to access credit from International Financial Institutions in which the United States government is represented or has a stake; the suspension of Zimbabwe's voting and related rights, suspension of balance of payment support, declaration of ineligibility to borrow Fund resources and suspension of technical assistance to Zimbabwe by the International Monetary Fund; suspension of grants and infrastructural development support to Zimbabwe by The World Bank; and imposition of targeted travel bans against Zanu-PF officialsand some business leaders.

They agreed, therefore, that all forms of measures and sanctions against Zimbabwe be lifted in order to facilitate a sustainable solution to the economic challenges facing Zimbabwe and to endorse a SADC resolution calling for the removal of sanctions.

They also agreed to commit themselves to working together in re- engaging the international community with a view to bringing to an end the country's international isolation.

At the height of political tension in Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai supported the call for the imposition of sanctions, suggesting even for South Africa to stop exporting electricity to the country.

And to a great extent, the party has denied that there are any sanctions affecting the generality of the public, arguing that there are "restrictive measures" only targeted at individuals within Mugabe's circles.

Tsvangirai recently told journalists that the issue of sanctions was a collective responsibility which should be tackled by all the parties in the GPA, and not by his party alone.

He seemed to suggest, as had been said by his party before, that Zanu-PF could play a role in facilitating the removal of sanctions by satisfying the demands of the international community which wants to see political reforms in the country.

Tsvangirai may be using the sanctions card to try and arm-twist Mugabe's Zanu-PF to make concessions on some of the outstanding issues in the GPA. It remains to be seen whether this move will work, given that Zanu-PF has refused to budge over the years.

So far, the real victims of the sanctions have been the ordinary people who are still struggling to put food on their tables.

The government is even failing to pay its workers respectable salaries because it is running on a shoe-string budget.

Civil servants last Wednesday gave a 14-day notice to strike unless the government met their salary demand for a salary hike is met.

Observers have seen the speedy resolution of the outstanding issues in the GPA as the only solution to Zimbabwe's economic woes since this wouldunlock lines of credit and hasten economic recovery.

They have, however, called for flexibility by the parties so that the process is speeded up and the country moves forward.

Tsvangirai should not remain rigid and try to wish the issue of sanctions away, because it is real and the people are bearing their brunt. On his part, Mugabe should work towards fulfilling other outstanding issues which can be quickly disposed of, such as the appointment of statutory commissions and opening up of the media.

For a country with a more than 80 percent unemployment rate, Zimbabwe's politicians need to do more to upgrade the people's standards of living.

They need to negotiate in an honest and sincere manner, knowing that what are at stake are not their personal interests and egos, but their reputations and the well-being of the people they represent.

So far, the parties have to a great extent failed to satisfy the targets they had set for themselves in pulling the country out of the mud.

The first major failure by the parties was their disregard for the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, which had been established to monitor the full implementation of the GPA. The committee, which is co-chaired by officials from the three parties, still exists on paper but has not achieved anything.

Source: Xinhua
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