The European Union’s (EU) decision to undertake a calibrated removal of targeted restrictive measures as recommended by Idasa in the September 2010 report Restrictive Measures and Zimbabwe: Political Implications, Economic Impact and a Way Forward is an encouraging signal for those agents of change seeking a more equitable and democratic Zimbabwe. The targeted restrictive measures introduced by the EU in 2002 followed the enactment and widespread use of repressive legislation, intimidation and state sponsored violence by state agents loyal to Zanu PF as a way to silence critics and severely restrict Zimbabwean’s inalienable political freedoms and human rights. The apex of repression and violence witnessed by the world during the presidential run-off in 2008 reaffirmed the necessity of the restrictive measures applied on those individuals and organisations that were responsible for the campaigns of violence and terror.
Despite more than three years of political stalemate under a polarised Government of National Unity (GNU), some progress has been made. State sponsored intimidation and violence has decreased substantially, although abuses continue throughout the country. While the GNU has failed to ensure greater independence and liberalisation of television and radio broadcasts, criticism of government and Zanu PF has reemerged among a vibrant print media that is responsible for enhancing access to information and stimulating debate within Zimbabwe. Power-sharing has also ushered in greater transparency and accountability among some key ministries, particularly finance.
While Zimbabwe has critical challenges that continue to warrant attention, the EU’s decision to resume direct foreign aid to government is an acknowledgment of progress that has been made. The decision to lift targeted restrictive measures on most of the 112 Zimbabweans – excluding President Mugabe and members of the inner circle of Zanu PF – based on the completion of a peaceful and credible constitutional referendum is key to building on the momentum following the release of the COPAC draft constitution two weeks ago. It recognizes that the submission of the COPAC draft is an encouraging step toward the realisation of a core objective sought by the GPA. Moreover, the commitment by the EU has engendered a shift in discourse. Local, regional and international stakeholders must now work together to ensure benchmarks are established that will ensure a credible constitutional referendum as well as benchmarks that will pave a path toward free and fair elections and ensure a peaceful transition of power should Zimbabweans decide they want one.
The EU, as well as the African Union, SADC and the international community, must work with government to ensure that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) remains impartial and independent. The ZEC must have access to the technical expertise and financial resources that allow it to revise the voter’s roll, permit fair and intimidation and violence free campaigning, ensure impartial accreditation of local and international media and election observers, and have the ability to post election results at each polling station and deliver results on time. Any credible referendum and election in Zimbabwe is highly dependent on this commission.
Finally, the EU and the international community must continue to seek security sector reform in Zimbabwe. The security sector, led by the military, remains the most potentially destabilising threat to a credible constitutional referendum, election, and peaceful and democratic transfer of power. Targeted restrictive measures must be kept in place on those individuals who have demonstrated they have the means and willingness to circumvent a democratic process and obstruct the will of the people. As we have seen in recent developments in Myanmar, members of the military and other elements of the security sector demonstrated a clear commitment to dismantling authoritarian structures and embrace policies that promote and secure political freedoms, good governance and human rights before targeted restrictive measures were removed. The EU and international community should apply similar methods and techniques in Zimbabwe before they make any more revisions to their policy of engagement.
For more information contact Sydney Masamvu at Idasa on
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