Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: EU to consider economic sanctions

JOHANNESBURG, 15 May (IRIN) - The European Union said on Monday that it would consider next month whether to impose economic sanctions against Zimbabwe in the light of the government's human rights record and the deterioration in the rule of law.
A statement by European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels reportedly said the EU would "review developments in June with a view to considering appropriate measures if progress had been insufficient". The ministers had a debate about conditions in several African countries but according to news report singled Zimbabwe out. The ministers said sanctions would be an option unless the Zimbabwean government engaged in a "constructive dialogue about human rights". The EU has pledged an estimated US $140 million in aid to Zimbabwe over the next five years.

Meanwhile, a spokesman at the Danish embassy in Harare told IRIN on Tuesday that a letter of protest had been delivered to the Zimbabwe foreign minister by his Danish counterpart. On Monday a Danish owned chewing gum company was forced to close its doors after a group of war veterans occupied the factory. Danish public service television quoted Development Minister Anita Bay as saying that it was "deeply regrettable that the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate". Denmark has already sharply reduced its annual aid to Zimbabwe.

On Sunday, Canada announced that it was suspending new development aid to Zimbabwe after its ambassador was jostled by war veterans at the offices of the Canadian aid agency, CARE.

On Monday, South Africa's ambassador to Zimbabwe told the official Ziana news agency that at least 16 South African firms had been "raided" by war veterans. "We have received several reports where interventions have been taking place at South African companies, causing disturbances to work," Ndou said. "We have discussed that with the government and they have assured us that the situation will be stabilised for investment to continue to flow." Two weeks ago Zimbabwe's ambassador to South Africa was summoned to Pretoria to explain the company invasions. After the meeting South African foreign ministry spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa told journalists that the Zimbabwean government had promised to end the raids.

As international concern mounts over the authorities failure to reign in the veterans, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has lobbied for targeted sanctions against the government of President Robert Mugabe. "There's no point imposing general sanctions as Mugabe doesn't care about the economy," David Coltart, MDC's legal affairs secretary was quoted as saying. "But many of his ministers have children at school in the United States or Britain and would be very upset if they could no longer travel there."

In a paper made available to IRIN, independent economist John Robertson wrote that in the past four years, about 1.4 million young people had left school with only about 100,000 finding some kind of work in the formal sector. "Our population size and birth rate produces a yearly school-lever rate that would be a severe challenge to even a well run economy, but in our badly run economy, the school-levers prospects of a formal sector career are almost non-existent," Robertson suggested.

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