EU threatens fresh sanctions against Mugabe

Nokuthula Sibanda
HARARE - The European Union (EU) on Monday threatened fresh sanctions against President Robert Mugabe's government if the Zimbabwean leader pushed ahead to unilaterally form a new government in defiance of a power-sharing agreement with the opposition.

The EU foreign ministers criticised Mugabe in a joint statement for “the unilateral decision to form a new government which has not been agreed by all parties,” that the world’s most powerful trading bloc was ready to consider additional measures against the southern African nation’s government.

Mugabe at the weekend allocated the key ministries of defence, home and foreign affairs, information, local government and provisionally finance to his ruling ZANU PF before conclusion of negotiations with the opposition MDC party.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai threatened on Sunday to pull out of the September 15 power-sharing deal if Mugabe stuck to his decision to allocate key Cabinet posts to his ruling ZANU PF party.

Tsvangirai also said if new efforts by ex-South African president Thabo Mbeki – who brokered the power-sharing deal – to resolve the dispute over ministerial posts failed the MDC would walk away from the agreement.

But Mugabe, well known for his stubbornness, appeared unperturbed by the opposition’s threats to withdraw from the power-sharing deal when on Monday he swore in his two vice-presidents ahead of the arrival of Mbeki in Harare.

Mbeki, who was expected in Harare later in the evening, was expected to meet Mugabe, Tsvangirai and the head of an opposition breakaway faction Arthur Mutambara to try to save the power-sharing deal from collapse.

Reacting to what he described as Mugabe’s attempted power grab British foreign minister David Miliband said it was critical to send out a clear signal to the Zimbabwean leader that the EU will not work with a government formed outside the power-sharing agreement.

“I think it is very important that a European signal goes out that we will have no part, and play no part in supporting a power grab by the Mugabe regime,” Miliband told reporters in Luxembourg.

The EU, United States and other Western nations have since 2002 maintained sanctions against Mugabe’s government as punishment for his controversial seizure of white farmland for redistribution to landless blacks, failure to uphold the rule of law, human rights and democracy.

But the EU said last month that it was putting on hold any decision about whether to renew sanctions or add fresh ones against Mugabe’s administration in order to first assess implementation of the power-sharing agreement.

The EU has also said the way the power-sharing agreement is implemented will determine whether it will provide support to efforts to rebuild Zimbabwe’s battered economy.

The power-sharing agreement stipulates that Mugabe will remain president while Tsvangirai becomes prime minister and Mutambara deputy prime minister. The agreement allots 15 cabinet posts to ZANU PF, 13 to the Tsvangirai-led MDC and three to Mutambara’s faction.

However the bare-bones agreement does not say who gets which specific posts and the rival parties have since the signing of the agreement wrangled over who should control the important ministries of home affairs, finance, local government, foreign affairs. – ZimOnline

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