EU/Zim talks to continue in Harare

elton_mangomaHARARE Talks between Zimbabwe and the European Union in Brussels on Friday failed to come up with any major breakthroughs with the EU calling for concrete progress in meeting long delayed political and human rights reforms. (Pictured: Elton Mangoma, one of the three ministe

Zimbabwean ministers Elton Mangoma, Patrick Chinamasa and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, travelled to the Belgian capital last Thursday for the talks after getting an invitation from the EU last month. EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Development Commissioner Andris Pielbags met with the ministers representing three political parties from Harare’s power-sharing government. “The EU appreciates some progress made implementing the Global Political Agreement in Zimbabwe,” Ashton said in a statement, referring to the February 2009 power-sharing deal between President Robert Mugabe and his former rival Morgan Tsvangirai.

The two sides held “open and constructive discussions with the ultimate objective of progressing towards normalising relations between the European Union and Zimbabwe,” the EU said in a statement. “It was also agreed to intensify the dialogue in Harare,” it said. Meanwhile Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Chinamasa was detained for almost three hours at Germanys Munich airport on Thursday when he was on his way to attend the talks.

Chinamasa had to be cleared by Germany authorities to proceed to Belgium. A source in Brussels told SW Radio Africa that immigration officials in Munich were not expecting Chinamasa to pass through the city, following a glitch with the route their plane took. Initially the three ministers were expected to change planes in Frankfurt after flying from Johannesburg. Authorities in Frankfurt knew of Chinamasas arrival and he had already been cleared to proceed to Brussels. The Justice Minister is on a travel ban of EU countries and needed a special dispensation from the EU to travel to Brussels.

Mugabes Zanu (PF) was hoping to use talks with the EU to push for lifting of the sanctions although observers ruled out the possibility of Brussels scrapping the punitive measures until its calls for more political and democratic reforms in Zimbabwe are heeded. Working against Mugabes favour was last months invasion of three farms in the eastern Manicaland region which are owned by a German national.

The Germany embassy issued a letter last Wednesday to the Zimbabwean government expressing displeasure at Harares tolerance of the occupation of Makandi Tea Estate and Coffee (Pvt) Limited, Border Timbers Limited and Forrester Estate Private Limited by one of Mugabes supporters. One of Mugabes supporters only identified as Mr Muzite, led a mob of 20 armed and drunken men that violently occupied the properties on June 18. All the properties are owned by a German citizen, Heinrich von Pezold, and are covered by an investment protection agreement signed by Zimbabwe and Germany in 1995 but which came into force in 2000.

The Harare government has refused to act against the illegal occupants who claim they were allocated the properties under Mugabes controversial land reform programme. Germany threatened to withdraw aid to Zimbabwe in protest at what its embassy said was Harares tolerance for theft of private property. In a second protest letter to Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi in three weeks, the German embassy urged the Zimbabwean government to urgently intervene and stop the illegal occupation of the three plantations.

The Zimbabwean government should be aware of the German governments support for Zimbabwes development which in 2009 alone amounted to over US$50 million… However, it will not be in a position to support a government which tolerates the blunt theft of German nationals property in Zimbabwe, read part of the protest letter. Relations between Harare and Brussels took a hit following the holding of a violence-marred presidential poll won by Mugabe in 2002. The EU and its Western allies condemned the election as a fraud and imposed visa and financial sanctions against the Zimbabwean leader and his top allies in Zanu (PF) and in the military.

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