Another British peer has said that though he supports sanctions on Zimbabwe, Britain’s sanctions policy “has singularly been ineffective” and has been used as a weapon by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to bolster support against the West for the country’s poor economic performance.
Lord St John of Bletso said Zimbabwe’s Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa was using the sanctions to press for early elections, supporting anti-sanctions rallies and the indigenisation campaign while blaming the Movement for Democratic Change as puppets of the West.
“I am of the opinion that President Mugabe is keen for Zimbabwe to rejoin the Commonwealth and that this incentive is more powerful than the current sanctions policy against the country,” he said in his contribution to the debate on Zimbabwe in the House of Lords.
The Earl of Sandwich asked the same House whether sanctions on Zimbabwe had had any real effect on Mugabe “or whether in some perverse way they [had] actually boosted his morale”.
“Is it possible that we in the UK have exaggerated the importance of Mr Mugabe and, thereby, contributed to his platform?” he asked. “Having recently spent two weeks in Africa, I am certain that in both African and European Union eyes we in the UK still seem to feel over-responsible for Zimbabwe and are still his outstanding critics. I am not sure that that is a good thing. Is it perhaps time for us to lower our profile and join forces with the European Union in reaching a more convincing EU foreign policy?
“I recognise that that is controversial, but in a sense the process is inexorable and it might be a more effective and pragmatic diplomatic policy…………. I am not suggesting that sanctions should be further relaxed, but I feel that we are stuck where we are and that we should press much harder for the rule of law, fairer elections, constitutional change and a great deal more commitment from SADC, the African Union and Zimbabwe’s African neighbours. ”
Glenys Elizabeth Kinnock, Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead, felt that enough concessions had already been made on sanctions on Zimbabwe when 35 names were removed from the sanctions list last month.
“In the current circumstances, I trust that no further concessions will be considered,” she told the House of Lords. “Although there is some scepticism about sanctions, it would seem an endorsement of Mugabe’s position to do anything else at this stage. We should not be seen to be bending to the blackmail on sanctions which he is endeavouring to exert on the European Union. There has to be measurable progress on justice, human rights, violence and corruption, and very serious efforts to address the issues of accountability and impunity.”
“Mugabe and ZANU-PF are pushing and pressing for elections before reforms because Mugabe knows that reforms will improve the MDC’s election prospects,” she added.
In his response to the contributions, Lord Howell of Guildford, the Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office concurred with lady Kinnock that the British government and the European Union had already made enough concessions.
“I have already said that our rollover to the package of measures as a whole recognises the huge shortfalls in matching progress with political reform,” he said. “There has been some progress, particularly on the economic side, but on the political side there is a long way to go. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said in his Written Ministerial Statement the other day that we, along with the EU, have emphasised that we are willing to revisit the measures should there be concrete developments on the ground.”
“This debate has been enormously valuable in reminding the wider world- I hope that it will get noticed outside- that human rights abuses, cruelties and brutalities continue. This is not a country that is quietly improving; a vicious regime is still at work and anti-freedom and anti-democracy measures are growing, as is personal brutality…… That is an unpleasant and worrying atmosphere,” he said.
Zimbabwe has argued all along that though the West says that sanctions are targeted at members of President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, they are in fact affecting the entire country including ordinary Zimbabweans.
Four years ago, central bank governor Gideon Gono wrote a comprehensive paper on the impact of sanctions on Zimbabwe.