The response from the EU couldn’t have been more different. A resolution of the European Parliament in mid-February strongly condemned the violence and excessive force used in January. It reminded the government of Zimbabwe that long term support for it is dependent on “comprehensive reforms rather than mere promises”.
The resolution also called on the European Parliament to: “review restrictive measures against individuals and entities in Zimbabwe, including those measures currently suspended, in the light of accountability for recent state violence.”
This position in effect put on hold any new restrictive measures against the ZANU-PF government. It also left open the option for renewed dialogue.
The debate on sanctions on Zimbabwe has been lost in the region and on the continent. And this solidarity with the Mnangagwa regime is likely to persist for the foreseeable future.
Change, if any, might come from the EU and US. It’s possible that they could change their positions again if the Mnangagwa government made another attempt at minimalist reforms.
The current US policy in Africa is targeted against what it considers to be the “rapidly expanding” financial and political influence of China and Russia on the continent. Trump is also looking to make the US the major player in the new battle for metal resources in Africa. This new struggle for technology metals is taking place in countries such as Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Tanzania and Sierra Leone.
The White House announced last week that it has extended sanctions against Zimbabwe for another year. Nevertheless, at some stage the politics of US strategic interests in Africa could lead to a more accommodating relationship with an authoritarian regime such as the Mnangagwa administration. This has happened on many occasions in its foreign policy interventions.
The EU is in a “wait and see” mode. It will need evidence of some notable movement by the Zimbabwean state on the political and economic reform front before it pushes the re-engagement process forward.
Mnangagwa’s regime has yet to show that it is any different from Mugabe’s. Given the continuing factional battles in the ruling party – and its inability to imagine itself out of power – it is difficult to view the current government as anything other than a continuation of the authoritarian ZANU-PF’s legacy.
By Brian Raftopoulos for The Conversation