THE European Union (EU) confirmed Monday the suspension of sanctions against eight firms and 81 individuals although President Robert Mugabe and a handful of other officials are still subject to the injunctions.
The move comes at the same time a team of ministers from the coalition administration – including Zanu PF’s Patrick Chinamasa who was also banned from travelling to Europe – were expected in London for a series of meetings with UK government officials and donors.
In February, the EU pledged to suspend the sanctions on condition zimbabwe organised a credible constitutional referendum ahead of elections to choose a substantive government later in the year.
Some three million people voted in the March 16 constitutional plebiscite, with about 95 percent endorsing the country’s draft new charter.
And on Monday EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said: “Recognising the importance of the referendum and the adoption of a new constitute ion as a major step along this road the EU, in line with its commitment to suspend a majority of remaining restrictive measures, has agreed to immediately suspend the application of measures against 81 individuals and 8 entities.
“A number of key decision makers will remain subject to restrictive measures until peaceful, transparent and credible elections have been achieved.”
Zimbabwe has since rejected any conditional or partial lifting of the sanctions which were imposed more than decade ago over allegations of human rights abuses and electoral fraud.
Mugabe and his Zanu PF party blame the sanctions for the country’s economic problems and insist that the measures – also aped by Australia, the United States and some non-EU countries – were aimed at punishing Zimbabwe for its land reforms.
Meanwhile, the conclusion of the constitutional reforms will pave way for new elections which Chinamasa has already said must be held by June 29, a time-frame however rejected by the MDC parties.
The new polls will end a fractious coalition government formed by Mugabe and long-term rival Morgan Tsvangirai after violent elections in 2008.
In her statement, Ashton expressed concern over reports of renewed political violence but said that the EU was prepared to work with whoever wins the crucial ballot.
“The EU reiterates its commitment to work with whatever government is formed as the result of a peaceful, transparent and credible electoral process,” she said.