UK ready to be flexible over sanctions on Zim

2010-12-05 15:22

President Jacob Zuma’s powers of persuasion in having sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and his closest allies lifted are “pivotal”, says Henry Bellingham, Britain’s new minister for Africa.

In an interview with City Press after wide-ranging discussions with South ­African government ministers, Bellingham said the European Union (EU) was due next February to review sanctions ­designed to curb international travel and business for Mugabe and Zanu-PF leaders.

Far from the staunch British position that the measures would not be lifted unless progress was made in fully implementing a power-sharing agreement between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan ­Tsvangirai, Bellingham indicated that the UK was now open to persuasion after ­Zuma, Mugabe, Tsvangirai himself and all the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states had called for sanctions to be lifted.

He is the most senior British official to have indicated that his government and the EU could be open to a policy adjustment on Zimbabwe.

“South Africa is in an absolutely pivotal position as mediator in the Global Positioning Agreement (GPA), and the SADC is the guarantor,” Bellingham said.

“South Africa and the SADC have a key role to play and we will be listening very carefully to what they have to say.”

Bellingham would not say which way Britain was leaning on the issue.

“We are going to have a very close dialogue with South Africa and listen to what their views are.

I am listening to the arguments being put (by Zuma and others).”

He said the way Britain would handle the discussions in the EU would be ­influenced by the current talks with South Africa.

He welcomed “South Africa’s lead on Zimbabwe” and in particular Zuma’s visit to Harare last weekend, where he persuaded Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to resume discussions on the stalled GPA.

Sanctions against Zimbabwe were also high on the agenda this week during the state visit of Zambia’s President Rupiah Banda to South Africa.

Banda is also chairperson of the SADC’s troika on peace and security.

“We should call upon the globe to lift sanctions.

The maintenance (of sanctions) is no longer adding any positive thing in Zimbabwe.

It is in a sense inhibiting our progress in terms of what we want to achieve,” said Zuma.

For his part, Banda said he believed a solution could be found to the lingering problems between Mugabe and his MDC counterparts.

“We are united in calling for the lifting of the embargo on the leaders, their travel and trade with Zimbabwe.

We think it is counter-productive and that it is hitting the wrong people. It is ­affecting the wrong people.”

The troika will meet again in January to discuss Zimbabwe. – Africa Desk

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