In an interview on Violet Gonda’s Hotseat Programme, Ambassador Philippe Van Damme, the European Union (EU) head of delegation for Zimbabwe confirmed that former President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace are the only two individuals from Zimbabwe under EU sanctions. Van Damme refused to comment on whether the sanctions would be removed saying the European Council would make a decision on the matter in the next few weeks. He also refused to comment on the impact and success of the restrictive measures saying that he would leave that to historians and political commentators.
Here is an excerpt from the interview,
Violet: Do you expect the EU will drop the financial and travel restrictions on the last two Zimbabweans who were on the list – Robert and Grace Mugabe?
Ambassador Van Damme: Well that, unfortunately, is something I can’t comment on, that’s the responsibility of the European Council, and they will take a decision on the restrictive on an annual basis – in the next couple of weeks. So, we’ll wait for that decision.
Violet: But you can confirm that they are the last two on that list?
Ambassador Van Damme: Yes indeed, we only have the outgoing President Robert Mugabe and the outgoing First Lady, Grace Mugabe, and that’s all, in terms of individuals. We also still have an arms embargo and restrictive measures against Zimbabwe Defence Industries.
Violet: There was mixed reaction to those restrictions – post-2002. Looking back, did they do any good?
Ambassador Van Damme: As I have always said since my arrival here in Zimbabwe, I am not a historian. I leave it to the historians and the political commentators to discuss the impact of restrictive measures, whether here or in other countries. In some countries, they have been more successful than in others because it also depends on the context; the sensitivity to international engagement by different people in different countries. So, it’s extremely difficult. With hindsight, it’s always easy to comment on things but when you have to react on the spot it’s much more difficult. And, the point was, in the run-up to the election in 2002, there were real issues and critical violations of human rights in the run-up to the elections – which by the way, also led to the withdrawal of an Election Observation Mission at the time. So, something needed to be done, whether that was the right way, the right intensity of action is something for others to assess.