South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has called on the European Union (EU) to remove sanctions on members of Zimbabwe’s ruling elite and said the country has turned a “wonderful corner”.
The EU maintains a travel and economic embargo on several Zanu PF officials, top military figures and some government-owned firms.
The sanctions were imposed during former president Robert Mugabe’s rule over what it called human rights and democracy violations.
The EU lifted most of its sanctions in 2014.
Following the country’s July 30 disputed elections that saw 76-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa beat the opposition MDC’s Nelson Chamisa, 40, with a razor thin margin, the EU said the polls failed to meet international standards and called for substantive changes in the country’s governance system.
In a statement on Thursday, Ramaphosa said he had implored EU leaders, pointedly president of the European Council Donald Tusk and his European Commission counterpart Jean-Claude Juncker at the South Africa-EU summit held in Belgium to re-think their position and consider re-engaging Zimbabwe.
“We discussed the matter of other countries in our region, particularly Zimbabwe; and we called upon the EU to review its position on Zimbabwe and move towards lifting whatever sanctions they might still have …because it is on a path of great reforms and we insisted that this needs to be supported as Zimbabwe has turned a wonderful corner,” Ramaphosa said.
In its analysis of the country’s elections, the EU Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) concluded that Mnangagwa’s win was overtly supported by an uneven electoral field.
The EU EOM noted with concern that the results were neither traceable nor verifiable due to the inability of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) in posting results outside all polling stations.
“The misuse of State resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behaviour by traditional leaders and overt bias in State media all in favour of the ruling party negatively impacted on the democratic character of the pre-electoral environment,” part of the observer mission’s report reads.
Mnangagwa’s office insists there was nothing alarming in the EU report and if anything, it proves that there is no perfect democracy.
“This has absolutely no impact on the presidency. The EU does not question the president’s legitimacy,” permanent secretary in the Information ministry Nick Mangwana said at the time the report was released.
“The report simply says there are ecological issues that need cleansing going forward.”