Australia said on Tuesday it would resume some ministerial contact with Zimbabwe, after “seeing growing signs of a sense of hope and optimism among the people of Zimbabwe” but targeted sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF party inner circle would not be removed.
“We are seeing growing signs of a sense of hope and optimism among the people of Zimbabwe,” Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told his country’s parliament as Zimbabwe marked the first anniversary of the signing of a Global Political Agreement (GPA) between Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara last year.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) brokered GPA led to the formation of a coalition government in February this year.
Smith – who was speaking after a European Union (EU) high level delegation that visited Zimbabwe at weekend said relations between the EU and the southern African country were entering a new phase but also said sanctions remain in force – said Australia would consider ministerial engagement with the new Zimbabwe government. “Australia will consider opportunities for ministerial engagement on a selective case-by-case basis,” said Smith, adding that Australia was under no illusion about the political risks in Zimbabwe and the track record of Mugabe and ZANU PF.
“Australia is not, and will not, consider at this time a removal of sanctions which target those individuals who have been complicit in the brutality of decades past and who continue to present barriers to Zimbabwe moving forward,” Smith said. He also acknowledged “enormous challenges” that continued to afflict Zimbabwe but said there had been improvements since the formation of the government of national unity.
“In recognition of the efforts of parts of the inclusive government over its first year, Australia will consider opportunities for ministerial engagement on a selective case-by-case basis with those ministers of the Zimbabwean government who we judge to be making a real and genuine contribution to Zimbabwe’s social and economic recovery,” said Smith.
Next month the international community will meet to decide what more can be done to help Zimbabwe. “Australia strongly believes the international community needs to take a flexible, pragmatic and active approach to its consideration of the next steps,” Smith said.
Australia will also provide another US$8 million in humanitarian assistance to fund a variety of programmes aimed at addressing the needs of the poor and starving in Zimbabwe. It will give US$5 million in food aid, to be delivered through the World Food Programme, US$1 million to help farmers with crop production, as well US$2 million to UNICEF for school funding.
Western countries have maintained visa and financial sanctions against Mugabe and his senior lieutenants as punishment for their failure to uphold the rule of law, democracy and human rights. But a summit of SADC leaders last week called for the lifting of the sanctions that they said were hampering efforts to rebuild Zimbabwe’s economy.