Tearfund Calls on EU to Renew Zimbabwe Sanctions

LONDON – A U.K.-based Christian aid agency has called on the EU to renew targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe as living standards in the country continue on a sharp downward turn.

The targeted sanctions are directed at Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and other leaders in Zimbabwe who have led the country into economic and political chaos and are designed so as not to hurt Zimbabwe’s poor, Teafund said.

The agency called on Christians to put pressure on the EU to maintain the sanctions by writing to their MEPs.

The sanctions prevent Mugabe and his associates from traveling to the EU, freeze any assets they hold in the EU and include an arms embargo. They were first imposed in 2002 when the Zimbabwe elections held that year were neither free nor fair, and because of human rights abuses being committed by the government of Zimbabwe. The EU has renewed these bans each year since.

In February, the EU will decide whether or not to extend these sanctions for a further year. Tearfund is concerned that some countries in the EU would prefer to suspend the sanctions out of a belief that dialogue with Zimbabwe leaders could still bring about change.

“To abandon these sanctions when living conditions in the country continue to worsen will send the message that the EU no longer deems good governance and respect for human rights to be essential prerequisites for discussions about development in Zimbabwe,” said Tearfund in a press release.

Life expectancy for women is only 34 – the lowest in the world. Inflation is the world’s highest and Zimbabwe is now the country with the highest number of orphans. A new survey compiled by Zimbabwe’s public service and social welfare ministry states that living standards have declined by 150 percent in the last ten years.

In May 2005, Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Trash) saw the destruction of homes and jobs of some of Zimbabwe’s poorest people by the government. One year on from this devastating action, few of those made homeless have been re-housed as promised.

The government’s repressive attitude was highlighted in May 2006 when church leaders were detained and warned that prayer services to mark the anniversary would be broken up and people would be arrested.

Tearfund’s campaign for Zimbabwe sanctions is in conjunction with Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA), a campaigning body which tries to influence British and European policies that affect southern Africa.

The organization is appealing for Christians to pray that the EU will continue to uphold the restrictions on Mugabe and his associates and that this joint campaign will be an encouragement to the people of Zimbabwe “as they realize that they have not been forgotten by the rest of the world,” the agency said Wednesday.