The EU and Zimbabwe

A search for “Zimbabwe” on A Fistful of Euros currently yields:

No pages were found containing “zimbabwe”.

Not for much longer.

See the reports here and here respectively:

The EU is to increase the number of top Zimbabwean officials facing targeted sanctions by the end of February.
The EU imposed travel sanctions on Mugabe’s regime in February 2002 [owing] to repression and human rights abuses associated with elections and the chaotic land reform programme.

These are some of the realities of that country today:

I spent two weeks in Zimbabwe and found a land of extreme contrasts. While the super-rich enjoy lives of unrivalled privilege, millions of ordinary Zimbabweans suffer unimaginable hardships.

In Mutare we met a starving woman who apologised for being too weak to rise and greet us.

Inflation is running at over 600%. In her latest letter (of February 14), Cathy Buckle writes with regard to women in Zimbabwe:

If you are a man please do not be embarrassed to read this letter because the people I am describing could be your mother, wife, sister or daughter. This week I visited a newly opened supermarket in Marondera. I had neither a trolley nor a basket in my hands, just a scrap of paper and a pen to write down prices. In the aisle where female sanitary products are displayed a group of 6 men stood in a bunch. As I and other women looked at the prices of sanitary towels, the men passed crude comments, made jokes and laughed loudly. The tears welled up in my eyes at the disgusting behaviour of bored bullies but the real pain in my heart was for the women. Women who grit their teeth, ignore the taunts and count their dollars to see if they can afford to keep themselves clean this month. There were neither tampons nor cotton wool to buy and a pack of 10 sanitary towels was seventeen thousand dollars. This is the equivalent of almost 7 loaves of bread, so for a woman with hungry children at home, the decision about what to buy is non existent. The same applies to toothpaste, vaseline, deodorant, talcum powder, shampoo and even soap. Standing next to me in the supermarket was a very pretty young woman who picked up the small packet of sanitary towels, looked at the price, sighed, shook her head and then put them back and left.

The lives of Zimbabwe’s women are not lives anymore, but a series of agonising decisions. Do we pay a bill or feed our children? Do we buy a bra or get soap, shampoo and toothpaste for the family? Do we stem the flow of nature’s functions or buy bread for breakfast? This week women attempted to make our plight known to the men who run our country. Led by Janna Ncube, 70 women from the Women’s Coalition marched through Harare to expose the horrific increase in rape. In the last month in Harare alone 137 girls and women were raped and when tested it was found that 90% of them were now HIV positive. It is not known how many of these girls are pregnant as a result of being raped.

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), an activist organization formed last year, had planned a demonstration for yesterday, St Valentine’s Day:

[It was to] be marked by the distribution of red roses, symbolising the women’s defence of their “right to live” and the hope that all Zimbabweans could “still love one another and not be overtaken by hatred”.

(This report has a grim picture attached to it of the buttocks of a woman “forced to sit on a hot stove by armed militants in Zimbabwe”.) The demonstration had to be called off because “police warned that they would shoot to kill if activists took to the streets” (hat tip: Alan Brain – and see also this report).

Here’s another sign of a diseased political order:

Heath Streak is a man in an impossible position. As captain of the Zimbabwe cricket team, he is duty bound to speak for his players and his sport, while simultaneously trying to pretend that everything is fine back home. These are the conventions of leadership in abnormal societies.

Even so, Streak’s recent declaration that there was nothing wrong with Robert Mugabe being patron of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (even though he knows nothing about the game) and that conditions in his blighted country had improved since England boycotted their fixture there last year did little for his credibility…

‘He [Mugabe] is the president of our country and that’s why he is the top authority of the cricket union,’ said Streak. ‘That’s the rule in our country. But we have no problems with him and vice versa. I think things are far more settled now in Zimbabwe.’

According to an ITV report last week, things are not more settled in Zimbabwe. They are getting worse by the day. It seems almost redundant – but necessary – to keep repeating that the regime has done little to stem the murders and hundreds of incidents of political torture. People are starving… There is no freedom of speech. Aids afflicts a third of the population… And, importantly from a mere cricketing perspective, there are many thousands of Zimbabweans who do not want England or Australia to tour there this year.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Zimbabwe opposition Movement for Democratic Change, says:

Only a coordinated effort by the international community… will prevent a looming catastrophe.

The EU must be part of that international effort.