South Africa’s Zuma demands UK loosen sanctions against Zimbabwe while on visit to Britain

By David Stringer, AP
Thursday, March 4, 2010

SAfrican leader lobbies UK on Zimbabwe sanctions

LONDON — South African President Jacob Zuma pressed Britain on Thursday to loosen European Union sanctions on Zimbabwe, which he said are limiting the effectiveness of that country’s power-sharing government.

Zuma, talking with Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the second day of a three-day state visit to Britain, pushed the U.K. to ease travel restrictions for members of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Some Mugabe loyalists, including members of Zimbabwe’s unity government, are unable to travel to Europe and the U.S. under the measures, Zuma said.

“Some ministers are able to travel all over the world, others are not. Clearly, there is no equality in that type of situation,” Zuma told reporters after his talks with Brown.

Power sharing between longtime rivals Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has remained delicate since their coalition was formed last year. Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have fled the country, where the economy has collapsed, to seek work in South Africa — an influx that has caused tensions between the neighbors.

Brown said sanctions against members of the former Mugabe regime could be reviewed, but only after progress is made on human rights, governance and media freedom in Zimbabwe.

“The sanctions that the European Union has in place do not target Zimbabwe, or Zimbabweans — they target individuals who are responsible for violence and a number of businesses linked to them,” Brown said.

British officials rejected Zuma’s assertion that the travel bans hurt Zimbabwe’s unity government, pointing out that ministers can apply for waivers for visits connected to government business. Some Zanu-PF party ministers were granted permission to visit Britain last year with Tsvangirai when he conducted a three-week tour of Europe and the U.S.

Brown said the European Union wouldn’t consider loosening sanctions without proof that Zimbabwe is addressing international concerns.

“We must see movement from what is a unity, transitional government, to free and fair elections and there can be no excuses for delay,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s voting rights at the International Monetary Fund were recently restored and the European Union lifted sanctions against some businesses linked to Zanu-PF figures.

“Clearly, if the Zimbabwean issue is not moving forward, some people could use sanctions as an excuse to say ‘because we are sanctioned, how can we operate?’ Zuma warned.

During the talks, Britain also pledged to support efforts to establish a permanent African representative on the U.N. Security Council — though Brown did not indicate whether the U.K. would support South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria or a regional bloc taking on the role.

Zuma and Brown later met with English football (soccer) player Steven Gerrard and South African national team captain Aaron Mokoena to discuss an education project to be launched during World Cup tournament this summer in South Africa.

Gerrard gave Zuma a Liverpool team shirt signed by star player Spanish international Fernando Torres.

Brown said Britain and others would attend a meeting during the tournament aimed at encouraging efforts to ensure that every African child has access to education.

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