EU shows AU respect

President Robert Mugabe

THE European Union (EU) has eased its travel ban on President Robert Mugabe while he serves as chairman of the African Union (AU), a development critics view as a political decision based on showing respect to the continental body.

The ban would be lifted when Mugabe travels under his AU chairmanship, according to Catherine Ray, the EU spokesperson.

It is possible in arriving at the decision, which could have also been business driven, the 28-nation bloc does not want to jeopardise its relationships with the rest of the continent.

There is general concern in Europe about inroads the Chinese are making in Africa in general and certainly it would be foolhardy for the EU to want to remain on the sidelines while opportunities disappear because of a sole African despot.

Mugabe would have scored a diplomatic victory if the EU had maintained sanctions on him at a time he is at the helm of the AU.

As statesman with a deep-seated hatred for anything European, read white, and a penchant for using the race card every time when black faces white, Mugabe would have most likely turned it into an AU versus EU matter, something that the Zanu PF leader has always cherished.

But again, this appears to be a carrot being dangled in front of Mugabe as the waiver is largely conditional, meaning that the EU will review their position depending on the conduct of the Zimbabwean leader creating conditions conducive to doing business.

There is no mention of human rights as a condition, suggesting it is largely a business decision more than a political one.

The EU has already lifted restrictive measures on Zimbabwe in the past two years and as we speak they have resumed direct government support.

Of course they had maintained an embargo on Mugabe and his family, but that is inconsequential.

As far as Zimbabwe as a country is concerned the lifting of the travel ban on the Zanu PF leader remains symbolic. Citizens wonder how a 91-year-old travelling to Europe will change Zimbabwe or Africa as he is seen as past his sell-by date and no-one will take him seriously.

Critics are adamant it will not change anything even if Mugabe uses the AU sojourns to conduct government business at the back of EU officials, pointing out that very few serious European investors trust him and his administration, particularly with regard to policy inconsistences.

The large part of Europe has not forgiven him over his controversial land reform exercise which is largely seen as driven by racism and blatant hatred of white people.