Mugabe Regime Still Failing the Test, So Why Are We Handing It a Prize?

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Global Outlook

Rewards for the punished are only meant to be for good behaviour. So why are we about to give a glittering prize to the unpleasant government dominated by Robert Mugabe? On Monday, in Brussels, the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council will lift certain targeted sanctions on the country. William Hague will sign up to the moves, which are being championed by the high representative, Labour's Baroness Ashton.

It's not clear yet exactly which barriers will be removed, but I'm reliably informed they will include the lifting of travel restrictions on certain members of the Mugabe regime, plus the unfreezing of some of their assets.

Many of Mr Mugabe's top officials have become spectacularly rich from his decades in power. Perhaps we should applaud as his newly liberated big guns come to Sloane Street to splash out in Rolex and Louis Vuitton - our economy needs all the help it can get. But I'm not entirely sure that boosting London's luxury goods industry is what the EU Foreign Affairs Council should be all about.

Zimbabwe remains a deeply troubled state, arguably run largely for the benefit of its leaders. Its diamond industry, as I wrote here some weeks ago, is deeply flawed and open to corruption. Large amounts of money from its diamond mines flow into the coffers of Zanu-PF, Human Rights Watch suggests, while its highly partisan police force continues to harass and arrest opposition activists.

So why are we about to give Mr Mugabe a big pat on the back?

Mr Hague, Lady Ashton and Co argue the sanctions should be lifted to recognise the fact that the government has said it will hold a referendum in March on a draft constitution. General elections should follow later in the year.

But, setting aside all the other allegations of ongoing corruption and human rights abuses, why would we want to be rewarding the regime for something it hasn't even done yet?

The Zimbabwean sanctions should remain in force until free and fair elections have been held - and note that expression: "free and fair".

Luxury in Piccadilly, big risks in Zimbabwe

At a cost of 500 to 900 per ticket, the dozens of businessmen attending the ZimInvest London 2012 Forum last November will have been hoping for more than just a few egg-and-cress sandwiches. They will not have been disappointed. The five-star Le Meridien Piccadilly, not known for skimping on the catering, laid it on in luxurious style.

More importantly, the suits who assembled - fund managers and others looking to invest in Zimbabwe -met senior honchos from the country in what the event's marketing blurb described as "an excellent high-level networking platform".

The lifting of sanctions on Monday will be used by said honchos as a major recruiting tool in future conversations, we can have no doubt.

Attendees included the London Stock Exchange's Richard Webster- Smith, Old Mutual's Patrick Bowes and Standard Bank's London-based Matthew Pearson, all talking about the everyday realities of doing business in Zimbabwe.

Not present were the 11 British and Dutch folk who bought farmland in the country in the 1980s, when Mr Mugabe was encouraging inward investment. …