PM Brown insists Zimbabwe makes progress before sanctions go

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has insisted that Zimbabwe should make more progress before sanctions can be lifted, resisting pressure from South African President Jacob Zuma.

But as Zuma’s state visit turned from royal pomp to hard-headed politics, the two leaders largely sought to paper over differences on European Union sanctions slapped on President Robert Mugabe and his closest cohorts.

On the second day of his visit, Zuma also tried to soften remarks in which he attacked sections of the British press critical of his polygamous marriages and the scandal surrounding a child he fathered.

Zimbabwe’s fragile power-sharing government has failed to make major headway since it was installed a year ago, following mediation by neighbouring South Africa under Zuma’s predecessor Thabo Mbeki. Zuma, who is now the regional mediator on Zimbabwe, wants the EU sanctions on Mugabe’s coterie lifted.

But Brown said he wanted to see progress on the ground first, as well as the results of commissions on human rights, press freedom and governance reforms, before they are reconsidered.

“We applaud the efforts that President Zuma is making to bring stability and change to Zimbabwe,” he said at a joint press conference after the talks at his Downing Street office.

“We however must be absolutely sure that progress is being made.”

Referring to the unity government between Mugabe and former rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Brown added: “We must be moving from what is a unity but transitional government to free and fair elections.”

Zuma warned that the sanctions issue could be exploited politically by some in Harare.

“If the Zimbabwe issue is not moving forward, certainly some people could use sanctions as an excuse,” he said, noting that some ministers are subject to travel bans and others not.

“There is no equality in that kind of situation.” He added: “We are agreed that we should all put our heads together to find a solution in Zimbabwe to help Zimbabweans to forward.

Source: www.businessday.co.za, 20100305

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