Basildon Peta: The sanctions Europe must impose on Mr Mugabe for democracy's sake

'How many people has Mr Mugabe to murder for the EU to realise that it's time to abandon warnings'
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The Independent Online

An unfortunate truth for many Zimbabweans is that we can not rely on institutions such as the Commonwealth, the British Government or the European Union, which purport to be custodians of democracy, for relief against wayward leaders like President Robert Mugabe.

Even when Mr Mugabe was at his worst this week, frogmarching his Parliament into passing some of the most repressive and undemocratic laws in the world, the EU was entertaining a delegation of his ministers in Brussels. The question that many Zimbabweans are now asking is: How many people will Mr Mugabe murder before the EU realises that it is time to stop issuing warnings and deadlines and instead impose tough sanctions to rein in this dictator.

Many of us here hoped that the EU – rather than warning Mr Mugabe again that he should hold a free and fair presidential election in March – would have taken advantage of the Friday meeting to announce tough sanctions on Mr Mugabe unless he reversed the undemocratic laws he passed this week. As things turned out, Mr Mugabe got away with murder and is due to pass other repressive laws this week.

An unpalatable truth for Mr Mugabe and his cronies is that he will never win a free and fair election when Zimbabweans elect a new president in two months time. This reality becomes firmer each passing day as Mr Mugabe's politically illiterate and economically innumerate policies wreak havoc on a once prosperous and promising African nation, reducing it to a pathetic basket case.

Since it became clear that Zimbabweans had embarked on an irreversible path to evict Mr Mugabe from power – by rejecting his authoritarian draft constitution in a national referendum last February, the first major defeat for Mr Mugabe in a political contest since the end of white rule in 1980 – the beleaguered leader had to find other methods of saving his political career.

While the list of Mr Mugabe's human rights violations would fill the pages of this entire newspaper, the response from the international community has been sad and feeble. Apart from endless meetings and threats from the EU, the Commonwealth and even United Nations secretary general, Koffi Annan, Zimbabweans have failed to see concrete action to rein in the dictator.

Zimbabweans cannot hope for relief from bodies like the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union for various reasons. Some of the SADC leaders, including its chairman, Bakili Muluzi, seem to be emulating Mr Mugabe by criminalising any forms of dissent. In addition to harassing the judiciary in Malawi, Mr Muluzi is fighting to add an unconstitutional third term to his rein. Namibia's Sam Nujoma is already enjoying an unconstitutional third term, while nothing can be expected from Mozambique's Joacquim Chissano, who won a flawed election and was the best man at Mr Mugabe's wedding to his former secretary in 1996.

South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, who could tighten the screws on Mr Mugabe, as Zimbabwe is heavily reliant on South Africa for power and electricity, has used racial scapegoats to excuse his failure to deliver to millions of poverty-stricken blacks. The tragedy of the new African Union (AU) is that it is being bankrolled by dictators such as Muammar Gaddafi, whose countries have never known anything close to democracy. To Colonel Gaddafi, Mr Mugabe is the "ultimate hero" of Africa.

As the presidential election looms 9 and 10 March, Mr Mugabe has intensified his blatant human rights violations. Almost every day, Zimbabweans are openly terrorised by Mr Mugabe's militias in the hope that they will cow the entire nation.

Six of the 156 dead opposition supporters have been killed in the past 10 days of Mr Mugabe's organised anarchy, which is aimed at stealing the impending election.

At the time of writing, Mr Mugabe had circumvented parliamentary regulations and procedures to fast track fascist laws that would entrench his onslaught on opponents and guarantee him re-election.

The Public Order and Security Act will impose death and life penalties on people accused of assisting in espionage, banditry, terrorism, treason, subversion and insurgency against Mugabe's government.

These offences are broadly defined and include any suspicions that a person is plotting against the government. The Act outlaws publishing or communicating statements prejudicial to the state or that "incite public disorder, violence, affect defence and economic interests of the country or undermine confidence in security forces".

The Generals Laws Amendment Bill will see the banning of independent election monitors and forbid private voter education. It will deny voting rights to millions of Zimbabweans living abroad.

The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill, which will be passed on Tuesday, imposes hefty sentences and jail terms for journalists publishing information likely to cause "fear alarm and despondency". It will also put journalists on a system of one-year, renewable licences and ban them from publishing information about, among other things, Mr Mugabe's cabinet meetings.

The effect of all these Bills is to make Mr Mugabe an untouchable demi god. It will not be possible to vote him out of power, despite his massive unpopularity.

It thus becomes imperative that, in addition to suspending Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth, established democracies should add the following measures to their list of sanctions against Mr Mugabe.

* Trace and freeze all his assets in Europe and America and those held by his cronies.

* Impose permanent travel sanctions on him and his cronies to Europe and America.

* Issue an international warrant of arrest for his current human rights violations and for directing the murder of 25,000 innocent civilians when he moved to crush his opponents in southern Zimbabwe in the early 1980s.

* Stop the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank from considering any further aid to him, and any new investment into Zimbabwe by European companies, until Mr Mugabe restores full democracy

While the people of Zimbabwe would be hurt by some of these sanctions, they have already suffered enough. At times, a big price must be paid for democracy.