The European Union has slapped a travel ban on 11 more Zimbabwean officials as pressure mounted on President Robert Mugabe to step down.
Spreading cholera, food shortages and economic collapse have brought new demands for Mr Mugabe’s resignation from his old foes in the West. He blames Western sanctions for Zimbabwe’s hardship.
French Foreign minister Bernard Kouchner yesterday said EU foreign ministers added 11 more names to a list of over 160 Zimbabweans – including Mr Mugabe – banned from visiting the bloc, a move meant to increase pressure on Zimbabwe’s government.
EU ministers said in a statement that the people added to the blacklist were “actively engaged in violence or human rights infringements.” The list was confidential until published in the EU’s official journal, diplomats said.
One said those added included five members of a Joint Operations Command, which comprises security service chiefs who the opposition say were instrumental in organising a violent campaign that returned Mr Mugabe to power.
However, ministers also agreed to take one person off the bloc’s black list, diplomats said.
One named him as Simba Makoni, former finance minister who left the ruling ZANU-PF party earlier this year and contested the presidential election against Mr Mugabe in March.
The United States said it would continue to push for the international community to act on Zimbabwe, but said the country’s neighbours held the most influence.
“We made extensive efforts in the Security Council to get the international system to act, and we are going to continue those efforts, but quite frankly some of the states in the region have to step up. They need to use their leverage,” US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
South African ruling ANC party leader Jacob Zuma has urged swift action to end Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by political deadlock between Mr Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai over implementing a power-sharing deal.
The impact of Zimbabwe’s crisis is felt keenly in South Africa, where cholera victims seeking treatment have joined millions of immigrants who have fled in search of jobs.
“Some swift action is clearly needed,” Mr Zuma said in Namibia yesterday.
South African officials were in Zimbabwe to assess the scale of the crisis, responding to an unprecedented appeal for international help from Mugabe’s government.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga at the weekend urged the African Union to hold an emergency summit to formulate a resolution to send troops into Zimbabwe to deal with the crisis.
Botswanan Foreign minister Phandu Skelemani and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel laureate, have also called for Mr Mugabe’s removal.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement issued by the Elders, a group of prominent figures that includes ex-US President Jimmy Carter and Tutu, that there was “bitter disappointment in the current leadership.”
And South Africa’s powerful Cosatu trade union federation said yesterday 38 members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions arrested during protests last week had been released after five days in detention.
Seven of those released had appeared in court and been charged “with inciting the public to rise against the government” before being released on bail, Cosatu said.
Meanwhile, the death toll from Zimbabwe’s cholera epidemic has risen to 600, the United Nations said today.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on its website the number of cholera cases in Zimbabwe stood at 13,960. In the capital Harare, there had been 189 deaths, it said.
Basic foodstuffs are running out, prices of goods are doubling every 24 hours, and the 100 million Zimbabwean dollar a week limit for bank withdrawals buys only three loaves of bread in the once relatively prosperous country.
Zimbabwe’s health system cannot cope with the cholera epidemic and the water supply network has failed. People have been drinking from contaminated wells and streams. (Reuters)