EUROPEAN Union parliamentarians (MEPs) yesterday resolved to keep Zanu PF politburo member Kumbirai Kangai out of parliamentary talks with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)
states in the Netherlands later this month, it has emerged.
Weekend talks between the host government and MEPs failed to settle differences and a last-ditch attempt to bridge the divide was set for today, two weeks ahead of the opening of the six-day EU/ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly meeting in the Hague.
Kangai is number 22 on a list of 95 associates of President Robert Mugabe banned from travelling to the EU under the targeted sanctions regime.
His attendance at the meeting set for November 20-25 could spark a walk-out by MEPs, the co-spokesman on Foreign Affairs and Human Rights in the European Parliament Geoffrey van Orden said in a telephone interview from Brussels yesterday.
“We are making representations to the Dutch government not to give a visa to Mr Kangai,” Van Orden said. “It would be quite wrong for politicians such as ourselves to sit down in a meeting with a banned individual.
He is completely barred from attending the meeting. It would be an act of utmost hypocrisy for politicians concerned about the political and human rights situation in Zimbabwe to have any dealings with Mugabe’s henchmen that have been specifically banned from travel to the EU by the EU.”
Zanu PF secretary for external affairs Didymus Mutasa on Wednesday night said the MEP’s argument was “absolutely preposterous”.
“Comrade Kangai will be attending that meeting in his capacity as a member of parliament,” Mutasa said. “The argument that Kangai is on the sanctions list and should therefore not travel to the EU/ACP meeting is absolutely preposterous. As a democratic institution they have been saying they want equal voices but they are not giving the same opportunities to Zanu PF.”
Van Orden said a weekend meeting with the Dutch Foreign Affairs minister Bernard Bot failed to resolve the dispute. He said Bot was arguing that the Belgian government wanted to waive the ban on the grounds that the ACP is subject to multilateral agreements conferring privileges and immunities.
The MEPs were due to meet Bot again this morning to resolve the issue. Human rights groups also protested to Bot as news filtered through that Kangai had applied for a visa, although he has not yet been granted one.
Zimbabwe Watch, a human rights group based in Holland fired off an angry letter to the Foreign Affairs chief.
“This application is nothing more than a provocation by the Zimbabwean government to ridicule the sanctions regulations,” Zimbabwe Watch coordinator Wiep Bassie wrote to Bot. “At previous international EU/ACP Joint Parliamentary Assemblies, exceptions have been made. There have had disastrous consequences for the progress of the meetings. We would strongly call upon you to take the EU policy seriously, and not allow Mr Kangai to enter the Netherlands.”
This is not the first time that Kangai has stirred controversy in the EU/ACP. Two months ago, Kangai was barred from attending an EU/ACP meeting in Brussels after defying the travel bans.