By Stefan Armbruster
AUSTRALIA has removed 53 individuals from a sanctions list against Zimbabwe, some of whom have accused the government of carelessly targeting individuals and blackening their reputations.
A renowned critic of President Robert Mugabe and leading business figures
say they immediately complained to Australian diplomats after being named among 127 people in November that faced financial and travel sanctions.
The revision in April also removed from the list two dead people and corrected dates of birth and job titles. Some of those targeted received apologies but they remain disillusioned with their treatment by the Australian Government.
Included in November was Trevor Ncube, the publisher of Zimbabwe’s last two independent newspapers and South Africa’s Mail & Guardian.
Ncube, who is now based in South Africa, says he complained to Australia’s High Commissioner and received an apology within 48 hours.
“I was shocked and really could not understand why my name had been included amongst a list of people who to me looked like government officials, people who are pro the Mugabe regime, which is a government that has abused the human rights of a lot of Zimbabweans and cannot be said to be a democratic government,” Ncube said.
“I am known quite widely as someone who is very critical of that government and for my sins I have been thrown into prison for writing stories over Robert Mugabe.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) says the sanctions lists are compiled using information “available at the time” gathered in Canberra, by diplomatic posts and from “like-minded countries”.
A DFAT spokesman said in a statement that the “delisting” of individuals like Ncube was part of a “periodic review”.
“The department took all representations seriously and when legitimate reasons for the delisting (of individuals) were presented and new information brought to our attention, such individuals were removed from the list,” DFAT said.
“The opaque information environment within Zimbabwe makes the compiling of appropriate biographical detail for the list a challenge.” After the revision in April all superseded sanctions lists, which were previously available on the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) website, were also removed.
DFAT said that “previous versions of the sanctions list should be removed from the RBA website to ensure the most current sanctions regime is being implemented”.
Another target of the November list was the former Zimbabwean head of international financial services group Old Mutual, which runs the country’s largest pension fund.
Fifteen months after retiring and leaving Zimbabwe, Graham Hollick found himself the target of Australian sanctions.
“The move had a devastating effect. I did not waver under sustained pressure to support (Mugabe’s) economic policies or individuals seeking to advance their own interests using political threats,” he said from the United Kingdom.
“For these actions it seems that the Australian Government was casting aspersions to my character and my credibility. The whole episode was unpleasant for not only me, but also my family and friends worldwide.”
Hollick says he received a letter saying he would be taken off the sanctions list but not an apology.
Australia first imposed bi-lateral sanctions against Mugabe and members of his Zanu PF party in 2002 after the controversial presidential election.
The decision by Foreign Affairs minister Alexander Downer to apply the “smart sanctions” was the centrepiece of Australia’s efforts to “influence the current government to return to good governance and the rule of law, while avoiding harm to the people of Zimbabwe”.
“They are not going to overwhelm the Zimbabwe administration in any way, but they are an important statement by Australia,” Downer said at the time.
The “smart sanctions” involve travel bans to Australia and a freeze on Australian assets for ministers and officials in the Mugabe government.
Shortly after the November list was issued, Australian Ambassador in Zimbabwe Jon Sheppard told Associated Press that the list was difficult to compile and may have been released prematurely.
“It will be reviewed and expect deletions. We are asking people who were surprised to find themselves on the list to bear with us,” he reportedly said.
Ncube says he is concerned by how the lists are compiled.
“There doesn’t seem to have been a careful gathering of facts. The intelligence that was used was faulty,” he said.
“Whoever was compiling this list doesn’t seem to — well, I don’t know the criteria — but doesn’t seem to know what they were doing. I think it is important for the Australian Government to come out clearly and let us know what the criteria (for being listed) is so that people understand exactly where they stand.” Ncube was listed without a job title and date of birth on April 18, 1971, instead of September 9, 1962.
Also named and then removed were the Zimbabwean head of global bank Standard Chartered, Washington Matsaira, and an executive of mining giant Anglo-American, Godfrey Gomwe.
Spokespeople for both say they received apologies from Australian diplomats. RioZim executive John Nixon, who was head of Rio Tinto’s subsidiary in Zimbabwe and is now deputy chairman of its joint-venture partner in the Murowa Diamond mine, was also listed and removed. — ABC News.