The European Union lifted trade sanctions against Zimbabwe on Thursday and will resume development and finance cooperation with the country.
EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Philippe Van Damme told journalists on Thursday that direct aid will resume this weekend, when part of the sanctions imposed on the Zimbabwean government over alleged rights abuses expire.
“The EU Council confirms that appropriate measures will indeed be lifted this weekend,” he said, adding that the EU’s development aid will target health, agriculture and governance.
“We have reached a very important stage in the normalisation of our relations with Zimbabwe,” Van Damme said.
“We can now fully engage on development policies of this government. We have to find ways to rebuild trust. Let’s move forward towards normalisation of relations,” he said, while warning that change will not happen overnight.
“It will take time to rebuild trust.”
The EU, however, kept sanctions against President Mugabe, his wife Grace and several members of his party and service chiefs.
Meanwhile the president on Thursday defended his wife’s nomination to lead the powerful women’s wing of the ruling Zanu-PF, as the campaign to succeed him intensifies ahead of a crucial party congress.
“Why are some people so much opposed to it?” said Mugabe to hundreds of supporters who had gathered at the party’s headquarters to back him and his wife.
His wife has shaken up the race to succeed her husband, who has ruled Zimbabwe for close to 34 years since independence, by hinting she could run for higher office and lashing out at possible rivals.
“In the constitution of the party there is no where where it is written that the president’s wife cannot be a leader in the party,” Mugabe said.
The 90-year-old president said he was puzzled that some party supporters were opposed to Grace’s nomination when his late first wife Sally once held the same position in the 1980s.