European Parliament President Jacob Zuma was at the European Parliament today to hold talks with MEPs. His main message was for sanctions to be lifted against neighbouring Zimbabwe. He said they had hurt South Africa and harmed Harare’s path to political reconciliation between Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change. He was in Brussels for Tuesday’s EU-Africa Summit which discussed climate change, trade and development issues.
In his first visit to the Parliament after becoming South Africa’s President, Mr Zuma held talks with MEPs on the Foreign Affairs and Development Committees. He also held a meeting with EP President Jerzy Buzek.
Dropping sanctions will help Zimbabwe unity government
Many MEPs asked Mr Zuma about continued travel and economic restrictions on key individuals in the Zimbabwean regime. South Africa’s President stressed that it important to abandon the sanctions against individuals (such as Robert Mugabe) otherwise they “give credit to the argument of the Zanu PF (President Mugabe’s political party) that the functioning of the unity government is not supported to the fullest”.
Several MEPs expressed concern about the fight against HIV/AIDS as South Africa has one of the highest infection rates in the world. Zuma’s predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, drew international criticism for his supposed ambivalent stance on the need to fight it. The President said that prevention programmes were underway but the media presented them as “useless”.
A “politicised” but free media
Referring to questions about press freedom by several MEPs he said that the press was free of political control but conceded it was “politicised”. He also spoke of the sad state of crime in South Africa which has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
Economic and political cooperation between Europe and Africa and South Africa in particular were also discussed. In addition the importance of projects by the European Investment Bank and investment in small businesses was stressed.
The impact of the football World Cup on ordinary people was also debated with Mr Zuma being emphatic that the tournament has been a great success. He said it had shown the potential of the country and its ability to organise an international event.
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