REIGN OF TERROR: Supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change take shelter in a house in Harare this week after fleeing clashes in the nearby Mbare township. Picture: REUTERS

DUMISANI MULEYA

THE European Union (EU) is set to renew targeted sanctions on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle next Wednesday, when its ministers meet in Brussels amid resurgent political violence and deepening tensions within the coalition arrangement.

President Jacob Zuma has made representations to the EU to lift the sanctions on Mr Mugabe and his inner circle imposed in 2002 at the height of disputes between Harare and Brussels over political repression, human rights abuses and violations of property rights.

EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Dell Arica has confirmed that EU ministers would meet on Wednesday next week to review the restrictive measures on Mr Mugabe and his ministers, as well as top public servants and senior members of the state security establishment.

The US and Australia, among countries that have individually imposed sanctions, have not yet fully lifted them.

There has been limited relaxation of some measures since the formation of the inclusive government in 2009. Last year the EU lifted sanctions on state entities, but it is unlikely to remove targeted measures against Mr Mugabe and his officials.

Zimbabwe's case is likely to be compounded by the recent upsurge of political violence. A number of provinces have in recent weeks been rocked by violence and intimidation mainly attributed to Mr Mugabe's supporters, including war veterans and youth militias.

This week Zanu (PF) youth rampaged through the streets of Harare, looting and destroying property, and beating up people indiscriminately.

Police have publicly accused Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T party of fanning violence.

Mr Tsvangirai has come under a propaganda blitz from the state media, accusing him of trying to incite Egyptian-style riots after he recently came out in support of the demonstrations in the North African country and the Middle East.

A number of MDC youths and human rights campaigners have been arrested over the violence, while Zanu (PF) supporters are given police protection to hold demonstrations, which turn violent.

The MDC-T yesterday condemned the political violence.

"The MDC strongly condemns Zanu (PF)'s barbaric behaviour which reached a climax in Harare this week as the party's youths tried to invade and loot businesses in Harare."

The MDC-T said Zanu (PF) was turning youths into criminals by using them as instruments of violence.

On Wednesday police detained Abel Chikomo, executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum over a research project focusing on so-called transition justice.

An advocacy group, the Centre for Development, has urged parliament to investigate the political violence.

Another civic group, Restoration of Human Rights, yesterday also denounced perpetrators of political violence.

The US said yesterday it was dismayed by renewed violence. "The US is alarmed by, and condemns, the recent spate of political violence perpetrated by youths and opportunists affiliated with elements of Zanu (PF)," the US said. "Such unlawful actions violate the Global Political Agreement and demonstrate that the undermining of the rule of law has not changed fundamentally."

While the EU is poised to continue isolating Mr Mugabe, China is drawing nearer.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi was due in Harare yesterday as part of his country to secure raw materials and market opportunities in Africa.

China is negotiating a US3bn platinum deal with the government. It also has plans to invest US10bn in the country in next few years, according to Investment Promotion Minister Tapiwa Mashakada. Beijing is one of Zimbabwe's few international allies. In 2008, it vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution seeking sanctions. With Reuters