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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 23:12 GMT
Will sanctions work?
Zanu-PF supporters demonstrating in Harare
Zanu-PF supporters remember Robert Mugabe's role as liberator
In February, the European Union decided to impose so-called "smart sanctions" on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and senior figures in his Zanu-PF ruling party.

But precious little follow-up has come from anyone else.

As soon as Brussels made its decision known, the leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, said they were "too little, too late".

Sanctions targets
(ministers unless noted otherwise)
Robert Mugabe, president
Charles Utete, cabinet secretary
Emmerson Mnangagwa, parliamentary speaker
John Nkomo, home affairs
Nicholas Goche, security
Elliott Manyika, youth
Jonathan Moyo, information
George Charamba, Moyo's spokesman
Patrick Chinamasa, justice
Joseph Made, agriculture
Ignatius Chombo, local govt
Stan Mudenge, foreign affairs
Willard Chiwewe, senr sec'y, foreign affairs
Gen Vitalis Zvinavashe, chief of defence staff
Lt. Gen Constantine Chinwenga, army
Air Marshal Perence Shiri, air force
Augustine Chihuri, police commissioner
Brig Elisha Muzonzini (intelligence)
Paradzai Zimondi, prisons chief
Sidney Sekeramunyi, defence
Certainly, facts on the ground appear to back him up.

Zanu-PF's attempts to sway the election, by cutting back on polling stations in MDC strongholds, refusing to release the electoral roll and tightening restrictions, have intensified.

And in any case, many in the law enforcement and intelligence community agree with Mr Tsvangirai.

The idea has been bandied around for so long, British and other experts on money laundering and financial crime believe, that any liquid resources have long since departed European shores.

US investigators, who are much better funded than their European counterparts, have found indications of this kind of activity in the past six months.

On target?

The principle of smart sanctions is simple.

Instead of targeting a whole country - a country which, in Zimbabwe's case, is both full of highly vocal opposition to the Mugabe government and already in deep economic trouble - just target the leaders.

The essential elements are a ban on arms sales, a blanket embargo on travel to Europe by a select list of 20 senior Zanu-PF figures, and a freeze on any assets in EU-based financial institutions which can be found.

Freezing real-world assets such as property is likely to prove more of a legal challenge, and is less of a priority in the first instance.

Out of harm's way

All well and good. But there are major problems with the plan.

The travel ban is the easy part. Zanu-PF figures regularly commandeer Air Zimbabwe's six planes for personal trips to Spain, the UK and elsewhere, leaving passengers stranded.

But as for the money, the chances are that those targeted will long since have taken the hint.

Indeed, sources in Southern Africa suggest that most financial resources may have been well clear of Europe years ago.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, speaker of Zimbabwe's parliament
Emmerson Mnangagwa: Named in UN report
South Africa and Mauritius are tipped as the most likely locations.

The latter, after all, has a thriving offshore finance industry which is generally regarded as less suspect than some more grubby and familiar names in the Caribbean and the Pacific, as well as being much closer to home.

Earlier close relations between Mr Mugabe and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad mean money may have found its way there, too; investigators are examining accounts holding about $65m at the moment.

Shell game

In any case, the likelihood of any resources still being in identifiable names - rather than held through layers of "shell companies" existing only on paper - is thought to be remote.

The long-running war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has attracted innumerable middlemen and traders, offers alternative routes out and added layers of deniability for liquid resources as a recent UN report has shown.

And a key Mugabe colleague - parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa - is named by the UN as a prime mover in illicit trading out of Congo.

One possible exception could be Ireland.

Several Irish businessmen are known to have cultivated close links with the Mugabe government over the 22 years since independence.

Mr Mugabe is believed to hold at least one residence in Ireland, acquired with the assistance of local friends.

And there could be financial resources there too.

All change

Although some commentators have compared the Zimbabwean situation to the systematic theft of national resource in some other African countries - namely Nigeria - many people familiar with the history of Zimbabwe's leaders since independence say the picture is quite different.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
Mugabe's days as an ascetic are long gone
For one thing, what resources have been amassed are likely to be much smaller than in the case of Nigeria - where over $1.6bn has been traced to accounts linked to the late dictator Sani Abacha and his family.

For another, the regime was recognised as more ascetic than luxurious in the early days.

Mr Mugabe took his socialist credentials seriously, and kept a tight rein on his comrades' behaviour.

But the death of his wife, Sally, in 1992 changed all that. His relationship with former secretary Grace ushered in high living and regular shopping expeditions to London and Cape Town.

And, say regional experts, it gave other Zanu-PF figures the chance to begin lining their pockets at the public's expense.

That opened the door too to involvement in the war in Congo, where the lucrative supplies of timber, cobalt, diamonds and other resources offered loot for the taking.

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See also:

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