LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said on Thursday it wanted to see further progress on human rights and democracy in Zimbabwe before the European Union lifts sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and his allies.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown defended sanctions on Zimbabwe after talks with South African President Jacob Zuma who has called for them to be lifted.
Zuma played down a controversy caused by comments he made just before he left for a pomp-filled state visit to Britain in which he accused the British of believing they were superior.
Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, regularly accuses the British and their Western allies of ruining the Zimbabwean economy through sanctions.
“The sanctions that the European Union has in place do not target Zimbabwe or Zimbabweans, they target individuals who are responsible for violence and a number of businesses linked to them,” Brown said at a news conference with Zuma.
“We have reduced sanctions on some companies, we are ready to respond to other progress as it is made but I do emphasise the importance of the work of these (Zimbabwe) commissions in emphasising human rights, the freedom of the press and the reforms of governance,” he added.
Mugabe and his rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai formed a unity government last year and have agreed on commissions to drive media, electoral and human rights reforms.
But the commissions have been slow to get off the ground and the two sides remain at odds over other issues.
After their economy collapsed, about three million Zimbabweans fled to regional power South Africa, which has been trying to broker a solution to the crisis.
“We are agreed that we should all put our heads together to find a solution in Zimbabwe so that Zimbabwe could move forward,” said Zuma.
He told the news conference there was the risk that some Zimbabweans could blame sanctions for stalling progress.
The British media have focused on Zuma’s polygamy and sex life during his four-day visit to Britain as a guest of Queen Elizabeth. Zuma is accompanied by Tobeka Madiba, his third current wife.
Zuma apologised this month for fathering out of wedlock his 20th child with Sonono Khoza, the daughter of a close friend.
In a South African press interview before his departure, Zuma said he was not surprised by the British media’s criticism of his polygamy because Britons had always believed that Africans were “barbaric” and inferior.
“I don’t know why they are continuing thinking that their culture is more superior than others...,” he was quoted as saying in the interview.
Zuma said on Thursday he was speaking “in the context of how people judge other people’s cultures” and he was “not necessarily trying to condemn the British or whatever.”
There was greater unity on the economy where Britain and South Africa agreed that more needed to be done to guarantee strong growth after the G20 helped to prop up the global financial system.
In a joint declaration, the two countries also said they would work to make financial institutions more effective and accountable.
Looking ahead to a meeting of the G20 group of rich and developing nations in Canada in June, Brown said they had discussed his plan for a global financial levy.