Zimbabwe urgently need assistance – By Farai Mtshaka

OPINION – The recently launched Short Term Emergence Recovery Programme (STERP) has articulated a clear roadmap for Zimbabwe’s economic recovery. STERP has the ingredients and hallmarks of a transformative social and economic platform. What is needed most urgently is the funding to kick-start the economy.

The newly formed inclusive government is unable to pay civil service salaries, let alone restore the dilapidated infrastructure necessary for social service delivery.

 

According to the Finance Minister Tendai Biti, the Zimbabwean economy is now sustained by booze and fags! With the economy trapped in a vicious cycle of sustained decline, it is now beyond doubt that the country is on the verge of becoming a failed state. The donor community should rescue Zimbabwe from the abyss and give the inclusive government a fighting chance to avert grim social consequences.

 

Sadly, many well-meaning critics of Robert Mugabe and his cronies often succumb too easily to the temptation to frame the unfolding tragedy around a few personalities, including Mugabe himself. This simplistic analysis could have sufficed 9-10 years ago when the architecture of the economic collapse we are witnessing today was ruthlessly implemented. The genesis of the current diabolical mess was nurtured by a toxic ideology driven by coercion and political fundamentalism, and the progressive “Zanufication” of key state institutions, especially the army, police and several state owned enterprises. Although not entirely perfect, the Global Political Agreement (GPA) seeks to undo some, if not most, of the damage done to the economy and the social fabric over the last 10 years. If implemented with foresight and diligence, the GPA may succeed to pull back the country from the brink.

 

In as much as Mugabe and his supporters want to believe that he remains the “power and the glory” of Zimbabwean politics, change is beginning to happen. Undoubtedly, this is the beginning of the end of Robert Mugabe as the dominant political force in national politics. There is a new dynamic emerging in the country, too powerful to be subservient to the whims of an aging kleptocrate and his merry men. There now exists an opportunity for a paradigm shift in the matrix that has driven a once prosperous country to the brink. Now is the time to help reconstruct the country for the good of all Zimbabweans who are surviving on nothing but hope for the future.

 

Now is the time to re-examine the different dimensions and strategic intent of all sanctions. This re-examination has to be undertaken in conjunction with an objective assessment of the benchmarks set out in the GAP on the one hand, and the practical steps taken to bring about change in Zimbabwe, on the other.  The donor community has clearly indicated that they want to see the release of all political prisoners, a halt to seizures of white-owned farms, restoration of the rule of law and property rights, as well as a free press. Reports of continuing political violence and mayhem in some parts of the country and on some farms have become a convenient excuse for some reluctant donors. The inclusive government should take urgent steps to address these concerns. It is delusional to expect buy-in by the Zimbabweans and the donor community in the GPA and the inclusive government when there is hardly any change on the ground. Confidence building measures are simply not yet visible.

 

For as start, the inclusive government should take urgent steps to rid the RBZ of all corrupt individuals including the Governor himself. No sane donor will release funds to an institution reputed for partisanship and corruption.

 

As the inclusive government buckles down to implement the GPA, the donor community should demonstrate readiness to step up to the plate and own up. The simple truth is that Zimbabwe is broke. It is no position to honor its debts to the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank. Paris Club creditors should urgently consider debt forgiveness under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Pour Countries Initiative (HIPC).

 

In addition, punitive sanctions that prohibit the country from accessing lines of credit should be withdrawn henceforth.

 

Helping the inclusive government succeed is the surest way to lay the foundations of a new democratic dispensation in Zimbabwe.