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Editor’s Memo

Pearls & pigs

THE Bible in the book of Matthew contains rather controversial advice to Christians. It says: “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not cast your pearls before swine, lest they

trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

I take it to mean that we shouldn’t give what is precious to us to those who are stubborn, unappreciative or do not value our assistance.

Pigs are unclean animals, according to God’s law (Deut 14:8), and anyone who touches an unclean animal becomes “ceremonially unclean” and cannot go into the temple to worship until the dirt is removed.

The moral of this biblical tale of pigs, pearls and dogs is that believers should not entrust holy teachings to unholy or unclean people. It is futile to try to teach holy concepts to people who don’t want to listen.

Christianity does not encourage believers to stop giving God’s word to unbelievers, but there is a warning that we should be wise and discerning in what we teach, and to whom, so that our time is employed fruitfully.

The small sermon sprang to my mind on Tuesday after reading a statement from World Bank boss Paul Wolfowitz on Zimbabwe. Wire services quoted him as saying the World Bank may withhold further aid to Zimbabwe to “set an example”. He said allocating money to Zimbabwe under the present government would be a “terrible waste of funds”.

He said the World Bank would be allocating its funds “very, very carefully, and in the case of Zimbabwe, perhaps not at all”.

“My Africa experts say that with the kind of misgovernment that is taking place in Zimbabwe, it is not clear that development is possible at all.

“For several reasons we have to be very careful about corruption and its effects. We need to set an example. It is a terrible waste of funds if it is diverted into corruption,” Wolfowitz said.

If Wolfowitz had used the analogy of the pigs, dogs and pearls to illustrate his point on Zimbabwe, he would have been branded a racist or other worse terms. But did he not mean the same thing?

Wolfowitz’s statement on Zimbabwe is one of the most acerbic delivered on the country. It sends an unambiguous signal to would-be investors not to be associated with a nation that is now an international billboard of misrule and corruption.

Most multi-lateral donors get their cue from the World Bank which has now struck a resonant riff which is likely to be replicated across continents. The statement could also be indicative of a more robust approach by the bank against the conduct of President Mugabe’s government.

The bank has been critical of the country’s economic policies, especially the land reform programme, largely blamed for pushing the economy to the wall. Wolfowitz’s statement is an indictment of the country’s political system and a call for behavioural change. Repaying debts to the IMF, as Zimbabwe did last month, is not enough to mollify the Bretton Woods institutions. They are saying the politics need change if the country is to take useful advantage of assistance.

When central bank governor Gideon Gono returned from the United States last month where he had gone to plead Zimbabwe’s case not to be expelled from the International Monetary Fund, a sibling of the World Bank, he gave us the impression that fences were being mended with the international financiers.

This was not so. Despite his efforts, the bank believes support to Zimbabwe would be a terrible waste of money. It is tantamount to casting pearls before swine: “.they will trample them underfoot and attack you”.

Remember this statement from President Mugabe in Havana last month: “The IMF is almost never of real assistance to developing countries.It is willed by the big powers which dictate what it should do,” Mugabe told reporters.

“We have never been friends of the IMF and in the future we will never be friends of the IMF.”

So is there reason for the IMF to keep its pearls? The answer is no because Zimbabwe needs help, no matter how much President Mugabe and his government try to convince us that salvation will come from the East.

The country needs international support to buy medicines and equipment for hospitals. The dualisation of trunk roads has progressed at a painstakingly slow pace because funds are simply not there. There is no fuel, Zesa cannot expand its infrastructure while local authorities are struggling to provide potable water to residents. The common man is hurting as relations between Zimbabwe and the world deteriorate.

In 1998, Mugabe, then head of the Organisation of African Unity, denounced the World Bank as the “new oppressors”.

“African countries are going through a hard political test,” he said “After getting rid of colonialism, they suffer from the new imperialism of those who seek to humiliate us.

“These institutions don’t worry about the price increases that their requests cause and problems that they pose for the poor. But the governments concerned don’t have any choice, because they need the credits granted by these institutions. The result is what happened in Indonesia and other countries, as well as in mine. The people take to the streets because they can’t stand the inflation.”

He added: “People who supported the government yesterday have turned against it.”

Five years after dumping the IMF, what does he have to show for his defiance?

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