Zimbabwe must be reined in first

PRESIDENT Festus Mogae’s spokesman Jeff Ramsay in his weekly bulletin on Monday said the recent visit by the Batswana leader to Zimbabwe, at the invitation of President Mugabe, was an opportunity for the two leaders to reaffi

rm their commitment to build upon longstanding fraternal relations.

The two leaders, together with their Zambian counterpart Levy Mwanawasa, signed a memorandum of understanding to construct a bridge across the Zambezi River at Kazungula. Ramsay said when completed the bridge would benefit not only the three countries, but the entire Sadc region and beyond.

Of most significance in the presidential spokesman’s bulletin was this statement: “It is for this reason that the initiative has also been listed as a priority project of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad).”

That the Kazungula bridge undertaking is a priority project under Nepad was conveniently omitted in official announcements during Mogae’s visit here. This is not surprising given President Mugabe’s views that Nepad is a front for Western imperialism and his refusal to subject himself to its peer review mechanism.

“Our position is that this is a voluntary and individual choice by some African countries,” said Herbert Murerwa in an interview with this paper in 2003. “And we have chosen not to be reviewed. We are not prepared. It will be a government decision. When the government decides the time is ripe we will volunteer for review.”

We have no record of a revision of this position. If anything the government is more ardent than before to keep the door shut on anyone trying to pry into its affairs. Yet President Mugabe’s government has of late participated in Nepad projects in the name of pan-Africanism and to advertise to the world that he is not as isolated as the world would like to believe.

President Mugabe’s government would like to have it both ways. It is basking in the glow of Nepad projects but has failed to adhere to principles of the plan. Worse still, fellow African countries that have embraced the Nepad guidelines and principles pretend that the situation in Zimbabwe is normal hence there is no need for censure.

This blindness remains the biggest threat to Nepad.

It should be noted that the first blow to Nepad came with Zimbabwe’s rigged elections in 2000. Africa’s leading democracy, South Africa, failed to condemn the Zimbabwe poll. The only African leader to do so was Senegal’s Abdoulaye Wade, obviously in an attempt to save Nepad.

Western leaders’ interest in Nepad dropped significantly as the upcoming “new partnership” had demonstrated it would not move against undemocratic leaders. One pillar was lost.

Despite clear evidence of failure, African leaders will talk endlessly about review mechanisms, regional infrastructure development and the link between poverty and democracy. These are the statesmen who will damn any western leader who criticises African despotism, yet demand a share of the developed world’s tax revenues.

They have backed Mugabe all the way along his six-year tramp into the heart of political darkness.

These are the same countries that are reaping a grim feast from Zimbabwe’s demise. Zimbabwe’s participation in regional infrastructure development under the current environment is most likely to benefit its neighbours and not necessarily us.

If we are to ask, do Zimbabweans today need a bridge across the Zambezi in the remote corner of Kazungula or investment in power generation? But in the quest for camaraderie, rational thinking has been replaced by self-fulfilling antics which have nothing to do with national development.

It is also important to note that the Sadc Protocol on Finance and Investment — which Zimbabwe is yet to sign — has a clause which provides for the setting up of a peer review panel, which will act as a regional macroeconomic monitoring and surveillance body. The panel will comprise the ministers of finance from member states as well as all governors of central banks from the region.

This is a good initiative which is bound to be sabotaged in its infancy by countries which systematically subvert the rule of law and show no respect for property rights. We do not see Sadc states standing up to challenge President Mugabe’s failed policies as long as they regard fraternal bonds as more important than good governance. And so long as that remains the case Nepad is bound to fail.

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