SADC may lack the resource capacity to fund the revitalisation of Zimbabweâ€™s battered economy, but its decision on Monday to approve a US$8,5 billion financial aid plan and to set up a regional team to engage donors may go some way to resolving the funding dilemma, analysts have said.
But it is unlikely to unlock the Washington treasure chests.
The Sadc summit in Mbabane, Swaziland, failed to come up with a financial rescue package for Zimbabwe, with South African Foreign minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma telling journalists after the meeting that member states would soon determine how much each would contribute towards the plan.
This was a shift from earlier commitments by the bloc whose Council of Ministers met in February and whittled down a US$5 billion aid plan Zimbabwe had requested from Sadc to US$2 billion.
The Sadc leaders were expected to ratify the package in Mbabane.
The Zimbabwe delegation to the meeting, among them President Robert Mugabe, Finance minister Tendai Biti and Economic Planning and Development minister Elton Mangoma, presented a revised plan including the US$2 billion in short-term aid to jump-start the comatose economy.
The figure rose to US$8,5 billion from the originally discussed US$5 billion after Zimbabwe produced its Short Term Emergency Recovery Plan (Sterp) that contained some additions that required urgent attention.
â€œBasically what Sadc have done is to approve our plan and they will use that plan to source the money from other quarters,â€ Mangoma was quoted as saying. â€œBut we have also approached South Africa separately to help us with credit lines and balance of payments support to get our economy back on track as soon as possible.â€
South Africa has agreed to give Zimbabwe a R500 million line of credit that would operate as a revolving fund. This line of credit would be topped up depending on how it is used.
Another R300 million would be provided for budget support and would be released in three trenches of R100 million.
UK-based Zimbabwe lawyer and newspaper columnist Alex Magaisa said it was easy to take a dismissive view of Mondayâ€™s Sadc summit given that there was nothing concrete that emerged from it except further pledges to mobilise international assistance.
â€œYou have to acknowledge as Biti stated that Sadc is as a matter of principle accepting and reiterating its responsibility for the new administration in Zimbabwe which is a strange product of its facilitation,â€ Magaisa said. â€œThey persuaded the world that it would work and they cannot now be seen to be abandoning the baby. Then you also have to appreciate that expecting Sadc to do much by way of financial assistance is rather like expecting abundant rains in the middle of the Kalahari Desert.â€
He said aside from South Africa and Botswana most of the countries in the region, such as Malawi, have to heavily rely on donor support.
â€œThe simple fact which must be admitted is that Sadc does not have the resource capacity to fund the redevelopment of Zimbabwe. That is why they are talking about mobilisation and for each country to decide what it can provide. Itâ€™s akin to poor villagers who pledge to donate to their neighbour whose hut and crops have been destroyed,â€ Magaisa argued.
â€œEach one, however poor, will pledge what little he can give. To my mind, any mobilisation efforts need to be supported by whatever humble assistance that Sadc itself can give if they can put their own funds at risk. That surely would be a show of confidence in the new Zimbabwe administration. It would be easier for them, in that case, to persuade others to join the queue.â€
Another political and economic commentator, Zimbabwean-born South African businessman Mutumwa Mawere said when Sadc weighed in on the Zimbabwean issue, it was clear that resources were not on the cards.
He said the need for consensus in framing the cause of the Zimbabwean crisis as a derivative of sanctions and land reform, therefore, became critical in paving the way for a negotiated agreement on the inclusive government.
â€œOnce you have accepted that sanctions have a direct bearing on the crisis, then one cannot expect Sadc, being irrelevant to the cause of the crisis, to provide the resources for the turnaround,â€ Mawere argued.
â€œThe simple argument is that the West has to pay for what it caused. One has to accept that the position of Zanu PF and Mugabe is that the land reform is irreversible. The global political agreement has endorsed this position. If sanctions were imposed to assist in asserting the rights of white farmers, then the formation of the inclusive government and the endorsement by Sadc vindicate the position of Mugabe.â€
He suggested that the West should re-think its position on Zimbabwe because the inclusive government, although imperfect, was now a reality and could be used as an instrument for restoring the country to stability.
â€œThe alternative now may be too costly at a time when the world is in turmoil. The West has the capacity and capability to assist but more importantly it has been engaged with Zimbabwe on humanitarian support without which the impact of the crisis would have been much worse,â€ Mawere argued.
â€œMugabeâ€™s face in lobbying the West may not be useful but the new players can at least say that the beginning of the end has started and support is required to maintain momentum and deliver the change that Zimbabweans and the world can believe in.â€
He added that Sadc knew that Mugabe and Zanu PF had no answers to the countryâ€™s crisis and, therefore, the inclusive government with the support of the regional bloc could at least begin the process of restoring legitimacy and credibility of the government.
Magaisa said for Zimbabwe to get international financial aid it must work to remove sanctions it imposed on itself.
He said there was urgent need to review and remove the repressive and punitive laws and practices that caused enormous damage to the peopleâ€™s freedoms and the image of the country.
â€œZimbabwe is a global laughing stock because of things that have happened in the last 10 years and those perceptions need to be transformed by changing the way we do things,â€ Magaisa said.
â€œNo amount of denial will change those perceptions. Let us be candid and accept that political prisoners, farm invasions, hate speech and any form of violence must end. We know why we are where we are and much of it is man-made and we also know that with sufficient will-power we can end these retrogressive acts.â€
He said the country can beg more and louder, but nothing would come its way until those conditions which caused erstwhile partners to impose restrictions end.
Political scientist Michael Mhike said Sadcâ€™s summit on Monday mapped the way forward for Zimbabwe.
He said a team approach involving Sadc representatives and Zimbabwean players adopted by the regional bloc would defuse the Zanu PF claims and allow people like Biti to say that without the support of the international community, Zimbabweâ€™s prospects are gloomy.
â€œThere is no doubt that this framework will make it difficult for the West to continue to argue that there is no progress in Zimbabwe,â€ Mhike said. â€œWhat is more important is that Zimbabweans have to come to a realisation that reforms are urgently called for and unless there is change of direction and attitude, financial aid will add no value to what the country needs at this defining hour.â€
He said even Sadc would agree that Zimbabwe needed a new face and new policies to lift itself out of the current quagmire.
Mawere was of the opinion that the role of the central bank and the state of the constitutional order have to be part of the new conversation.
â€œA commission of inquiry to look into the abuses of state power has to form part of the new contract and it cannot be the case that the voices of Zimbabweans are ignored and allow the West to register their distaste at the inconvenient truths that have become part of what is to be expected in the country,â€ Mawere said.
â€œThe concerns about human and property rights abuses have to be concerns that are shared by Zimbabweans as is the state of the rule of law in the country.â€
In an editorial comment on Tuesday, a day after the Sadc summit, South Africaâ€™s Business Day said the West should set out clear and detailed conditions that must be met before funding can begin, starting with the concessions Zanu PF made in the original unity agreement but has so far failed to fulfil.
â€œIf and when that modest hurdle is cleared to everyoneâ€™s satisfaction, funds could be provided in tranches, with monitoring systems in place to ensure the money is used wisely and the Zanu PF securocrats do not revert to their bad old ways,â€ the newspaper said.
â€œGetting the economy producing again is the immediate goal, but full recovery demands a legitimate government, which will not be the case in Zimbabwe until properly supervised elections have been held.â€
But economist Isaac Dziya was of the opinion that the international community would not provide the funds until Zimbabwe dealt with its debts.
â€œThe country will struggle to get balance of payments from anywhere, as long as we owe the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank close to US$125 million,â€ said Dziya.
â€œWe may plead to have this debt written off but this will be a tall order because of the countryâ€™s bad political record. But if we improve the countryâ€™s image, maybe the same institutions will look at us with a different eye and write off the debt.â€
BY CONSTANTINE CHIMAKURE