Candid Comment: Who is to Blame for Zim Disaster?

WE heard again in last week’s CNN interview of President Mugabe in New York that sanctions and regime change are the main, or indeed the only reasons for the disasters in Zimbabwe.  How far are the problems we face due to these two factors?

Zimbabweans have faced the following problems: The horrendous inflation of 200 000 000% before the Zimbabwe dollar was unceremoniously dumped; the dependence on food aid; election violence including torture, the burning of houses, the theft of cattle and other livestock, the killing of over 200 opposition political activists etc.  How far are these specific problems due to sanctions and regime change?  And what are the exact remedies for these problems?

 

A proper analysis should lead directly to an effective strategy.  It is well known that the main cause of the inflation was the reckless printing of money.  Once printing stopped, inflation also stopped.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) was responsible for the printing of money, and this cannot be blamed on sanctions.

Unfortunately the reckless inflation has led to the total loss of savings by everybody, in particular pensioners.  We changed from trillionaires and billionaires to paupers.

The dependence on food aid — what happened?  The answer is simple: Communal farmers who have fed Zimbabwe since the mid 1980s could not find seeds or fertiliser.  We failed to plan for adequate seeds and fertiliser, either by producing them in country or by importing them.  Again this cannot be blamed on sanctions and regime change.

We were of course short of foreign exchange, but we did not prioritise seeds and fertiliser.  Instead we bought expensive tractors and combine harvesters given free to political supporters of Zanu PF.

Our priorities were wrong:  we know very well that for the past two decades communal farmers have produced maize for the country.  Why did we not make sure that seeds and fertiliser were available to them on sale?  No seeds and no fertiliser meant no food.

This was not due to sanctions and regime change.  It was due to RBZ and government prioritisation which excluded investment in seeds and fertiliser.

Election violence preceding the presidential run-off of June 2008 was extreme and particularly shameful as it was directed in particular at Zanu PF’s own supporters.  These supporters voted for Zanu PF in the March 2008 elections, but “kicked the ball outside the field” in the presidential elections.  This means they voted for Zanu PF parliamentarians, but not for the Zanu PF presidential candidate.  Again it cannot be said that this political violence was caused by sanctions.  Was it caused by regime change strategies?

There is little doubt that the US and the West in general openly desired regime change.  Their reason for this was the land resettlement programme of 2000, when over 10 million hectares of land formerly owned by their companies and their nationals were taken over.

Nevertheless, there is a universal consensus that land resettlement was absolutely essential in Zimbabwe, and that it was long overdue by 2000, 20 years after Independence.

There is wonder and speculation about why the Zanu PF government waited for 20 years before addressing this critically important issue.

The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) passed by the United States House of Representatives and Senate in 2001 is the document which most clearly outlines the sanctions.

Zidera states that the US will not support any multi-lateral or bilateral loans or grants to Zimbabwe unless there are specific reforms regarding ownership of property, the rule of law, and the use of political violence.

Zidera specifically seeks collaboration of the European Union in the enforcement of these sanctions.  What this has meant in reality is that Zimbabwe has been deprived of grants and investments from the West for the last decade.

Zimbabwe received an average of about US$350 million in aid and investment in the 1980s and 1990s.

This stopped abruptly in 2001.  Aid and foreign investment came to about 10-15% of Zimbabwe’s export earnings at that time.  It is important to analyse why the removal of this 10-15% of foreign exchange should have led to the collapse of the economy.

Had Zimbabwe become so aid dependent that it could not survive without it?  It is to be remembered that the Ian Smith regime actually managed to industrialise and become food self-sufficient under much worse sanctions over the period 1965-1980.

Clearly the anti-sanctions strategies followed by the Zanu PF government over the last decade were seriously deficient, if they existed at all.  The sanctions included targeting the personal accounts and travel arrangements of some 200 top Zanu PF officials, and most of government and Zanu PF rhetoric and activities were centred on this strategy, whilst totally neglecting the real issues of economic survival and growth.

Expansion of the monetary supply and use of foreign exchange for finished goods intended to buy political support were the main observable strategies.  Both of these strategies proved disastrous.

Sanctions were and are real.  The wish for regime change was and is real. Nevertheless the reality is that probably sanctions and regime change strategies account for only 20% of the Zimbabwe’s political and economic failures.

Zanu PF’s internal disintegration cannot be blamed on the West.  The neglect of seeds and fertiliser in order to concentrate on luxury goods cannot be blamed on the West.  The rampant corruption cannot be blamed on the West.  The neglect of the poor and the wild enrichment of the political elite cannot be blamed on the West.

Chung is a former Education minister and currently a member of the interim national executive of the Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn party.

 

Fay Chung