NATIONAL debt management organisation, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd), is spearheading the call to audit Zimbabwe’s US$10,7 billion debt mostly owed to foreign countries and financial institutions saying the money was largely used to suppress the general populace or embezzled by corrupt public officials.
Zimcodd has engaged the African Development Bank (AfDB) to release all details concerning the US$240 million owed to the institution which the debt management body believes was not put to developmental use during the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap) in the 1990s.
In a letter addressed to AfDB vice-president for country and regional programmes and policy, Janvier Litse, on March 20, Zimcodd chairwoman Joy Mabenge requested all records pertaining to Zimbabwe’s debts from the Esap era.
Zimcodd says that increasing foreign loans and debt have contributed to the impoverishment of Zimbabwe and it is therefore important to conduct a debt audit to reveal who benefited as part of lessons to prevent unjust debts and crises in future.
“To help show whether or not your belief (that the funds were used for development) is true, please release all documents you hold concerning the projects which led to Zimbabwe’s current debt, including all evaluations,” wrote Mabenge in his letter.
“We agree it is up to the Zimbabwean parliament whether or not to launch an audit into the debt; we are calling on them to do so. However, creditors also have a role to play by releasing information on where Zimbabwe’s debt comes from.”
Zimcodd estimates the US$240 million Zimbabwe owes the AfDB is mainly from structural adjustment loans which were not for development projects, but effectively used to pay out other lenders.
Zimcodd’s initiative is being supported by Action for Southern Africa (UK); Both Ends (The Netherlands); Christian Aid (UK); European Network on Debt and Development; and the Norwegian Coalition for Debt Cancellation, among other international civic groups.
The debt management group says the new Copac draft constitution has given impetus to them to push for a debt audit.
In Clause 298, the draft sets out principles that seek to guide all aspects of public finance in Zimbabwe. Clause 298(1)(a) reads: “There must be transparency and accountability in financial matters.”
The draft further prescribes how national debt can be contracted under the new constitution when approved.
In Clause 300(1), the draft says an Act of Parliament must set limits on borrowings by the state, public debt and liabilities and obligations whose payment or repayment is guaranteed by the state.
The new clauses are a departure from the Lancaster House constitutional provisions which did not cap national debt or involve parliament before the contraction of debt.
Zimbabwe is struggling to settle its debts and has come up with a strategy to deal with the situation despite lack of resources.