SINCE the controversial 2013 general elections marred by accusations of fraud and rigging, there have been increasing calls for various interventions to rescue Zimbabwe from the depths of political and economic despair before irreparable damage is inflicted on the country.
Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya
New voices have of late resurfaced with strong appeals for re-engagement within the premise of the so-called Lima Plan to be accelerated, while some have been demanding a National Transitional Authority (NTA) to manage the country in the interregnum before a new dispensation. Prominent academic Ibbo Mandaza, researcher Tony Reeler and former Finance minister Tendai Biti, who now leads the opposition People’s Democratic Party, are some of the key figures who have been lobbying for this arrangement.
Zanu PF’s decision-making politburo this week dismissed the idea saying it has a mandate to rule until 2018.
However, Zanu PF has been forced by economic circumstances to re-engage the international community, hence the Lima initiatives. The plan centres on Zimbabwe paying US$1,8 billion in arrears to preferred international financial institutions (IFIs) — the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and African Development Bank — to unlock US$2 billion in new funding.
Following Mugabe and Zanu PF’s fraudulent retention of power in 2013, Britain seems to be pushing for the re-engagement on basis realpolitik; their approach driven by practical politics rather than moral or ideological considerations. It appears commercial realpolitik will win the day, even if its reported preferred candidate, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, may not rise to power.
Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, an independent policy institute based in London, which reportedly has influence on Number 10 Downing Street, has also been pushing for re-engagement.
In its April 2014 report titled Zimbabwe’s International Re-engagement: The Long Haul to Recovery, the think-tank started lobbying for a new trajectory on re-engagement based on new political realities.
“Western policy should also not single out Zimbabwe, but should become more regionally focused, consistently supporting economic growth, good governance and human rights. The normalisation of Zimbabwe’s international relations with the West is essential for economic recovery,” it said. “The electoral legitimacy debate will continue to divide Zimbabweans and the international community alike, but the reality is that for the time being Zanu PF is the dominant force in Zimbabwean politics.”
The research institute said Zimbabwe should initiate the process, while Mugabe’s regime must learn from previous mistakes and swallow its pride to engage London.
In a new report released yesterday, titled The Domestic and External Implications of Zimbabwe’s Economic Reform and Re-engagement Agenda, Chatham House says Zimbabwe is at a watershed, faced with its most serious economic crisis since 2008.
It says a ‘triple whammy’ of deflation, stagnation and low productivity is exacerbated by low commodity prices, weak regional currencies and drought, in the context of a legacy of poor policy and a political succession battle over who will eventually succeed 92-year-old Mugabe.
The report indicates the gravity of the economic situation has forced the Zimbabwe into a process of re-engagement with the West is primarily to attract new funding.
“International and regional governmental engagement does not guarantee the success of long-term reform, but continued isolation will almost certainly lead to the failure of reforms to take hold,” it says. “A nuanced process of exerting political pressure balanced with the offer of support will reinforce the technocratic assistance provided by the IFIs, and will be fundamental to ensuring the effective use of any prospective concessional financing.”
This is not a bad argument at all, but since Zimbabwe is on the verge of an important transition which, if handled well, could lead to a peaceful and democratic change, being inclusive is critical. A mishandled transition, exclusive process based on narrow and self-serving interests, could plunge the country into chaos.
For these initiatives to work, an open, inclusive and transparent process framed in the national interest is imperative.