REVELATIONS by the European Union that it is impossible to renew budget support to Zimbabwe due to mismanagement and corruption once again shows that government’s re-engagement efforts are far from bearing fruit.
In an interview last week with international media outlet Devex, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkonnen ruled out budgetary support to Zimbabwe. “I can’t prejudge, of course, what happens with the (EU’s upcoming development assistance) programming exercise — but I would say, from my personal perspective, I think it would be impossible,” Olkonnen said. “The expected reforms have not been made . . . The country is in a very difficult place. They had discussions with the IMF (International Monetary Fund), but that has also now broken off . . . We have to think about how we can support the country in a situation where the level of governance is not where we would like it to be.”
The remarks by the EU ambassador reflect the deep mistrust between the continental bloc and Zimbabwe, two years after President Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn into office. This is despite Mnangagwa declaring that re-engagement will be pivotal to his presidency.
However, Mnangagwa’s failure to act on recommendations made by the Motlanthe Commission set up to investigate the killing of citizens by soldiers during post-election protests on August 1, 2018, the clamping down on protests and more recently the 43-day incarceration of opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, among others, have left the re-engagement drive in limbo.
It is telling that to mark Mnangagwa’s second year in office, the Heads of Mission of Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States issued a statement, not congratulating Mnangagwa, but expressing concern over the political, economic, health and social crisis in the country.
The arrests in connection with the planned July 31 protests have further soured relations, with Zanu PF acting spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa going as far as calling United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols a thug.
The nasty spats have not only threatened the re-engagement drive, but have also brought about the threat of new divisions closer to home. This is evidenced by Chinamasa’s diatribe against the South Africa ruling party African National Congress secretary general Ace Magushule, who expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe and Presidential spokesperson George Charamba’s Twitter rant over the unsuitability of South Africa to mediate in the country’s crisis. It has also manifested in the laughable accusation by Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo that Britain has influenced the condemnation of the Zimbabwe human rights abuses by the African Union Commission. Instead of Mnangagwa bringing the country to the table of nations as he promised, he has pulled it further away from it.
The bravado being displayed by Mnangagwa’s government is coming at a time when it needs more friends than enemies given a plethora of problems, which include a deepening economic crisis and starvation.
Mnangagwa has spoken passionately about re-engagement, he, however, must now walk the talk.