Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Post-Mugabe Aid Package Planned

Analysts consider how foreign aid should be administered in the event of Mugabe being ousted.
By Erica Beinlich
If opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai emerges as the eventual winner of the drawn out battle for the Zimbabwean presidency, international donors will be ready to pour aid into the economically-ruined country.

But some experts warn donors to proceed with caution, arguing that merely throwing money at the country may do little to promote long-term economic stability.

“You’ve got to be very careful injecting huge sums of money into an economy,” said Geoff Hill, a respected Zimbabwe analyst.

“It’s like giving a four-course dinner to someone who hasn’t eaten for a month. It’s going to damage their stomach.”

The Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, has already claimed victory in the presidential poll of March 29, which could mark the end of the 28-year reign of ZANU-PF president Robert Mugabe. However, the official results may not be released for more than a week, to allow the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission, ZEC, to hold recounts in 23 constituencies.

The High Court will rule today, April 14, on an MDC petition to make the results public immediately. Delaying their publication, it says, is allowing ZANU-PF to widen its campaign of intimidation in rural areas.

In the event of Mugabe being ousted, the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the World Bank, have already agreed a three-pronged approach for rebuilding Zimbabwe.

This includes plans to restore stability to the Zimbabwean dollar and curb the hyperinflation that has soared to a rate of over 100,000 per cent; and provide humanitarian aid to ease poverty and hunger and a land reform package to strengthen the once thriving farming sector.

Boosting agriculture is a top priority as international donors believe Zimbabwe’s current woes stem from Mugabe’s ruinous land policies.

In 2000, the president seized farmland from white farmers and distributed it in smaller tracts to ZANU-PF supporters, without supplying them with the training or equipment to keep up production levels.

Agriculture, once a pillar of the Zimbabwean economy, rapidly declined, bringing the economy down with it. To counter spiralling inflation, the government started mass-producing currency, forcing inflation to highs surpassing even those in Germany following World War I.

Britain has reportedly agreed to lead the funding of land reform, because of its former colonial ties with Zimbabwe.

Chris Maroleng, a researcher on Zimbabwe at the Institute for Security Studies, said the international community can assist farmers by providing them with support, equipment and training.

“They could help the farmers get access to things like fertiliser and tools to help till the land, and more importantly skills in order to enhance the agricultural production capacity,” he said.

While it would be almost political suicide for Tsvangarai and the MDC to completely reverse Mugabe’s land reforms, the new leadership will need to formulate a new land policy.

“They don’t need to reverse everything Mugabe has done in terms of redistribution,” said Ricardo Gottschalk from the Institute of Development Studies.

“Find a midway point that can meet the demands and needs both of the commercial farmers and the poor. It’s difficult but we shouldn’t put things in the terms of either/or.”

At this stage, it’s not clear if the international aid planned for Zimbabwe comes with strings attached.

Some experts have suggested that imposing conditions could force Zimbabwe to embrace much needed political, economic and governmental reforms. Such reforms would also reassure investors that ventures in the country are safe. Foreign investment is key to ensuring a sustainable economy after foreign aid stops flowing.

“If investment is to return to the country, there needs to be conditions tied to the aid to ensure the investments are secure, that political and governmental reforms are made,” said George Katito, a Zimbabwe analyst at the South African Institute of International Affairs.

“A major way to do this would be showing there’s a new commitment to reversing poor government decisions made in the past.”

However, Katito warned that attaching conditions to aid could be interpreted by Zimbabweans as their government bowing to international demands. A desire to preserve sovereignty is deeply embedded in the psyche of the country that won its independence in 1980.

“It could be misconstrued as international interference on issues that Zimbabweans think that their government should have local sovereignty over,” he said.

Gottschalk suggested that imposing rigid conditions on a new government was unnecessary.

“I don’t think [the international community] will need to become heavy-handed [with] the new government to try to discipline it and make it follow economic politics. It’s quite obvious the government will be committed to restoring economic stability,” he said.

But many of the experts agree that foreign aid will only take the country so far.

“I think ultimately the most important thing for Zimbabweans is to create sustainable development,” said Maroleng. “But Zimbabweans must have the largest say in how Zimbabwe will be run, and more importantly, must play the biggest part in that recovery.”

Central to the reconstruction effort will be encouraging the sizeable diaspora to return to the country. An estimated quarter of the 13.3 million population has left Zimbabwe in the last eight years.

Not only will their skills contribute to development, the foreign currency they bring back could greatly boost the country’s economy.

“It’s important to bring some of the skilled people who have previously left Zimbabwe back to do these [development] projects,” said Hill.

“Don’t bring in outsiders from those countries giving the aid who are paid ridiculous salaries. At the same time, don’t just give a job to someone because they’re Zimbabwean - but at least give them a chance to compete for these jobs.”

Perhaps the greatest issue standing in the way of the expats returning is the ban on dual citizenship.

“People who have fought long and hard for US, British, or South African citizenship and have surrendered their Zimbabwean nationality will not give [their new status] up easily,” said Hill.

He pointed to countries such as Rwanda, which has reformed similarly rigid nationality laws to encourage ex-pats to return to the country, while maintaining their new citizenship.

“It’s critically important to allow dual nationality if you’re going to bring people back,” said Hill.

But he and other analysts believe it unlikely that Zimbabweans living outside the country would return en masse following a regime change, preferring to wait until the economy starts to turn around.

“I think it’s going to be a long and hard ride and that’s why I think immigration won’t turn around immediately,” said Hill. “It’s not going to be at all easy, and some people will never come back.”

Erica Beinlich is an IWPR reporter in London.

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