SADC to Call for Aid for Zimbabwe

Regional leaders will ask G20 countries to give funds to struggling country.

SADC to Call for Aid for Zimbabwe

Regional leaders will ask G20 countries to give funds to struggling country.

South Africa’s president Kgalema Motlanthe, current chairman of the Southern African Development Community, SADC, has been mandated to present a request for an eight-billion US dollar lifeline for Zimbabwe at the G20 summit in London on April 2.

He will also have the unenviable task of pleading with the leaders of the world’s richest countries to lift travel and visa restrictions imposed on President Robert Mugabe and more than 200 of his party leaders, government officials and loyalists.

The decision to approach the G20 leaders was taken at the SADC’s special economic summit held in Mbabane, Swaziland, on March 30, which was attended by ten regional leaders.

President Mugabe went to both seminars on the summit agenda – one on a reconstruction package for Zimbabwe, the other, a plenary called to consider SADC’s response to a recent coup in Madagascar which deposed President Marc Ravalomanana and has resulted in the country’s suspension from the African Union, AU.

Ironically, the Zimbabwean president led the condemnation of 34-year-old Andry Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, who seized power in a military-backed coup on the island. Mugabe, himself, was re-elected as president in a one-man run-off, after his rival, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, stepped down citing escalating violence against his supporters.

At the end of the summit, SADC leaders issued a statement urging that the legitimately elected Ravalomanana be returned to power – a very different response to that which greeted Mugabe’s re-election.

According to diplomats who attended the summit, Mugabe was in combative mode, accelerating his relentless attacks on Zimbabwe's whites, whom he has accused among other things, of conspiring with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC.

The MDC is now a partner in the country’s unity government, led by recently appointed prime minister Tsvangirai.

Mugabe, a former guerrilla leader and a lifelong Marxist who blames Zimbabwe's economic woes on a plot by western countries, told the SADC summit that “neo-colonialism” was fuelling social tensions in the country of 12.5 million inhabitants.

He also demanded that the European Union and the United States government lift economic sanctions.

Despite reports that his fellow SADC leaders have warned him against persisting with his land reform policy, Mugabe has said that the government will continue to seize arable land from white farm owners and redistribute it to black farmers, maintaining that he is righting colonial wrongs.

He also refuses to evict armed black squatters who have been occupying nearly 100 white-owned farms since February, and has demanded that Britain fund land restitution.

The international community seems unlikely to lift sanctions or consider aid until the situation in Zimbabwe improves.

US ambassador to Harare James McGee said there is “no reason and no way” that Washington would agreed to lift sanctions any time soon without some “very, very clear indication that the country's new unity government is moving in the right direction”.

EU foreign ministers, meanwhile, insist that Zimbabwe’s government prove itself democratically before economic aid is resumed.

While the EU is prepared to “adopt a set of economic support measures”, this is only to help “a transitional government taking the steps to restore democracy and the rule of law in Zimbabwe”, said a statement from the Council of the European Union from last September.

On March 20, a meeting of G20 countries was held in Washington, at which participants discussed “how best to support the people of Zimbabwe as they work to bring peace, stability, prosperity and democracy back to their country”.

In a statement issued by the US State Department following the meeting, representatives urged Harare “to take additional steps to demonstrate its commitment to reform such as the immediate release of all political prisoners, the end of farm seizures, the cessation of politically motivated violence, the establishment of a credible and transparent central bank team, an end to harassment and intimidation of the media, and a commitment to credible elections in a timely manner”.

Once there have been positive political and economic reforms, read the statement, “the donor community [will be] ready to support Zimbabwe’s rebuilding with development assistance”.

Mugabe’s regional allies, however, seem to have been far more equivocal in their stance.

One source told IWPR that they were pressing for the lifting of sanctions, despite Mugabe's refusal to honour some of the terms of the power-sharing agreement signed with the MDC last September. These include ending land grabs, removing reserve bank governor Gideon Gono and attorney general Johannes Tomana and appointing new permanent secretaries and provincial governors.

Not one regional leader – including chairman Motlanthe – openly criticised Mugabe when his militants went on the rampage recently, evicting the few remaining white commercial farmers still producing food for the impoverished country.

According to western diplomats, one reason why Mugabe has been able to continue with his politics of racial confrontation is that African leaders have a long tradition of overlooking the follies of their counterparts.

The AU, which actively discourages internal criticism of its 53 member states, last year endorsed Mugabe's re-election.

So, it appears that, as one diplomat observed, if there is to be any prospect of greater social stability in Zimbabwe “it may lie in the recent determination of donor countries to link aid and investment to better governance and transparency in policymaking”.

“Mugabe can thunder about white hegemony and neo-imperialism, but without hard currency and technical expertise from the non-African world, Zimbabwe's future will be bleak,” he said.

“Even his most rabid followers are unlikely to savour continuing living in an impoverished society riven with racial tensions.”

Chipo Sithole is the pseudonym of an IWPR-trained reporter in Zimbabwe.
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