Missing journalist-cum-human rights activist, Itai Dzamara and the Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s have returned to haunt President Robert Mugabe, as a United States Senator last week asked the country’s government to block multilateral institutions from lending money to Zimbabwe until the Zanu PF leader has acknowledged the atrocities, shown a willingness to reform and prosecuted the perpetrators.
The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, chaired by Bob Corker, in a letter to Treasury secretary Jacob Lew on January 28, said President Barack Obama’s administration must vote against any lending to Zimbabwe by international financial institutions until there is “tangible progress on reforms”.
Corker’s letter comes in the wake of reports that Mugabe’s government was “very close” to signing a deal that would see the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and African Development Bank allowing for clearance of Zimbabwe’s $1,9 billion in arrears to those institutions.
“Without meaningful progress towards long-awaited reforms by the Mugabe regime, new lending could significantly alter internal political dynamics and help entrench the very same individuals responsible for the country’s economic collapse and gross human rights violations,” he wrote.
“This is a moment when Zimbabwe’s political future is highly uncertain, but history has shown little prospect for genuine progress and great likelihood of further repression and mis-governance.”
Dzamara has not yet been accounted for since his alleged abduction by suspected State security agents last March, while Gukurahundi victims are yet to receive compensation or an apology for the State-sponsored atrocities committed in the 1980s.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Information minister Christopher Mushohwe said the conditions set by the US confirms its “attempts at gross interference in the internal politics of our country, Zimbabwe, contrary to norms of international relations”. “Much worse, it reveals US control of what are supposed to be
international financial institutions, including seeking to turn them into instruments of US foreign policy goals and ambitions to bring about regime change in independent-minded African countries like Zimbabwe,” he said.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo scoffed at the US demands.
“They are not the only ones in the world. The world is bigger than the US and Zimbabwe is a sovereign country that is not run from Washington. They have made these accusations and threats for a long time and they might as well go ahead and do what they feel like doing,” Moyo said.
Corker said the Obama administration “should use its voice and vote at these international financial institutions as well as its influence with creditors to ensure that any new lending to the government of Zimbabwe” would be conditional on reforms.
He noted three key areas he said could be used as benchmarks for Mugabe to be bailed out, among these “the restoration of the rule of law in Zimbabwe, including respect for private property, free Press, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly” and accountability regarding missing diamond revenues.
“Official acknowledgement of past gross human rights abuses and a demonstration that the government of Zimbabwe is prepared to make an earnest effort to remedy these abuses, such as clear steps to hold accountable those responsible for the massacres of people in Matabeleland in the 1980s and the disappearance in March 2015 of human rights activist Itai Dzamara,” Corker said in his letter.
“Without progress towards these goals, I fear new lending will not help Zimbabwe, but hinder progress towards democratic governance and economic growth. In this instance, premature lending without conditions would likely empower those who have created the country’s political and economic crises in the first place,” he said.
Corker said Obama was legally empowered “to make a number of certifications, including restoration of the rule of law in Zimbabwe, satisfactory election conditions in that country, equitable, legal and transparent land reform and the subordination of the security forces to civilian authority, as the necessary conditions for a US vote in support of Zimbabwe’s arrears clearance at an international financial institution”.
Legally, the US can veto any decisions by the IMF to lend money to any country.
MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu said the conditions set by the US presented an opportunity for Mugabe to commit himself to reforms.
“We call upon the Zanu PF government to genuinely show commitment regarding the adoption of electoral reforms that will guarantee the holding of free and fair elections in 2018. As for now, the Zanu PF regime is ducking and diving.
“It’s apparent that the Zanu PF regime is extremely reluctant to even up the electoral playing field. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is still groping in the dark regarding the creation of a brand new national biometric voter registration exercise, while traditional leaders are still being abused by the Zanu PF regime to ensure that rural voters are commandeered to vote for the ruling party,” he said.
Gutu called upon government to “adopt” his party’s National Electoral Reform Agenda document, saying “in that way, both domestic and foreign direct investment will easily start flowing into the country”.
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson, Jacob Mafume described the demands as simple and straightforward.
“These things that are being demanded are not difficult. It is not like these people are asking us to perform a miracle. These are things that are well within our means and capacity. They cannot be expected to throw their money to the wolves,” he said.
“Our government must understand that it must put closure on past behaviour. The habit of continuing as if nothing happened will not get it anywhere. The constitutional mandate to deal with these processes is not fully constituted and Mugabe is grinning from ear to ear expecting funds from the very people he heckles at the drop of a hat,” he said.