African Democracy

July 10, 2008

Out of the fryingpan? The role of the IMF and World Bank in Africa

Filed under: Zimbabwe — africandemocrat @ 1:00 pm
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Sooner or later the political parties in Zimbabwe will have to get together a find a way forward for Zimbabwe.  The current jockeying for power will most likely be overtaken by the urgency of food shortages and the worthlessness of the Zimbabwe dollar.

So, what will happen to the economy when either a transitional government is formed, or the MDC gains effective control of Zimbabwe? 

The MDC has already indicated that they will engage the IMF and World Bank to help Zimbabwe out of the economic doldrums.  Britain, the US and the EU have all promised “massive” aid to Zimbabwe conditional on Mugabe and Zanu(PF) stepping down.

The question, “What strings are attached?” should be asked.  As soon as Mugabe retires, dies or is pushed out, there will be a rush of speculators wanting to make a quick buck in Zimbabwe.  In fact, Lonrho has already started a new fund based on buying commercial property in Zimbabwe.  Mining companies already have plans to expand their operations in Zimbabwe.

During the Cold War era, Africa was the playing ground of the Superpowers.  They jockeyed for influence and did deals with dictators who make Mugabe look like a Sunday School teacher.  After the 1970s oil crisis, the West was awash with cash, and huge loans were made to African countries with few questions asked.  In many cases, the money went directly to Swiss bank accounts belonging to the corrupt rulers of various Africa countries.

Eventually, the original despots, like Mobutu Sese Seko and Idi Amin were deposed, and the lenders came looking for repayment of their loans.  Even though the countries involved received little benefit from the loans, they have been forced to repay enormous amounts of interest.  Loans have been hugely inflated over the years by rollovers and interest on interest.  Some African countries spend up to 60% of their GDP servicing loans.  Since the 1980s, the IMF and World Bank have forced their “structural adjustment” programmes upon debtor nations, in the process further impoverishing Africa’s poor people.  Before these programmes were implemented, most African countries operated according to a form of benign socialism and their industries were mostly driven by import-replacement strategies.  The average African’s per-capita income was steadily increasing.  Since the structural adjustment programmes, the value of currencies has plummeted, per-capita income has dropped to pre-1960s levels and life expectancy has also been drastically reduced.

Of late, meetings of the G8 result in a great deal of hand-wringing over Africa’s woes, and promises of increased aid for African countries are made.  Of course, it’s one thing to make promises, and quite another to pay over the cash.  Only a tiny fraction of the promised aid ever reaches the poor nations of Africa.

The total amount of economic aid to Africa is only a fraction of the total amount of debt repayments that African nations are making to the IMF, World Bank, foreign governments and private companies for loans incurred decades ago by the likes of Idi Amin.  Rich nations seem to be blind to the hypocracy of bleeding poor nations to death (literally in many cases) by demanding repayment of loans that in fact have already been repayed many times over in real terms while making empty promises of “aid” to alleviate the human suffering that is directly caused by the debt repayments.

Whomever takes over from Mugabe and regardless of which political party or parties are tasked with ruling Zimbabwe, they should strenuously avoid accepting any loans that have onerous strings attached.  At this point, few Zimbabweans have anything to lose, and incurring debt that future generations will be forced to repay just perpetuates the injustices of colonialism.  Those who wish to assist Zimbabwe to rebuild itself as a democratic nation should be willing to give generously without imposing self-serving conditions to their donations.  Any loans that are arranged should be realistic and directly beneficial to Zimbabwe’s citizens.

The future rulers of Zimbabwe would be well advised to take no responsibility for any debt incurred by the Mugabe regime and to insist on starting with a clean slate.  They will be well advised to steer clear of World Bank and IMF advisors that try to force them to adopt Milton Friedman’s Big Business-friendly economic theories that have so clearly failed to lift any Third World country out of poverty.  Instead of co-opting the economic failures of the Western World, they should adopt a “Zimbabwe First” economic policy that leverages Zimbabwe’s rich natural resources to create wealth for Zimbabwe’s citizens, and no longer for the wealthy former colonial powers and particularly the corporate interests that are the de-facto governments of those former colonial powers.

All indications so far are that Morgan Tsvangirai is somewhat naive about matters of economics and somewhat ignorant of how the Global Village is run.  Hopefully this will be rectified if the MDC rises to power in Zimbabwe.

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July 9, 2008

Restoring democracy in Zimbabwe – MDC’s options

Filed under: Zimbabwe — africandemocrat @ 2:59 pm
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According to an article on hararetribune.com Mugabe’s Zanu(PF) party wants to make a deal with the breakaway MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara and then pass off the result as a de facto Government of National Unity.

While that might suit Mutambara and Zanu(PF), it ignores the reality that the larger MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai won 99 of the 210 seats in the Zimbabwe parliament and Tsvangirai won the most votes in the March 29 presidential election.

Clearly, Tsvangirai’s MDC has the support of a majority of Zimbabwe’s voters.

What are the MDC’s options?

They can choose to flounder around and hope that Zanu(PF) regime collapses soon.  They can hope that a negotiator other than South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki is appointed soon.  They can try to survive for the next ten months or so until a new Parliament and President are sworn in in South Africa.

What does appear to be happening is that Zanu(PF) is quietly going about executing a plan to neutralise MDC as a viable opponent.  It’s not necessary to round up all the MDC elected officials and party leaders and kill them, although some of them will probably be eliminated that way.  All that Zanu(PF) has to do is imprison and harrass MPs so that they are unable to put in an appearance in Parliment for more than 21 days.  That will result in the absent MP being automatically unseated and a by-election held in the vacant constitution.  Zanu(PF) can then concentrate their efforts on winning the by-election.

The indications are that Zanu(PF) wants to ensure that if and when any future elections are held, that the MDC will be a spent force and no threat to the re-election of the incumbent party.

While it is possible that Thabo Mbeki’s intentions are entirely honourable and that he will do his level best to broker an inclusive deal with all the Zimbabwean parties, it’s also possible that his game plan is to drag things out for long enough for Zimbabwe to drop off the radar.  Once Zimbabwe is not longer a front page story, the world’s interest will soon enough dissapate.  Since this is a black versus black issue, the same moral indignation that kept the anti-apartheid activists going just isn’t there.

Perhaps the MDC should learn from the South African experience.  The African National Congress (ANC) was opposed by a hostile and well armed regime in South Africa.  The whites-only National Party did their utmost to wipe out the ANC.  Some were killed by undercover agents of the state, some were imprisoned, tortured, subject to house arrest and some were slapped with banning orders that restricted their rights to travel and attend meetings and the like.  The ANC’s response was to set up a government in exile and to establish and support resistance groups within South Africa’s borders.  The Trade Unions were mobilised against Apartheid and the United Democratic Front (UDF) was launched.  The ANC set up offices in various Western and former Soviet Union countries and mobilised support for their cause.

The ANC and the MDC causes share other similarities.  The ANC sought to bring democracy to South Africa.  The MDC is faced by a ruling party that does not care about the democratic rights of the people and uses elections just to give it a democratic facade.  The ANC fought to bring democratic rights to all South Africans and negotiated a new constitution to facilitate that.  The process followed in South Africa was to set up an interim government, engage in formal negotiations with all parties to draw up a constitution and hold credible, inclusive elections that were monitored by both civil society and foreign observers.

With the ongoing violence being perpetrated on the people of Zimbabwe, and the unlikeliness of South Africa putting meaningful pressure on Mugabe and Zanu(PF) to stop the violence any time soon, perhaps the MDC should consider the ANC model.

That would involve setting up a government in exile.  Lusaka comes to mind as a suitable venue, and Zambia has been one of the few African countries that has declared Mugabe’s presidency to be illegitimate.  They could send delegates to the AU and the UN and set up offices in London, Washington DC, Stockholm, Brussels, The Hague and other strategic cities.  Then they can lobby for support in Africa and the rest of the World and organise resistance to the Zanu(PF) regime both outside of Zimbabwe and within her borders.

Given the intransigence of Mugabe and his allies, the ANC model might be the best option that the MDC has.

July 6, 2008

Zimbabwe in perspective

Filed under: Zimbabwe — africandemocrat @ 9:17 am
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Zimbabwe is in crisis.  The economy is in freefall, the people face slow starvation, and as Bishop Desmond Tutu said recently, there is a tragic failure of leadership in Zimbabwe.

From my perspective, the issues are:

  • The March 29 elections were surprisingly free and fair, but the results were not what Mr Mugabe and his ZANU(PF) colleagues expected, so they fudged the results to make time for implementing a strategy to retain power.
  • Mugabe insists that opposition MDC recognise him as duly elected president.
  • MDC claims to have won the March 29 elections outright and refuses to recognise the June 27 runoff election at all and refuses to recognise Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s elected president.
  • The AU, SADC and Pan-African Parliament all declared the March 29 election to be substantively free and fair, but all three have declared that the June 27 presidential runoff was not free or fair.
  • The Western World has roundly condemned Mugabe and the June 27 process.
  • South Africa’s President Mbeki is not acceptable to MDC as a negotiator as he is seen to be biased towards ZANU(PF) and is a longtime friend of Mugabe.
  • ZANU-PF and MDC seem to be more concerned about political power than the greater good of Zimbabwe.
  • MDC has good reason to fear being swallowed up by ZANU(PF) based on what happened to ZAPU in the early 1980s.  Hence they have good reason to resist a Government of National Unity where ZANU-PF dominates.
  • While Mugabe’s claims about “the British” and his rantings about Bush and Brown sound rather like Marxist/Leninist/Maoist invective, there is a certain amount of truth in what he is saying about the intentions of those parties and their links to the MDC.
  • Big Business in the guise of Lonrho, Anglo American, Barclays and Standard Chartered, amongst others, has always been able to do business with Mugabe and ZANU(PF).
  • While Mugabe’s government was co-operating with the World Bank and the IMF, his record in respect of human rights and his attitude toward democracy were largely ignored by the Western Powers.  Now that he has slipped the leash, they are gunning for him.
  • Morgan Tsvangirai has publically stated that he will welcome the World Bank and IMF if he is elected president.
  • The IMF and World Bank are directly and indirectly responsible for impoverishing most of Africa.
  • IMF and World Bank “structural adjustment” programmes are a euphemism for milking poor countries for every dollar that can be extracted, always at the expense of the poorest citizens.
  • Although there have been promises of massive foreign aid for Zimbabwe should MDC take over, one must remember that such promises are rarely kept and those that are always have onerous strings attached. 
  • Land ownership in Zimbabwe is an issue of colonialism.  The land was forcibly taken from the native population of Shona and Matabele tribes in the 1890s and from then until this century, has mostly been owned by white people.
  • The British brokered a deal at Lancaster House that protected the property rights in Zimbabwe of a number of members of the House of Lords.
  • The British did not keep their side of the deal and did not provide the funds that they had promised for purchasing land from white owners for distribution to black Zimbabweans.
  • At the turn of the century, Mugabe and top ZANU(PF) officials had already acquired ownership of prime land for themselves.
  • While some black Zimbabweans do want land, most would prefer regular employment to the grinding poverty of subsistence farming.
  • The land grab after Mugabe lost the referendum in 2000 was more about neutralising part of his political opposition than it was about restoring the land rights of black Zimbabweans.  White farmers had openly supported the MDC during the campaign in 2000, and in order to win the 2002 elections, Mugabe and ZANU(PF) saw fit to drive out the white farmers and their workers who had also largely supported MDC.
  • Although the Zimbabwe State has taken posession of the vast majority of white-owned farms, the landless peasant has not been the beneficiary.  Farms have been given to ZANU(PF) cronies and to so-called “War Veterans”, many of whom weren’t even born at the time of the 1970s bush war that ousted Ian Smith’s regime and led to black rule in Zimbabewe.
  • Although in principle the restoration of land to the indigenous people is fair and just, the results have been highly detrimental to the country and to the region.  Millions of displaced farmworkers and other Zimbabweans have left the country either legally or illegally to  seek a better life elsewhere.  Those with better education and skills have taken jobs overseas.  Those that cannot get legal entry to foreign countries have mostly fled to South Africa.
  • As was the situation in the 1970s, where Ian Smith’s white regime only continued to exist as long as South Africa tolerated it, Mugabe’s regime only exists as long as it has the support of South Africa.

So, now what?  Who will blink first, and will the current stalemate continue until a new South African government takes control after April 2009?

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