A Political Analysis by Fay Chung
We heard again in the CNN Interview of President Mugabe in New York that sanctions and regime change are the main, or indeed the only reasons, for the disasters in Zimbabwe. How far are the problems we face due to these two factors?
Zimbabweans have faced the following problems: the horrendous inflation of 200 000 000 per cent before the Zimbabwe dollar was unceremoniously dumped; the dependence on food aid; election violence including torture, the burning of houses, the theft of cattle and other livestock, the killing of over 200 opposition political activists; etc. How far are these specific problems due to sanctions and regime change? And what are the exact remedies for these problems? A proper analysis should lead directly to an effective strategy.
It is well known by everyone that the main cause of the inflation was the reckless printing of money. Once printing stopped, inflation also stopped. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe was responsible for the printing of money, and this cannot be blamed on sanctions. Unfortunately the reckless inflation has led to the total loss of savings by everybody, in particular pensioners. We changed from trillionaires and billionaires to paupers.
The dependence on food aid – what happened? The answer is simple - Communal farmers who have fed Zimbabwe since the mid 1980s could not find seeds or fertilizer. We failed to plan for adequate seeds and fertilizer, either by producing them in country or by importing them. Again this cannot be blamed on sanctions and regime change. We were of course short of foreign exchange, but we did not prioritize seeds and fertilizer. Instead we bought expensive tractors and combine harvesters, given free to political supporters of ZANU PF. Our prioritisation was wrong: we know very well that for the past two decades the Communal farmers have produced maize for the country. Why did we not make sure that seeds and fertilizer could be available on sale to them? No seeds and no fertilizer meant no food. This was not due to sanctions and regime change. It was due to RBZ and Government prioritisation which excluded investment into seeds and fertilizer.
Election violence preceding the Presidential Re-Run in June 2008 was extreme, and particularly shameful as it was directed in particular at ZANU PF’s own supporters. These supporters voted for ZANU PF in the March 2008 Elections, but “kicked the ball outside the field” in the Presidential Elections. This means they voted for ZANU PF parliamentarians, but not for the ZANU PF Presidential candidate. Again it cannot be said that this political violence was caused by sanctions. Was it caused by regime change strategies?
There is little doubt that the USA and the West in general have openly desired regime change. Their reasons for this was the land resettlement programme of 2000, when over ten million hectares of land formerly owned by their companies and their nationals were taken over. Nevertheless, there is a universal consensus that land resettlement was absolutely essential in Zimbabwe, and that it was long overdue by 2000, twenty years after Independence. There is wonder and speculation about why the ZANU PF Government waited for twenty years before addressing this critically important issue. Indeed it was only tackled when the war veterans began openly criticizing the Government for “selling out” by its neglect of land resettlement over that long period. There is also criticism of the use of violence in the take over. The issue of multiple farm allocations, and the allocation of large farms to political heavy weights, and small farms to ordinary people can also be questioned.
The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) passed by the United States House of Assembly and Senate in 2001 is the document which most clearly outlines the sanctions. ZIDERA states that the USA will not support any multi-lateral or bilateral loans or grants to Zimbabwe unless there are specific reforms regarding ownership of property, the rule of law, and the use of political violence. ZIDERA specifically seeks collaboration of the European Union in the enforcement of these sanctions. What this has meant in reality is that Zimbabwe has been deprived of grants and investments from the West for the last decade. Zimbabwe received an average of about US$350 million in aid and investment in the 1980s and 1990s. This stopped abruptly in 2001. Aid and foreign investment came to about 10 – 15% of Zimbabwe’s export earnings at that time. It is important to analyze why the removal of this 10 – 15% of foreign exchange should have led to the collapse of the economy. Had Zimbabwe become so aid dependent that it could not survive without it?
It is to be remembered that the Ian Smith regime actually managed to industrialize and become food self sufficient under much worse sanctions over the period 1965 - 1980. Clearly the anti-sanctions strategies followed by the ZANU PF Government over the last decade were seriously deficient, if they existed at all. Cleverly the sanctions included targeting the personal accounts and travel arrangements of some 200 top ZANU PF officials, and most of the Government and ZANU PF rhetoric and activities were centred around this strategy, whilst totally neglecting the real issues of economic survival and growth. Expansion of the monetary supply and use of foreign exchange for finished goods intended to buy political support were the main observable strategies. Both of these strategies proved disastrous.
Sanctions were and are real. The wish for regime change was and is real. Nevertheless the reality is that probably sanctions and regime change strategies account for only 20% of the Zimbabwe’s political and economic failures. ZANU PF’s internal disintegration cannot be blamed on the West. The neglect of seeds and fertilizer in order to concentrate on luxury goods cannot be blamed on the West. The rampant corruption cannot be blamed on the West. The neglect of the poor and the wild enrichment of the politically elite cannot be blamed on the West.
Dr Fay Chung is the Cluster Convener: Communications, for Mavambo.KusileDawn Party and a member of the National Steering Committee. She is a former Minister of Education in ZImbabwe, who went on to spend 10 years working for the United Nations