Maverick Citizen Op-Ed
Zimbabwe government views Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to loot new donor funds
Because of state capture, it would be a grave mistake for any entity to lend money to the Zimbabwean government right now as it would go straight to the pockets of the ruling elite as well as to funding repression and terrorist acts against the people of Zimbabwe.
For the longest time, the Zimbabwean Government has been fighting to have sanctions removed. They blame all our problems on sanctions they say were imposed on us by white imperialist states who are bitter that our government took land and gave it back to “the people”. This narrative is fed the people of Zimbabwe at political rallies and on state media.
In the past, national disasters such as the cholera outbreaks of 2008 and 2018 and Cyclone Idai in 2019 have given the Zimbabwean government foreign currency from benevolent nations. When the US donated $2.5-million to help mitigate cyclone Idai Emmerson Mnangagwa was beside himself with happiness announcing that Trump had donated real money and not these useless Zimbabwean bond notes. He went on to explain that due to the donations, the national disaster was in fact turning out to be a blessing in disguise.
Appeal to the IMF
Now that Covid-19 has presented another opportunity for the government to rake in foreign currency, the government has decided to milk the opportunity for what it is worth. A letter to the IMF, allegedly by Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, was leaked in April.
In the letter, Ncube explains that Zimbabwe has insufficient resources to mitigate the impact of Covid-19. He laments that unless there is a dialogue on how to clear Zimbabwe’s arrears and a plan to re-engage Zimbabwe, the country will suffer a health and economic catastrophe. He begs for:
“Immediate financial support for health spending and the normalization of relationships between Zimbabwe’s creditors, bilateral and multilateral.”
Contrary to his earlier claims that government had signed contracts and maize deliveries were underway (made in Davos in 2020); that the Zimbabwean economy is on the mend; that we have a budget surplus; that inflation is under control and we are ready to deal with Covid-19, Ncube now admits that Zimbabwe is already in a difficult economic situation.
He goes on to lay bare that Zimbabwe is short of resources to implement a Covid-19 response strategy.
Ncube projects that Zimbabwe’s already shrunken economy could contract by a further 15-20%. He confesses that already 8.5-million Zimbabweans (half the population) are food insecure, health services are inadequate and poverty levels are increasing. He says Zimbabwe needs $1-billion in 2020 to finance spending for health, education, food security and social protection.
He says these indicators are expected to worsen.
To make a case for Immediate Financial Support, Ncube cries that Zimbabwe desperately needs urgent international support, threatening that “a domestic collapse also would have potentially adverse regional effects, where spillovers are significant”.
He acknowledges that Zimbabwe is not eligible to benefit from any debt relief initiatives because of its official external debt arrears and proposes an urgent high-level dialogue to advance financial support and an arrears clearance plan.
Ncube structures his letter around Covid-19 being the basis for which he is begging for financial support. But surprisingly, of the $1billion he says is needed urgently, only $200million will go directly towards Covid-19. This gives the sense that the Zimbabwean government is trying to use Covid-19 to evade the burden of fixing problems unrelated to Covid-19 which they caused themselves through looting and corruption.
Divulging that they know it is not sanctions but their own behaviours that caused the crisis, Ncube says “the Zimbabwean authority duly acknowledge their responsibility for the recent policy missteps during late 2019”.
Further exposing that the government is conscious of their political and economic crimes and are highly conscious of the need for reform, Ncube goes on to bargain for assistance by proposing changes that the government is willing to make and “of its resolve to implement a comprehensive and credible policy reform agenda.”
Ncube promises several economic reforms. He promises to adopt an exchange rate regime that is consistent with macroeconomic fundamentals and is market-determined as well as to adopt a foreign exchange buy and sell regime that is transparent, market-driven, and verifiable. He also vows to eliminate discretion in the allocation of foreign exchange. To reform the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) he promises to eliminate all Quasi Fiscal Operations of the RBZ as well as the RBZ’s direct lending schemes.
Ncube pledges to include all subsidies in the budget to ensure transparency and to contain money supply growth to levels commensurate with the stabilization of the exchange rate and reduction of inflation. He says they will table a mild-term 2020 Budget to Parliament, which will reallocate expenditures to the social sectors, including spending requirements for the global pandemic. Ncube promises to limit the fiscal costs of the financing of agriculture, ensure transparency, and resolve all the related governance issues.
Reform delayed is reform denied
These promises make one wonder exactly why the Zimbabwean government has not implemented any of these reforms since the coup in 2017. It is clear that they know which policies are causing inflation and which of their behaviours repel investment. Would it not be more honourable, then for the government to first implement these reforms instead of saying to potential creditors lend us money and then we will change our behaviour.
There is something skewed and absolutely wrong with suggesting that economic reforms will be implemented only to please would-be donors as opposed to implementing them to fulfill a mandate to the people of Zimbabwe.
This shameless bargaining mentality of saying if you give us the support we will behave better is further betrayed by Ncube’s final offer of governance reforms.
He offers to embark on what he calls “an ambitious” Governance and Anti-Corruption Strategy that will see Zimbabwe’s government compensating former farm owners affected by the land reform program.
Ncube dangles an alignment of Zimbabwean laws to the constitution, but the constitution was approved by parliament on 9 May 2013 and seven years later, it is yet to be fully implemented.
Who exactly is the Government of Zimbabwe serving?
In a massive display of mixed-up priorities, Ncube also goes on to offer external lenders national dialogue efforts and electoral reforms. This goes to show that the Zimbabwean government has an upside-down view of which side their bread is buttered. Their behaviour shows they have completely forgotten that they are in power to serve the people of Zimbabwe who have the power to end their reign.
To further prove that the Zimbabwean government has neither respect nor regard for the electorate, their behaviour on the ground is the complete opposite.
They continue to tell Zimbabweans that sanctions are the cause of our economic crisis. They continue to arrest, abduct and torture Zimbabweans. They even went on to impose lockdown laws more repressive than the Public Order Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy act (AIPPA) which Ncube brags they repealed.
The demons that rule the economy
Last week, John Mangudya, the Reserve Bank governor, expressing exasperation over how he has no idea why the economy is failing and that what is happening in the Zimbabwean economy defies all logic, said in Parliament:
“There are non-monetary factors in this economy and they need to be exorcised. There is a demon-like a virus, a demon-like coronavirus, you can’t touch it but you feel it. We need to trace (contact tracing) where it is coming from. We will need your assistance because you are the honourable members of parliament and you need to tell us in your constituencies what is happening to the economy.”
This refusal to take responsibility and admit failure and resign; and instead try to make a man-made problem seem like some spiritual affliction is utterly deplorable. It is shameful that Zimbabwe is in the hands of people with no integrity.
This spiritual analysis is in tune with declarations by pastor and member of the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), Shingi Munyeza, who for the past few weeks has been preaching to the nation that Zimbabwe is in the hands of a wicked occult and people must rise up. Despite his refusal to name these occultists, several Zimbabweans have been taken by this message as the message to rise up resonates with many.
Zimbabwe’s problems are without a doubt caused not by demons and occultism but unabated criminality and impunity. What we are battling in Zimbabwe is clear cases of state capture and state failure which allows Zanu-PF a reign of terrorism and impunity and rendering them answerable to noone.
Because of this state capture, it would be a grave mistake for any entity to lend money to the Zimbabwean government right now as it would go straight to the pockets of the ruling elite as well as to funding repression and terrorist acts against the people of Zimbabwe.
That said, it is inescapable that Zimbabwe faces a huge Covid-19 related disaster due to the current state of our health systems and the incapacity of government. Unfortunately, this means that Mthuli is probably right: without assistance from external benefactors, Zimbabweans will die.
On the other hand, Zimbabweans must also take responsibility and bear the burden of freeing our state from capture. This is something that cannot be outsourced.
We need a revolution. A peaceful, non-violent revolution. DM/MC
Thandekile Moyo is a writer and human rights defender from Zimbabwe. For the past four years, she has been using print, digital and social media (Twitter: @mamoxn) to expose human rights abuses, bad governance and corruption. Moyo holds an Honours degree in Geography and Environmental Studies from the Midlands State University in Zimbabwe.
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