Re: Mbeki's failure over Zimbabwe *LINK*
Posted By: Masimba Musodza In Response To: Re: Mbeki's failure over Zimbabwe (franksta)
Date: Monday, 15 August 2005, at 3:33 p.m.
In Response To: Re: Mbeki's failure over Zimbabwe (franksta)
Have a look at this as well.
The debate over South Africa’s loan to Zimbabwe
South African Viewpoint By Sipho Zulu
IT IS seldom that South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance and the South African Communist Party (SACP) agree on an issue.
They share the view that stringent political and economic conditions should be attached to the loan that South Africa has in principle agreed to grant Zimbabwe. According to speculative press reports, these include an insistence on talks between Zanu PF and MDC to usher in a new political dispensation. These reports also speculate that repressive legislation must be repealed and electoral laws reformed to create conditions conducive to free and fair elections. Such a “political settlement” would, they believe, open doors for Zimbabwe’s re-engagement with, inter alia, international multinational financial institutions – a sine qua non for Zimbabwe’s economic revival. The South African government has not confirmed the existence of such conditions.
Both the SACP and the DA emphasise the need for President Thabo Mbeki’s government to be open and transparent about the terms and conditions of the loan agreement. A consensus has emerged among opposition political parties, with the exception of the PAC and Azapo, that a loan agreement which pressurises President Mugabe to embark on meaningful political and economic reform is both desirable and acceptable. This view is shared by civil society organisations – what they are opposed to is assistance that props up the Mugabe government without addressing the causes of the country’s crisis. The South African government’s record on Zimbabwe does not inspire confidence. There is concern that whatever conditions South Africa attaches are just meant to deceive. There is no intention, if such conditions exist at all, to force compliance. The government fuels such concern by issuing contradictory statements. Government’s chief spokesman, Joel Netshitenzhe, has repeatedly said they would insist on economic reforms and “political normalisation”, whatever that means. At the same time, he says it would be improper to impose conditions on a sovereign state. Such double-speak reinforces fears that an elaborate web of deceit is being spun. The South African taxpayer is being duped into accepting what is essentially a handout to a friend in distress. Last Tuesday deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Nqcuka dismissed weekend press reports, which spelt out conditions attached to the loan. She said government would soon disclose information about the agreement. If press reports are wide off the mark as she claims, what is the true position? The credibility of the South African government, given its track record on Zimbabwe, is highly questionable. Why should it even mention the need for political dialogue in Zimbabwe when it unreservedly accepted the legitimacy of elections in 2000, 2002 and 2005? If it accepts that Zanu PF was legitimately given a massive mandate by the electorate in 2005, why should it be asked to hold talks with the MDC? If you accept the legitimacy of Zimbabwe’s elections, you have to concede the correctness of Mugabe’s rejection of any political accommodation with the MDC that goes beyond its role in Parliament. The South African government has persistently denied that there are human rights violations in Zimbabwe. It has been at the forefront of killing efforts to debate Zimbabwe’s human rights record at various international fora. This begs the question why a government that observes human rights and holds free and fair elections should be expected to negotiate with its opponents. Over what? President Mbeki recently said Zimbabwe’s economic woes were caused by a government overzealous to provide health and education to its people without having adequate resources to do so. It had nothing to do with corruption, Mbeki opined. In that case, all Zimbabwe needs is a lesson in fiscal prudence and not a raft of political and economic conditionalities. When the world condemned “Operation Murambatsvina”, Mbeki said he would only respond after the publication of the UN envoy’s report. Up to now he has not done so. Instead, his foreign minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said the operation was an internal matter. It is difficult to believe that a government with such an attitude is suddenly serious about resolving the Zimbabwe crisis.
When the agreement is finally published, it will have some conditions. Those that relate to economic reforms, like abolishing a dual exchange rate regime, can be taken seriously. It is the political conditions, if they exist, that must be taken with the tiniest pinch of salt. They would have been inserted to hoodwink two constituencies – ordinary South Africans and the G8 countries. There is need to convince South Africans that the government will use the loan agreement to finally get the Zimbabwe issue resolved. Public opinion surveys, together with comments on radio talk-shows and letters to newspapers, show strong support for the loan if it is linked to a plan to resolve the crisis. There is virtually no support for an unconditional loan. In the past three months, there have been violent demonstrations in the Free State and Western Cape provinces over nondelivery of essential services. This is a hot political potato as South Africa grapples endemic poverty. Millions of people still do not have housing, piped water, electricity and decent infrastructure. The government cannot be seen to be bailing out a foreign country when there is such great need at home. It is, therefore, anxious to be seen to be granting this loan in the context of an initiative to find a lasting solution in Zimbabwe.
The second constituency to be appeased are the G8 countries whose support Mbeki needs if his pet project, Nepad, is to succeed. He has to justify the loan by linking it to efforts to tackle issues of governance and human rights. He wants to create a perception that there are developments in the direction of “political normalisation”. The loan agreement will be packaged as South Africa’s latest initiative to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis. Its wording will be couched in language that is open to various interpretations, to allow room for noncompliant. Mbeki knows that Mugabe has no intention of accommodating his opponents. If any political conditions are inserted in the agreement, they will be worded in a manner that permits subterfuge.
Mugabe and his various spokesmen have emphatically dismissed any suggestion of talks with the MDC. Given Zimbabwe’s desperate economic situation, Mugabe would not contemptuously dismiss such talks if he thought South Africa was dead serious. He knows that even if the South Africans insist on this condition in the final agreement to save face, they neither have the political inclination nor courage to enforce compliance. The Zimbabwe leader has, however, got to give his friends in Pretoria something with which to justify the loan. This will largely be an acceptance and even implementation of economic reforms that have no negative bearing on his political agenda. The South Africans have publicly expressed concern about the powers of the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank, which they consider to be excessive. Mugabe would gladly chip some of Gideon Gono’s wings to keep the South Africans happy. There may well be other concessions on the economic front Mugabe is prepared to make to secure the loan.
On the political front, the best Mbeki can get if he pleads with Mugabe not to embarrass him, is to get a meaningless promise to resume talks with the MDC. Mugabe would then instruct the dutiful Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, to revive preliminary talks with the MDC’s Welshman Ncube. Like previous talks, there will be no intention whatsoever to advance them beyond the preliminary. Their sole purpose would be to give Mbeki something with which to convince his own people and the G8 countries that “quiet diplomacy” is on track and yielding dividends. The game of deception will continue.
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