Tuesday, March 8, 2011

From John Robertson

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s claims

Zimbabwe seems to stumble from one self-inflicted crisis to another, led by politicians who demand the right to be taken seriously. In the continuing debates outside the country, the behaviour of these politicians has generated lots of sympathy for Zimbabwe’s long-suffering population, but it has qualified the country’s leaders for nothing but ridicule.

Some of the ridicule has come from deeply flawed official interpretations of events, mostly characterised by demands that the results achieved be defined as resounding successes. These claimed successes are accepted by the few who argue that the destruction of most of the country’s productive capacity was intentional.

This tiny fraction of the population claims that Zanu PF can achieve its absolute control mission only by breaking down the physical and financial structures built since the country was colonised. Their view seems to be that success can be permitted to survive only if the people who brought it about are supporters of the party. And although the party does not publicly admit to supporting this thinking, it repeatedly demands respect for its “sovereign right” to confer impunity upon those commissioned to purge the country of political opponents.

The inevitable and massive human rights violations that were soon being documented led directly to restrictions being imposed from abroad on senior Zimbabwean officials who were identified as participants or promoters of these crimes. Zanu PF was quick to claim that sanctions applied to such important people were sanctions against the whole nation. In its repeated and increasingly impassioned calls for the restrictions to be lifted, in effect it has been asking that the international community should also grant impunity to Zimbabweans accused of crimes against humanity.

Every item on Zimbabwe’s long list of difficulties since 1997 is now being blamed on the countries that denied travel visas to these officials, or stopped them from drawing money from bank accounts opened in these countries.

While such claims are absurdly fictitious, the difficulties are real enough. But they can all be linked directly to odious policy decisions, and despite these clear linkages, the policy decisions are still being vigorously defended.

In remaining determined to stick with ideas that caused severe losses, the party protests that nobody is entitled to challenge its right to make such choices. However, its defence of bad ideas partly accounts for the unwillingness of international financial organisations to extend further loans. It is not in the mandate of these institutions to make up for huge losses caused by destructive ideas that are still being followed.

However, even if they wanted to offer tangible help, they couldn’t. These institutions have rules, all of which are well known to Zimbabwe’s authorities. One of these is that further loans may not be granted to borrowers who are in default in their repayments of previous loans. Knowing this, but deliberately misinforming the population that world development institutions are applying sanctions to shorten the lives of Zimbabwe’s poorest is simply and disgracefully dishonest.

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