HARARE – In its manifesto, “Taking back the Economy: Indigenise, Empower, Develop and Create Employment,” Zanu PF has claimed the West’s “illegal” economic sanctions have cost Zimbabwe at least $42 billion since 2001.
According to Zanu PF, Zimbabwe lost donor support amounting to approximately $36 million annually, $79 million in loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB), commercial loans of $431 million and GDP reduction of $3,4 billion.
Zanu PF has earned political mileage from blaming the MDC, for allegedly inviting economic sanctions.
But Zanu PF has been economic with the truth on the reasons for the denial of financial support from these international financial institutions (IFIs).
Zimbabwe failed to meet its obligations.
After returning from the IMF empty-handed last week, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa could not disguise this simple fact as his party has often done over the past 10 years.
Chinamasa and his Zanu PF colleagues have in the past told us that IFIs had closed credit lines as part of the “illegal” regime change agenda.
But upon his return, Chinamasa pointed to an unvarnished fact of international financial relations: “We still owe them money,” he intoned, “and because of that they have put us under the staff monitored programme and they will not be giving us fresh money or new concessionary loans until we complete that programme.”
And for perhaps the first time, the words “IMF”, “sanctions” and “regime change” were not spoken in the same breath.
Chinamasa did not contest the fact that Zimbabwe owes the IMF money, and has failed to meet its financial obligations.
Zimbabwe’s voting rights were suspended in 2003 for unpaid debts, which meant it was no longer eligible to borrow.
The IMF restored voting rights on February 22, 2010.
As of January 2013, Zimbabwe owed the World Bank $976,45 million, $127,4 million to the IMF, $587 million to the AfDB while the European Investment Bank was owed $244 million.
Punitive measures for defaulting on payment on your obligations do not equate to sanctions designed to effect political changes.
It simply means a financial organisation cannot risk lending money to a country that is not repaying or might be unable to do so in the future.
But politics breeds half-truths and downright lies in order to win power.
Zanu PF has over the years constructed the punitive measures as a vindictive response to the land reform exercise; as solidarity with the white community deprived of farms during the process.
But after Chinamasa’s remarks we can now safely cast this claim aside as untrue.
Chinamasa did not make reference to these measures as vengeful or designed to influence political change.
“We still owe them money”, was his response. And that is a fact.
In this well-orchestrated narrative of victim hood, Zanu PF has portrayed Zimbabwe as the only country in the world that was isolated for harsh treatment by these IFIs for dispossessing the white community of land.
The reality though is that Sudan and Somalia have been subject of IMF punitive measures too.
Both countries have accumulated obligations dating back to the mid-1980s which they do not deny.
Sudan’s voting rights were suspended in 1993 and lifted in 2000.
So the suspension of Zimbabwe’s voting rights, and denial of aid were not without precedent.
And the reasons have been financial as Chinamasa now, conveniently, confirms.
The simple fact is Zimbabwe owes money to the IFIs.
In September, Chinamasa met the AfDB’s regional director, Ebrima Faal to discuss ways in which Zimbabwe could settle its $587 million debt.
These are conventional financial relations. You owe money; you ought to pay it back.
Zanu PF has however, for political mileage, twisted its failure to manage the economy and to meet its international financial obligations to create an impression that Zimbabwe was an isolated victim of IFIs for political reasons.
Now that Chinamasa and colleagues seem to have faced up to the truth that we owe money, it is time to harness the country’s resources, transparently, to pay our dues and lift the country out of the doldrums.