UK promises new Zim president £1bn

The United Kingdom is working on an unprecedented £1-billion annual international emergency aid and development package to rescue the ruined Zimbabwean economy, the Guardian reported on Thursday.

However, any programme would be contingent on a new democratic government coming to power.

The scale of the programme — nearly triple the aid going to Zimbabwe at present — means it will be coordinated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the European Union and the United Nations.

The plan would be discussed at the IMF’s spring meeting on April 12 and 13 in Washington, at an EU general affairs council later in the month, and possibly on the margins of the Nato summit in Bucharest.

Diplomatic sources in Harare told the Mail & Guardian that even countries that Mugabe has perceived as enemies would help a new Zimbabwean government.

Political commentators believe that Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai would have no choice but to seek accommodation with his former rivals in a government of national unity in Zimbabwe.

”The MDC needs to go through the pain of compromise and start talking to people they did not think they would ever talk to. There is no excuse for remaining parochial in this particular instance,” said political analyst Brian Kagoro.

The MDC has already confirmed that it will not seek to punish Robert Mugabe for years of misrule and abuse of power. Mugabe’s aides would want similar guarantees.

The party would not seek retribution, as it wants to put the country on a path to recovery, said Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, George Sibochiwe.

A possible truth and reconciliation process, similar to South Africa’s, has been mooted in MDC circles. Amnesty would be granted on application for full disclosure of human rights crimes.

Sibochiwe told the M&G that an MDC-led government would also incorporate a department of national integration — a move apparently designed to break the political hegemony of the dominant Zezuru clan of the Shona people and reach out to the Ndebele, Tonga and other ethnic minorities.

”It will deal with tribal divisions as well as those who have been marginalised during the last 28 years by government,” Sibochiwe said. About 20% of Zimbabweans are of Ndebele origin, most of whom are long-standing opponents of the Mugabe regime.

The MDC also plans to decentralise power and place more decision-making power in the hands of local government. According to Sibochiwe, the MDC won 95% of the local government seats in this year’s elections. These results have not yet been officially released.

The economic development of Zimbabwe would be a top priority of the MDC and the resuscitation of industrial production the first step of the new government.

It also plans to reorganise monetary policy to ensure that there is a single exchange rate for the Zimbabwean dollar. Sibochiwe said there are currently three rates — the official rate, the black-market rate and the rate for Zanu-PF supporters.

Godfrey Chanetsa, senior aide to presidential hopeful Simba Makoni, said Makoni is not making his intentions known until the presidential results are made public. He would not confirm newspaper reports that Makoni is preparing himself for a prime minister’s role in the government of national unity, which would require an amendment to the Zimbabwean Constitution.

Investment needed

Meanwhile, the MDC says it will not be looking for handouts but wants to see investment in the country. ”Economic recovery can be achieved. It will not be something that happens overnight, it will take time because you cannot wipe out the effects of gross economic mismanagement just like that,” a diplomat said.

British officials told the Guardian that the task of righting the Zimbabwean economy would be complicated by the four million exiles, including many professionals, living abroad. It is hard to know how quickly they would return and what the impact of a mass return would be on the collapsed public services.

Mugabe rejected an IMF rescue package for the Zimbabwean economy nine years ago, and the Guardian said British officials were looking to see how it would need to be updated.

A separate aid package was drawn up last year by the Southern African Development Community, but that too was rejected because of the conditions attached. Mugabe has instead been looking for loans from Iran, China and Libya to finance his massive deficits.

Models examined by the British Department of International Development suggest that if the currency can be corrected, it will be possible for the economy to be turned around relatively quickly.

IMF work suggests hyper-inflation can be brought under control in a year, allowing output to rise relatively rapidly. The IMF sees price and exchange-rate liberalisation as a condition of progress.

But British government sources said the £1-billion-a-year package, possibly assembled at a donor conference, might need to last many years.

As the former colonial power, Britain is anxious not to be seen at the helm of the aid package, and is stressing that the initiative will eventually be an international one. Any attempt to be seen to be bribing the Zimbabwean people to reject Mugabe is likely to be used as a propaganda tool by Zanu-PF, requiring Britain to walk a tightrope.

The UK’s international Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander, has been kept informed of the programmes being developed, and has asked for an emergency humanitarian package to be prepared in the event of riots or violence breaking out in protest at Zanu-PF refusing to accept the result of the election.

The UK Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, said contingency plans were also under way in the event of a doomsday scenario to help the 10 000 former British nationals living in the country.

Apart from focusing on reducing inflation and steadying the exchange rate and balance of payments, the package will be directed at basic health and education services, infrastructure and justice.

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Mandy Rossouw
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Jason Moyo
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