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04 Apr 2009 06:00
Zimbabwe’s unity government, increasingly desperate for aid, meets this weekend at a resort retreat in Victoria Falls to draw up a 100-day plan for economic and political reform.
The retreat comes after Zimbabwe emerged from a Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Swaziland with only moral backing for its economic reform efforts and a fraction of the financial aid it needs to begin a real recovery.
At the weekend meeting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is expected to come up with a plan for dealing with the renewed farm violence that has emerged as the major hurdle to Zimbabwe accessing foreign support.
Ahead of the crucial meeting, Tsvangirai was quoted in the Zimbabwe media this week saying that the West needed to back Zimbabwe, however “imperfect” the unity agreement was.
“Zimbabweans should not have to pay a further price for their determination to stand by their democratic ideals because the new government does not meet or match the ‘clean slate’ or ‘total victory’ standards expected by the West,” Tsvangirai said.
According to one senior Zimbabwe treasury official, one of the key outcomes of this weekend’s retreat will be the establishment of a committee that will go on a “road show” across Europe and Asia to seek aid. The committee will be made up of members of both parties.
The group will also be dispatched to the US to lobby for the removal of legislation that bars Zimbabwe from accessing aid from lenders such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The government realises it is unlikely to secure the kind of support it is after if it is seen not to be acting on farm violence. Among Zimbabwe’s most urgent requirements is aid in the form of farm inputs to avoid another poor harvest. But the spurt in farm occupations appears to have dashed those hopes, government officials fear.
This week the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said it had noted a rise in the number of reported rights abuses, while farmer unions said there had been no relief from new farm takeovers.
“The formation of the inclusive government did not bring an end to civic repression, as witnessed by the continued heavy-handedness with which police handled the protests that took place in the month of February,” said the forum in a report this week.
Human Rights NGO Forum director Abel Chikomo said some of the recorded violence was in the form of retributive attacks by MDC supporters against former members of Zanu-PF.
Zimbabwe officials have been putting a brave face on the weak support given by SADC at its weekend summit in Swaziland.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti said he did not go to the summit with unrealistic expectations. Zimbabwe realised that most SADC countries cannot support Zimbabwe’s economy, but the region’s endorsement of its economic recovery plan was important in sending signals to international donors.
But Biti said he believed the country’s neighbours should support the country. “SADC fathered this unity agreement, so it must pay the maintenance.”
Mozambican President Armando Guebuza was quoted saying his country was not in a position to extend financial aid to Zimbabwe but would “reflect to see what we can do and how, within our possibilities”.
South Africa pledged US$30-million to be disbursed in tranches of US$10-million in the next three months, in addition to mobilising a bigger package for infrastructural development that would be administered through financial institutions such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa.
Namibia and Zimbabwe already have a partnership under which the former is refurbishing the Hwange thermal power station in northwest Zimbabwe in exchange for power. It is unlikely that Namibia will announce further assistance, Zimbabwe government officials said.
SADC “urged the developed countries to lift all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe as these sanctions will undermine the country’s and SADC efforts to normalise the situation in that member state”.
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