22 August 2014

Zimbabwe: Zim's Prospects of Recovery Remote


Zimbabwe's failure to secure an invitation to the US/Africa Leaders Summit earlier this month and its attempt to turn the Sadc meeting last weekend into an-old style nationalist parade demonstrate the yawning abyss that has opened up between the new generation of African leaders and those wedded to the mantras of the past.

President Mugabe's fiery outbursts at the UN attacking the United States and Britain are now revealing they have a cost. President Obama was certainly in no mood to provide the Zimbabwean leader with a platform to advertise his antediluvian views that few find appetising any more.

Other African states that were not invited because of their governance records were Sudan's Omar Al-Bashir, Eritrea's Isaias Afwerki, and the Central African Republic's Catherine Samba-Panza. It is significant that even Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema was given a seat.

Zimbabwe was excluded because its leader lives in an economic stone age and attempts to subvert his neighbours by exercising authority over the regional bloc. His support for Laurent Kabila's bid for power in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998 which included an unhealthy interest in that country's minerals has been part of his regional power play which has seen South Africa and others pushed to one side.

It is clear from Mugabe's speeches at the Sadc summit that the president had been discouraged from his usual fist-waving. While many of the old shibboleths were still in evidence, it was obvious that his populist fighting talk was no longer centre stage.

As was the case at the US/Africa Summit, it was the business forum and quiet bilateral exchanges on the periphery that were the most productive. Zimbabwe could have reaped a useful harvest of FDI both in Washington and at the Victoria Falls.

But the US was not going to do Mugabe any favours and African leaders, despite their expressions of solidarity, were not in any position to drum up support for Harare. The chickens were coming home to roost.

The hope that China would come to the rescue has yet to be seen from Mugabe's visit to Beijing this weekend.

One analyst, Jonathan Berman writing in the Wall St Journal and carried in NewsDay, pointed out that while some would measure the success of the Washington meeting by deal announcements, it was really all about the relationships that are formed. Which is of course all about the absence of FDI.

Mugabe is not well-disposed to investment because it requires improved behaviour on his part. The World Bank has not been helpful so long as debts remain outstanding. Zimbabwe's total debt stands at US$ 9,9 billion or US$ 54% of GDP.

As we have noted elsewhere, Zimbabwe is already failing to take advantage of AGOA -- the US African Growth and Opportunity Act. Then there are the sanctions passed in 2001 as a result of electoral and governance failures. The issue of the Sadc Tribunal, rejected by Mugabe, remains outstanding.

Zimbabwe appears marooned in this desert of isolation. While party officials are talking up re-engagement, the reality on the ground is one of indifference. So long as Mugabe and his followers persist in putting their heads in the sand, the prospects of recovery are remote.


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