Friday, May 8, 2009

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Those of us who want to see Zimbabwe resurrected from virtual economic death and its people provided with the services and opportunities they so urgently require face a dilemma. Despite the existence of a government of national unity, the ruling ZANU-PF still effectively controls the reins of power in the country, and that party is responsible for driving the country to ruination in the first place. So how do you help Zimbabwe and its people without strengthening ZANU-PF?

While the opposition MDC party holds posts in the government, they are stymied by a ruling party that is dragging its feet on revising the constitution or making most significant reforms. The next election is not expected for at least two years. The concern in the international community is that any improvement in the disastrous Zimbabwean economic situation will help the ruling party in its next election campaign. It is pointed out that while the MDC’s Tendai Biti has performed well as Finance Minister, reducing the country’s almost immeasurable inflation rate to -2% the last two months, the government of President Robert Mugabe could spin any improvement as being caused by its decision last fall to “dollarize” the economy, that is, suspend use of the Zimbabwe dollar in favor of the U.S. dollar, the South Africa rand and the Botswanan pula.

Only the Europeans are considering providing direct government support. The United States is looking for “work arounds” to provide a mechanism to meet Zimbabwean needs with as much as US$90 million without trusting any of it to the still-dominant ZANU-PF. Approximately 70% of the country needs food assistance, the formal and informal economies remain in shambles and crises such as the recent cholera epidemic have become sadly commonplace. The people of Zimbabwe desperately need our help.

All too often, we face the decision on how to help people in need without working through corrupt and evil regimes. We agonize over the choice, always promising to come up with a plan to avoid being placed in this situation the next time. Well we need to come up with a plan now that will finally answer our questions because they will return until we do.

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