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Should West back Zimbabwe’s government?

June 1, 2009

The United Nations has joined Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government in appealing for more than $700 million in humanitarian aid for the ruined country.

But while Western countries may show willing when it comes to emergency aid, they are still reluctant to give money to the government between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his old rival.

First, they say, there must be broader political reforms and a clearer demonstration of respect for human rights.

The Western countries have long been at odds with Mugabe, accusing him of ruining Zimbabwe after the seizure of white-owned farms, of widespread human rights abuses and of making a mockery of elections last year that were widely condemned outside Zimbabwe.

But if those countries don’t come up with the finance that the government needs, some believe there is a danger it could undermine prospects for change rather than strengthening them.

“My advice is for the international community to engage Zimbabwe as the opposite of this will only benefit hardliners,” Tsvangirai told a visiting French minister last week.

The unity government has said it won more than $1 billion in promised credit lines from African banks for private firms, but says it needs more than $8 billion for reconstruction.

Should Western countries aid the government now, or is it too soon?

You can have your say on the survey below. Your comments are welcome too.


Yes, they should assist the government. It will benefit all concerned and may show that for once we have a heart for people.

Posted by N BART | Report as abusive

First of all, the aid is for the people of Zimbabwe, and if the government receives that aid, they only receive a 30%. And let’s not forget tha cholera outbreak and the unemployment of 94%.

So This is no time for more sanctions in Zimbabwe. Thje Western community must help Zimbabwe and back Morgan Tsvangirai. The already know him. So why is the waiting so long?


Zimbabwe and the AU are in denial. As with all addictions, in this case power, remedy only starts after a total crash. It should have happened right at the beginning in 2000. Stop dreaming, pull the plug on Zim now!!!.

Posted by Frank Wilking | Report as abusive

It begins to look plain churlish at some point and that point is not very far away.

The President needs an exit strategy and I suspect can be peeled off from his ZANU PF Sturmtroopers. This is exactly the moment to encourage that process.

Without help now, Tsangvirai becomes less potent and the succession a lot more unpredictable.

Aly-Khan Satchu
Twitter alykhansatchu


I do not think the west should back the Zimbabwean government. The cause of Zimbabwe’s problems is the governments habit of stealing everything within sight and hearing, and if given my taxes, they will steal them too! We have been and are continuing to be extravagantly generous in supporting the Zimbabwean people although this disaster is what they fought and voted for. If they want yet more money, they should apply to our enemies whom they so whole-heartedly support.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

AMEN to that, John. Perhaps we should look to our own, first, before we start trying to help out troubled nations that need to work out their internal problems before they seek aid elsewhere.

Posted by Pooky | Report as abusive

Why on earth would anyone expect money to be handed over to the government of a country where the rule of law does not exist?

What controls have been put in place to make certain the money would be used to help the population, not just have the majority diverted into the black hole of corruption?

With those two large uncertainties, why would any rational government hand out money (instead of direct aid to people in need) to zimbabwe?

How do those governments answer their own people who need aid and assistance as well? How do you explain that while your own economy is in recession and unemployment is at a generational high you handed money to another country in need only to see chunks of it vanish through corruption?

Posted by Steven | Report as abusive

The west should not provide aid. If they want to help it should be via business opportunities. China is doing this in a pragmatic and succesful way.

Aid just props up mugabe and he isn’t being held accountable by the people of Zimbabwe.

Posted by buffalojump | Report as abusive

I don’t support aid for Zimbabwe until Mugabe shows complete compliance with the rule of law and we see prosecutions for criminal activities commited by his supporters during the last few elections.

All farm and industrial disruptions should stop so that the economy can begin to rebuild when aid starts. Zimbabweans are resiliant and can rebuild quickly if the conditions are right.

The “free” solution is to confiscate all the money hidden offshore by Mugabe and his cronies and repatriate it to Zimbabwe. It shouldn’t be hard to find this money – first look in Malaysia and Hong Kong where his wife goes shopping and follow the trail. It won’t be small change.

Any aid needs close and careful monitoring to ensure it doesn’t disappear.

Posted by Craigo | Report as abusive

I’m afraid that financial support will only be used to finance the entourage of mr Mugabe and will help to keep Zanu PF in power.


The unity government appears to not be making substantive progress on all of the issues related to political persecution, issues that were extensively addressed in the document signed as a basis for forming this government and, that corruption is likely still rampant within government, it makes sense to be extremely cautious. But Zimbabweans have to work through this for themselves, but are also in dire need of international support to begin rebuilding basic infrastructure so that they can begin to create an economic base. Could aid be directed more in the form of long-term investments in infrastructure projects, that can at the same time leverage the international community’s assurances that development will be able to progress toward free & fair elections.

Posted by Billy Douthwright | Report as abusive

Negative. As for the suggestion by buffalojump, I’m afraid there would be very few people who would invest in business opportunities in a country where the government regularly siezes peoples property and assets in the name of “the people” without giving any compensation and ultimately use those assets for the purposes of political patronage.

The problem of course is the governor of the central bank and his ties to Zanu.

One possible way around the problem would be if the MDC, through the department of finance, set up something akin to a shawdow central bank offshore perhaps, whereby Zanu could not get their grubby hands on funds and monies could go directly and for the benefit of the people.

Holding the purse strings to the Nation here is all important. Zanu knows this and is afraid of letting go of this power. Those particular Zanu minsiterial departments run nefarioulsy and propagating anti-constitutional behaviour, violence and political expediency could be denied funds by such a scheme and would theorectically become impotent. And lets face it the only way the MDC are going to gain strenght and be able to finally oust those Zanu cretins is to buy the loyalty of the army and police. If they get an increase in salary from the current $100 a month to say $300-400 by the MDC through such a scheme knowing full well that come next election voting Zanu means getting less or nothing, who do you think they would vote for? He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Posted by connor | Report as abusive

No money should go into govt programmes but to NGOs and multinationlas already there in the country and real aid should come with complete economic-and political reforms. No blank cheques after all the govt is now on its knees as they are failing to pay the large and bloated foreign service, cabinet and the whole govt.


Pie in the sky talk from contributors above I’m afraid – at least amongst those who wish the MDC well.

Giving nothing will only play into the hands of ZANU-PF. MDC’s whole governing premise is based upon the fact that they can ‘deliver’ where Mugabe has failed. Given the state of Zimbabwe’s economy that means sizeable amounts of aid delivered to priority sectors – health, education and infrastructure.

All aid however should be routed through the Ministry of Finance, which the competent Tendai Biti has managed to decouple from the clutches of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono. This is one of the few concrete successes the MDC has acheived in the unity government’s short lifespan.

Of course Mugabe and ZANU will benefit – to some degree – from any aid given. Politics is a messy business – in Africa as in the West. But the opportunity cost of doing nothing is too high.

Posted by Chris Thompson | Report as abusive

Mugabe will integrate and corrupt those “sharing” power until he and Zanu PF are back in full control. There should be no aid until Bob is gone.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

I know that this article was posted a while ago, but I just stumbled upon it sitting in my office. The issue of aid to Zimbabwe is a tricky one. On one hand, the west needs to be certain that aid given will be used to TRUELY benefit the people of Zimbabwe (we assume). On the other hand, the abscence of aid is now being used by the state media in Zimbabwe to show the people of the west’s “regime change agenda”. Not a day goes by now without the state media painting Tsvangirai as a failure for not being successful in obtaining the development aid that is required to get the Zimbabwean economy back on its feet. Indirectly, the west is strengthening Mugabe’s position by holding back the aid.

I am sure that the “great” financial minds in the west could think of creative ways of providing aid to the people of Zimbabwe without letting funds fall into the ZANU PF coffers. Possibly through South Africa or through SADC? Things such as repairing the water infrastructure in cities, upgrading hospitals etc? Does the “wait and see” approach really have any use except prolonging the suffering of the people? Would the west not be strenghtening Tsvangirai’s position and the future of democracy in Zimbabwe if the people could see rapid improvement in the state of the country? At present, inflation has been arrested and goods are now on the shelves, and who is being given credit for that? The new finance Minister Tendai Biti (MDC).

We need this aid and we need it soon. The longer we allow the situation to continue like this, the greater the chances that the corruptive elements in ZANU PF will work their magic on their MDC partners in the Unity Government.
However, the west does need to ensure that the Zimbabwean government is not given a blank cheque. While it is important for Zimbabwe to prioritise its development needs, the west and international financial institutions should have the right to monitor and in some cases control the nature, extent and timing of aid given. Although many hardliners in Zimbabwe may see this as an imposition and a return to “colonialism”, history has proved to us that this is probably the best approach.

Now, lets face it, there is a long way to go before the GPA is fully implemented, and there is a long fight ahead, but we need to ensure that while the fight is going on, the life of Zimbabweans is improving. The Reserve Bank Govenor and the Attorney General are going to be very tough to remove, and unless the regional body (SADC) puts pressure on Mugabe (unlikely), the west are going to be “waiting” and “seeing” for a very long time.

The people of Zimbabwe have made great strides towards achieving democracy. ZANU PF is a dying horse and cannot (in its current state) go on for ever. We will need a vibrant ZANU PF in the future to guarantee the parliamentary democracy that Zimbabwe so desperately wants. While this is happening, lets not let the people suffer. They have done enough of that over the last 10 years and have maintained their dignity and non-violence through out.

God Bless Zimbabwe and its people!

Posted by Zimbo | Report as abusive

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