Economic alliance proposed for Zimbabwe

Economic alliance proposed for Zimbabwe
Published: 23 April 2014
An influential British think tank, Chatham House, says the  Zanu-PF government and opposition forces should work towards a consensual or bipartisan politics to confront economic challenges facing the country, warning the parties risk losing credibility if they do not forge an alliance.

In a report titled; Zimbabwe International Re-engagement: The Long Haul to Recovery released last week, the group said Zanu-PF remained the most dominant force in Zimbabwean politics and would remain so for some time to come.

The report added that opposition parties and civil society needed to transform and go through a renewal process.

"Sustainably improved relations will depend on the new government's track record on good governance and human rights, but the report recognises that, although the electoral legitimacy debate will continue to divide Zimbabweans, the reality is that Zanu-PF, which was the senior partner in the Government of National Unity (GNU), is the dominant force in politics and - despite its internal frictions - will remain so for some time to come," the report reads.

"The opposition, civil society, business sector and other voices are important, but engagement with the Zimbabwe government is pivotal. Such engagement should be cautious, thoughtful and not uncritical."

Chatham House, home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a world-leading source of independent analysis, informed debate and influential ideas on how to build a prosperous and secure world.

The report said the failure by President Robert Mugabe's government and the future of Zimbabwe will be "increasingly determined by its own tactical decisions".

"With the suspension of most sanctions and associated measures, anti-Western rhetoric will harm re-engagement efforts. Just as the European Union (EU) has reached out to improve relations by suspending most of its sanctions, Zimbabwe should reciprocate, demonstrating that it is serious about reengagement, including through domestic governance and economic reforms and pro-poor policies," reads the report.

Information minister Jonathan Moyo told the state owned media at the weekend that policy inconsistencies were the government's biggest undoing.

The EU early this year scrapped targeted measures imposed on Mugabe and his inner circle on all but two of the country's political elite. The block maintained sanctions on Mugabe and First Lady Grace, as well as an arms embargo on the country, and in particular the Zimbabwe Defence Industries.

While the opposition MDC-T has pointed an accusing finger at Zanu-PF and Mugabe for being undemocratic, Chatham House, normally sympathetic to the opposition, said all parties were culpable of undemocratic tendencies.

"All of Zimbabwe's major political parties have repeatedly demonstrated undemocratic behaviour in by-elections, primary elections and national elections," the think tank said. "The real challenge for Zimbabwean politics is not simply electoral democracy: it is to create a genuinely inclusive participatory democracy. Failure to do this will result in an increasingly apathetic public withdrawing from electoral processes which they see as irrelevant."

Officials in both the MDC-T led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Zanu-PF have accused each other of rigging the party's primaries ahead of elections last year.

The report said Zimbabwe's political landscape has changed since the July harmonised polls, hence the need for reform within the opposition and civil society.

"The post-GNU political landscape has changed, and Zimbabwe's opposition and civil society will have to undergo a period of reform and renewal to remain effective influences. The opposition and the government should work towards consensual or bipartisan politics, particularly in responding to the various economic challenges the country faces," said the report.

"The government on its own cannot reinvigorate the economy. This will require a truly national effort that - even if only temporarily - brings together political, economic and social stakeholders in a collective effort to address the economic crisis. Otherwise, all parties will lose credibility."

While admitting that the economy was in crisis, Chatham House's report said Zimbabwe was functional.

"Although Zimbabwe faces an economic crisis and is in some ways an ‘emergency economy' the picture is not one of total disaster.

"There are numerous institutions, organisations and businesses that are functioning and doing so through smart strategies, competent management, good leadership and partnerships. For Zimbabwe's economy to survive and thrive; the government will have to adopt the ‘best practice' template in a national consultative, multiple-stakeholder approach.

"Zimbabwe's re-entry into the global system brings with it the challenge and opportunity of engaging potential investors in terms not of ideological divisions but of competitive advantage. If it is to attract investment, it must demonstrate that it is a worthwhile business destination and partner in a global economy crowded with competitor nations. This includes clarifying indigenisation provisions for business and supporting a land audit," the report added.

The groups warned of political instability if poverty is not addressed as a matter of urgency, not only in Zimbabwe, but within the region.

"Zimbabwe cannot be examined in isolation from its regional context. There is a growing underclass in southern Africa and, if the crisis of poverty is not speedily addressed, this could increase political instability.

"Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries region are advocating a regional ‘renaissance' and promoting the ‘region-brand'.  But to ensure that these are not just rhetorical aspirations, southern African governments should pay as much attention to human development issues as they do to GDP figures and focus on regional pro-poor policies," Chatham House said.

The think tank urged constructive re-engagement that is mutually beneficial to both Zimbabwe and the international community.

"Engagement between Zimbabwe and the West should entail a process to end all sanctions and targeted measures, as well as a pragmatic dialogue that recognizes mutual interests and responsibilities. Provided there is no deterioration in the governance and human rights situation, the EU should let the suspended appropriate measures under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement fully expire on 1 November 2014," said the group.

Mugabe has consistently called for the removal of all restrictive measures, and his government reacted with disgust following the EU's retention of sanction on the president and his wife.

The veteran Zimbabwean leader was invited to the EU-Africa summit last month but rejected the invitation following the block's refusal to grant his wife a travel visa.

"Western policy should move away from singling out Zimbabwe and become more regionally focused, consistently supporting sustainable economic growth and transformation, grounded in good governance and human rights.

"Zimbabwe's government should seek to re-engage in international diplomatic and business forums, including seeking to re-join the Commonwealth," the group urged.

Mugabe pulled the country out of the club of former British colonies in the early part of the last decade, following a public diplomatic spat over perceived human rights abuses.
- Zim Mail
Tags: Alliance, Zimbabwe,


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