Despite mysterious weekend claims by discredited and disgruntled Movement for Democratic Change secretary-general Tendai Biti that Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe “won” the July 31, 2013 election because he had a good manifesto, Western governments insist the election was rigged.
On Monday, Biti backpedalled through a Facebook post, asserting once again that the election was “stolen”.
MDC-T insiders said Biti was now desperate to impress party president Morgan Tsvangirai, who insists the election was rigged, in an attempt to get back into the fold after his associate Elton Mangoma was booted out last week for rebellion.
Sources in the opposition movement claim Biti was given $10 million by Zanu PF to turn traitor. Efforts to contact Biti for comment on this are ongoing.
However, Biti has riled party members after agreeing to represent Gideon Gono, the corrupt former central bank governor accused of destroying the economy by giving money to Mugabe’s party, Zanu PF, and funding the party’s murderous militias in the aftermath of Mugabe’s electoral loss in 2008.
Below, NOW DAILY publishes a recent statement by David Bruce Wharton, the U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, who says the elections which brought Mugabe back into power were neither transparent nor credible.
By David Bruce Wharton,
Ambassador of the United States of America in Zimbabwe.
I know that I am not the first American diplomat to speak here about the relationship between Zimbabwe and the United States. While our programs and approaches change over time, the desired outcome – a democratic, prosperous and healthy Zimbabwe – remains the same.
Let me begin by reiterating my commitment, and that of my government, to building a relationship with Zimbabwe that benefits both our nations. As I said when I arrived in Zimbabwe in late 2012, I want to move our relationship back toward normal, to move beyond sanctions and recriminations. I also made clear that this is not something that can be done by only one side. Both Zimbabwe and the United States bear responsibility for the current state of our relationship, and the goodwill and hard work of both is required to improve it.
So, where do we begin?
Perhaps a quick inventory of the basic facts of the relationship is in order:
1) The U.S. supported Zimbabwe’s independence early, and pledged and delivered significant assistance from 1980.
2) Beginning in early 2000 we became concerned with what we viewed as serious departures from democratic process, the rule of law and protection of human rights.
3) In late 2001, our Congress passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA), prohibiting U.S. support for debt relief or new loans for Zimbabwe until such time as democratic process, the rule of law and respect for human rights were restored.
4) In 2003 the White House issued an executive order establishing travel and financial restrictions on a small number of people that we believed were undermining democratic process, rule of law and respect for human rights.
5) In early 2013, we made every effort to express our hope for a peaceful, credible and transparent election and explained that we were prepared to roll back our targeted sanctions in response to that.
6) The elections happened peacefully. And the people and government of Zimbabwe deserve to see that as progress.
7) However, our concerns about the electoral process – the same concerns that are outlined in the AU, SADC and ZHRC reports on the election – prevented my government from viewing the elections as credibly representing the will of the Zimbabwean people. We had carefully outlined our hopes for “peaceful, transparent and credible” elections as the benchmarks of progress. While we recognize and congratulate Zimbabwe on the peacefulness of the process, we do not believe the process was transparent or credible.
8) The United States remains committed to the people of Zimbabwe, and will continue to seek engagement here in support of health and humanitarian needs, democratic institutions, rule of law, human rights, and economic growth.
9) We are also willing to work with members of the ZANU-PF government that are willing to work with us.
As a ZANU-PF-supporting friend of mine (yes, I do have those) said, “The burden of diplomacy is to keep seeking engagement until all conflict is ended.” I agree with that and I am willing. The U.S. Government is willing.
Now, I learned on a recent trip to Mutare that what seems obvious to me may need to be stated plainly from time to time. So, in that vein:
1) Zimbabwe’s economy is in the hands of Zimbabweans.
2) The United States wants Zimbabwe to prosper.
This evening, I will expand on what these two statements mean.
So, let me start with the first statement: Zimbabwe’s economy is in the hands of Zimbabweans.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been through dramatic ups and downs in the last 15 years. You all know that better than I do. But the idea that targeted U.S. sanctions have caused Zimbabwe’s economic woes simply does not hold up to critical analysis. The evidence is clear that Zimbabwe’s sovereign policy decisions are the primary drivers of its economic performance. Now, this fact ought to be encouraging to Zimbabweans because it means that Zimbabwe need not wait until real or imagined external forces create the conditions needed for economic growth. Zimbabwe’s economy is in the hands of Zimbabweans. While businesses, labor unions, trade associations, courts and schools all have important roles, economic destiny starts with decisions made by the Government of Zimbabwe.
Consider this: The two most dramatic changes in Zimbabwe’s economy in the last two decades were:
1) “Black Friday,” November 14, 1997, when the Zimbabwe dollar lost more than two-thirds of its value in one day.
2) The 28% positive swing in Zimbabwe’s economy between 2008 and 2010
Both of these changes occurred because of sovereign policy decisions, not external factors.
In 1997, the government of Zimbabwe decided to provide one-time payments and long-term pensions to veterans of the nation’s liberation war. This was a government decision to reward a group of people for national service and sacrifice, and I attach no negative value to that policy. However, it was not budgeted, and dramatically increased government expenditures, costs that could not be met through increased income or reductions to other programs. This off-budget expenditure undermined confidence in Zimbabwe’s fiscal policy, and the Zimbabwe dollar lost value. This is a straightforward example of economic cause and effect, the cause being a sovereign policy decision.
My second example is positive. In early 2009, the Government of Zimbabwe decided to introduce the mixed currency regime. That policy decision led to a major positive change in Zimbabwe’s economic activity in less than two years. Zimbabwe’s economic growth rate went from negative 18% in 2008 to positive 10% by 2010, and the industrial index of the Zimbabwe stock exchange increased by 160% in 2009. The lesson remains the same as with the decision to overspend in 1997: Zimbabwe’s sovereign policy decisions are the most powerful factors in the nation’s economic performance.
Targeted sanctions did not exist in 1997, and were unchanged in 2009/2010, so they cannot be blamed for or credited with either of these two important changes in Zimbabwe’s economy. No one can deny Zimbabwe’s right to develop and implement policy, but neither can Zimbabwe deny the effects of its own policy decisions.
Let me offer some other hopeful information about Zimbabwe’s economy. Data for 2000 to 2012 show that Zimbabwe had a trade surplus with the United States in eight of the 13 years that targeted sanctions have been in effect [2000-2006 and 2008]. The data also reveal that total trade between the United States and Zimbabwe grew by an average annual rate of 16 percent between 2004 and 2008. Zimbabwe’s average gross domestic product growth between 2009 and 2013 has been 7% per year, the best performance since the 1970s. This data makes clear that neither ZDERA nor the U.S. targeted sanctions – both largely unchanged in the periods in question — have been the drivers of Zimbabwe’s economic performance.
Between 1997 and 2009, Zimbabwe made a number of other sovereign policy decisions which had consequences for the nation’s economy. Those include:
– The decision in 1998 to send the Zimbabwe Defense Forces into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which cost perhaps as much as one million U.S. dollars per day for a period of two years.
– Zimbabwe’s decision to stop payments on its loans from the International Monetary Fund and subsequent loss of new lending and debt relief facilities.
– While my government recognizes the importance of land reform in Zimbabwe, the decision in 2000 to pursue “fast-track” land reform program led to a reduction in agricultural production, reduced GDP, increased the need to import food, and damaged confidence in the application of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. In the first two years of that effort, (2000 to 2002) agricultural output was cut in half.
– The series of decisions made between 2003 and 2008 to print money without backing the currency with income or assets. You all know better than I do the consequences of those decisions.
My fundamental point in all of this is that Zimbabwe has the right and the power to make policy decisions. Some of these have had significant demonstrable effects on the economy, effects far greater than the targeted sanctions. The U.S. takes great care to minimize any unintended consequences from targeted sanctions – and I can tell you that my embassy works hard to try to resolve any that may arise. But, blaming targeted sanctions for Zimbabwe’s serious economic challenges—or for issues such as potholes and road accidents– is diversionary. Worse, such statements do not acknowledge Zimbabwe’s agency, its ability to address its challenges and to mobilize its magnificent natural resources and human capital. Zimbabwe is tremendously blessed in human and natural resources, and the narrative that targeted sanctions are the reason for economic woes undermines and obscures this nation’s vast capabilities.
But let’s talk about targeted sanctions for a minute:
I have to pick at the notion of “illegal sanctions.” Every nation has the right to admit or deny entry to citizens of other countries. There’s nothing illegal about that. And, every country has the right to pass laws imposing limitations on the business its own citizens do with foreign citizens or companies. Nothing illegal about that. So, let’s move beyond the notion of illegal sanctions. Travel restrictions, yes. Business restrictions, yes. Illegal? No.
The underlying principle is that the U.S. targeted sanctions program seeks to limit the economic activities of that very small number of individuals and entities that have shown a willful disregard for the rule of law, democratic process, and human rights in Zimbabwe. In our view, those are the activities that have weakened this country’s economy. Targeted sanctions are our means of expressing concern and trying to encourage decisions that will strengthen Zimbabwe.
And, when we say targeted, we really mean targeted. U.S. targeted sanctions apply to only 113 individuals and 70 entities. Zimbabwe’s 2012 census indicates that 13.1million people reside in Zimbabwe. That means that U.S. targeted sanctions apply to fewer than one out of every 100,000 Zimbabweans. Aside from those 113 individuals, the rest of Zimbabwe’s 13 million people are free to conduct business with the United States including: importing goods from the United States, exporting to the United States, investing in the United States, accepting investment from the United States and transferring funds through the U.S. banking system.
Let me also say that the Government of Zimbabwe as a whole is not subject to U.S. sanctions. Let me repeat that: The Government of Zimbabwe is not subject to U.S. sanctions. If the Government of Zimbabwe wants to purchase American turbines for electricity generation, it is free to do so. If the government wants tractors, water pipes, medical equipment, computers and most other goods that will improve the quality of life for all Zimbabweans, it is free to purchase those from American manufacturers. The United States is happy to export to Zimbabwe. And we do. In 2012, Zimbabwe imported $53 million worth of goods from the United States, and sold us $52 million worth of goods. No, those are not huge numbers – they were about twice that just 5 years ago, but the balance is healthy and there is plenty of room for and interest in growth. In one arena, the U.S. is Zimbabwe’s leading trade partner – and it is virtually all income for Zimbabwe: Tourism. No country outside of Africa sends more tourists to Zimbabwe than the U.S.A.
As I said earlier, I would like to see the U.S.-Zimbabwe relationship improve and expand. I will continue to work toward that goal as we constantly evaluate our targeted sanctions as we did in April by licensing Agribank and the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe. But mending frayed relations is not something the U.S. can do alone. We must work with Zimbabwe on this. We will work with any willing, open-minded partners in Zimbabwe who understand that strengthening Zimbabwe’s democratic institutions, respecting the rule of law and human rights are the surest paths to a strong, prosperous, democratic and sanctions-free Zimbabwe… a goal that we share with the people of Zimbabwe.
OK, enough on targeted sanctions.
Now let me talk about my other statement: The United States wants Zimbabwe to prosper.
What is good for Zimbabwe is also good for the U.S. A Zimbabwe with a strong economy and that can be a strong trading partner and market for U.S. goods and services is good for us. A Zimbabwe that can feed its population and meet its peoples’ health and education needs is good for us. A Zimbabwe whose economic, social and political systems strengthen Southern Africa and the rest of the continent is good for us. A Zimbabwe that sets the standard in the world for wildlife conservation, tourism, justice systems, protection of human rights, respect for property, and professional non-partisan security forces is good for us. It is clear that we have every reason to want Zimbabwe to prosper, and no interest in its being weak.
Our track record in Zimbabwe shows that our belief in and support for the values I have just listed is more than rhetorical.
– The U.S. and Zimbabwe share anti-colonial histories. We were the first nation to recognize independent Zimbabwe and opened our embassy in Harare on April 18, 1980.
– Over the last 33 years, we have provided more the $2 billion in humanitarian food assistance, health care, education, housing, economic development, agriculture, conservation, technical support to government, and a vast array of cultural, professional, educational exchanges, training programs, information resources, and individual and institutional linkages. This is not simply “aid” but capacity building programming that ensures Zimbabwe’s future is in the hands of Zimbabweans.
– In 2013 alone, our support to Zimbabwe was over $130 million, largely in health, agricultural development, humanitarian assistance, and support for democratic institutions, rule of law and human rights.
These all represent our serious, long-term commitment to Zimbabwe and her people.
Clearly though, even with all of the friends in the world, the work of building a prosperous Zimbabwe falls mainly on Zimbabwe’s people. Zimbabwe has many friends and partners but the main power, the greatest influence in deciding whether Zimbabwe prospers, is right here. Zimbabwe’s future is in the hands of Zimbabweans.
So, what are the elements of prosperity? From around the world, there are many models but just a few fundamentals. One of those is the importance of consistent rules and policies.
Business people need a clear investment climate in which to operate. Clarity and predictability build confidence and create the foundation essential for economic growth and social development. Unclear or shifting policies, especially uncertainty about rule of law, property rights, investment regulations, and dispute resolution systems, are anathema to progress. Transparent, predictable policies serve everyone’s interests.
Other factors being equal, a company will invest in the country which offers the most well defined and consistently applied economic policies. Even if the economic policies are not the most business friendly, the policies must be transparent and equally applied to all firms. Many potential investors have expressed their concern that Zimbabwe’s economic policies, including the indigenization policy, are not transparent, consistent and equally applied to all firms. Competition for capital is intense, and doubts about one country’s investment climate push investors to create and expand businesses in other countries, which then become more prosperous due to the employment and tax revenue this business expansion creates.
Zimbabwe has the power to determine its economic future. This country has vast resources and infrastructure. Zimbabwe can facilitate foreign investment that benefits all Zimbabweans through development and implementation of transparent, consistent, fiscally responsible policies. Zimbabwe can also draw on the experiences of other nations, experiences indicating that societies which protect fundamental rights such as free speech, the right to equal treatment under the law, and the right to maintain property are the most prosperous societies.
As I said in the beginning of my speech, the United States wants Zimbabwe to prosper and I am willing – the U.S. Government is willing – to work with Zimbabweans to support their democratic and economic goals. Those two sets of goals are deeply linked, and one supports the other.
I am profoundly optimistic about Zimbabwe, and feel extremely privileged to live and work here. My superiors in Washington share my belief in Zimbabwe’s potential and my determination to help realize it. We recognize the power and the potential of Zimbabwe, and know that once the people of this great nation decide to get on with the job, nothing can stop them.
In the meantime, the United States remains committed to working with the people of Zimbabwe in pursuit of a democratic, just, and healthy future filled with opportunity for all Zimbabweans.
Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to discussing these ideas with you.