Friday, April 13, 2007

SADC Executive Secretary Visits Zimbabwe on Mission to Lift Western Sanctions

Sadc begins Zim mission

Herald Reporter

SADC executive secretary Dr Tomaz Salomao yesterday began the region’s mission to rescue the Zimbabwean economy from the illegal Western economic sanctions with a series of meetings with President Mugabe and senior Government officials.

Dr Salomao’s mission has been given impetus by a growing feeling within the Sadc region that Zimbabwe should receive financial support from the International Monetary Fund since it has cleared its arrears under the General Resources Account.

Zimbabwe paid a total of US$193 million to the IMF over 13 months between 2005 and last year to clear its arrears with the critical GRA.

Following the repayment, the IMF was supposed to have resumed financial assistance to Zimbabwe but the United States and Britain blocked the resumption of aid.

"The feeling in Sadc is that Zimbabwe, in terms of Article 4 of the rules of the IMF, has cleared its debt and is therefore entitled to access support from the IMF," said a source closely following the Sadc mission.

Speaking to journalists after meeting President Mugabe at Zimbabwe House, Dr Salomao said it was important for Sadc to support Zimbabwe.

He said the meetings were part of the consultations he was undertaking to come up with a programme to rescue Zimbabwe’s economy, which is bleeding under Western-imposed illegal sanctions.

"I am here to implement what was decided by the (Sadc) Heads of State and to have some consultations.

"We are always hoping that the situation, although complex, we need to work hard. What’s good for Zimbabwe is good for the region. What’s bad for Zimbabwe is bad for the region.

"I think it’s time to talk less and do the work," said the Sadc chief.

Yesterday Dr Salomao met with members of the National Economic Recovery Council to get an insight into the National Economic Development Priority Programme, which Government is implementing to turn around the economy.

Headed by the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, the NERC is a multi-stakeholder organisation which brings together the economic ministries as well as the private sector.

Dr Salomao said he would also meet the Minister of Finance, Cde Samuel Mumbengegwi; the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Gideon Gono; and the head of the European Union in Zimbabwe.

The Sadc executive secretary was tasked by the Sadc leaders at the Dar es Salaam extraordinary summit in Tanzania last month to study the economic situation in Zimbabwe and see how the region could help it overcome the economic sanctions.

The summit also urged the West to remove the illegal sanctions and called on Britain to honour its obligations to pay compensation to farmers whose farms were acquired for resettlement.

Foreign Affairs Minister Cde Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Botswana, Mr Thomas Mandigora, were present in the meeting between President Mugabe and Dr Salomao.

The Sadc secretariat has its offices in Botswana.

Salomao’s visit timely, vital for Sadc

WITH the arrival this week of its Executive Secretary Dr Tomaz Salomao, Sadc has started a process of seeing what the regional bloc can do to help Zimbabwe put its economy back on its feet.

Zimbabweans sometimes tend to forget, in hard economic times, that the country’s blocked access to international financial institutions and the global banking system has repercussions on the rest of the region.

For when Sadc’s second most sophisticated economy faces troubles, then the waves break across most of its neighbours.

If Zimbabwe’s economy was fully functioning and if there was adequate access to organisations like the International Monetary Fund and the global banking system, then obviously Zimbabwe would benefit and so would its people.

But the other really big group of beneficiaries would be the people and businesses of the other Sadc countries. Zimbabweans would be able to buy more and import more, providing a very convenient market for many.

The illegal sanctions, largely pressed by the US and Britain but applied by the European Union and the IMF as well, go far beyond the "travel" sanctions trumpeted by the West and its allies in Zimbabwe.

Those are not really worth worrying about.

The real sanctions are those that are not announced. These involve the US Government and the British Government, largely through its European connections, assembling adequate blocs of votes to stop Zimbabwe receiving any support from the IMF and the World Bank.

That lack of support, in turn, makes it very difficult for Zimbabwe to access the sort of normal banking services from major western banks that most countries need to ensure trade flows freely.

It also makes it a lot harder to attract direct foreign investment, if only because potential investors are worried about how to get their fair dividend income out.

So the claims that the "sanctions" affect "only the leaders" is baloney. That may be true over the trivial travel sanctions, but the financial sanctions hit the whole population, and the poor more than the rich. And they hit the people of the neighbouring countries, who all need a prosperous Zimbabwe able to trade normally.

At the recent summit the Sadc leaders made it clear that they, and no other foreigner, will decide whether the elections in a member country have produced a legitimate Government. We assume that Sadc would, if there ever was a case of stolen elections, be just as harsh as its West African equivalent has been over some inadequate polls in that region.

It looks as though Sadc are now going to be pressing that point ever more strongly and telling the world to stop meddling in the region, which is quite capable of policing its own members.

The West needs to accept that the Zimbabwe Government is legitimate, even if it really does not like it, and that Zimbabwe’s neighbours are satisfied that the majority voted freely for that Government.

And those impediments to trade and growth need to be removed so that the people of Zimbabwe and the people in the neighbouring states can all benefit.

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