A Startling Admission
In the light of the extraordinary international economic and military campaign to bring down Rhodesia and replace it with Mugabe’s Zimbabwe it was most enlightening to read the speech by the American Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell (delivered 2/11/05 at Africa University in Mutare):
“…The growing collapse of the Zimbabwean economy. Not too long ago, Zimbabwe had a vibrant and diversified economy. It was a land of great hope and optimism in Africa… A symbol for the rest of the world of what Africa could become. Today, as you know, it is a country in deep crisis. I know of no other example in the world of an economy that, in times of peace, has contracted so precipitously…
“Manufacturing has shrunk and exports have fallen… Foreign direct investment has evaporated... Agricultural production – the mainstay of the economy – has collapsed under the violent implementation of… badly thought through land reform. The government… have continued to expropriate farms without compensation and to distribute these farms in a non-transparent manner to ruling party insiders… not only commercial farm owners have been affected. This misguided and ill-fated land grab also displaced over a million farm workers and their family members.
“The human cost of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has been extraordinarily high. The estimated proportion of the population living below the official poverty line… is now about 80% of the population. At least half the country faces food shortages… well over a quarter of the population has fled the country… Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has set the country back more than half a century… That’s an astonishing reversal of 52 years of progress.
“The flood of economic bad news has been continuous… the World Economic Forum… ranked Zimbabwe as the least competitive of all 117 economies studied… What has caused Zimbabwe’s unprecedented economic descent? The government’s official position has been that the economic collapse is the result of drought and sanctions imposed by unfriendly Western nations… The CATO Institute in Washington recently published an insightful paper… when rainfall has recovered, the Zimbabwean economy nevertheless has continued to decline… it notes that rainfall patterns are regional, yet Zimbabwe’s decline in maize production has been dramatically greater than Zambia’s or Malawi’s. In fact, Zambia’s maize production actually increased…
“Zimbabwean firms that are not connected to regime leaders are free to do business with American firms and American firms are free to invest in Zimbabwe and trade with any individual except those top level sanctioned officials… There are no blanket sanctions against doing business in Zimbabwe… what has been the cause of Zimbabwe’s unprecedented economic descent? …Neither drought nor sanctions are at the root of Zimbabwe’s decline. The Zimbabwe government’s own gross mismanagement of the economy and its corrupt rule has brought on the crisis… The fiscally reckless, massive, unbudgeted payout to war veterans in 1997… Zimbabwe’s costly misadventure in the Democratic Republic of the Congo… the government’s policy of land seizures and tolerance for chaotic disruptions on commercial farms led to the collapse in food production.
The impact of the farm invasions has extended beyond food security, beyond Zimbabwe’s balance of payments crisis, and beyond the plight of the thousands of individual expropriated farm owners. The land grab has intensified the suffering of Zimbabwe’s most vulnerable segment of society – the rural and urban poor.
“Fast track land reform, still under way… also had the ugly and debilitating side effect of spurring violence, racial mongering, and the destruction of property and livelihood… riddled with political favoritism… the refusal to admit and correct mistakes… no wrongs are righted; the rule of law is a shambles. Multiple farm ownership by the politically powerful and their families makes a mockery of the government’s official ‘one man, one farm’ policy.
“…nothing rattles investor confidence more than the prospect of expropriation… the Zimbabwean economy appears to be entrenched in a downward spiral, and the abandonment of sensible economic policy has shut off most foreign aid, scared away most foreign investment, and spurred an alarming rate of brain drain… Investment flows to countries with sound macroeconomic policies, where the rule of law is respected and contracts enforced, to countries that offer a good opportunity for generating a healthy return on investments, to countries that do more than pay lip service to the concept of transparency… bad policies have sidelined this country… the outlook for the next years is bleak. Zimbabwe cannot pull itself out of the hole it has dug by itself… by shortsighted and misguided government policies.”
Human Cost of Misguided Policy
This courageous and insightful analysis of Zimbabwe’s present crisis is all the more impressive when one realizes that throughout the 1970s it was a primary goal of the US State Department to replace the strong anti-Communist government of Rhodesia with Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. In the last quarter century, millions of lives have been ruined, and many tens of thousands of innocent people murdered as a result of this misguided policy.
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