Time ripe for exhausted nationalism?

As the IMF visits Zimbabwe this week, PATRICK BOND, examines the diplomatic brokering behind the SA loan to Mugabe and how this could affect the next stage in Zimbabwe's political destiny. Mugabe's alliances have generally been maintained the past five years, and both external and internecine rebell

ions have been crushed. Regular predictions that the ruling party will fragment – mainly due to ethnic factionalism – have never reach fruition. After three decades of control over Zanu (PF) and six years’ experience harassing a strong opposition party, Mugabe has an even stronger grip on his politburo. Evidence of his dominance during this period includes the expulsion, demotion or jailing of figures with substantial regional or sectoral power bases, such as the giant old stalwarts Ndabaningi Sithole, Joshua Nkomo and Enos Nkala (1980s); failed party reformers Edgar Tekere, Eddison Zvobgo and Margaret Dongo (1990s); and tycoon Philip Chiyangwa, finance minister Chris Kuruneri, chief spokesperson Jonathan Moyo and parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa (2000s). However, with Mugabe apparently now unable to raise basic hard currency for importing petrol, food and other vital necessities, the time is ripe for the next stage of what might be termed ‘exhausted nationalism’. When Simba Manyanya and I began using this phrase in 2002 (in Zimbabwe’s Plunge), as shorthand for Mugabe’s incapacity to deliver a higher standard of living, it was not clear that the nationalist project could be reinvigorated, at least in a manner the masses would find compelling. The problem of ‘exhausted nationalism’ also applies to South Africa, where SACP deputy secretary Jeremy Cronin once famously translated it as the ‘Zanufication’ of the African National Congress (he was hurriedly forced to apologise). In turn, this is why the vigorous debate now underway on lending to Mugabe is so revealing. For it appears that Mbeki and the IMF have, to borrow the quote above, successfully shaped the discourse within which policies are defined, and indeed a proposed loan of $500 million from South Africa to Zimbabwe may circumscribe what can be thought and done. A reported $160 million of that was originally earmarked to repay the IMF, with the rest ostensibly for importing (from South Africa) agricultural inputs and petroleum. According to Pretoria spokesperson Joel Netshitenzhe, the loan could ‘benefit Zimbabwean people as a whole, within the context of their program of economic recovery and political normalisation.’ Much of the debate in South Africa concerns whether Pretoria is putting sufficient – or indeed any – pressure on Harare to reform, as Netshitenzhe refused to clarify speculation that both political and economic liberalisation would be conditions for the proposed loan. Mugabe spokesperson George Charamba revealed the process on August 14: ‘We never asked for any money from South Africa. It was the World Bank that approached Mbeki and said please help Zimbabwe. They then offered to help us.’ A Pretoria-based Bank economist, Lollete Kritzinger-van Niekerk, confirmed that her institution ‘is not ready to thaw relations with the ostracised Harare’. Other reports – in the usually unreliable but consistently pro-government Herald – were that a top IMF official and a US diplomat also needed a back channel. According to the IMF’s own news service in mid-August 2005: “The issue of the proposed loan from South Africa to Zimbabwe has taken a new twist amid revelations that the US government approached South African president Thabo Mbeki to bail out Zimbabwe, The Herald (Zimbabwe) reported yesterday. A highly-placed Western diplomat in South Africa, who is closely following the deal, told that IMF deputy managing director Anne O. Krueger approached President Mbeki and asked him to advance financial support to Zimbabwe ahead of the IMF summit set for next month, The Herald (Zimbabwe) reported yesterday. The diplomat said Ms. Krueger made her move in the run-up to the African Union summit in Sirte, Libya, which was held from July 4 to 6. Ms Krueger is reported to have told President Mbeki that a South African loan would enable Harare to pay its dues to the IMF and, in so doing, strengthen the case against Zimbabwe’s expulsion from the institution. President Mbeki, the source said, was surprised that a high-ranking IMF official could make a case for Zimbabwe. However, Ms Krueger is reported to have pointed out that South Africa would lose more from Zimbabwe`s expulsion since no other country would want to assist Zimbabwe after that, and this would have a negative effect on the South African economy.” Notwithstanding some mildly adverse impacts on investor confidence and refugees, whether Zimbabwe’s ongoing economic crash is entirely negative to South Africa remains disputed. In October 2005, Fitch ratings director Veronica Kalema remarked to the Financial Mail that Zimbabwe ‘is a small economy. It could collapse and South Africa would be fine.’ The same article quoted Harare-based business economist Tony Hawkins on the ‘upside’, namely, that: “South Africa has gained market share in exports, tourism and services. SA’s share of investment in Zimbabwe has also risen as there has been an element of bargain-basement buying by some mining and industrial groups. SA is also taking significant skills from the country, especially scarce black skills in health, education, banking, engineering and IT. ‘It would be too much to say that SA has benefited in net terms, but there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that it is securing some gains from the crisis.'” – to be continued.

Pride at the root of it all?
Zimbabwe's hide and seek with the IMF

Post published in: Economy

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