"Zimbabwe to be hurt economically"

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afrol News, 11 December - Although Zimbabwe narrowly avoided economic sanctions by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), other international developments indicate the country's economy will be hurt. The new US Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act is bound to have implications.

- The adoption of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act by the US Congress on Tuesday this week is a profound and important development, E.G. Cross, Secretary for Economic Affairs of the main opposition party MDC today analyses. 

- It signals that the legislature in the US has finally come to the conclusion that the Zimbabwe government has exceeded the bounds of acceptable behavior in governance terms and should now be formally excluded from the family of nations, Cross holds.

Meanwhile, Southern African ministers visiting Zimbabwe said they would not support sanctions against Zimbabwe. Malawian Foreign Minister, Lilian Patel, in Harare spoke on behalf of the SADC, saying sanctions now were "not an option," but that the situation needed "a careful and mature approach."

This clear statement on behalf of the SADC comes as a disappointment to the MDC opposition and to the British government, which had lobbyed for its local Commonwealth comrades to be the first to embark on sanctions. An unusually clear language by South African President Thabo Mbeki recently gave the impression the SADC might turn against Zimbabwe.

With the ex-colonial power Britain hesitating to make the first step and the SADC so far in line, it was the United States which first took decisive action against Zimbabwe. US sanctions seem inevitable if Mugabe does not change his policy.

These developments have been greeted with near hysteria by the state controlled media in Zimbabwe, launching campaigns first against Britain, then President Mbeki and now the US. State media have been careful to emphasise the US Act as a violation of our sovereignty and the claim that the proposed sanctions will harm ordinary Zimbabweans. 

- In fact the Act takes great care to ensure that it does not impact on the needs of ordinary Zimbabweans or make an already bad situation any worse for the great majority of our people, the MDC's Cross however points out.

- What it does do is to bring closer to reality the threat that if the Zimbabwe government does not amend its ways in a significant sense, then the US will use its long reach and enormous power to target the interests of the key players in the Zanu PF led government so as to try and persuade them that the cost of their delinquency will be potentially very substantial for them as individuals, Cross explains.

Cross also concludes that "the threat to use their influence over the multilateral institutions to ensure that Zimbabwe does not receive any assistance is in fact an empty pledge." All the multilateral financial agencies, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, have already suspended Zimbabwe from their programs. 

- This was for purely technical reasons, our default on the repayment of debt being the primary cause, says Cross. "The threat to suspend other forms of assistance has already been implemented by the great majority of bilateral donors, including the USA, for reasons related to our failure to observe the norms of good governance." 

As such, most European cooperation agencies have suspended their Zimbabwean programmes. Donors, including the US, are however maintaining the very substantial humanitarian programs in Zimbabwe. These have been ongoing throughout the past two years, and "this will not change as a result of the new legislation," Cross claims.

- What is much more encouraging in respect to the new legislation, is the commitment by the government of the United States to help Zimbabwe get back on its feet once we have changed the way we do things and come back to our senses, says Cross. "This is a very significant step forward."

Outlining the devastated situation of the Zimbabwean economy, which also will be the fact if the MDC wins next year's election, Cross holds a democratic government will "need the help of our friends, and will need that help urgently." 

- The decision of the US House of Representatives to ensure that such help will be forthcoming as soon as we put our own house in order, is the best news we could have had from anyone this Christmas, concludes Cross.

Sources: MDC, SADC, press reports and afrol archives

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