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Debt, sanctions and policy: Nowhere to hide

President Emmerson Mnangagwa and AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina

THE past is hurting the present and the future of Zimbabwe. These were the words of African Development Bank Group (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina, at Zimbabwe’s High-Level Debt Resolution Forum this past Monday while visiting Harare.

Such words can be summed up as the country’s life story owing to the horrible policies that the Zanu PF-run government has inflicted over the years.

The words are like the great quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” by George Santayana, a 19th century Spanish philosopher.

This means people who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them, and the results are often catastrophic. It is an adage applicable to both global and individual histories.

Zanu PF has made many errors and mistakes, and for whatever reason, its leaders keep repeating them over and over again.

Of course, there is a debate about how far sanctions have hurt the economy with government arguing they have and some experts saying they haven’t.

But what isn’t up for debate is that it was the government’s own doing that got the country in this mess, especially the failure to follow its own Constitution.

Afterall, the targeted sanctions that are in place came because of the government violating human rights, failing to respect its own people, black or white.

Today, the country is haunted by this failure to respect property rights.

There can be no argument about the necessity of the land reform programme, but we could quibble about how it was carried out, but that period is past.

The US$3,5 billion Global Compensation Agreement signed between government and white former farmers in July 2020 was an acknowledgement of what as a country we did wrong and how we wanted to set things right, according to our laws.

The land reform programme was seen as one of the most divisive policies of the Robert Mugabe era, but as a country we have to move on.

As Adesina pointed out, Zimbabwe has to resolve well-known historical issues that led to the imposition of economic sanctions.

“Yes, it is the right thing to do, as two decades of sanctions have compromised the quality of life of the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.

“Economic sanctions are driving Zimbabwe further into unsustainable debt. The debt itself is not as debilitating as the arrears on the debt since the country cannot access international concessional financing or other revenue or less expensive financing to pay down its debt obligations.

“Of the $5,7 billion of bilateral debt, 69% of this is accounted for by arrears. Similarly, of the $2,6 billion of multilateral debt, 91% is accounted for by arrears.”

When we do our part, the world will work with us.

We agree with Adesina when he says the best way to solve any problem is to dialogue.

“To listen to all voices, to respect all voices, and to do so transparently and with commitment to narrow differences and divergences and reach consensus on concrete actions to be implemented. Actions that are developed from the ground up and owned by the government,” he said.

“Actions that will serve the people of Zimbabwe. Actions that are measurable by all parties, so progress can be verified and comprehensively assessed. Actions that will allow the healing of the past and the reopening of a new and brighter future for Zimbabwe.

“The people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough. It is time for actions to solve the problems of the past to clear the way for the future.”

Amen! Amen!

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