from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE – LIKE the illegal sanctions that have caused the suffering of a majority over the past two decades, the poorest among Zimbabweans are again set to bear the brunt of yet another unjust move by Western forces targeting the Southern African country.
The latest act of vengeance by the influential Western nations is the exclusion of Zimbabwe from the Group of Twenty’s (G20’s) temporary suspension of debt payments from the poorest countries due from May 1 to December 31 this year.
The debt suspension package includes all 77 countries that are either in the World Bank International Development Association (IDA) programme or defined as low-income countries.
Zimbabwe falls within these categories, in large part owing to sanctions wrecking the economy.
However, due to so-called technical conditions, it has been excluded from the agreement.
While sanctions exposed a majority of Zimbabweans to severe economic hardships, the decision by the G20 is also feared to leave the majority of the poor vulnerable to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic currently sweeping through Africa.
Christian Aid, one of the humanitarian organisations complementing the government’s efforts to shield the vulnerable from economic problems, decried the exclusion of Zimbabwe as unjust.
This is given the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis and its economic impact on the poorest and most vulnerable people.
The organisation pointed out that in terms of workable solutions, there was in place an ongoing Staff Monitored Programme between Zimbabwe and International (IMF), which is considered currently to be inactive.
Christian Aid believes if the IMF programme could be established again with the support of wider stakeholders, then Zimbabwe could also access debt payment cancellation for the World Bank, African Development Bank and European Investment Bank among other multilateral creditors as mentioned in the G20 statement.
“The lack of an IMF programme with Zimbabwe must not leave ordinary people exposed to further suffering because of the pandemic,” said Nicholas Shamano, Christian Aid’s Zimbabwe country manager.
He said there was a humanitarian imperative to ensure that the international community helped Zimbabweans to withstand the worst effects of COVID-19, and the subsequent global economic crisis.
Zimbabwe does not have debt with the IMF as it paid off its debt in 2019.
Shamano noted that settling the IMF debts by the Zimbabwe government in the past two years had come at a huge cost to the 14 million population.
The financial settlements also bust the myth peddled by international financiers that Zimbabwe was a bad debtor. The government has maintained a commitment to its debt obligations.
He said Zimbabwe was still reeling from the effects of Cyclone Idai and a severe drought, which would extend into the next year given the erratic rains this season.
“Unless Zimbabwe is also included in the current global United Nations appeal for COVID-19, once the cases reach a certain threshold, our weak health system will not cope,” shaman warned.
Successive droughts have coincided with the sanctions influential Western nations imposed on Zimbabwe at the turn of the millennium.
These have impacted badly on key sectors, with the health sector not spared much to fears of the spread of COVID-19.
By its own vulnerable health standards, Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 case is relatively less severe compared to its richer counterparts whose infections and deaths from the virus are in thousands.
At the time of publication, Zimbabwe had 25 confirmed cases and three deaths from the virus.
Local commentator, Collin Mapayi, lamented the decision by the G20 as a vendetta against Zimbabwe.
“It is part of an ongoing crusade by Western nations to flex their muscles on Zimbabwe since it embarked on agrarian and economic reforms that paralysed foreign dominance. Unfortunately, this vendetta always leaves the majority poor worse off,” Mapayi said.
The G20 is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union, a bloc that has been at the forefront of the imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe.
– CAJ News