Zimbabwe: Neighboring Countries Need To Increase Pressure on Mugabe

November 28, 2008

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi E. Frazer shares her thoughts on the situation in Zimbabwe.ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: ...The United States remains very concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe. It has deteriorated significantly. When we look at the current crisis, you have a cholera outbreak as a result of the health infrastructure basically breaking down. Most of the hospitals are closed today. Sanitation, clean water is nonexistent. And you find really that that’s – that breakdown is across all sectors. Education: most of the schools are closed; children aren’t going to school. When you look at the economy, it’s completely imploded. There’s hyperinflation; the currency is worthless. And you continue to have political violence. After the fairly good March 29th presidential and parliamentary elections, in which Morgan Tsvangirai won, you’ve had a runoff that was roundly denounced by the EU, the Southern African Development Community, the African Union, the Pan-African Parliament, the United States, and most major powers around the world, essentially saying that the level of violence meted against the population by ZANU-PF made that a not free, nor fair election.

So we really have serious concerns about the situation in Zimbabwe today. And it’s ironic that given the breakdown of that country, the basically failure of the economy, that you have Mugabe now saying that he’s going to go to Doha for the UN Financing for International Development Conference, a follow-up to the Monterrey Conference in which countries agreed that good governance and investing in the health and education of the population, the human capital development, was key to getting greater financial inflows into these countries. And so you don’t have any level of development in Zimbabwe. It’s the one country in Africa that has had negative growth rates over the last decade. In fact, just last year it was negative 6 percent, whereas most of African countries have had 6 to 10 percent GDP growth rate. In fact, Zimbabwe’s economy is worse than Somalia, which has been a failed state for 19 years. Somalia had 2 percent growth last year, whereas Zimbabwe had negative 6 percent. That goes to show you what a major crisis this is.

And again, going back to the UN conference, one of the things that we’ve learned is that if a neighboring country is imploding, it has a negative impact on the growth rates of all of the surrounding countries – South Africa, Zambia, all of them are neighbors to Zimbabwe – and yet we can expect that it will pull down their GDP growth rates by 1 to 2 percent just because of the crisis in Zimbabwe. So it’s not just one that’s impacting the citizens of Zimbabwe, but it is, in fact, impacting the entire region. And again, it’s extremely ironic and unacceptable for Mugabe to be going to the UN Conference on Financing Development in Doha while you had the implosion of his economy and the crisis of his population taking place. This is much like what he did in June when he went to the UN Conference on Food at the same time that between June 4th and August 29th he suspended all humanitarian assistance to a population in dire need of that assistance from the international community.

So we will continue to work with the neighboring countries, particularly the Southern African Development Community, ask them to put greater pressure on Robert Mugabe to accept the spirit and the letter of the power-sharing agreement signed in September, on September 15th. The problem is ZANU-PF. The problem is a government led by Robert Mugabe in which he continues to try to rule through tyranny rather through the will of the population in Zimbabwe.



New Mexico, USA
November 30, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Ms. Frazer -- It is one thing to express concern, but if my following assesment holds truth, then concern won't suffice for kinetic humanitarian intervention up to and including removing Mugabe from power altogether through the will of the international community. By force if neccessary.

There comes a point when nation's must swallow the bitter truth that all diplomatic options have proven ineffective, and a limited time remains to prevent a larger crime against humanity from occuring.

I believe it would be a safe bet that Mugabe could be found to be mentally incompetent, if not criminally insane.

How else can one explain his policies and actions?

I think the following post holds true for how we as a nation approach this crisis, as well as the others mentioned.

I have been consistantly impressed with your personal outspokeness on African issues from the start, and it reflects not only US government positions, but the general attitude of the American people towards mankind's inhumanity towards fellow humans.

Just keep calling it like you see it...maybe folks will eventually get a grip.

But in the meantime will you please do me a small favor and pass my following thoughts on to the AU and UN?

The ball's in their court and they need to realize their potential.

Time's 'a wasting....


(from question of the week)

Eric in New Mexico writes:

"How should Zimbabwe's neighbors engage in the process to resolve the crisis?"

They should proceed under the logical assumption that they will get exactly what they are willing to put up with.

This goes as well for Darfur, Somalia, DR Congo....

Posted on Fri Nov 28, 2008

Virginia, USA
December 1, 2008

Rob in Virginia writes:

Increased visibility of the perpetual crisis in Zimbabwe has been one positive achievement in recent years. The election on March 29 was "fairly good" for only one tangible reason, however: the efforts of the people to ensure that the results were accountable and a reflection of actual votes. The election was marred, however, by CIO and general ZANU-PF intimidation tactics and brutality. If the world hopes that Zimbabwe can stand a chance for successful, post-runoff negotiation and peaceful change aimed at progress, the issue of government organization of the CIO and youth militias must be addressed not only by the country but by the region and the international community as a whole.

One of the disparities in regional diplomatic pressure is that groupings such as the Southern African Development Community fail to validate themselves through practice. Post-Cotonou South Africa must help draw foreign investment into dependent states such as Zimbabwe in order to diversify work opportunity. At the same time, instability in the form of violence and fitful regimes must be diplomatically watered-down or pushed out through non-violent means. Thabo Mbeki failed miserably in the opportunity to demand resolution; historically, the South African government and the SADC have failed to make regional cooperation conditional on not only economic change but also political tolerance. The current China-Africa model, realized in places such as Mozambique, demonstrates investment that is tolerant of regime structures but neutral on population-wide strategies for increasing GDP and sustainable employment. Tolerance of exclusive and oppressive regime formats perpetuates imbalance and loss of opportunity in any development growth because exclusion of factions from the political process or a fair economy prevents civic participation and contribution on large scales.

If China wishes to be a benevolent factor in the region, then it will adopt a conditional investment structure like the Millennium Challenge. Additionally, if our country, the United States, wishes to provide foundational support for the positions posited by State Department such as in the African Affairs division, it should step beyond vocalizing the Millennium Challenge strategy and actually bolster diplomatic activity with regional entities such as the SADC in an effort to increase the necessary regional responsibility. If South Africa wants to keep its hands relatively tied with an EU trade arrangement that potentially distracts attention from SADC member states such as Zimbabwe, something that will continue to happen if we keep our hands off at a diplomatic level, how can we expect positive change in the current stage sans direct international intervention?

I challenge the African Affairs division and, consequently, the State Department to adopt a vigorous diplomatic strategy that utilizes international influence of our allies in order to increase the diplomatic stewardship of groups such as the SADC for their respective region. Words of official policy toward Zimbabwe are assuring as much as they are anecdotal but the influence of asset-freezing and trade and travel sanctions on the bellicose elements of the government in Zimbabwe are secondary to an overall strategy of actively seeking a resolution by working with legitimized bodies such as the SADC to give some guidance. Our relations with the SADC organization may be thin but active diplomacy is a potential tool for increasing unrealized friendship and trust on an international level.

New Mexico, USA
December 1, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Rob -- Unfortunatly there flat just isn't time to wait for some hope that Mugabe and his thuggies will bend under diplomatic pressure.

If current trends continue, Zimbabwe will become the next Darfur within two to three years or less, and that's not speculative....there's ample evidence of intentional denial of basic rights, basic services, and a systematic brutality that should over time have already lead the international community to come to the same assesment I have of what will happen if Mugabe & co. are not removed from power. By whatever means effective and deemed neccessary.

This is an inescapable fact, and I wish diplomacy all the luck in the world, but it's time for folks to open their eyes to what the future holds.

Civil war, famine, disease, and in the end....Genocide.

So, it is past time to act.

The people have niether the strength left, nor the means to excercize their right to change the government of their own accord. The've done their best to no avail.
Nothing more can be asked of them. They are simply trying to survive at this point.

Their only hope lies with like minded nations with the guts to change the parameters of their existance.

Sidney O.
Illinois, USA
December 1, 2008

Dr. Okolo in Illinois writes:

@ Madam Secretary -- You are in the right track, but there is a lot of work to be done in this region. That said, learning the history, culture, and beliefs of African region is very vital in confronting, dealing, negotiating, and resolving conflicts. I hope that keeping this in mind may help assemble a team of Africa experts, who will address the problems in Africa.

December 2, 2008

Sitienei in Kenya writes:

Zimbabwe is having a problem that does requires both Change of attitude in all African leaders and Other Nations in Europe and America.

With change of attitude regarding approach in negotiations a better base spelling the role of both Zimbabwe leaders and mediators might be required.

A African Union delegation should make sure that leaders in Zimbwabwe but the nation first. That interest of some given European Nations with interest should not be used and should not affect getting a leader.

The United Nations should also have some law of removing some leaders in power without using force Like Bosnia.

Africa in general should make that lobbyist from developed countries don't affect there countries leadership.

Remember a perfect bond is made by brothers talking out there hearts not a neighbor with vested interest.

Africa Leaders should stop dreaming and trying to live like wall street c.e.o (greedy individuals). They should empress there forefather spirit of listen and learn

Kentucky, USA
December 2, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

The government of Zimbabwe is illegitimate and it's obvious that Mugabe will never willingly cede power as long as he still breathes. These "power sharing talks" are only delaying tactics and Mugabe will do his best to sabotage them at every opportunity if he can't get what he wants. He has no interest in sharing anything and Zimbabwe has never had a truly representational government since it's independence some 20 odd years ago.

The disconcerting factor is the stance Zimbabwe's neighbors has on the situation. The AU's resolution is limp and provides nothing more than lip service. If there is benefit from a stable Zimbabwe (such as slowing the flow of emigration which leads to native job loss in the other countries) then why aren't the members of the AU and SADC making strides in that direction? Since every action (or inaction) has a reason, there are at least three causes for not taking advantage of the opportunities that could exist from a stable Zimbabwe. One, the member states are ineffectual at actualizing that change, two, they do not perceive those benefits, or three, they prefer Zimbabwe as it is, weak and divided. Since every country surrounding Zimbabwe has been engaged in war at some point in the last 20 years, perhaps the do not wish to strengthen a country that may end up being their enemy? Furthermore, in view of leaders', like South Africa's president, refusal to condemn Mugabe's reign may be indicative of their preference for maintaining the status quo. Perhaps they don't want that same condemnation to be applied to their own future actions? Or they may see a change of Zimbabwe's government as detrimental to their relations?

While the gains from a united and cooperative Africa seems obvious to most, in an atmosphere of struggle for even the right to live, it may be difficult to overcome the tendency to hoard money and power. Despite the emerging economy of places like South Africa, the aid recipient mind-set may prevent some countries from extending their own resources to others even if it may benefit them in the long run. A common problem in the AU peace-keeping missions is a lack of equipment and resources provided despite the relative wealth of the donor countries.

It seems clear that force is the only thing Mugabe's political circle respects, which is what we should give them. While I generally espouse a non-interventionist stance, there is no reason to honor a corrupt reign. While the sustained pressure of sanctions and embargos may eventually cause the government to collapse, how many lives will be wasted in the waiting? Other measures may speed the process of change. The AU should declare an ultimatum under the threat of isolation, blockade, and eventual invasion. At the least they should force emergency elections that are presided over by AU peacekeepers (to protect the people from intimidation). Mugabe should see that his continued iron grip over the country will be detrimental to his own livelihood. As conditions deteriorate, it increases the probability that discontent factions will invite in foreign powers under the guise of protection for the people. Stepping down or losing an election would seem preferential to being executed. Right now, in it's weakened state, Zimbabwe is almost ripe for the picking. As long as Zimbabwe enjoys the support of South Africa, though, no other party will move against them except by covert actions (if they can be prodded out of their apathy). Two other options could be a full fledged financial and logistical support of opposition parties and devising a tactic that drives a wedge between Mugabe and the military. Perhaps if the opposition promises better living conditions, wages and benefits to the military, some military members might see a regime change as a profitable venture.

Motivating the surrounding countries is our task. We could collaborate with other aid countries to create an anti-Mugabe requirement for the aid provided to Zimbabwe's neighbors. Maybe by providing tangible rewards for each country that stands together in their condemnation of Mugabe's reign will help. We could also actively speak out against the leaders of those countries who refuse to acknowledge the multitude of human rights crimes that are occuring even as you read this.

When Mugabe passes from power, though, what can be done to prevent this from happening again? As seen here, one decade's savior is often the next decade's tyrant.

Since the probability of the situation changing on its own for the better any time soon is slim, the people of Zimbabwe will only continue to suffer, especially if the world leaders continue to stand idly by.

United States
December 5, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

Zimbabwe is a British problem -- Rhodesia was their colony and it was the British decision to dump the Ian Smith government in favor of black rule. If Queen Elizabeth wanted something done, she would have requested it be done, and it would have happened.

We have today a stark comparison of black living standards under a white government, and black living standards under a black government, and that is the elephant in the living room that everyone is afraid to notice.

Mr. Mugabe has made it clear that he will not leave office, not now, not ever. So exactly what, if anything, are the British prepared to do about this? Does the Queen expect them to starve to death?


Latest Stories