Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Zimbabwean Financial Conundrum
The potential loan to Zimbabwe has raised a lot of discussion amongst the South African public and there are no simplistic answers. It's a case of giving tacit support to a government that has got itself into this dire situation through mismanagement and deception versus letting a country, and its people, slide in an economic depravity that will have significant consequences for South Africa.

In giving the loan to Mugabe, Mbeki has been largely aware that it could well be money thrown down the drain, as Zimbabwean financial management has been short-sighted and incompetent to say the least. One finds it hard to believe that they will suddenly change their mischievous ways due to access to South Africa coffers. Mbeki has stated that the loan will be tied to economic and political concessions that will need to be made. However, Mbeki has shown an almost revered patience with Mugabe and his henchmen in the past and one wonders whether this is just lip service being paid to the South African and the international public to dissuade a perception that this is tacit support of Mugabe's regime. There are no guarantees of any return on these funds.

On the other hand, we have the Zimbabwean people themselves. Brow-beaten and defeated, most are largely along for the ride on Mugabe's roller-coaster, and there is a case to attempt to save the Zimbabwean economy for their needs alone. Then there is the fallout for South Africa if Zimbabwe does collapse. With little international support for assisting the Mugabe-led Zimbabwe, the brunt of an economic collapse will most likely be shouldered by South Africa alone. A huge influx of Zimbabwean job-seekers would result, along with a loss of any remaining exports and loan obligations, and a humanitarian crisis that will find few helpers outside of South Africa. It will be another thorn in the side of Sub-Saharan Africa, and in particular, Southern Africa, which will have a negative effect on international investment and international perceptions for South Africa.

It's a vexing question between assisting a ourselves and the Zimbabwean people and supporting a hapless and murderous regime. As sad as it may prove to be, as a tax-payer, I would probably support the loan on the former rationale.