via Mass corruption & serious institutional failures must be taken into account in the EU re-engagement talks | The Zimbabwean 27.01.14 by Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
The corruption which recently started with the Masimirembwa diamond saga, has its tentacles far and wide as seen in the Public Services Medical Aid, then the ZBC, now its Air Zim CEOs fleecing the public. The only consolation in all this is that the state-run Herald Newspaper is taking a lead in exposing these shocking stories of corruption.With the EU decision on Zimbabwe just around the corner in February, how should the EU respond to these new revelations? The question is, ‘Is ZANU PF’s policy of empowering the indigenous people what it is or is it a smokescreen for self aggrandizement?’
The recently revealed mass corruption affirms the Statement byâ€¨ Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Shannon Smith in her testimony on Zimbabwe on September 12, 2013, when she said, ‘U.S. policy reflects the recognition that a select few in Zimbabwe remain committed to maintaining power and wealth at the expense of their people, and their nation. We therefore continue to maintain targeted sanctions aimed at those who are actively undermining democracy in Zimbabwe and thus depriving all its citizens of a more democratic, prosperous future……We want all Zimbabweans to know that the United States remains a friend of the Zimbabwean people and that we make a strong distinction between Zimbabwe’s 13 million people as a whole and those few, powerful, self-interested individuals who are degrading the country’s future’.
On the totality of all the available evidence, the U.S DOS was correct in its assertion that a select few in Zimbabwe remain committed to maintaining power and wealth at the expense of their people, and their nation. The question that arises is whether the EU policy should follow the U.S policy? There are various answers to this question depending on how one looks at it. On the basis of principle alone, Zimbabwe’s government has not complied with the benchmarks as set out in the Cotonou agreement save for the absence of overt violence in the 2013 elections.
The Zimbabwean government has to prove why it should be accorded preferential treatment above countries such as Fiji. The EU-Fiji relations are based on the respect for human rights, democratic principles, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law – essential elements of the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement. Following the 2006 military coup and Fiji’s violation of these values, the EU suspended its development assistance to Fiji. Since then, the EU has promoted a return to democracy, the respect for human rights and the rule of law in Fiji via enhanced political dialogue. The EU is cautiously optimistic about a prospective return to democracy in Fiji, with the 2014 elections and the constitutional consultation process. However unlike Fiji, Zimbabwe is still in the aftermath of a seriously flawed election, with very gloomy democratic prospects, given the overtly partisan national institutions that arbitrate political contest.
There is no doubt that the EU is faced with a very tough decision when it comes to Zimbabwe and such a decision will create an indelible international precedence. If the principle of the Cotonou agreement were to be adhered to, the EU-Zimbabwe dialogue should remain under article 96 since more reforms are necessary with regard to the respect for the rule of law, human rights and democracy. Human rights should remain a priority for EU’s foreign policy as spelt out in article 21 of the Treaty of Europe. As the French put it, “France wants to set an example, not to teach others a lesson but because it’s our history, our message. Setting an example in promoting fundamental freedoms is our battle and a matter of honour for us.”
However there are other practical necessities that might necessitate the re-opening of an article 8 dialogue. Such a dialogue should not be a given though. Given the current institutional failures, one would imagine that if the Zimbabwean Government were to directly access European bilateral and multilateral aid, the same is likely to have very little, if any impact, on the plight of ordinary people of Zimbabwe, given the current levels of pilferage, high level theft and organised and corrupt village structures. For example, one need to look no further than how ZANU PF rural structures are denying deserving families, the food aid that is being distributed by PACT.
Zimbabwe’s institutional failure was also seen in the seriously flawed by-elections during the weekend of 25-26 January. As Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Director Irene Petras remarked, ‘Electoral victories in Zimbabwe today are delivered via flawed, unavailable voters’ rolls, suspicious voting slips, bussing of ineligible ‘voters’, manipulation of voting numbers, continued voter intimidation, whether overt or psychological, and arrogant state institutions that do not serve their country professionally and with moral authority. The resultant impunity and failure to invest energy into addressing these issues, combined with politicians who are disconnected from the realities of the woman or man on the street, will ensure that whether 1000 opposition parties contest, or they band together, we will continue repeating the same sad cycle.’
In light of the above, the EU needs to be very cautious by ensuring that whatever decision it takes, the same will benefit Zimbabwe’s ordinary and long suffering people. Perhaps it is no longer the time for the EU to wield a stick on Zimbabwe anymore but it may not also be the right time to quickly throw a carrot to the Zimbabwean government too. The government needs to take urgent, credible, transparent and verifiable measures to address the issues relating to corruption and transparency including corruption relating to food and agricultural inputs distribution. Failure to address these issues might mean that no sooner is Zimbabwe removed from article 96 than it will find itself implicated under article 97 on the basis of corruption.
Soft rebukes and reports by the Herald on corruption are not enough. Heads must roll as was he case with the Sandura Commission after the Willowgate scandal and prosecutions must be initiated followed by a thorough civil service audit. The EU must insist on clear benchmarks with regard to corruption and transparency and in this regard could follow the International Monetary Fund guidelines. This should be one of the conditions to be fulfilled from the day the EU lifts the stick until the day it extends a carrot to the government of Zimbabwe. If the EU were prepared to forgive the government on its failure to meet the democratic test, it would be dangerous to forgive it on the corruption test. Doing so would not only be a betrayal of Zimbabwe’s poor but equally a betrayal of the European taxpayers, at a time when ordinary Europeans are tightening their purses. However the EU should continue supporting Zimbabwe’s social and economic sectors as before while it negotiates modalities for future re-engagement. This might mean conditional support to water and sanitation provision and support to ensure that children have access to nutritious food and education similar to the current government request to DFiD.
If the EU immediately lift the stick and quickly throw the carrot unconditionally, it would set a bad international diplomatic precedence. If governments fail the international political legitimacy test, then they might regain legitimacy at least in the eyes of their own people if they serve their people’s best interests, ‘legitimacy by performance’. In the current circumstances, this has not yet been sufficiently demonstrated and the government might need more time and political will to demonstrate this commitment.