Uncovering Zimbabwe’s debt
Foreword Zimbabwe’s recent history has been characterised by political oppression, economic chaos and social division. This story is well known in the UK. However, it is rarely the case that a reign of terror springs from nowhere. What is much less well known is the long-term role that foreign governments, international institutions and private companies have played in laying the foundations for Zimbabwe’s catastrophe. This report attempts to document the particular role of economic injustice, through the indebtedness of Zimbabwe and the disastrous economic policies which this debt allowed foreign lenders like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to inflict on the country. In Zimbabwe, as in the recent history of so many other countries of the global South, the rich world, whether through incompetence or strategy, has used lending and debt to serve its own interests, not those of Zimbabwe’s people. In Zimbabwe’s case, this backfired drastically, and the people of Zimbabwe have suffered the consequences. None of this excuses the responsibility of the regime for what has taken place in Zimbabwe. The government is responsible for the disaster which has befallen the country and it is the people of Zimbabwe, with solidarity from their supporters throughout the world, who will hold the regime to account for its actions. But the people of Zimbabwe also need to hold the rich world to account for the role it has played in Zimbabwe’s economic decline. Unless they do this, any new government in Zimbabwe will be expected to take responsibility for their country’s old debts. The country may be offered a form of debt relief, but it will be on the terms of the rich world, it will involve new lending and it will hand the rich world the power to again dictate economic policies in Zimbabwe. There are alternatives. One of them is a ‘debt audit’ in which people conduct a full public examination of their debt which allows them to understand where their debts came from, whether they were useful for the country’s development and whether and on what terms repayment should be made. A debt audit is an essential step towards democracy. Democracy includes citizens taking control of their country’s wealth and resources and using them to fight poverty and inequality in their country. A debt audit forms a step in that process of taking control. Groups in Zimbabwe are starting on that process. The Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development are already starting to build support for an audit because rich country governments and institutions are already discussing the economic future of Zimbabwe. This report is our contribution towards Zimbabwe’s debt audit process. We hope it can contribute to a future for Zimbabwe based on true independence and democracy, in which the people of that country can use their resources to fight poverty, inequality and injustice.
Nick Dearden Director, Jubilee Debt Campaign
Uncovering Zimbabwe's Debt