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Zimbabwe Under Siege 7/13

Reports from Zimbabwe claim that the British government was involved in planning a mass action to force President Mugabe from office, following the scenario that was implemented against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. The British High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, Brian Donnelly, was said to be instrumental in formulating the plan, and it should be noted that he had been the ambassador to Yugoslavia for two years and undoubtedly played a role in Western covert operations there. (34) It is highly probable that he was selected to the position in Zimbabwe entirely because of the experience he gained in undermining the Yugoslav government. Local security forces uncovered attempts by members of the MDC to smuggle weapons into Zimbabwe at three border crossings in preparation for a plan to stage incidents. Communications with an armed MDC group calling itself Mumvuri waDavid Coltart were intercepted by government security forces and revealed that the group was planning to murder MDC officials and members of the MDC youth organization in order to create disorder and affix blame on the ruling ZANU-PF. Other armed MDC groups were believed to be planning to assassinate ZANU-PF district leaders. White activists close to large landowners and former members of the Rhodesian security forces were said to be tasked with coordinating the murders, and they were supplied with mobile communication stations by the British. (35) The plans never came to fruition, though, as the MDC was forced to back down in the face of a show of force by the police and National Guard.

There is always more than one arrow in the Western quiver, and when the mass uprising failed to materialize, moves were made to exert increased economic pressure and to broaden sanctions against Zimbabwe. On June 13, 2002, the IMF issued a declaration of non-cooperation and announced that it was suspending "the provision of technical assistance" to Zimbabwe and "urged the Zimbabwean authorities to adopt an economic adjustment program." Once again, the IMF was urging Zimbabwe to revive ESAP. As usual, the IMF was all too eager to offer "to assist the authorities in designing the necessary policy measures." (36) The following month, the European Union announced that it was adding the names of a further 52 Zimbabwean officials who would be banned from travel in the EU, and whose assets abroad would be frozen, or in effect, seized. The wanton nature of the list can be gauged by its inclusion of such persons as the Health and Child Welfare Minister; the Education, Sports and Culture Minister; the Secretary for Gender and Culture; the Deputy-Secretary for Disabled and Disadvantaged; and others who had little if any influence on economic policy in Zimbabwe. (37)

Meanwhile, de facto sanctions continued to press Zimbabwe, as foreign trade continued to slump. Rapidly dwindling foreign currency reserves severely restricted the import of fuel, causing manufacturing and mining operations to go into a tailspin. (38) Zimbabwe, which has no natural gas or oil reserves, must rely entirely on imported fuel supplies, leaving it vulnerable to economic pressure. At the end of June 2002, the black-market exchange rate for the Zimbabwe dollar went into free fall. (39) Zimbabwe Financial Holdings Limited, a commercial bank, reported that the nation's entire foreign currency supply was sufficient to cover only three days of imports, and that "shortages have worsened in the past few weeks." The IMF's declaration of non-cooperation was expected to discourage lending by other financial institutions, resulting in a further squeezing of Zimbabwe's economy. (40) Due to the evaporation of foreign trade and the denial of credit, unemployment in Zimbabwe has soared to 70 percent while three fourths of the population is classified as poor. Finance Minister Simba Makoni reports that since 2000, one third of the jobs in Zimbabwe have vanished. "Workers are living from hand to mouth," says Lucia Matibenga, vice president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. "Business people are struggling in a collapsing economy and employees can't survive with the current high prices." (41)

By the end of June, there was a wave of panicked withdrawals from foreign currency accounts at banks, further depleting reserves. (42) In an effort to raise foreign currency for the purchase of food to feed its people, Zimbabwe was compelled to seek money in the black market, which exacerbated its economic difficulties. A Zimbabwean economic analyst pointed out, "The recent decline of the Zimbabwean dollar and the massive escalation of the black market has been necessitated by the government which is sourcing forex (foreign exchange) on the black market. It has sourced over US$55 million for the Grain Marketing Board to import maize over the last three weeks." (43)

On July 30, 2002, Daniel Maviva, management services officer at the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, reported that sanctions had caused the firm to lose $18 million. The elimination of foreign funding by the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and other institutions had dealt a crippling blow, forcing the firm to use its "own resources due to the withdrawal of those financiers under targeted sanctions." (44) As sanctions continue to tighten the noose around Zimbabwe, electrical power blackouts may become a frequent occurrence.

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