Despite many challenges, Zimbabwe’s democratic opposition has a number of advantages that should be recognized and leveraged, including a base of support among the population; access to young leaders rising through the ranks and taking on leadership roles; and governing experience under the Government of National Unity (a power-sharing agreement with ZANU-PF following the disputed 2008 elections), when despite the limitations of their position, they were able to achieve some successes in the management of the economy. A viable opposition is essential to a healthy Zimbabwean democracy, particularly in serving as a counterbalance to the ruling party’s ability to expand its powers through the legislative process.
In addition to increasing political competition, other critical areas requiring attention include judicial, criminal justice and security reform; opening the information space; the full implementation of the 2013 Constitution; the need for responsive and participatory governance and service delivery; and a legitimate truth and reconciliation process. Again, engagement and support to Zimbabwean and regional partners in these areas is critical.
The United States should be prepared for numerous scenarios in a post-Mugabe era. The coming elections will be pivotal in determining the tolerance and space for future democratic development, but democratic progress is by no means certain. ZANU-PF and the military complex that plays an increasingly visible role in the party has everything to lose from a shift in the power dynamics of the country. Political repression and disregard for fundamental human and political rights is an ongoing problem in Zimbabwe, and we need to be vigilant under the new dispensation in the lead up to and following elections. U.S. policy toward Zimbabwe should be formulated to consider the multitude of scenarios that could unfold in the coming months.
The United States must hold the line with targeted sanctions and within international finance institutions to require the implementation of key reforms as a precursor to lending or debt/sanctions relief. Prior to the coup, one of the top issues discussed in the international arena regarding Zimbabwe was the clearing of its arrears with international finance institutions, namely the World Bank and African Development Bank, with the intent of making Zimbabwe eligible to participate in new lending programs. Under the new dispensation, debate over these issues has intensified, as the revival of Zimbabwe’s long-suffering economy is a top priority for the Mnangagwa administration and the international community.
Other international partners, especially the United Kingdom, have been quick to support and engage with the new regime, and China has a historical legacy as a patron of ZANU-PF. Unlike the EU, which lifted sanctions on Zimbabwe on January 25 (except for two individuals: Robert and Grace Mugabe), the U.S. recently renewed its targeted sanctions on individuals including President Mnangagwa.
Sanctions and U.S. influence in international financial institutions are our strongest points of leverage in discussions over democratic reforms and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced on February 2 that it will only lend to Zimbabwe if it clears its debts with other multilateral institutions. Given the leadership role that the U.S. holds in the World Bank, it is vital that we hold the line until true progress and good will is demonstrated by the Mnangagwa administration and ZANU-PF officials.
I thank you for your time and look forward to your questions.