Ponies Can Be Allocated Directly

Greg Mills and Jeffrey Herbst argue that it’s time to resume aid to Zimbabwe to help out the unity government.

The problem here is that while almost everyone would like to help Morgan Tsvangirai and his allies “soft-land” the Zimbabwean crisis, a lot of observers are also perfectly aware that Mugabe and his closest supporters may be using Tsvangirai and the MDC for precisely this purpose, as a way to get development money flowing back into the hands of the ruling elite. This isn’t the first time that the powers-that-be have neutralized potential opposition figures by bringing them into the government and giving them a taste of largesse, nor the first time that they’ve done just enough to try and perform fake compliance with some minimum conditionalities for aid.

I was especially struck by this paragraph from Herbst and Mills:

To consolidate progress, donors should end their ambivalence about the unity government and begin to support Mr. Tsvangirai’s aims. Development assistance can be allocated directly. Replenishing the hospitals and re-equipping schools are measurable and defined projects. More generally, Western governments and nongovernmental organizations should become more publicly enthusiastic about the unity government, especially because they haven’t been able to offer a better option.

“Development assistance can be allocated directly.” Not to be a wet blanket, but how? Unless, of course, the government (still effectively dominated by ZANU-PF and Mugabe) gives permission for development assistance to be allocated directly. Which, particularly in the case of hospitals and schools, it is unlikely to grant, since that would involve surrendering some measure of control over state institutions. This is like saying, “Freedom of the press can be practiced by distributing publications freely”. Sure! If the government which suppresses freedom of the press allows that to happen.

No outside institution has a plausible plan of action for producing better governance in North Korea, either, but I don’t see why that should produce higher levels of enthusiasm for the inevitable.

Tsvangirai and his allies are in a terrible spot. Whatever can be done to help them should be done. But if there was ever a time for ironclad conditionality, this is the time. The interests behind ZANU-PF power will not share any authority that matters unless they have no other choice.

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3 Responses to Ponies Can Be Allocated Directly

  1. peter55 says:

    I agree with your conclusion here. However, Mugabe and the security-administrative ruling elite within ZANU-PF will not only try to co-opt the MDC. We should not forget that it is also in the ruling elite’s interest to ensure that the public credit for any newly-arriving aid accrues to them, and not to the MDC. Just as with foreign food aid – distributed mainly to party members only, while allowing non-party members to starve – we will likely see the co-option of any new aid to support the ends of the ZANU-PF elite.

    But, in dealing with these criminals, what use are even iron-clad conditions? Mugabe’s use between 1990 and 2000 of British aid intendend for post-Independence land transfers and resettlement to support instead the acquisition of white-owned farms by the ruling elite shows just how little control foreign aid donors may have over the final use of their funds. British aid was for the purchase of white-owned farms was conditional on transfers being on a willing-seller, willing-buyer basis. Using violent gangs of alleged chimurenga veterans to intimidate white farmers into selling made sure that the transfers satisfied the aid conditions (as well as lowering the price asked by the sellers). I wonder if Habermas mentions this anywhere in his discussion of the ideal conditions for public deliberation.

  2. moldbug says:

    It’s rather difficult to govern a country without ruling it, n’est ce pas?

    “We will eat your children.” “I wonder if Habermas mentions this anywhere in his discussion of the ideal conditions for public deliberation.” Who says progressives don’t have a sense of humor?

    While the fate of Rhodesia at your humanitarian hands has been terrible beyond description, there’s a certain closure in this reductio ad absurdum of passive-aggressive colonialism. It is the logical end state. The game is over when the country is so thoroughly ruined that not even a Foggy Bottom aidocrat can find a bandit who can squeeze himself into a blazer, clip on a tie and pick the scraps of child-meat out of his front teeth. Just as Sierra Leone was a piece of 20th-century Africa that fell into the 19th, Zimbabwe and Somalia are pieces of 21st-century Africa that fell into the 20th.

    As you guys know quite well, the real colonialists were (quite fond of parenting analogies in government. It would be interesting to apply this perspective to the present Zimbabwe. I’m personally acquainted with the result of one attempt to produce good behavior in a bad teenager by bribery alone. Perhaps if any of you development experts are parents as well, you can try this with your own kids and describe the results for our benefit.

  3. peter55 says:

    Despite its many problems, Zimbabwe, unlike Somalia, still has a functioning state and economy. To put them in the same category as you do, Moldbug, shows either your ignorance or your tendentiousness. But we knew about both those characteristics already from your previous comments supporting the slavery and state-sponsored violence of colonial rule.

    “While the fate of Rhodesia at your humanitarian hands has been terrible beyond description”

    The state of Rhodesia ceased to exist on 18 April 1980, Moldbug, which predates both my involvement and, I believe, Timothy’s, so (as so often) your comment is meaningless.

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