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.