Tendai Biti in crusade to deny Zimbabwe World Bank support

MDC vice president and Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee chairperson Tendai Biti

AT a time when the country is grappling with devastating effects of Covid-19, opposition officials are working flat out to ensure that Zimbabwe does not get assistance from international lenders such as the World Bank, it has emerged.

According to a leaked letter that was written by MDC Alliance vice president Mr Tendai Biti to the World Bank Group president Mr David Malpass on May 21 this year, the opposition official pleads with the international lending institution not to extend any loan to the Government of Zimbabwe.

This comes as the World Bank early this year indicated that it will be extending US$7 million to Zimbabwe to enable the country to fight the Covid-19 pandemic that has wrecked both lives and economies globally.

To date four people have died from the flue-like virus in the country while 282, mostly returning citizens from the diaspora, have tested positive.

In his letter that is in tandem with yet another letter that was written by the US Senate chairperson for the committee on Foreign Relations Mr James Risch on June 2 again to the World Bank, Mr Biti said any support to Zimbabwe must come with stringent conditions.

“All Africans are grateful for your work to galvanise a global response effort to assist sub-Saharan Africa during the Covid-19 crisis. The swift response by the Bank, as well as your advocacy for the suspension of debt payments, has resonated deeply with those of us who have begun to recognise the long term health and economic consequences of the crisis. We also appreciate the efforts to provide emergency assistance to the people of Zimbabwe, who have been in a desperate situation even before the pandemic struck.

“However, even in these unprecedented times, any support from the World Bank Group must contribute towards our shared goal of better health and economic opportunity for the people of Zimbabwe. Any assistance must not be allowed to further enrich or entrench the very people who have destroyed our economy and democracy,” read part of Mr Biti which was blindly copied to the US.

Speaking like an anti-government commissariat Mr Biti claimed that the Second Republic has turned a blind eye on corruption notwithstanding the many corruption cases that are being handled by the country’s courts and institutions such as the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc).

And in what insiders said could be the case behind the alleged abductions of three MDC Alliance members, Mr Biti uses the alleged kidnapping case to sway the World Bank against assisting Zimbabwe.

This is despite the fact that the Government has vowed to get to the bottom of the alleged abduction of the three MDC Alliance members with preliminary investigations already revealing in shocking detail inconsistencies in the narration of the trio.

In his letter Mr Biti accused Government of abusing public resources and pleads with the World Bank not to extend any loan to Zimbabwe unless if it is channelled through non-governmental organisations where he will be a facilitator.

“We have painfully learned, time and again, that the Government will abuse public resources for their own goals rather than for the benefit of Zimbabweans.

“The only way that we can advance our shared goals to respond to the current crisis is to include robust measures for transparency and accountability in any assistance package. Even though the donor community accepts that funds cannot be channelled through the Government itself, the integrity of any relief is still at risk because of the close relationship between senior Government officials and certain private actors.

“I understand that the Government has pleaded with the World Bank for more assistance and a way out of its debt arrears. The same concerns about retrenchment and repression apply.

“I would be happy to facilitate dialogue between the bank and civil society on arrears in question as a way of ensuring that international support to Zimbabwe is consistent with economic and democratic reform and not a step backwards for our long-suffering people,” said Mr Biti.

On the other hand, Mr Risch, who has been a rabid critic of Zimbabwe notwithstanding the country’s re-engagement efforts, draws from Mr Biti’s letter to push for Zimbabwe’s exclusion in any rescue package.

“This extraordinary crisis will require an exceptional response, but it is equally important not to lose sight of the historical behaviour of countries like Zimbabwe where the Government has used, and continues to use, State resources and international aid to suppress its population and enrich the ruling elite.

“I was relieved to hear that the $7 million grant for Zimbabwe will be managed and implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the Dutch Catholic Organisation for Relief and Development Aid (Cordaid) but concerns remain that the funding this grant provides for desperately needed responses will fall into the wrong hands directly or indirectly.

“It is for this reason I urge the World Bank to impose very strict benchmarks and transparency and accountability processes on the $7 million grant and any future programme for Zimbabwe, that contracts for goods and services are not awarded to Zimbabwean companies under US sanctions,” reads the letter from Risch in part.

Zimbabwe is under the burden of economic sanctions that the US and its allies imposed in the aftermath of the Land Reform programme that corrected historical land imbalances. – Herald