Efforts to remove Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe from power have lasted about ten years. Mugabe refused to abide by the guidelines of the "structural adjustment programs" of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), imposed on the economies of poorer nations to the benefit of prosperous ones. But above all, it was with his radical land reform. Through the expropriation of descendents of European colonialists, he sought to overcome the extreme inequality in the apportionment of land, inherited from the colonial period. Berlin is in a state of alarm because sympathy is growing in the neighboring countries for Mugabe's land reform. If applied in Namibia, where sympathy exists, it would affect descendents of German colonialists, and therefore German interests. Mugabe is "disruptive" because he is "currently presenting himself as the most offensive adversary to the western liberal order, the vanguard against all neo-colonial oppression in Africa," summed up the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) headquartered in Berlin. His "disruptive potential" must "be shown its limits."
According to the government advisors in Berlin, Mugabe's "disruptive potential" is even more serious because Zimbabwe, with a thriving development, could well achieve economic and political clout. The country has the prerequisites for "becoming an important partner in the German Africa policy" writes SWP. Other western countries are also making high estimates of Zimbabwe's political and economic potential. Experts in Washington declare that it could become "an economic motor for the continent." For this it would be necessary to remove President Mugabe from power in Harare. Berlin's government advisors are literally saying that a "regime change" is necessary.
The west's candidate to become Mugabe's successor was essentially groomed by Berlin. Morgan Tsvangirai, like his party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), evolved from the trade union milieu, to which the SPD affiliated Friedrich Ebert Foundation maintains close contacts. The founding of MDC was initiated in early 1999 at a forum organized by the Ebert Foundation. At the time the foundation boasted of its "very close working relations with the trade union's main federation," of which Tsvangirai was the General Secretary. The foundation later supported this leader of the opposition with invitations to Berlin, where the foreign ministry was always at his disposal for talks. Last year, Tsvangirai was finally able to transform his foreign support into an electoral victory. The MDC became the strongest party in parliament. In February, after a hefty power struggle, its leader became the prime minister in a transitional government. But Mugabe has maintained his grip on the office of president and is not yet completely powerless.
How to achieve the final removal of Mugabe from power is the topic of discussions being pursued during Tsvangirai's visits to several western capitals over the next few days. The western boycott policy, in application up to now, which has driven Zimbabwe to the verge of ruin, cannot be continued, because Tsvangirai is now also governing and needs to show successes. Ways are being sought to get finances into Zimbabwe and to reinforce Tsvangirai, without Mugabe being able to benefit. Washington defined this dilemma already a few months ago. US experts are proposing a procedure used against Liberia, where foreign "experts" will be set up in Harare. In this way, an inspector sent from the World Bank, the IMF or major western corporations can keep an eye on government spending. This sort of inspector could also keep the budgets of the individual ministries under surveillance. A co-signature obligation with the corresponding Zimbabwean offices would guarantee that the budgets will conform completely to western guidelines.
Governing With NGOs
For the time being, there is no sign of these propositions being put into application. Already last year, Tsvangirai had planned to engage officials of the German Bundesbank as "advisors" in the national bank, providing them with wide-ranging powers. This was unsuccessful. The national bank is still being directed by a confident of President Mugabe. Therefore, for the time being, there are but two ways left open: either the money will go directly to the ministries under the control of Tsvangirai's followers, or - as is already the case - so-called NGOs will be used. The German government will, in any case, choose the second. "We will continue to support and expand the civil society in Zimbabwe," announced last week the Minister for Development, Wieczorek-Zeul. NGOs in Zimbabwe are playing "an exceptional role." Washington has promised Tsvangirai US $73 million, but will also keep them from falling into the hands of state organs.
The Old Topic
This Monday, Tsvangirai will be greeted in Berlin by Chancellor Merkel with military honors. He will then meet with Foreign Minister Steinmeier. A spokesperson for the government has announced the "opening of a new chapter in bilateral relations" with Zimbabwe. But the main topic of the talks remains an old one: the search for ways to remove President Mugabe's "disruptive potential" in regards to the "western liberal order" and expand western hegemony throughout Africa.