The death and demise of Robert Mugabe
Posted on September 18th, 2019

By Garvin Karunaratne

It was these two facts that caused the failure of Zimbabwe. My Paper reproduced here tells the details.

The death of Robert Mugabe has brought a spate of writing which appears to portray him as a lost cause, due to his failings. However as my earlier writing of 2008 portray that the culprit was Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of the UK who failed to honour the Lancaster House Agreement which promised that the UK Government will pay compensation to the white farmers who would be dispossessed of their lands provided Mugabe did not dispossess the white farmers for ten years. True to his word, Mugabe for the first ten years abided by the Lancaster House Agreement and did not take over any land. After the ten years had elapsed Mugabe requested the British Government to honour the Lancaster House Agreement. Tony Blair did not honour the provisions of the Lancaster House Agreement and refused to pay compensation.  Mugabe then commenced take over of white farmer’s land to distribute to the landless peasants. Here the culprit was not Mugabe. Instead, it was Tony Blair who refused to abide by the conditions of the Lancaster House Agreement who is to be blamed.

Thereafter the IMF came on the scene with sweeteners the Structural Adjustment Programme which Mugabe agreed to follow.Liberalizing the use of the foreign exchange, freeing imports and meeting the shortfall with loans led to disaster.

Garvin Karunaratne

September 13 th 2019.

Mugabe’s Zimbabwe Today: The Stranglehold of the Superpowers & the IMF in action. Lessons for Sri Lanka.(written in 2008)

Garvin Karunaratne

Many of my friends and contacts have been surprised at my statement about President Mugabe, showing him as a victim of the Superpowers- how they have actually strangled him in my paper: Zimbabwe’s Election Results; The Double Standards of the Superpowers(Asian Tribune 20/04/2008). I wrote:

Why are the Superpowers so angry with Mugabe? When Mugabe came to power the Whites were ruling the economy. They had established plantations on most of the ideal cultivable land which was taken over from them virtually by force. Earlier this land was controlled by the communities and worked for the welfare of the people. This happened in every country that was colonized and this included countries like Sri Lanka and Kenya. The British did this in a subtle manner by declaring all unoccupied land as belonging to the Crown. In pre-colonial days the forest land near habitations belonged to the villages as common land used for water retention, firewood collection, for forest produce, for habitation as the populations grew, for cattle enclosures during the cultivation season etc. The land was thereafter sold to the white planters for a song and in Kenya, within the forest sold were entire villages, including the people.

In Out of Africa Karen Blixen documents how the planters sold their land including full villages with the people. In Sri Lanka it is on record that the Police were used to throw out villagers when their villages were situated in forest extents sold to the planters.

When we think of the Third World countries today we tend to forget that the Third World was entirely conquered by the Colonial Superpowers. In the words of Cecil John Rhodes, the aim of the British Empire was to bring the whole of the uncivilized world under British Rule”. The colonial masters changed the self reliant economies to become economies that brought about an income for them. The colonies were made to produce raw materials required for their industries and the goods manufactured were sold to the masses in the colonies. In this process the Third World countries were exploited with riches accumulating in the Countries of the Colonial Superpowers. Zimbabwe, earlier Rhodesia, was thus exploited to the maximum.

Mugabe was a guerilla fighter who fought tooth and nail against the colonial domination of his country. At last in 1978 the guerilla forces forced the British to cede independence. Under the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979, Britain, the country that had ruled Rhodesia from 1890 to 1965, when Ian Smith declared independence unilaterally, agreed to pay compensation to white famers who will be dispossessed of their land when the land will be taken over and distributed to the indigenous people. This was argued necessary because the colonial ruler, the British had taken over these lands from the communities that controlled these unoccupied commonly held lands without the payment of any compensation and had thereafter sold these lands to foreign-mainly British planters at nominal- very low rates and they had established plantations and had thereby amassed fortunes over decades. The prosperity of the UK was brought about by the profits that came from the plantations The vast bulk of the cultivable land of Rhodesia was in this process bought and occupied by 6000 white farmers. The dispossessed local people had no employment. It was an attempt to make these impoverished landless people farmers that made Mugabe argue for the plantations to be taken over for distribution.

However this takes over of plantations was to be done on a willing seller” basis. In fact the question of compensation payments rocked and almost aborted the Lancaster House Agreement which took three months of discussions to complete. An important premise of this agreement was that no repossessions out side the willing seller concept could be done for ten years. In 1981 Britain pledged to pay GB Pounds 630 million, but there was continuous disagreement and haggling and ultimately in 1997, the British Government of Tony Blair, reneged on its commitment and paid only pounds 44 million. According to a Report from the Zimbabwe Government the amount actually paid was only Pounds 17 million.

Independent Zimbabwe under President Mugabe did well initially after independence. Little land was taken over because of the terms of the Lancaster House Agreement to find willing sellers and the White Farmers continued to work their farms. The indigenous population continued to be landless. There was rapid growth in the Eighties. and then came the IMF’s Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) which Mugabe embraced in 1990. However it did not take long for Mugabe to realize that the Structural Adjustment Program did not bring about any development and he ditched the SAP in 2001.. IMF withdrew balance of payments support in 1999 and withdrew providing Aid in 1999.

During the period of the Structural Adjustment Program loans were made available even for consumption. The tenet of the SAP was to allow free trade, deregulate and reduce or abolish tariffs on imports on the basis that the IMF will provide easy loans to bridge budget deficits. In this process the foreign debt ballooned to $ 4,500 million in 2001 to the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank. Earlier Zimbabwe was not an indebted country at independence. It was the IMF that ruined Zimbabwe.

In the words of Richard Saunders, “Loan agreements emanating from the Structural Adjustment Programme have stretched Zimbabwe’s foreign and domestic debt to unmanageable proportions.”(Saunders:30)

As explained by Patrick Bond and Richard Saunders: 1991 was the turning point… The US was suddenly the sole superpower and the IMF, the World Bank and GATT(later WTO), wasted no time imposing a global neoliberal iron heel. Zimbabwe had significant international debts and suddenly new debt service was conditioned on yielding to the global neo liberal dictatorship. The large State Sector and protected local industries inherited from the prior regime were condemned as inefficient and an Economic Structural Adjustment Program was adopted by Mugabe with considerable enthusiasm. The results were disastrous.

Manufacturing output declined by 40% from 1991 to 1995 accompanied by a similar decline in worker’s real standard of living and dramatic increase in inflation that ravaged savings and those in the informal economy….Domestic Industry was destroyed in 1990 by the ESAP(Bond & Saunders)

The Government however was under constant pressure from the people to provide them with land and Mugabe had no alternative but to take over the plantations without paying compensation. Mugabe commenced repossession of plantations in 1997. In March 2002, all whites were ordered to leave their land without compensation. The Current aim is to transfer 30% of farmland to black ownership by 2014. Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in March 2002 Mugabe established a one party state but by 1990 changed his ideas and held multi party elections.

Many world authorities are unaware of the real reasons for the disaster that Zimbabwe faces today. Professor Paul Collier of Oxford in his book: The Bottom Billion:Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What can be done about it(Oxford 2007) states: Mugabe must take responsibility for the economic c collapse in Zimbabwe since 1998 culminating in inflation over 100.000 %.”

If the British Government had stood by the conditions that were agreed at the Lancaster House Agreement and had provided the 630 million pounds to be paid as compensation, there would have been no problem. But the British Government had reneged on its promise and President Mugabe cannot be blamed for this decision to take over the plantations. It was this act of President Mugabe that made the International Superpowers move sanctions on Zimbabwe.

No country with a massive foreign debt can face sanctions imposed. Though in the July 2008, G8 Meeting of the Superpowers, full sanctions were not agreed on because Russia and China did not support it, compliance with sanctions already imposed by Britain and Western Superpowers have ruined the economy.

Paul Collier has taken Mugabe’s present Zimbabwe out of context in castigating Mugabe. One has to castigate Tony Blair and his British Government for reneging on the aid that was agreed at the Lancaster House Agreement and also blame the IMF for implementing the Structural Adjustment Program that ruined local industry and local production. Once the development infrastructure in a country is abolished, it is an extremely difficult task to rebuild. Go through the IMF annals of ‘development’ and the Structural Adjustment Programme and one will find that each and every country that followed it have had their economies ruined.

In today’s context once a country has a high foreign debt which it cannot service and further its economy has been ruined by following the tenets of the Structural Adjustment programme, it has to depend on the grace of the International Superpowers for further Aid, if it is to pay its dues and survive. Mugabe came to a point where he had to displease the International Superpowers by his decision to take over the plantations without the payment of compensation and by his decision to not implement the Structural Adjustment Program. What happens is that through following the SAP the development infrastructure that is there in the country is abolished, the country’s assets are privatized and get into the foreign hands- hands of the multinationals and further through privatization of paying assets, the Government does not have a tax base to meet its development expenditure.

No country can face the sanctions of the International Community for long. Initially a country can raise a few foreign loans at high interest rates, through foreign banks, but this source dries up particularly because the countries cannot service those loans taken at high interest and further because the foreign banks eventually fall in line to the tunes of the International Community and the IMF.

Mugabe could not face the sanctions of the IMF and the International Superpowers. Thus his economy gradually got into ruins with the inflation rate reaching 7,000% in 2007 and this rising further to 100,000% in 2008. Today the unemployment rate is around 80% and about a fourth of the population work in foreign countries, mainly in South Africa. The people have their incomes from foreign funds remitted by the relatives working abroad.

What has happened to Mugabe and Zimbabwe is due not to Mugabe’s inefficiency, but entirely due to the fact that Mugabe failed to counter the machinations of the International Community that started imposing sanctions. In today’s neocolonialist era, it is the foreign funded Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) that are used by the Colonial Superpowers to sabotage the development of the Third World covertly. Overtly the Superpowers function as paragons of democracy and human rights and their educated Envoys in their verbosity continue to pose as if they are helping our countries and our leaders are snared. There is a catch in everything that the Superpowers tell us, if only we can decipher it.

There are a number of lessons for Sri Lanka from Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. The United National Party that ruled Sri Lanka from 1977 embraced the SAP and in the process the economy of the country was really ruined. In 1977 when the SAP was embraced by President Jayewardene the Rupee was immediately devalued by 100%. The continued implementation of the Structural Adjustment Programme of high interest rates and free trade- allowing a free flow of foreign exchange to everyone for everything and meeting the excess with loans, increasing our debt is the easiest method of ruining any economy. See my book: How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka & Alternate Programs of Success(Godages) for the process of ruination that took place. This is exactly what happened to Mugabe.

Sri Lanka has been kicked by the IMF and the World Bank. It is their refusal to give us aid that has made other financial authorities discredit us and it is this that has forced us to get loans with as high an interest as 8.25%. Why are we yet continuing to follow the IMF precepts of the Structural Adjustment Program like high interest rates, which are the highest in Asia and due to which no local production can emerge. Why have we not commenced regulating the use of foreign exchange. Unfortunately Sri Lanka even free floated the Rupee in 2001 under Chandrika’s Government with the result that the Central Bank no longer is in charge of the foreign exchange that comes to our country. We allow the Banks and this includes the foreign banks to use the foreign exchange that comes in- it is supposed to be according to the rules of supply and demand. In actual practice it has been proved that the foreign banks hoard the foreign exchange that comes in and bids the value of the foreign currency upwards as did happen on 25 th January 2001.( See pages 95-130 of my book: How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka…)

Faced with sanctions by certain foreign superpowers and the IMF Mugabe, failed to take total control over the economy. He allowed the NGO to nibble at the economy and did not organize production to take place. Sri Lanka too has to face a grim future unless it is prepared to take total control over the economy, including its foreign exchange and control the use of foreign exchange in the interests of the country

3 Responses to “The death and demise of Robert Mugabe”

  1. aloy Says:

    Third world leaders are not good managers; they are mostly robbers. That is the reason they fell to the colonialists. In our case we were far better. Only the Brits were successful in capturing the country and that is by subterfuge.

    Probably Mugabe had the same style as Mrs. B. She made the CB to run the country with iron clad controls. These will not work in modern times. Therefore your last para should not be applicable to SL which should make the country more attractive to the investor, especially to those bringing in high tech industries.

    When Motorola went to Malaysia bypassing SL we lost a big opportunity in getting into high tech industries. Today many electronic items such as remote controllers for many electrical items come from that country. With that sort of technology our workers will learn not only to make them but will come to know the actual embedded systems in those components.
    We should be selective in giving opportunities to investors. For instant there are many Indian companies operating in Colombo today. Most of them are simply traders who look for opportunities for their products and services. They will get a quotation for something from local companies and then import the same thing at a lesser price from India. That is the sort of thing that GOSL should control. For that we should have ministers who have a love for the country. Not people like Badudin whose interest is to destroy the country. He will import Formalin for embalming dead human bodies but 95% of it goes to ’embalm’ fish and dried fish while his deputy hibernates. And the people have started to die of cancer. This is another thing we should stop by not giving very important portpolios to minorities. That is a key to success.

  2. Dilrook Says:

    Whoever is right and wrong, Zimbabwe is in a worse situation following Mugabe. That is what matters. The country is in tatters. They can blame whoever but the country is ruined. SL can do the same – follow Mugabe’s path and when the country goes to total ruin, we can blame everyone else.

    It is like a batsman play the ball into the hands of a fielder and blaming the fielder for taking the catch.

    Or we can understand how the world works (might is right) and steer our path accordingly. This is the leadership ability. Confronting powerful countries surely leads to defeat and destruction (no matter who is right and who is wrong).

  3. Randeniyage Says:

    Mugabe cannot be compared to Mrs. B.
    Mugabe was a guerilla fighter, so cannot be compared to anyone alive in Sri Lanka.

    But we were in the Mugabe’s path after the war, but much faster than Mugabe it turned to the worse. Mugabe was popular for a very long time, even regarded highly in the west.

    I defer from Dilrook on right and wrong. If you have to be not only RIGHT but also be seen as right.
    Clean, transparent transactions are important. No mighty power is able to harm you if you are actually RIGHT.

    I remember Dilrook is the only one in this forum supportive of a proper investigation on war crimes soon after the war. No one agreed with him. If there was one, probably we have avoided a UNP regime. Only probably.
    There are a lot of things not right but propaganda used to SHOW it is right. World is not full or FOOLS.

    I remember Dilrook is the only one who was against dismissal of CJ by a kangaroo court headed by a kangaroo.
    Again, this incident was a clear indication of Mugabe alike than LKY alike. It was seen like that.

    Irony is most of us are still with the opposite views with Dilrook.

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