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UK backed millions in loans for Zimbabwe fighter jets

The UK government backed multi-million pound loans used by Zimbabwe to purchase British military aircraft that were used in the Democratic Republic of Congo conflict, investigations have revealed for the first time.

The Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD, now known as UK Export Finance), backed £35 million in loans to Zimbabwe from 1989 to 1992 to buy five Hawk aircraft manufactured by BAE Systems. Information about the loans has been released for the first time by UK Export Finance following a Freedom of Information request by Jubilee Debt Campaign. The documents reveal that Zimbabwe spent £49 million repaying the Hawk debt between 1991 and 2000.[2]

When the loan was agreed, Zimbabwe was already heavily indebted; its payments on foreign-owed debt totalled 30 per cent of export revenues from 1985 to 1988. Through the 1990s poverty and unemployment increased due to high debt payments and austerity.[3]

The Hawk aircraft were deployed by Mugabe’s government in the 1998-2002 Democratic Republic of Congo conflict. At the time, the British government approved the purchase of spare parts worth £5-10 million for the jets amid growing concerns that the aircraft were being used to sustain the conflict in the DRC.[4]

Tim Jones, Policy Officer at Jubilee Debt Campaign said:
“The UK government should not be using public money to back loans for arms sales. The people of both the Congo and Zimbabwe have suffered from this reckless lending and borrowing. The UK should be supporting those in Zimbabwe who want an audit into Zimbabwe’s debt, to ensure damaging loans and debt are not given and created again. UK Export Finance should stop subsidising war through backing loans for arms.”

UK Export Finance say they do not know whether any social or other impact assessment was done for the loans as the documents relating to the deal have been destroyed.[5] UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell has told Jubilee Debt Campaign “The UK does not support a debt audit” in Zimbabwe.[6]

Through the 1990s, Zimbabwe was only able to pay its debts, including for the Hawks, because it received $1 billion of bailout loans from the IMF, World Bank and the African Development Bank. These bailout loans continue to make-up much of Zimbabwe’s debt to this day. Effectively, the debt owed to the UK for the Hawks was simply transferred to the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank. Zimbabwe’s outstanding debt from the bailout loans currently stands at $760 million, of which $7.5 million stems from the Hawks purchase.

In 2001 alone, Zimbabwe’s military spending rocketed from the budgeted Z$13.3 billion to Z$16.2 billion, adding to the country’s economic burden. The Hawks expenses accounted for part of this unsustainable military budget.[7]

For more information contact Tim Jones on +44 (0)20 7324 4725 or +44 (0)7817 628196

ENDS

Notes

Jubilee Debt Campaign is the UK coalition campaigning for cancellation of unjust and unpayable poor country debt. The report, Uncovering Zimbabwe’s debt: The case for a democratic solution to the unjust debt burden, is published by Jubilee Debt Campaign, Zimbabwe Europe Network and Eurodad. Copies are available at www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/zimbabwereport 

[1] ECGD. (2012). Response to Freedom of Information request from Jubilee Debt Campaign. FOI 12(18). 21/03/12.

[2] ECGD. (2012). Response to Freedom of Information request from Jubilee Debt Campaign. FOI 12(18). 21/03/12.

[3] See Jones, T. (2011). Uncovering Zimbabwe’s debt: The case for a democratic solution to the unjust debt burden. Jubilee Debt Campaign, Zimbabwe Europe Network and Eurodad.www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/zimbabwereport 

[4] Africana Bulletin. (2005). Zimbabwe’s Military Expenditures 1980-2003. No.51, pp154-155.

[5] ECGD. (2012). Response to Freedom of Information request from Jubilee Debt Campaign. FOI 12(18). 21/03/12.

[6] Mitchell, A. (2012). Letter to Jubilee Debt Campaign. 05/01/12.

[7] Africa Confidential. (2000). Hawks or Doves? Vol 41(4), pp 1–8. doi: 10.1111/1467-6338.00079.


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