Zimbabwe’s recent history has been characterised by political oppression, economic chaos and social division. That story is well known in the UK.
However it is rarely the case that a reign of terror springs from nowhere. What is much less well known is the long-term role that foreign governments, international institutions and private companies have played in laying the foundations for Zimbabwe’s catastrophe.
When the global Jubilee movement to ‘drop the debt’ was formed in the run up to the year 2000, Zimbabwe was one of the countries felt to be in need of urgent debt cancellation. For debt campaigners, Zimbabwe’s experience was typical of many African countries: structural adjustment programmes imposed from Washington, self-interested lending concerned more with boosting Western industry than benefiting some of the world’s poorest people. Zimbabwe was saddled with unjust debts from independence.
Today, debt campaigners are not calling for immediate debt cancellation for Zimbabwe. In the UK, we’re calling for a full audit of all debts, including Zimbabwe’s, to assess the impact of UK loans on developing countries. In Zimbabwe, debt campaigners are demanding the Zimbabwean parliament does the same.