UK government rejects calls for Zimbabwe audit
Campaigners in Zimbabwe are calling for a debt audit to increase transparency and accountability, learn lessons from past lending and borrowing, and find out whether or not all the debts are legitimate.
In a letter to Jubilee Debt Campaign, Andrew Mitchell says:
“The UK does not support a debt audit, which the [Uncovering Zimbabwe’s debt] report recommends as a way for discussions of the debt cancellation to be informed by the ‘legitimacy’ of the original loans … Attempting after the fact to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate debts could cause lenders to refuse to provide further loans and would be catastrophic for developing countries attempting to strengthen their economies and reduce poverty through access to international financing [ie, loans].”
In response, Dewa Mavhinga from the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said a national debt audit is “a mechanism to ensure a full measure of transparency and accountability. The people of Zimbabwe, through a Parliamentary Debt Audit Commission, have a right to know what loans the government of Zimbabwe acquired; for what purpose, and whether or not the borrowed money was actually used for its intended purpose.”
Tim Jones, Policy Officer at Jubilee Debt Campaign said: “A debt audit is meant to hold borrowers and lenders to account for their actions. It would be good if debt audits led to lenders such as UK Export Finance stopping backing loans for damaging projects in the name of British business.”
In his letter to Jubilee Debt Campaign Andrew Mitchell does not address why he disagrees with a debt audit as a means to better transparency and accountability, and to learn the lessons from past lending and borrowing.
Jubilee Debt Campaign’s research has revealed that of Zimbabwe’s estimated $7 billion foreign debt, at least $750 million comes directly from structural adjustment loans from the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank which lowered economic growth and increased unemployment. Other debts identified include:
• Loans from the World Bank for tree plantations to create fuel supplies. However, the World Bank failed to realise there was already plenty of wood available, and there was no economic return on the plantations.
• Loans from the Spanish government for the Zimbabwe government to buy Spanish military aircraft.
• UK loans in the late 1990s for the Zimbabwean police to buy Land Rovers, later alleged to have been used in internal repression.
• UK unspecified ‘aid’ loans which were tied to buying exports from British companies.
Former Zimbabwean diplomat Clifford Mashiri said: “Whenever an audit is resisted, it inevitably raises eyebrows. Some suspect those against the audit have something to hide because of the potentially embarrassing revelations … It is therefore, understandable that Zimbabwean Civil Society Organisations are demanding transparency because that principle should be seen to be applied universally regardless of the region – whether it’s in the North, South, East or West.”
In his letter, Andrew Mitchell also failed to respond to Jubilee Debt Campaign’s request to release all UK government documents relating to the debt owed by Zimbabwe to the UK.
Read our response to Andrew Mitchell.
Learn more about our Debt Justice for Zimbabwe campaign.