In Zimbabwe, gross government mismanagement has resulted in skyrocketing prices and massive unemployment.
Unfortunately, economic policies are actually getting worse, not better. Farm equipment is being seized contrary to court orders, fertilizer companies are being nationalized, and suburban neighbors of President Mugabe face eviction from their homes, ostensibly for national security reasons. Finally, the dismemberment of Gletwyn Estate, within Harare’s city limits, crosses a new line in the government’s assault on private property: for the first time, non-agricultural land is being seized for non-agricultural purposes – in this instance, reportedly to build low density/high income housing for those in the ruling elite, including especially the security services.
These attacks on property rights and the rule of law could not come at a worse time for Zimbabwe, when inflation is officially approaching one-thousand percent, and unofficially has long since surpassed that dubious milestone, and millions of Zimbabweans rely on remittances from overseas relatives and food aid from the U.S. and other donors just to survive. Zimbabwe needs jobs and accountable government; it does not need to put more stolen property into the hands of corrupt officials and politicians. Despite good rainfall, every indication is that Zimbabwe will have another bad harvest in 2006, due to inadequate supplies of seeds and fertilizers.
The government must learn that secure property rights are fundamental to a modern functioning economy and to maintaining high levels of investment. Already, new foreign investment has virtually dried up in Zimbabwe, and Zimbabwean investors put their money outside of the country because government policies put domestic investments at risk. The only source of the funds needed to stabilize and turn around the Zimbabwean economy is the international financial community, which first needs to see implementation of sensible economic policies and the restoration of democracy.
President George W. Bush recently cited Zimbabwe as one of several countries in need of freedom and reform:
"At the start of 2006, more than half the people of our world live in democratic nations. And we do not forget the other half -- in places like Syria and Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Iran -- because the demands of justice, and the peace of this world, require their freedom, as well."
Zimbabwe needs to reverse course, respect the rule of law, and re-open political space so that all Zimbabweans can work together to restore freedom, prosperity and stability, and see the country re-integrated into the international community.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.