January 29, 2016

Corker: No New Lending to Zimbabwe without Meaningful Reform

Senator urges Obama administration to use U.S. influence to prevent premature lending until Zimbabwe shows progress on rule of law and human rights

WASHINGTON – In a letter on Thursday to Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged the Obama administration to use U.S. influence to prevent new international lending to Zimbabwe absent meaningful progress by the government to restore the rule of law and improve human rights. Recent reports indicate the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and African Development Bank may clear Zimbabwe of its $1.9 billion in unpaid debt obligations, prematurely granting the country access to credit without clear evidence of governance and economic reforms.

“Without meaningful progress toward long awaited reforms by the Mugabe regime, new lending could significantly alter internal political dynamics and help entrench the very same individuals responsible for the country’s economic collapse and gross human rights violations,” wrote Corker in his letter to Secretary Lew.

“We urge the Treasury Department to act quickly to raise the lack of clear and meaningful governance and economic reforms with the IMF, World Bank, and African Development Bank, and to encourage creditors to require such reforms before supporting any new lending to the government of Zimbabwe.”

Full text of the letter is included below, and a copy of the signed letter is available online here

January 28, 2016

The Honorable Jacob Lew
Secretary of the Treasury
U.S. Department of Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Secretary Lew:

I write regarding reports that the IMF, World Bank, and African Development Bank may proceed with a process to allow for clearance of the Government of Zimbabwe’s $1.9 billion in unpaid arrears to those institutions. 

While the willingness of a country to meet its debt obligations should normally be embraced, in this case arrears clearance will allow for new lending to the Government of Zimbabwe.  Without meaningful progress toward long awaited reforms by the Mugabe regime, new lending could significantly alter internal political dynamics and help entrench the very same individuals responsible for the country’s economic collapse and gross human rights violations. This is a moment when Zimbabwe’s political future is highly uncertain but history has shown little prospect for genuine progress and great likelihood of further repression and mis-governance.

The Administration should use its voice and vote at these international financial institutions as well as its influence with creditors to ensure that any new lending to the Government of Zimbabwe, including lending intended to relieve existing barriers to lending, be preceded by meaningful progress toward:

  • Clear benchmarks for the restoration of the rule of law in Zimbabwe, including respect for private property, free press, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly;
  • A credible process of accountability for missing revenues from diamonds and a monitored plan for capturing future revenues; and
  • Official acknowledgement of past gross human rights abuses and a demonstration that the Government of Zimbabwe is prepared to make an earnest effort to remedy those abuses, such as clear steps to hold accountable those responsible for the massacres of more than twenty thousand people in Matabeleland in the 1980s, and for the disappearance in March, 2015 of human rights activist Itai Dzamara.

Without progress toward these goals, I fear new lending will not help Zimbabwe but hinder progress toward democratic governance and economic growth. In this instance, premature lending without conditions would likely empower those who have created the country’s political and economic crises in the first place.

Current law requires the President to make a number of certifications including the restoration of the rule of law in Zimbabwe; satisfactory election conditions in that country; equitable, legal, and transparent land reform; and the subordination of the security force to civilian authority as the necessary conditions for a U.S. vote in support of Zimbabwe’s arrears clearance at an international financial institution.  We urge the Treasury Department to act quickly to raise the lack of clear and meaningful governance and economic reforms with the IMF, World Bank, and African Development Bank, and to encourage creditors to require such reforms before supporting any new lending to the Government of Zimbabwe.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely yours,

Bob Corker
Chairman

###