Debate from ROAPE Volume 32 Number 106
Zimbabwe's Hide and Seek with the IMF
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe's 2005 fight with the International Monetary Fund illustrates adverse power relations in which financial pressure is specifically applied in the interests of economic (not political) liberalisation. However, whereas the IMF has no confessed interest in human rights and political freedom (and demonstrated as much in late 1990s Zimbabwe), Pretoria's discourses do include good governance rhetoric. Combining pro-market and (surface-level) pro-democracy arguments allows Thabo Mbeki to serve as proxy for the IMF, which above all wants repayment on vast arrears, but which also insists on the full range of Washington consensus policy changes. To make those changes would undercut Mugabe's patronage system, and might also generate popular unrest.