ZIMBABWE’S loss of voting rights in the United Nations (UN) General Assembly over a measly US$81 000 debt is reflective of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s lethargic approach towards re-engagement efforts.
In 2020, Zimbabwe, endowed with vast mineral resources, raked in US$2,4 billion in base metal export earnings, but failed to pay a paltry US$81 000 UN membership fee.
A debt settlement plan is dead in the water after Zimbabwe missed key targets under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Staff-Monitored Programme (SMP).
Zimbabwe joins other failed states whose voting rights were terminated such as Somalia, Niger, South Sudan, Libya, Central Africa Republic (CAR) and Sao Tome and Principe.
These nations share a common history of brazen human rights abuses, economic turmoil and political unrest.
The loss of voting rights has negative connotations like failure to contribute in key discussions around global security, climate change and terrorism.
Zimbabwe’s suspension, ironically, comes at a time Mnangagwa’s administration splurged millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money on foreign jaunts.
Mnangagwa charters a US$30 000 per hour plane and travels with a huge entourage each time he flies out. The unending trips were curtailed by the ravaging effects of Covid-19.
The government’s failure to service UN membership fees, embarrassingly fly in the face of claims that the country has been recording surplus figures, according to Finance minister Mthuli Ncube.
Consolidated Financial figures of 2019, show that Zimbabwe posted a ZW$437 million (US$5,329 million) surplus.
University of London professor of World Politics Stephen Chan had no kind words for the Mnangagwa’s administration.
“The arrears are minor. It is an act of carelessness to incur such a small debt. The amount is less than the salary of Zimbabwean representatives to the UN. Zimbabwe has not been visible in (UN) Assembly matters, but has chaired important committees. An image of active involvement is symbolically of huge importance.
“Only war-torn countries have defaulted their dues in recent times, so it makes people wonder just how deep Zimbabwe’s problems might be. Basically, no price is too high for diplomatic respect. US$81 000 seems a very small amount to lose such respect.”
Last year, Mnangagwa’s advisor and businessman Kuda Tagwirei was slapped with US sanctions for misappropriating public funds for his murky role in the US$3 billion Command Agriculture programme.
In 2020, former Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo was booted out of government for alleged illegal dealing in a US$60 million contract to a shadowy company — Drax International — for procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Mnangagwa’s son, Collins was linked to the multi-million-dollar scandal through Drax representative Delish Nguwaya.
In another corruption scandal, former Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) president Henrietta Rushwaya was arrested attempting to smuggle 6kg of gold worth over US$300 000 to Dubai.
These, among other examples of high-level corruption cases blighting Mnangagwa’s administration, have tainted Zimbabwe.
Harare has over the years struggled to finance operations of its foreign missions around the world, scuttling efforts for the southern African country to effectively drive its re-engagement agenda.
Economist Tawanda Purazeni noted that Zimbabwe’s failure to pay its UN subscription fees dented the country’s credit rating image — already soiled following decades of isolation from multilateral lending institutions.
“Failure to settle a paltry US$80 000 subscription fee demonstrates Zimbabwe’s disregard for an important institution,” Purazeni said.
“That aside, this whole thing is an embarrassment considering the fact that this body is interrelated with multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank and IMF. Our government has been trying to woo these institutions over the years. The latest development will not help the cause.”