On visits to the US, Europe, and Scandinavia, Morgan Tsvangirai asks for more aid – and says progress is being made.
Johannesburg, South Africa
If Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's current world tour was intended as a mission to beg, then it has clearly been a failure. But if it is meant to show that Zimbabwe is ready to engage with the world, then it has been a remarkable success.
To be sure, Mr. Tsvangirai is not going to return home emptyhanded. The United States, Germany, and several Scandinavian nations have promised millions of dollars of financial assistance – albeit through aid agencies and not directly to the Zimbabwe government.
But Tsvangirai's biggest take-home message will be to tell his coalition partners – President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party – that Zimbabwe must improve its human rights record and its adherence to the rule of law if it wants more aid money.
In his Monday visit to Berlin, the Zimbabwean prime minister assured reporters that his country had made "real progress in stabilizing runaway inflation and in trying to create the conditions for democracy."
But more aid would be required, he added, to ensure that "Zimbabweans don't go back to an atmosphere of fear."
Billions needed to get country working
Getting Zimbabwe itself to work again is clearly a long-term project. Conservative estimates put Zimbabwe's overall financial needs – in terms of repairing neglected hospitals, electric power grids, roads, schools, and drinking-water supplies – in the range of $8.5 billion, much higher than the $500 million goal that Tsvangirai had set for himself on this trip.
Yet any government that includes President Robert Mugabe is unlikely to receive anything close to that amount, given the Mugabe regime's abysmal human rights records and its misuse of public funds for the personal gain of Mugabe cronies.
In that environment, this trip can be seen as the first step in a long testing period of just how real is Zimbabwe's current transition to democracy.