With a new unity government in place, the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai now sharing power with Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe is back where we thought it was last September, so far as the dilemma for would-be international donors goes. Back then I posted about the ambiguities of the power-sharing situation and the gamble this defined for potential donors. In today's Times Martin Fletcher draws the lines of the practical conundrum as it has been re-posed:
Morgan Tsvangirai will use his inauguration as Zimbabwe's Prime Minister this week to appeal to the West to fund the rebuilding of his shattered country even though Robert Mugabe remains the President.
The leader of the Movement for Democratic Change will address tens of thousands of Zimbabweans in a Harare sports stadium after a private swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday. He will outline an ambitious 100-day programme of reconstruction and democratisation and urge the West to back it with desperately needed finance.
His appeal will put Britain, the US and the European Union on the spot because they are deeply sceptical about the "unity government". They doubt that Mr Mugabe has any intention of surrendering real power to the MDC and regard the new arrangement as a ploy to give his regime a veneer of legitimacy.
"He's walked into a trap," one senior Western official said of Mr Tsvangirai. An MDC source countered: "If the West doesn't back Tsvangirai and the new Government, then it's dead in the water - and so is Zimbabwe. "Without Western aid we can't deliver and if we can't deliver we can't overcome Zanu (PF)'s policies of corruption and repression."
In September my view was that the gamble on international financial support should be taken. Now I'm less confident about that. The Economist says aid should be withheld until there's clear evidence of change, and this is surely right:
America and Britain have already said they will wait and see before offering the new government any direct financial support. Others too should withhold aid to the government and maintain existing sanctions until there is clear evidence that Mr Mugabe is changing his ways. True power-sharing should lead quickly to the release of detainees banged up by Mr Mugabe’s thugs, freedom of the press and an overhaul of the security services. The central bank also needs reform; it presides over an unofficial inflation rate that averaged 15 billion per cent last year. These would be good measures of the unity government's intentions.