One of Zimbabwe’s biggest creditors turned down a government request for debt relief until it improved its human rights record and paid off outstanding debt arrears.
The southern African country’s appeal for relief was rejected in a June 12 letter to Zimbabwe’s Minister of Finance Mthuli Ncube from Odile Renaud-Basso, president of the Paris Club.
The group, to which Zimbabwe owed $ 3.26 billion in 2018, represents creditor countries, including members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The letter, seen by Bloomberg, was in response to an April 2 appeal from Ncube to chiefs of the International Monetary Fund, world Bank, African development bank, Paris Club and European Investment Bank search for an arrears clearance and debt relief program.
Zimbabwe’s relations with multilateral lenders have been strained for nearly 20 years as it has failed to meet its payments and a series of elections has been marred by violence and irregularities.
“Zimbabwe’s desire to normalize its relations with the international community can only progress after the implementation of fundamental economic and political reforms,” said Renaud-Basso. The necessary reforms relate to “respect for human rights, in particular freedom of assembly and expression,” she said.
Debt relief was a key part of Ncube’s strategy to revive the economy after two decades of stagnation. But attempts to drive economic reforms and improve relations with lenders have been thwarted by the Zimbabwean security forces’ violent crackdown on a series of protests.
Schwan Badirou-Gafari, secretary general of the Paris Club, declined to comment, as did Clive Mphambela, spokesperson for the Zimbabwean Treasury.
(With contributions from Bloomberg)