Mugabe to nationlize foreign firms in response to sanctions

Robert Mugabe continues his efforts to render Zimbabwe destitute rather than leave office willingly after losing an election in March.  In response to sanctions from Western nations — unfortunately not joined by the UN — Mugabe today threatened to seize firms with significant Western investments and redistribute them to his cronies:

Zimbabwe will transfer ownership of all foreign-owned firms that support Western sanctions against President Robert Mugabe’s government to locals and investors from “friendly” countries, a state newspaper reported on Sunday.

The southern African state is struggling with an economic crisis many blame on Mugabe’s policies, which has left it with an inflation rate of over 2.2 million percent and chronic shortages of food and other basic needs.

Mugabe’s government blames the crisis on sabotage by enemies angry over his seizures of white-owned farms for blacks, and has followed up that policy with another controversial law seeking to transfer majority ownership of foreign-owned firms to locals.

The Sunday Mail said Zimbabwe had begun auditing the ownership of Western firms in the country as part of a black empowerment drive “and to counter the possible withdrawal of investment under sanctions imposed and proposed by Britain and the U.S.”

This will mainly affect British investors.  According to Mugabe’s audit, almost 500 firms have British investors, and of those almost 100 are wholly owned by Brits.  An additional 353 firms have investors from other European nations.  Mugabe wants investors from “friendly” nations to apply for the assets — presumably buying them from Mugabe after a forcible seizure.

It goes without saying that Mugabe will make this unpalatable for any sensible investor.  Even if someone found themselves tempted by the fire sale Mugabe will offer, putting money into an economy currently producing an inflation rate of 2.2 million percent practically qualifies said investor for a straitjacket and a padded room.  Besides, Mugabe will retain actual control of the assets; any investor will only be putting their money into Mugabe’s pocket for rent.  Mugabe will undoubtedly repeat these “offers” as often as he needs hard currency.

Of course, the people most hurt by this action will be the Zimbabweans.  Their economy desperately needs capital investments and a sane economic policy.  Mugabe’s seizure of foreign assets will keep both from being implemented, and it will have the same effect on industry as his seizure of farms had on agriculture.  Mugabe will keep killing his people slowly as well as quickly, and the lack of action at the UN and in Africa disgraces both equally.