By Sebastian Jones
As the United States and members of the European Union condemned the Zimbabwean government and considered strengthening sanctions, Princeton University chose to invest in Robert Mugabe’s troubled African nation, according to tax filings obtained by WPRB.
A portion of Princeton's tax records covering foreign assets, obtained by WPRB. The previous two filings, spanning July 2004 to June 2006, show no investment in Zimbabwe.
The investment, placed between July 2006 and June 2007, was made despite Zimbabwe’s highly publicized political and economic upheaval and disreputable human rights record. Questions as to the size, nature and current state of the investment remain unanswered at this time.
Princeton spokeswoman Cass Cliatt told WPRB in an e-mail this evening that “as a matter of policy, the University does not disclose the specifics of its investment portfolio or its return drivers.”
“The University in 1997 adopted guidelines for socially responsible investment under which action is taken after “considerable, thoughtful and sustained” campus interest and widespread consensus that action should be taken. The first step in that process is for the issue to be raised by a segment of the campus community and to my knowledge, the process has not been initiated,” Cliatt wrote.
What internal standards, if any, Princeton employs in selecting and vetting investments in corporate stock or foreign assets were not addressed by Cliatt.
Mugabe’s rule has drawn harsh international criticism ever since a violent policy of land redistribution plunged Zimbabwe into severe food shortages and economic crisis in 2002.
In 2005, the United States government called Zimbabwe an “outpost of tyranny” on par with Burma and Iran, the Zimbabwean government implemented an urban “clean-up” plan that the United Nations estimates left 700,000 people homeless and, by year’s end, the UN’s humanitarian chief had concluded the country was “in meltdown”. Conditions in 2006 and 2007 worsened with inflation reaching all-time highs and widespread imprisonment of union leaders and political activists (several of whom alleged they were tortured while in state custody).
This summer Time reported that, in the run up to Zimbabwe’s June elections, Mugabe’s “brutality before the vote resulted in the deaths of about 100 Zimbabweans, the detention of some 2,000, injury to 10,000 and the displacement of more than 200,000.” Just last week, The Guardian reported that the country was on the “brink of collapse”.
Stay with WPRB as we prepare additional reporting on the subject to be aired this Thursday on 103.3 FM and on the web at www.wprb.com at 5PM. Among our guests will be Andrew Meldrum, who wrote for The Guardian and The Economist about Zimbabwe for 23 years until he was kicked out of the country in 2003.
Update- Read WPRB‘s report from Wednesday on Princeton’s investments in Zimbabwe-tied British arms supplier BAE Systems here..