PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s economic and political policies have led to a serious decline of the country’s health delivery system and worsened the Aids pandemic, a report released by the United
States Institute of Peace said this week.
The report, titled Downward Spiral: HIV/Aids, state capacity and political conflict in Zimbabwe, said Mugabe’s policies were a major stumbling block in the fight against Aids.
It says about 34% of the adult population are reportedly infected by HIV, which causes Aids. The report points out that Mugabe’s violent land reforms, a wholesale crackdown on the media and intimidation of political opponents have worsened the plight of those living with the disease.
It says the absence of the rule of law and the prevalence of political violence have led to the breakdown of health and social services, exposing thousands to the Aids scourge.
The projected increase in the number of Aids patients will adversely impact on Zimbabwe economy, which has been teetering on the brink of collapse over the past four years.
“Economic contraction is likely to intensify in the years to come as more HIV-infected individuals develop Aids and succumb to the illness,” the report says.
Estimates say about 1,8 million people are living with HIV in Zimbabwe.
The report also says the re-election of Mugabe in the 2002 presidential election led to a drastic drop in foreign aid and investment, further straining the country’s ability to fight HIV and Aids.
“The continuing absence of the rule of law in Zimbabwe, widespread corruption, electoral fraud, and the government’s renowned propensity to default consistently on loans have generated significant mistrust of the Mugabe regime by foreign donor countries,” the 50-page report says.
“Governance in Zimbabwe, already exhibiting considerable potential for violence and institutional instability, likely will worsen further as a result of the HIV/Aids epidemic.”
It says although the regime has started to give priority to the disease there are still pullback factors that continue to hinder the fight against the pandemic. The report says the bulk of the funds raised through the 3% Aids levy have been looted. It blasted the government and political leaders for politicising medical services.
The report paints a gloomy picture of the country’s ability to attract foreign direct investment, “thanks, in part, to President Mugabe’s persistent threats to nationalise industry and to his government’s egregious economic mismanagement”, it says.
“The increasingly gloomy economic future of HIV/Aids-wracked Zimbabwe is prompting capital flight as prudent investors pull their capital investments out of the Zimbabwean economy.”
The report says Zimbabwe is lagging far behind other regional countries like Botswana. It says Botswana has been more successful in the fight against Aids because of its accountable leadership and sound economic policies.
“(Botswana) possesses excellent political leadership in President Festus Mogae, an Oxford-trained economist who is fully engaged in efforts to blunt the negative effects of the epidemic on the people of Botswana.”