A SHOCKING report appearing in the New York Times on Monday claimed that the government of Zimbabwe spent US$7,3 million donated by a prominent international organisation to fight killer diseases on other things and has failed to honour requests to return the money.
The actions by Zimbabwe have deprived the organisation, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, of resources it needs and damaged efforts to expand life-saving treatment, said its inspector-general, John Parsons. He said Zimbabweâ€™s actions also jeopardised a more ambitious $188 million Global Fund grant to Zimbabwe, due for consideration by the fundâ€™s board today.
Parsons said Zimbabwean officials claim they had not repaid the money because they did not have enough foreign currency. But Health minister Dr David Parirenyatwa yesterday promised to clear all outstanding obligations, which he put at around US$6,5 million, over the next seven days. Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono pledged support.
â€œThe breakdown of trust between the Global Fund and Zimbabweâ€™s government comes at a time of widening humanitarian crisis and casts further doubt on the willingness of Western donors to invest heavily in rebuilding the economically broken nation as long as Mugabe is in charge,â€ the New York Times says.
Parsons said in an interview on Sunday that last year the Global Fund deposited $12,3 million in foreign currency into the Reserve Bank. He declined to speculate on how the $7,3 million it was seeking to be returned had been spent, except to say it was not on the intended purpose.
Should any of this come as a surprise? Civil society has repeatedly argued that the Reserve Bank is playing a questionable role in funding President Mugabeâ€™s political survival. Now everybody can see how. The victims in this story are the poor and the vulnerable.
Sikanyiso Ndlovu, asked about the missing millions from the Global Fund, accused the organisation of having standards.
â€œThey always want to put certain standards and concoct certain things to make us look bad and horrendous in international eyes,â€ he said.
Parsons pointed out the human dimension of the Reserve Bankâ€™s failure to hand over the money for disease fighting.
â€œThe Global Fund has brought in large quantities of medicines that can cure malaria, but has been able to finance the training of only 495 people to distribute them safely instead of the planned 27 000,â€ he told the New York Times.
â€œThere were 2,7 million cases of malaria among Zimbabweâ€™s 12 million people in the World Health Organisationâ€™s most recent estimates. The drugs expire by the middle of next year, and it would be criminal if we canâ€™t use them because of these problems,â€ Parsons said. â€œTheyâ€™ve got quite a short shelf life.â€
We only wish the same were true of Ndlovu!
Evidence of just how destructive Zanu PF can be emerged this weekend with the news that one of the countryâ€™s most productive farms has been seized by allies of President Mugabe.
The Sunday Telegraph reported last weekend that Doug Taylor-Freeme, one of the countryâ€™s most respected farmers, had his property at Romsey, one of Zimbabweâ€™s few remaining productive farms, invaded by allies of Mugabe last week despite half the country teetering on the brink of starvation.
Romsey, the Sunday Telegraph reports, has the only productive fields for miles around in the once-fertile Makonde South district, 90 miles north of Harare. Now it is under threat from Chief Nemakonde, a strong supporter of Mugabe and his Zanu PF party, whose land grab is being supported by local government officials.
â€œHe has already taken over five formerly white-owned farms in the district, all of which are derelict after his efforts at planting failed,â€ the paper says. â€œTaylor-Freeme (43) tried to continue his work after the demands started. But on Thursday evening, when he was planting a new crop of maize for the summer season, police arrived at the farm to enforce the wishes of Chief Nemakonde that all work be stopped. With five million people in Zimbabwe currently in need of United Nations food aid, even one of the police force admitted to the Sunday Telegraph that he felt the effort was â€˜madâ€™.â€
â€˜Before he forced his way on to Mr Taylor-Freemeâ€™s land last week, Chief Nemakonde, who is in his late 60s and has several wives and scores of children, sent men to torch a field of winter wheat stalks. meaning there will be no hay for cattle.
â€œMr Taylor-Freeme, one of just a few surviving white commercial farmers of the 4 000 whose land was targeted for seizure in 2000, said that he had been informed by local officials that a High Court order to evict the chief would be ignored.
â€œSome local police do not support this,â€ he said. â€œSo they had to send men from Harare, and even they donâ€™t like what they have to do, to stop me planting and prevent our community from coming on to chase the chiefâ€™s people away again. So I am going back to the High Court seeking an order of contempt but this takes time, and meanwhile planting is paralysed.â€
â€œThe Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe failed to pay Mr Taylor-Freeme about Â£50 000 from his 2007 tobacco and wheat crop, which he was forced to sell through government agencies,â€ the Sunday Telegraph reports. â€œWhile he has survived in part due to European Union aid intended to boost regional food production, he is particularly anxious because he has taken out loans of about Â£250 000 which he has already used to buy seed, fertiliser and fuel for his 800 acres. Even some local Zanu PF activists have sided with the farmer, conscious of how desperate the country now is for food.â€
â€œHe must be allowed to plant,â€ one said.
We would add that this is an emblematic display of Zanu PFâ€™s capacity to damage the economy. Here is a farmer who has done everything to work within the framework of government policies being hounded off his land by Mugabeâ€™s supporters acting in contempt of court orders and regardless of agricultural productivity.
Last week we heard Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi calling on ambassadors posted here to report â€œaccuratelyâ€ on local affairs. We suggest they include this episode in their reports as government holds out its begging bowl asking other countries to feed our population because we are no longer able to.
Readers may be interested in remarks on Zimbabwe made by Botswanaâ€™s President Ian Khama in his state-of-the-nation address to parliament in Gaborone on Monday.
Khama said: â€œWe remain serious-ly concerned about the failure to form a government that is widely accepted by the people of that country. We are of the further view that it is important for all Sadc member states
to uphold the regional standards they have collectively and voluntarily adopted. We strongly believe that the one viable way forward in Zimbabwe is to have a rerun of the presidential election under full international
sponsorship and supervision. That way a repeat of the past runoff presidential election, which was declared by regional and international observers to be neither free nor fair and was characterised by intimidation and violence, can be avoided. It should be unacceptable for ruling parties to seek to manipulate election outcomes to extend their stay in power, as this is bad for democracy on our continent.â€
Indeed. All he is stating is that Sadc should abide by the principles it has set itself, hardly a revolutionary position but one the Zanu PF regime has difficulty understanding.
Patrick Chinamasa was up in arms this week over Khamaâ€™s speech, claiming that â€œevidenceâ€ of MDC violence had been passed to the Botswana authorities.
Why should Khama be expected to believe this claim when nobody in Zimbabwe does?
Khamaâ€™s principled stance on Zimbabwe is like a beacon shining across the muddy waters of fudge and betrayal. The people of Zimbabwe will know who spoke out in defence of the exercise of their rights when the chapter on this sad episode of our history is eventually written.
We have heard much recently about the Zimbabwe Tourism Authorityâ€™s attempts at changing the way people abroad see Zimbabwe. It is called â€œimage perception managementâ€.
In other words, instead of telling the truth about repression and misrule, writers are expected to come here and proclaim the wonders of Zimbabweâ€™s many attractions.
For instance, we had security officers boarding a flight that was just about to leave Harare airport and arresting a journalist who was charged with practising his profession without a licence.
We donâ€™t know whether he was writing about Zimbabwe or not. What we do know is that crass behaviour by the state of this sort plays very badly around the world and confirms an existing impression that Zimbabwe is a repressive state where people are not free to express their views and journalists are dragged off aircraft.
It will be interesting to see how the authorities â€œmanageâ€ this particular episode.
The same goes for the clumsy handling of Africa Sun Hotels CEO Shingi Munyeza who was picked up last week and accused of getting the pricing wrong on his hotelsâ€™ beverages.
The hotel company has to change the prices every day to cover costs. You can imagine what a nightmare this must be for any management. Munyezaâ€™s group has invested heavily in Zimbabwe, in the region, and across the continent. What will people think when he is treated as a criminal for getting his daily price list wrong in a country where everything is dictated by the stateâ€™s pricing police?
But that is the state we are in. And we expect visiting writers to produce puff pieces about how wonderful everything is. Unfortunately, people from places like Russia where the media is still rigidly controlled, are happy to be used.
Viewers of RT (Russia Today) on the DStv network will get some sense of this. They told us this week for instance that the BBC has revealed that Georgian forces fired on innocent civilians in the recent conflict. Of course nobody actually remembers that particular â€œrevelationâ€. But British academics were interviewed to say that of course the BBC misled the public at the beginning of the war but are wiser now!
We had somebody from the University of Kent at Canterbury giving a hostage to fortune in this way. It is exactly like watching ZTV!
Two of Zimbabweâ€™s real heroes, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu of Woza, were finally granted bail on Wednesday. They had been held in appalling conditions for heading a peaceful protest.
The South African Council of Churches (SACC) this week joined the growing list of South African civil and student bodies condemning their detention.
â€œWe are very concerned about the welfare of these two courageous women,â€ said Eddie Makue, SACC general-secretary, quoted by SW Radio Africa. â€œIt is ironic that those who are working for peace are charged with disturbing it, while those with the power to promote a true and just peace seem to have no interest in doing so,â€ he said.
Did you see how quickly the US election results came out? When Zimbabweans went to bed on Tuesday night America was still voting. When we woke up on Wednesday morning the results were known. Obama had won and McCain had congratulated him.
One hundred and fifty million people had voted in 50 states.
Was George Chiweshe watching? We still havenâ€™t been told why Zimbabweâ€™s constituency results were released in dribs and drabs when all the ballots were already in. And why it took five weeks to be told the outcome of the presidential poll.
Caesar Zvayi had an article in the Herald on Monday on the role of Zimbabwean folklore. He compared the tales of hare and baboon to â€œDisneyâ€™sâ€ Tom & Jerry.
A reader of an Online site was quick to point out that Disney had nothing to do with Tom & Jerry.
â€œSince the Herald never bothers itself with facts, the following should be pointed out,â€ he said.
â€œTom & Jerryâ€ are a cat & mouse cartoon produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer. They have no relation to the Disney Company and were thought of originally as an alternative product to Disneyâ€™s Mickey Mouse.
â€œIf the Herald cannot even get the very first â€˜factâ€™ they use in an article correct, it shows how little else they bother to print is based on fact.â€
Thatâ€™s all for now folks!