PRESIDENT George W Bush recently denounced the illegitimate Mugabe regime and once again called for a government that would end repression and express the will of the Zimbabwean people.
On March 29, the citizens of Zimbabwe voted decisively to change their leaders.
They demanded better government. Yet their demands have been largely ignored by the losers of the election, which is why the president called this regime illegitimate. However, the Mugabe regime continues to forfeit its legitimacy on a daily basis by failing to meet the most basic obligation of a government â€“â€“ to care for its people.
Governments are created to protect and care for their citizens.Â The current regime has largely abdicated this responsibility. Today the work of caring for the many suffering Zimbabweans has fallen to the international community.
I am proud of the leading role the United States is playing in this regard, but we should not lose sight of the fact that we are doing what the government of Zimbabwe should do, but chooses not to do.
In the past year the US has provided over US$218 million in humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe.
We are the leading food donor, providing US$211 million in food commodities to address this food emergency.Â
The United States provides nearly 70% of all international food aid distributed in Zimbabwe through NGOs and the UN World Food Programme.Â
We spent nearly US$30 million last year on HIV/Aids programmes, in addition to paying for 33% of the Global Fundâ€™s programmes. We are currently putting in place an additional US$600 000 in emergency aid to combat the cholera epidemic currently devastating Zimbabwe.
What is the Mugabe regime doing? It is buying hundreds cars so that every minister and governor can have multiple vehicles.Â It is buying plasma televisions for judges.Â It is stifling the private sector so that mines and factories are forced to close, laying off workers, while harassing the nongovernmental organisations that try to provide support to suffering Zimbabweans.
The widespread hunger in Zimbabwe, the cholera epidemic and the collapse of education and health care systems are not the result of any targeted sanctions.Â These disastrous failures result from decisions by a few Zimbabwean leaders to put personal interests ahead of the public interest.
Instead of spending scarce resources on water purification chemicals that might stop the cholera epidemic, they are manipulating currency to make a personal profit. Instead of ensuring that hospitals and clinics remain open, staffed and supplied, they enjoy lives of luxury in gated compounds. Instead of paying teachers a living wage so that the next generation can learn, they fly around the world on shopping sprees. In the meantime, their people suffer and die.
I challenge the leaders of this country to set aside their personal greed and commit to spending even a quarter of what the US and other donors will spend this year to meet the humanitarian needs of Zimbabweâ€™s citizens.
The amount of aid the US gives Zimbabwe is openly available. The Mugabe regime should open its books and tell the world how much it is spending on the people of Zimbabwe, and how much they are spending on luxury vehicles, the campaign of brutal violence against their own people, and the desperate struggle to stay in power at all costs.
The bottom line is that the so-called leaders of this country need to stop feeding their insatiable greed and take care of the poor and deserving Zimbabweans languishing because of this corruption. Up to five million people will need food aid in the coming months. Over 15 500 have suffered from cholera, with 746 deaths, and the epidemic is just starting.
Untold thousands have suffered or died because they cannot access medical care. We remain ready to help. However, right now the international community isnâ€™t just helping; weâ€™re being forced to lead by the Mugabe regimeâ€™s criminal negligence. Itâ€™s time for the Mugabe regime to take responsibility for these problems it has created, and fix them.
Zimbabweans deserve better. They have asked for better through their votes. How long must they suffer before their government responds?
James D McGee is US Ambassador to Zimbabwe.