LETâ€™S assume you have a neighbour who has lost just about everything. He is so poor his hearth has, as the Zulus would say, become the sleeping place for the family cat. You know your neighbourâ€™s problems can be blamed on the fact that he sees the world through the bottom of a vodka bottle. He feeds every cent you give him to the liquor store.
But being kind-hearted you still want to help, not him so much but his family, especially the kids. Solution? You donâ€™t give him money. Instead, you give it to his wife, or you buy the groceries yourself and hand these directly to his family. You do have such a neighbour.
He is Robert Mugabe. Uncle Bob may not have had a drop of liquor in his life, but he is the patron saint of human rights abuse anonymous. Throughout his 29-year rule, Mugabe has ridden rough-shod over Zimbabweâ€™s citizens, has run â€œflee and flairâ€ elections, and has ultimately ruined Zimbabweâ€™s economy.
After Independence in 1980, Mugabe embarked on an ambitious programme of socio-economic development, which he financed by borrowing way beyond what Zimbabwe could sustain. Mugabeâ€™s initial exuberance was fuelled by a number of unusual factors, including a commodity boom, the promise of more aid than eventually arrived, expectations of a peace dividend, as well as initial high rates of economic growth.
When Mugabeâ€™s policies hit the skids, sending the economy into a tailspin, Zimbabweâ€™s professional class voted with its feet, seeking greener pastures in South Africa, Europe and the US.
Those who stayed behind did so because they had the financial means to withstand the effects of hyperinflation. Lacking the skills passport needed to enter the global job marketplace, the poor were either stuck in Zimbabwe or driven by hunger to risk life and limb by jumping the fence to work in South Africa. Throughout all this, Mugabe was in denial.
Now he wants the rest of the world to give Zimbabwe up to US$10 billion to inject some life into the economy. You can bet Mugabe expects all of this money to be given to Zimbabwe without any conditions.
South Africa, along with other Southern Africa leaders, has agreed to back Zimbabweâ€™s rescue plan. Last year, it gave Zimbabwe R300 million and plans to chip in another R225 million over the next three years.
Â I have no doubt Mugabeâ€™s administration cannot account fully for how the R300 million was used. Nor can the South African government certify it was not siphoned off by Mugabe and his cronies.
This is a dereliction of duty by the South African government. The South African constitution enjoins the national treasury, for example, â€œto ensure transparency, accountability and sound financial controls in the management of public financesâ€.
Treasury has lived up to this mandate in terms of the management of the countryâ€™s finances. It has, among other things, introduced transparency and predictability to the budget, largely through the three-year budgeting cycle, the introduction of the mid-term budget statement, and the detailed documentation that comes with the announcements.
This constitutional requirement should also apply to monies spent outside our borders. That means Pretoria should insist Harare accounts fully for what it does with our money. After all, itâ€™s our tax rands that are being used to dig Zimbabwe out of the hole Mugabe deliberately sank his country in. It is a responsibility our government owes its citizens. It is their money, money they worked hard for, that is being given to Zimbabwe.
Although most citizens will be happy to help their fellow Africans, they have the right to expect that their hard-earned money will be used for the benefit of the poor. It is time South Africa demanded accountability by the Zimbabwean government for how it uses financial aid.
South African tax rands should not be used to subsidise Grace Mugabeâ€™s shopping expeditions, or to satiate Morgan Tsvangiraiâ€™s expensive whisky tastes. That may sound harsh, but thatâ€™s what a good neighbour would do. â€“â€“ The Star.