RECENT pledges during Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangiraiâ€™s tour of the US and other Western countries to increase humanitarian aid channelled through local and international non-governmental organisations have been met with scepticism with analysts saying such assistance will not solve the real problems faced by the average Zimbabwean.
The Prime Ministerâ€™s tour â€” aimed at re-establishing ties with the international community â€” managed to raise about US$200 million, most of which will come through NGOs. The amount is a far cry from the US$10,3 billion needed to revive the countryâ€™s battered economy. All the countries visited by Tsvangirai would not commit to giving direct aid to the inclusive government citing the need for more reforms.
â€œThere is a difference between humanitarian and development aid,â€ said National Constitutional Assembly chairman, Lovemore Madhuku. â€œZimbabwe right now needs development aid which can support the budget and open credit lines for companies to start operating at full capacity.â€
He said humanitarian aid is only a relief and cannot move the country from where it is right now. Donor countries have however said they would not give Zimbabwe development aid until the democratic processes were enhanced. This, analysts argued, is justified in light of precedents set in the previous years when funds intended for health and other humanitarian needs were abused.
â€œSo far NGOs are the only trustworthy channel of any aid to Zimbabwe because if the money comes through government, itâ€™s most likely to be diverted because we are not yet sure about who will be controlling it. If itâ€™s Gideon Gono, he can divert the money and he is known for that,â€ said Bulawayo-based political analyst Themba Dlodlo.
Last year there was an outcry over the diversion of the Global Fund financing to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The Global Fund said it would no longer fund humanitarian programmes in Zimbabwe. They said the Zimbabwe government had damaged its efforts to fight Aids, TB and malaria by diverting money intended for that work. Â
US ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee was quoted by the Voice of America saying: â€œWe do not want to see the people of Zimbabwe, who need this money, disadvantaged. What we do want to see however is a surefire system to safeguard the money that is coming into Zimbabwe. So the move that the Global Fund has made is an excellent move.â€
US investors echoed the same sentiments saying: â€œAs US business we do have the standpoint as our government, for us to invest in any country we seek a nation that follows the rule of law so that when we invest we know that we will be dealt with justly and fairly,â€ said CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa, Stephen Hayes. He said it was important for Zimbabwe to have investor-friendly laws so that investment or funding can be extended to Zimbabwe.
The US Embassy public affairs office said channelling aid through NGOs and other multilateral agencies was a matter of policy and had proven effective and the US has already channelled US$175 million, which it said was reaching the people.
Dlodlo said that the onus was on the government to reform because there was need for more aid which should come directly to government.
â€œThis aid that is being pledged can help ease the food shortage, cholera and other humanitarian concerns as we have seen in the recent years but Zimbabwe can only progress when jobs are created, agriculture, mining and manufacturing are improved,â€ said Dlodlo. â€œThis is only possible when money is provided to the government but not a government of corrupt people.â€
Unicef communications officer Tsitsi Singizi said channelling humanitarian aid should not be about who is doing it, but how it is done because the ultimate goal is reaching the most vulnerable in a transparent and effective way.
â€œThis can be done by the government, multilateral institutions or non-governmental organisations who must have effective and transparent channelling means to achieve aid effectiveness,â€ she said.
Politicising and diversion of aid money and other provisions by the government has seen donor countries and other institutions losing confidence in the government and thus opting to channel their funding through NGOs, analysts said. They argued that this has seen a mushrooming of charity organisations, some of which were equally untrustworthy as only a fraction of the money they got reached the intended beneficiaries.
Most NGOs, it has been argued, have become mere lobbyists with money going towards their salaries, advertisements and organising press conferences when Zimbabweans need basic things like health and education.
â€œThe government has a duty to provide certain services to its people. Robert Mugabeâ€™s government was in an intensive care situation,â€ said an analyst. â€œInstead of these NGOs celebrating Mugabeâ€™s failure and lobbying a broke government to do certain things, they could have played their real humanitarian role and intervened in the hospitals before they closed.â€
Madhuku however dismissed this view saying the issue was not about the effectiveness of NGOs because there could be budgetary limitations.
â€œThe issue of NGO effectiveness is difficult to judge unless we know the money they are given and the percentage that reaches the people,â€ Madhuku said. â€œOtherwise in my view their effectiveness or lack thereof could be a result of funding.â€
Analysts who questioned the effectiveness of the NGOs cited lack of intervention in desperate situations, saying some organisations had become more interested in politics than humanitarian issues.
â€œIf they genuinely want to help Zimbabweans they could pay teachers in rural schools,â€ said another analyst. â€œWe cannot have donor countries giving them money to increase their salaries and lobbying without reaching out to needy Zimbabweans.â€
BY MELODY MBIRA