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Mugabe, Tsvangirai squander resources on luxuries

05 Mar 2012 at 06:46hrs | Views
HARARE - While President Robert Mugabe and his allies rubbish the West as responsible for Zimbabwe's economic decline, the same "enemies" have kept critical services such as health and education running.

With a penchant for a luxury life, coalition government partners Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have continued to spend little on key sectors while blowing millions on foreign travel and other treats.

The vilified European Union (EU), United Kingdom (UK), Australia and the United States (US) have since the inception of the coalition government in February 2009 provided millions of dollars to save lives that have been condemned to poverty by coalition government partners.

Public schools and hospitals that were shut down at the height of the country's economic and political tumult have been major beneficiaries of Western aid, giving Mugabe and Tsvangirai room to spend the little government revenues collected from taxpayers on non-core business.

Recently, the UK's Department of International Development (DFID) donated a massive $120 million to the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to support Zimbabwe's fragile public health sector.

The EU, which has imposed travel restrictions and financial sanctions on Mugabe and some of his allies, donated $6.5 million towards phase two of the Education Transition Fund (ETF).

The ETF was launched in 2009 to raise $50 million to support a crumbling public education sector.

The irony of proliferate spending on leaders' welfare ahead of the poor majority is not lost even on some ministers in the coalition government.

At the signing ceremony of the ETF, education minister David Coltart bemoaned the skewed policies of the coalition government partners who spent more than $50 million on leaders' globetrotting while pushing almost nothing to students in its 3 000 schools.

"It is shameful that we spend three times more on foreign travel than on education. We must allocate more resources to this sector for we will be investing in the future," said Coltart, one of the few bright spots in Mugabe and Tsvangirai's bloated cabinet.

"Education remains in a state of crisis. One has to go to a school and see the infrastructure at the schools. The just-ended strike by teachers also revealed that the situation is still fragile," said Coltart.

State spending on each school kid has dropped from $6 every month in 1980 to $0.70 now, according to Coltart.

United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), which has been key in mobilising donor support for Zimbabwe, says half of the 3.2 million primary school pupils are not reaching Grade 7 mainly because of lack of funding.

This is where the "hated" western countries have come in handy to plug the funding gap left by the coalition government's skewed priorities.

Through Western donors, most Zimbabwean primary and secondary schools now enjoy a healthy textbook-pupil ration after 20 million books were distributed countrywide through the ETF.

Not only is the West active in reviving Zimbabwe's education, it is also involved in plugging funding gaps in the health sector.

At least 100 children die daily, mostly from preventable diseases, while one in four children has lost one or both parents due to HIV and other causes.

An average eight women die daily due to pregnancy and childbirth, with the majority of the women being unable to access adequate health care services.

In addition, about 1,6 million children, orphans and vulnerable children struggle to access basic social services and are in need of urgent social protection, according to Unicef.

While these shocking statistics appear to have failed to move spendthrifts in the coalition government, they reveal the decay affecting Zimbabwe's health delivery system.

Western donors, however, have moved to support the sector.

Last week, the EU pumped $5.2 million towards the Health Transition Fund, again an initiative driven by Western donors.

The fund is aimed at easing the burden of women by removing prohibitive user fees at public health institutions for pregnant women and children under the age of five.

Speaking in an interview, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell'Ariccia said that the 27-nation bloc will continue assisting the country.

"The EU is not the enemy but rather a friend to the people of Zimbabwe, sanctions are of no consequence on the people but those who are on the list," he said.

DFID Permanent Secretary Mark Lowckock said Britain will commit the $120 million to Zimbabwe in the next four years.

"This package sums up what British assistance is all about: helping vulnerable people and ensuring that many more Zimbabweans have access to basic services such as health care, education, clean water and sanitation."

But this has not stopped Zanu PF officials from attacking Western countries.

Last Wednesday, jaws dropped and tempers flared after a councillor in Mazowe told dignitaries gathered for the $5,2 million health transition fund handover ceremony that Zimbabweans did not need the EU assistance as long as sanctions were in place.

"We do not need help when the help is coming at a time when there are sanctions. First they should remove the sanctions before they give us aid. As Zimbabweans we are able to fend for ourselves," said Sydney Chidamba, who claimed to represent the community at the function.

In its quarterly survey, the Zimbabwe All Media Products Survey (Zamps) noted that Zimbabweans in both rural and urban areas think that the US and EU are playing a far greater role in humanitarian assistance while they think lowly of the Chinese who are involved in mining deals with Mugabe and his allies.

Another donor programme is the Essential Medicines Support Programme launched in 2008.

The EU has contributed $25.5 million of the total $52 million provided by donors. Other contributions have come from Canada and Australia.

Apart from making interventions in the dilapidated education and health sectors, Western countries such as Denmark have been helping in the constitution-making process.

Late last month Denmark's Development minister Christian Friis Bach gave Zimbabwe's Finance minister Tendai Biti $7.1 million for the constitution-making process.

For 2011-2012, the Danish government gave Zimbabwe approximately $28 million to maintain progress in the country and to ensure the completion of free and fair elections.

The West has also helped in providing water-purification chemicals.

But for government officials, it is typical animal-farm luxury. Government ministers from across the political divide are swift to fly to foreign countries for medical attention and other personal needs.

Former US ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee aptly described the situation when he said he was shocked by local politicians' penchant for luxury vehicles amidst a sea of poverty.

McGee warned that rich nations were being put off by Zimbabwe's "beggars in Rolexes" and that made them averse to spending their taxes on a country represented by greedy politicians.

Two is company: Morgan Tsvangirai, left, and Robert Mugabe have continued to spend little on key sectors while blowing millions on foreign travel.


Source - Daily News
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