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Tuesday, 11 November 2008

What white liberals do with your money

from I Luv SA but...

JOHANNESBURG — The government of Zimbabwe, led by President Robert Mugabe, spent $7.3 million donated by an international organization to fight killer diseases on other things and has failed to honour requests to return the money, according to the organization’s inspector general.

The actions by Zimbabwe have deprived the organization, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, of resources it needs and damaged efforts to expand life-saving treatment, said the inspector general, John Parsons.

Zimbabwe’s actions also jeopardize a more ambitious $188 million Global Fund grant to Zimbabwe, due for consideration by the fund’s board on Friday, Mr. Parsons said.

The Global Fund has continued to demand that Zimbabwe return the money, and Global Fund officials say Zimbabwean financial officials have promised to do so by Thursday. But Mr. Parsons said Zimbabwean officials also said they had not repaid the money because they did not have enough foreign currency.

The breakdown of trust between the Global Fund and Zimbabwe’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 Mr. Mugabe is in charge, even if a deadlock over a power-sharing government is resolved.

Mr. Parsons said in an interview on Sunday that last year the Global Fund deposited $12.3 million in foreign currency into Zimbabwe’s 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. Civic groups and opposition officials maintain that the Reserve Bank helps finance Mr. Mugabe’s patronage machine.

Mr. Parsons did offer an example of the human consequences of the Reserve Bank’s failure to hand over the money for disease fighting. The 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. There were 2.7 million cases of malaria among Zimbabwe’s 12 million people in the World Health Organization’s most recent estimates.

“The drugs expire by the middle of next year, and it would be criminal if we can’t use them because of these problems,” Mr. Parsons said. “They’ve got quite a short shelf life.”

Zimbabwe’s information minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, said Sunday in an interview that he was not aware of the particulars of the disagreement, but he defended what he described as the Reserve Bank’s good intentions and accused the Global Fund of politicizing aid.

“They always want to put certain standards and concoct certain things to make us look bad and horrendous in international eyes,” he said.
Gideon Gono, governor of the Reserve Bank, the custodian of the Global Fund’s money, has been spending large sums this year on a variety of things, according to reports in Zimbabwe’s state-owned media.

Mr. Gono gave the country’s judges new vehicles, satellite dishes and televisions and allocated 79 vehicles for the Information Ministry. He announced the provision of 3,000 tractors, 105 combine harvesters and 100,000 plows for the country’s farm mechanization program. Mr. Ndlovu, the information minister, said the Reserve Bank had been getting foreign currency for imports of food and medicine.

Mr. Ndlovu said the Global Fund had sided with Western nations that had restricted aid to Zimbabwe and imposed sanctions on it — sanctions that Mr. Mugabe and his party blame for the country’s economic ruin.
“The money from the Global Fund is nowhere near what the Reserve Bank has spent on health care for the country,” the information minister said.

Civic groups and opposition officials contend that Mr. Gono and the Reserve Bank have helped finance the governing party’s patronage operation, essential to Mr. Mugabe’s hold on power for the past 28 years. Eddie Cross, a senior official in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, accused the Reserve Bank of looting the Global Fund’s donation.
International aid groups and United Nations agencies say the country’s annual inflation rate of more than 230 million percent and rules imposed by the Reserve Bank have severely complicated the logistics of helping the most impoverished people.

The Reserve Bank suspended electronic banking a month ago, making it impossible for international organizations to pay for goods and services with bank transfers. The Reserve Bank has also severely limited cash withdrawals from commercial banks. And the inflation rate has rendered check payments nearly worthless by the time they clear days later.

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