State set to divert humanitarian aid to pay salaries
By Alex Bell
09 April 2009
In a highly controversial statement the Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara this week announced that the coalition government had resolved to divert humanitarian aid, in order to support the government’s core functions – chiefly paying the salaries of the country’s civil service.
Mutambara made the shock announcement at a youth conference in Harare on Wednesday, where he told students that Zimbabwe’s meaning of ‘humanitarian’ would be changed to include other equally needy areas, which the government is failing to support. He was speaking in response to questions asked by tertiary students at the conference who have demanded a return to normalcy in the education sector, which has been rocked by drastic fee increases in recent months. The fee changes, now pegged in foreign currency, have seen the vast majority of students fail to return to their studies because of financial constraints.
Mutambara announced that through a strategy he has dubbed ‘humanitarian plus’, the government would receive money under the banner of humanitarian assistance, to “pay for grants to students who are going to college, to pay for the salaries of teachers in higher education, to pay for salaries of teachers in the primary schools and secondary schools.”
The government has been unable to fulfill its pledge of paying the full salaries of the civil service in foreign currency, because of a critical lack of funding. International donor governments have been understandably reluctant to support the unity government until real change is evident in Zimbabwe. The only money therefore entering the country has been in the form of humanitarian aid that is only meant to support the desperate humanitarian needs of the country. The Mugabe regime’s notorious mismanagement of humanitarian funds previously filtered through the Reserve Bank means aid is now sent directly to NGOs and charity groups working on the ground.
If Mutumbara’s statement is factual there will undoubtedly be an outcry from donor countries, whose aid packages were never intended to pay salaries. There have also been no guarantees as to how the diversion of funds will be managed, and there are fears the same corruption in the old government will surface and that the aid will be squandered.