Zimbabwe frustrated at Western aid boycott

Zimbabwe’s vice-president on Friday expressed frustration that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s European and US trip didn’t raise as much financial aid as her government had hoped, but called it a “quite successful” first step.

Joice Mujuru, who fought alongside President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe’s war of independence, told the Associated Press that the government had hoped Tsvangirai’s nearly three-week trip, which just ended in Paris, would have produced “more financial support, but being the first, it’s a positive move”.

She said it is being quickly followed up by ministerial visits to key countries and an investment conference to generate financial support for the new coalition government.

Tsvangirai launched the tour saying he wasn’t carrying a begging bowl but wanted to mend his nation’s relations with Western leaders, who accuse Mugabe of trampling on democracy and ruining a once-vibrant economy. Many Western nations want Mugabe to step down and are reluctant to offer Zimbabwe major aid or donate money directly to the government.

When Tsvangirai visited Britain this week, Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged £5-million ($8,2-million) in new aid for food projects and textbooks—to be distributed by charities. Officials in France offered political support but said any new aid would focus on non-governmental organisations and not go directly to the government.
Tsvangirai left Washington after meeting President Barack Obama with only a promise of $73-million in conditional aid.

Mujuru expressed frustration at Western reluctance to help the power-sharing government directly, saying Zimbabwe needs a “huge financial injection”—estimated by the Ministry of Finance at $8-billion.

Longtime rivals Mugabe and Tsvangirai have pledged to work together to confront Zimbabwe’s crippling poverty, collapsed utilities and chronic shortages of food and basic goods. Zimbabwe has had the highest inflation rate in the world, thousands have died during a major cholera outbreak, and much of the population goes to bed hungry. Many blame Mugabe, but have been increasingly critical of Tsvangirai.

Mujuru said that for almost 10 years, the government and opposition “were at each other ... but now we have decided to come together and work well” in an inclusive government.

The former rivals have the same message—“come and help us, now we are ready to work together and improve our economy and improve the living conditions of our people,” she said.

“I thought by just being one inclusive government sharing the same ideas and programmes of government is a big plus on our side, and that’s where the world should come to our aid,” Mujuru said.

“But still the world is saying, you are not yet ready.”

The new government is “stretching the hand of friendship” to the West and the rest of the world, just as Obama has said he is ready to stretch his hand out to opponents, she said.

“My president is actually saying, ‘let’s build bridges’,” Mujuru said. “So I don’t know how they expect us to start building the bridges.”

“How do you want us to show the world that we are ready?” Mujuru asked.

Western countries cite the slow pace of reform since the coalition government took power, the trials of activists on trumped up charges, claims that security forces still use force to crush political opponents, and other human rights violations.

Mujuru said “Yes, we still have those isolated cases of violence, but mind you, some of them are very criminal.”

“It’s not everything that is political,” she said, noting that one lawmaker from Tsvangirai’s party who is under arrest is accused of raping a 13-year-old girl.

She said Parliament is currently recruiting for three commissions that respond to Western concerns—a human rights commission, an anti-corruption commission, and a media commission.

Although Tsvangirai didn’t get the kind of financial support the government hoped for on his trip, Mujuru said “I think it was quite successful.”

“We have leads that need follow-up and so the beginning is very important,” she said.

Mujuru said the government sent the foreign minister, the finance minister, the minister of economic planning and others to visit EU and some non-EU countries starting last week in Brussels to “tell our story as a unity government, because we are not understood by many ...”

The government also announced this week that it will be holding an investment conference in late July in Harare, she said.

“It’s a chance for the world to come over and see what is happening on the ground,” Mujuru said.

While Zimbabwe is a former British colony with links to the West, she said, the government is ready to do business with countries from the East.

In addition to being one of two vice presidents in the unity government, Mujuru is a vice-president in Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party. - Sapa-AP

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