Govt plunders while people suffer

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s government has spent well over $100 million pampering the military in actions he defends as necessary to protect the country from “aggressors”.

But with hospitals teetering on the brink, schools in shambles and a population decimated by medieval diseases, such reckless spending is now being viewed by critics as soft genocide on a country desperate for relief.

Social Welfare minister Paurina Mpariwa needs $30 million for the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam) that caters for orphans and vulnerable children in schools. In 2010 Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai revealed that Harare Hospital required $1,5 million to address most of its pressing problems while the education transition fund had to receive $53 million from donors to strengthen the education sector.

The Health Transition Fund on the other hand required 78,4 million injection, a fund geared towards strengthening health systems to ultimately save the lives of more than 30 000 children under age five and pregnant  women.

Yet Mugabe sees it fit to expend a staggering $107 million on a military college and convention centre for his party’s annual jamboree.

Compare this again to just $0,70 per child in education, according to Education minister David Coltart.
While presenting the 2013 budget proposals Finance minister Tendai Biti last week accused Zimbabwe’s ruling coalition authority of “soft genocide”.

“If you look at our social indicators; 90 out of every 1 000 children born are dying at infancy, secondly maternal mortality stands at 96 mothers dying per every thousand during child birth and our life expectancy is 41 years.

The figures of child mortality and life expectancy are by any description soft genocide,” Biti told a packed House of Assembly that included Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

In the same statement Biti raised military spending by at least $40 million in a move that is seen by commentators as a carrot to placate restive soldiers who have been baying for his blood ahead of watershed elections.

The $100 million for the defence college was borrowed from the Chinese, while mystery surrounds the source of the $7 million Zanu PF is spending on its conference centre just outside Gweru.

Critics have said it is diamond money being siphoned through the Chinese.

It is believed that money being spent on these projects accounts for the diamond revenue that is not being submitted to the national coffers by the Zanu PF and the military elite who control the Marange diamond fields.

Municipalities continue to operate on shoe-string budgets. Zimbabwe’s diamond city and capital of Manicaland Province, Mutare this year proposed a shallow budget of $18,6 million for the year 2013 against the backdrop of diamond splendour.

The most striking paradox is that Zimbabweans continue to die of primitive diseases such as cholera and typhoid while precious minerals line the pockets of the ruling elite.

Bar the posturing of sovereignty and self-reliance, most of the government’s social programmes have been funded by the British, Americans and other donors while Zimbabwe directs all its income on belligerent military elite that has taken every opportunity to undermine democratic reforms.

While the $30 million Mpariwa was battling to source would avail education to over 500 000 under-privileged children and orphans under the Beam programme, $100 million could benefit 1,5 million children under the scheme.

While launching the education transition fund in March 2010, Tsvangirai said: “In the first two decades after Independence, government was giving between $4-$6 per capita grant per child for textbooks and other expenses. But following years of plunder of the economy and misplaced policies, the education grant became erratic and died a natural death as politicians concentrated on consolidating power at the expense of the economy and education,” Tsvangirai said.

According to most multilateral organisations operating in Zimbabwe more than 1 million children and young people of secondary age are out of school, with few educational or employment options.

The same government has approved $400 million expenditure for the construction of a new Parliament building whose citing remains a mystery and bone of contention with the inclusive government.

Water Resources minister Samuel Nkomo says the country requires $701 million each year to equitably provide water and sanitation. However, it can only avail $28 million under the public sector investment programme (PSIP) for water and sanitation to the country’s 91 local authorities.

MDG number 7 aims at ensuring environmental sustainability, including water and sanitation.

MDG 7 target C intends to halve the proportion of people without access to safe potable drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

“Zimbabwe is off-track to meet the MDGs. Findings from the 2010 Country Status Overview reveal that the investment gap required to meet the MDGs is estimated to be as large $365 million per year for water and US$336 million for sanitation,” said Nkomo.

The funds to build the military college came from a $98 million loan granted by China, in exchange for diamonds from Marange.

Government spending on foreign travel was exposed last year Biti who told Parliament that Cabinet had blown at least $20 million last year alone.

Desperate civil servants continue to plead with government for a decent wage, as most are earning salaries below the poverty datum line. It is the ordinary Zimbabweans that continue to suffer while the few elite pursue lavish lifestyles.

“I personally had the privilege to look at it (convention centre) alone. I feel the people of Midlands deserve lots of praise,” he said.

“This could not have been done in this short time. Because it is here, we are determined to hold our conference here in honour of the good work that has been done so far,” Mutasa told reporters last week.

Zanu PF is actually looking for more money and showed this by re-constituting its fundraising committee for the Midlands capital annual pilgrimage.

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