This weekend marks the end of SW Radio Africa which has been broadcasting high quality journalism to Zimbabwe for thirteen years. Coming at a time when the independent press at home is facing a growing financial squeeze, the Vigil believes the loss of this voice is a tragic blow to democracy.
Supporting a peaceful democratic transition is proclaimed as one of the main objectives for Zimbabwe of the UK’s Department for International Development, which must have given our country well over a billion dollars of aid during the lifetime of SW Radio Africa. It’s a pity DFID didn’t see fit to provide money to keep the radio station going as it filled the prescription for this.
The Vigil has often expressed our reservations about DFID’s aid to Zimbabwe. It is difficult to argue against propping up Zimbabwe’s health and education sectors but there is no doubt that foreign aid helps maintain the Mugabe regime in power, if only by relieving it of the responsibility to itself provide constitutionally mandated services.
Then, of course, there is the crucial question of corruption. DFID argues that it keeps a rigorous eye on how its money is spent, but much of it is channelled through multilateral organisations such as UNICEF. We notice that this week Education Minister Lazarus Dokora was caught out misappropriating a truck supplied by UNICEF . . .
As Zimbabweans know, corruption is total in Zimbabwe and we believe that all too many NGOs and other agencies have learnt, for their own purposes, to live with it – to the prejudice of their role and the detriment of good governance.
When SADC meets at the Victoria Falls this month to crown Mugabe will the assembled heads of state care that his Deputy Chief Secretary Ray Ndhlukula has ignored a high court order and taken over a farm from its white owner (although he apparently already has a farm)? The fact that it means the end of a rare pedigree herd is incidental.
The Vigil notes that Mugabe is off to Beijing soon to exchange Zimbabwe for a Chinese takeaway. But, however much he gets, it will make little difference to the lives of ordinary people as it will all be stolen. This will be done efficiently: Zanu PF Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa says he knows of no other country as well-governed as Zimbabwe.
· The Vigil is glad to hear that the EU Ambassador to Harare Aldo Dell’Ariccia has ended his posting. No doubt he will feel bereaved being deprived of proximity to his hero Mugabe. We also learn that a new British Ambassador has been appointed to Harare. She is Catriona Laing and worked in DFID so perhaps she will have better access to the money bags.
· Thanks to Joseph Chivayo, Epiphania Phiri, Aivet Phiri, Zodwa Ndlovu and Musa Sibanda who were there at the start to help set up. Thanks also to Helen Rukambiro for looking after the front table.
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FOR THE RECORD: 16 signed the register.
The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of human rights in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe. http:/www.zimvigil.co.uk.