By Upenyu Chaota
The United States government has written to the World Bank (WB) calling for strict conditions to be attached to any COVID-19 relief funding for Zimbabwe in light of the country’s shoddy record in administering such resources.
In a letter dated June 03 to World Bank Group president David Malpass, chairperson of the foreign relations committee in the US senate, James Risch says that strict accountability and transparency measures are needed given Zimbabwe’s corruption record.
Citing the controversial command agriculture programme as an example of government corruption, Risch says any package mobilised for Zimbabwe must ‘incorporate independent Zimbabwean civil society and community voices.’
“These are needed given the need for significant reform of most state institutions in Zimbabwe, pervasive corruption and impunity, and the demonstrated disinterest of the Government of Zimbabwe in the wellbeing of its citizens,” reads part of the letter which was copied to secretary of state Michael Pompeo and secretary of the treasury Steven Mnuchin.
He claimed that the government had a sordid history of abusing aid money for patronage and self-enrichment.
“This extraordinary crisis requires an exceptional response, but it is important not to lose sight of the historical behavior of countries like Zimbabwe where government has used, and continues to use, state resources and international aid to suppress its population and enrich the country’s ruling elite,” the letter reads.
The World Bank recently refused to extend, through regular funding channels, new assistance to such countries which are in arrears as Zimbabwe and Sudan, but availed US$5 million through a trust fund called the Global Financing Facility.
An additional US$2 million was redirected from the existing Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP), a displeasing development for the US which feels that communities affected by Cyclone Idai need the money more than anybody else.
“Finally, I am concerned that some of the funds were redirected from the ZIRP’s Idai response. Areas affected by Cyclone Idai, including Mutare and Chimanimani, still suffer total devastation and significant need.
“We must continue to support those communities as they rebuild, and it is my hope that the redirected funds will continue to support communities affected by the cyclone. In fact, the devastating conditions in which communities affected by Cyclone Idai live, make them all the more vulnerable to coronavirus infection, acute food insecurity and displacement,” further reads the letter.