Zimbabwe's election: Will change bring back donor money?

Robert Mugabe, current president of Zimbabwe is running to be reelected for the seventh time. The United Kingdom remains adamant in not giving direct aid to the government until political conditions in the African country improve. Photo by: Al Jazeera English / CC BY

Will Robert Mugabe remain in power in Zimbabwe? And will Wednesday’s elections remain peaceful, or again be marred with violence and political harassment?

Mugabe, 89, is running to be reelected for the seventh time in the country’s national elections. His rival is once more Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been trying to unseat one of Africa’s last “big men” since 2002.

All funding for the vote has come completely from government coffers. The country’s finance minister and Tsangvirai ally, Tendai Biti, told Al Jazeera that Zimbabwe “basically raped [the] government in order to finance this election,” adding that opportunities to secure funding from the international community were overruled by government decision to stick to its own resources.

The decision underscores the long and discordant relationship between Mugabe and most of Zimbabwe’s Western donors, which remain cautious in providing direct budget support to the government. Mugabe, meanwhile, isn’t one to bend over and please the international community.

Most of the country’s top donors instead channel their support to multilateral institutions and aid groups on the ground. But the European Union, its second largest donor according to OECD-DAC, seems bent on resuming budget support to the Zimbabwean government under its 11th EDF, in relation to perceived progress on political reforms.

The United Kingdom, which is set to course some 99 million and 94 million British pounds to the country in the next two years, however, remains adamant in not giving direct aid to the government. In its country strategy, the Department for International Development is willing to consider this “in the future,” when “political conditions improve.”

A DfID spokesman told Devex the country as any developing country the U.K. government is engaged with must meet four partnership principles before being considered for budget support.

“We only provide aid directly to governments when we are satisfied that they share our commitments to: reducing poverty; respecting human rights and other international obligations; improving their own financial management, governing well and transparently, and fighting corruption; and being accountable to their citizens,” the spokesman explained.

From the outside, it would seem Zimbabwe is doing fairly well on its own. In an MDG report published in May, Zimbabwe showed signs of progress in the areas of primary education, gender equality and fighting HIV and AIDS, though still challenged in addressing extreme poverty and maternal mortality.

And the CEO of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, an umbrella of NGOs in Zimbabwe, somewhat agrees.

“Zimbabwe has gone through very difficult conditions, I cannot see a repeat of those difficulties. I see recovery although slow. Look at what the new farmers are doing, they are doing very well without support from anyone, and now the industries might not go on in the morass of continual failures,” Cephas Zinhumwe told Devex.

But Zinhumwe shares the current traditional donor set up  in which funds are directed to organizations outside the government  is not sustainable, and believes an established relationship between Zimbabwe and the international community would lead to more effective use of resources.

“Channeling support to Zimbabweans through NGOs alone is not sustainable. We have our own limitations, too. It’s difficult to avoid the government. For instance, there are projects in which we need to work with the government,” he argued.

Zinhumwe furthers: “With the discovery of various mineral resources in the country and strong support from China, I think key and strategic donors should rethink their position in Zimbabwe so that they can re-engage the government of Zimbabwe despite which political party wins the elections.”

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.