Zimbabwe Bill That Would Require Government Oversight of NGOs Hindering HIV/AIDS Fight
A bill adopted in late 2004 by Zimbabwe's parliament would require the government to oversee the activities of nongovernmental organizations, causing many NGOs to adopt a "wait-and-see" approach in the country, according to National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations Director Jonah Mudehwe, AFP/SAPA/Business Day reports. If the legislation is signed by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, it would require NGOs to present regular reports of their accounts and projects in Zimbabwe and ban any NGO involved in governance issues from receiving foreign funding. Zimbabwean Labor Minister Paul Mangwana said the legislation is necessary for the government to monitor NGOs it claims are used by foreign governments and organizations to channel funds to opposition parties (AFP/SAPA/Business Day, 3/29). Despite having the fourth-highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate worldwide and the greatest increase in child mortality among all nations, the average annual spending per HIV-positive person from the world's three main donor initiatives is $4 in Zimbabwe, compared with $74 in the Southern African region, according to UNICEF (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/18). According to Karl Dehne, a UNAIDS representative in Zimbabwe, the country did not receive funding last year from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria or the World Bank's Multi-Country HIV/AIDS Program for Africa. Although Zimbabwe in 2004 received about $60 million for HIV/AIDS programs from the United States and other donors, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have not funded a program in Zimbabwe since 1999, Dehne said (Reuters, 3/27).
NGO, Opposition Reaction
"We have all been sitting on the fence, and our funding partners overseas have adopted a similar stance," Prisca Munonyara, director of the Zimbabwean not-for-profit group AIDS Counselling Trust, said, adding, "We have millions of vulnerable people out there. ... Both infected and affected crying out for help. They have come to depend on the NGOs for help, and they are the people who suffer most as a result of the current state of affairs." Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, said at a rally ahead of parliamentary elections on Thursday that he would ensure that hospitals are able to treat HIV-positive people (Agence France-Presse, 3/27). "The key issues are really simple, even to a man like Mugabe -- food, economic recovery, the fight against HIV/AIDS, improved economic and political governance," Nelson Chamisa, an MDC member of parliament, said (Reuters/SABC News, 3/25).
The lack of funding for HIV/AIDS programs in Zimbabwe "demonstrates a ... sinister motive to discredit the AIDS response by Zimbabwe based purely on political indifference of the international community and indigence by the Zimbabwean government," Frenk Guni, an HIV/AIDS advocate and winner of the 2003 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, writes in a newzimbabwe.com opinion piece. The primary limitations to HIV/AIDS programs in the country are "inadequate" international and local funding, "weak" political response "exacerbated by donor fatigue," and a "morbid desire" by the international community to punish Mugabe for alleged human rights abuses, flawed electoral laws and an "unpalatable" land-reform program, according to Guni. The NGO legislation does not prohibit external funding from groups providing humanitarian services not linked to Zimbabwean politics, and NGOs represent a way "to go around" the "threat" of the government's accountability, Guni writes. "If we do not act fast and now, history and posterity will judge us all for our inaction," Guni writes, concluding, "[I]t is the ordinary men, women and children who are now looking up to the international community for their own survival" (Guni, newzimbabwe.com, 3/23).