Donors dump political projects

International donors from the European Union are ditching political and human rights projects in favour of local economic, social, cultural and environmental development, The Zimbabwean has established.

Lionel Veer, the Dutch ambassador for human rights.
Lionel Veer, the Dutch ambassador for human rights.

The move is likely to see an acute weakening of the political opposition, which has received support from international pro-democracy well-wishers in the past.

While the Political Parties (Finance) Act prohibits foreign funding of political parties, Zanu (PF) has also received millions of dollars from outside funders in the past.

Sources say Lionel Veer, the Dutch ambassador for human rights, recently visited Harare and convened a meeting with several civil society organisations where he announced the shift from political to human rights support.

“Veer made it clear that it had become unsustainable to support political parties. He said the opposition had been full of brave fighters but they had proved incapable of bringing about democratic change,” said a source who attended the meeting.

“He said: ‘People can fight, but the most important thing is winning. MDC, for instance has fought a good fight but it hasn’t won’”.

Since its formation in late 1999, the MDC has put up a brave show, resisting persecution to mount strong election challenges that almost removed Mugabe and Zanu (PF) from power, particularly in 2008 when MDC-T leader Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of the presidential poll. He later withdrew because of the widespread violence.

The EU pro-democracy community is said to be disillusioned with the infighting within the MDC. The US and Australian embassies have condemned the squabbles.

Another civil society representative who attended the meeting said western states were unhappy with the fact that the MDC-T seemed to have inherited the violence that had been associated with Zanu (PF).

“There is refocusing. The west is increasingly seeing the crisis moving away from civil and political rights to economic and social rights,” he said.

“We were told (during the meeting) that Zimbabweans are better placed to fight for democracy when they are economically and socially empowered, as poor citizens tend to be vulnerable to politicians.”

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