Donor aid to countries such as Zimbabwe have done more harm than good.
Our country has reached the catastrophic levels that it is, as a direct result of irresponsibility starting right from the top of government, to the ordinary man and woman in the street.
That is why I was so thrilled to hear the calls by British taxpayers for their government and other aid agencies to ban aid to ‘developing’ countries.
This aid has done nothing, but create such dependency that we are no longer innovative enough to stand on our own.
There is a saying: ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, however, if we continue receiving handouts from aid agencies, our necessity will never result in any inventions.
Let us be clear that most of this donor aid does not encourage self-reliance, but a dependency syndrome – resulting in communities continually seeking this assistance for their survival.
How does the continued deliverance of non-emergency aid, such as clothes and shoes, encourage a community to stand up for itself?
Even in the case of emergency aid, for instance food during extreme famine, rarely do these aid agencies encourage self-sustenance, as medium to long-term programmes.
As the saying goes: ‘give a man fish, and feed him for a day – but teach him how to fish, and feed him for a lifetime’.
In fact, most of these so-called ‘developing countries’ as Zimbabwe, ceased developing a long time ago, partly due to its lethargy as a result of donor assistance.
Similarly, these aid agencies have masked the true nature of our own governments’ inaptitude, as most developmental projects that we witness in our countries are touted as government-funded, yet they are donor-funded, thus giving our incompetent and thieving leaders credit they do not deserve.
This same aid – especially food – has been abused by the government to buy votes for a the ruling ZANU PF party in rural areas, in addition to being selectively handed out only to party loyalists.
It is not uncommon to hear our grandparents pledging to vote for ZANU PF as it gave them food in times of need.
Yet, that same ZANU PF is the main cause of he country’s economic meltdown due to its incompetence and corruption.
If this aid is completely stopped, the people will then have a chance to see clearly the magnitude of the ZANU PF government’s misgovernance – without the covering of donor funding – which will hopefully achieve one of two things – either, people will finally stand up boldly against such misrule, or the government will finally become responsible.
If a gainfully earning father is always irresponsibly spending money on friends, drinking and partying, whilst his family starves, and children are out of school – yet he is constantly being given handouts from well-wishers for his family’s upkeep – then his true behaviour will never be fully exposed.
This country is endowed with much resources, such that we could be one of the richest in the world, but these are being plundered unreservedly by the ruling elite for their own luxury, whilst the rest of the population suffers.
However, despite all our suffering, donor aid is hiding the true nature and extent of the mess our country is in.
Only after donor funding has ceased shall the people finally appreciate just how much this once great country has been ruined by ZANU PF.
The Daily Express article came right on the heels of a disturbing report I heard on the Voice of America’s (VOA) Studio 7, whereby the City of Gweru residents’ association was vehemently against the installation of pre-paid water meters, under the pretext that the poor would be denied access to this fundamental human right.
The question that immediately came into my mind when I heard that report was: ‘Who then do these residents expect to foot the water bill, if the current post-payment system continues?’
What the continued use of this water payment system entails is that those residents who are struggling and scrounging around for money – in the midst of Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown – to pay for the water they would have used, are then being coerced – obviously without their consent – to also foot the bill of those who are not paying.
Is it fair on those who are also struggling to make a living to be forced to pay for those who are not paying for water – and yet we all need this precious liquid?
Should our rights to something result in the infringement of others’ rights?
This is where the problem starts.
Civic rights organisations should be very careful when considering their activities – whether their actions actually promote community development or destroy it.
In the case of the debate over the installation of pre-paid meters in Zimbabwean cities, civic rights organisation should brainstorm broadly on such aspects as: ‘Since over 90% of Zimbabweans are not formally employed and are, therefore, regarded as poor, who amongst them can not genuinely pay for their water?’
We need to be firm and honest in this regard.
90% of us are genuinely suffering, but we can still make a plan and manage to buy mobile phones, airtime (as most of us are always on social media), beer, and so forth – so how many of us who are not paying for their water, truly can not afford it – as most of these service providers are requesting an average of US$30 per household per month?
There is need for a proper audit by such civic rights organisations and city councils, of each household to ascertain their capability to meet their obligations.
In most cases, households whereby the elderly, critically sick, and disabled are the occupants would be the best candidates to be exempt from paying for service delivery.
In this regard, these residents’ associations and city councils should liaise with all stakeholders, including national government, to formulate a plan as to how the costs incurred by councils from such exemptions would be recovered.
However, any able bodied person should come up with a plan to pay for their services rendered.
I know of households where vegetables are being grown for selling, so as to pay for the water.
As much as I am also a social justice activist – through my personal work, and that of the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice (ZimJustice) – but I would never excuse dependency, lethargy and irresponsibility.
We all have our rights, but, as civic rights organisations, we also need to place equal emphasis on our obligations as communities.
Let us not try to make a name for ourselves through meaningless noises and tantrums in the name of rights, yet encouraging communities to self-destruct – as that is grossly irresponsible.
Zimbabweans have suffered enough, and it is time that both donor agencies, and civic rights organisations seriously reconsidered their operations, and focus.
Are we encouraging self-reliant, independent, and responsible communities, or are we doing be opposite?
In our endeavors to assist the poor, are we not inadvertently masking the gross incompetence of the government – and where do we strike the balance between the urgent and emergency needs of a community, and where we can leave things as they are, so that government irresponsibility can finally be exposed?
Without tackling such important questions, our country will forever be on a downward spiral, till a nation no longer exists.
° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is available should you invite him to speak at any event or gathering. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: [email protected]