Australia Bets on Zimbabwe's Unity Government

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith just announced that his government will provide Zimbabwe with another $6.5 million in aid to help the so-called unity government restore urgent access to safe water, adequate sanitation and health services.

What's so controversial? He's betting that historically corrupt ZANU-PF government officials won't again abscond with these aid dollars the way they have in the past. (Remember last November when reserve bank governor Gideon Gono stole $7.3 million from the Global Fund ?)

At least Australia has done its homework. In May 2005, the Mugabe regime nationalized MDC-run municipal water services for political gain and profit. Within three years under ZANU-PF control, the national water authority had collapsed due to malfeasance, which directly led to the current cholera outbreak. 4,000 dead and 90,000 infected – and all from an entirely preventable and easily treatable disease. If there's any good news with the new unity government, it's that water services are now back under municipal control. And that's why Australia is donating half of the new aid to municipal authorities for the provision of water treatment chemicals.

And what of Zimbabwe's other major donors? Both the US government and UK government have placed their bets on ZANU-PF not changing its stripes any time soon. The United States and United Kingdom have both stated their respective intents to wait until the unity government has made tangible progress toward improving the human rights situation before they renew substantive development aid to Zimbabwe.

Unfortunately, this modest increase in humanitarian aid from the benevolent Aussies will not address the underlying causes of the current outbreaks in disease and collapse of the health system. For that Zimbabwe needs billions in development aid that will only pour in once the Americans and Brits are satisfied.

2008-09 humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe (USD):

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