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Mugabe out in the cold as Europe cuts aid

Published Feb 1, 2001

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By Basildon Peta

Harare - Several European Union governments and other key international donors who had maintained humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe have begun to cut all aid to the government.

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The move is an attempt to completely isolate the Zimbabwe government because of its sustained refusal to uphold the rule of law, reports say.

On Thursday, Zimbabwe's Financial Gazette quoted diplomatic sources saying that comments earlier this week by President Robert Mugabe and his two deputies, Simon Muzenda and Joseph Msika - that they would never allow the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to rule the country, even if it won elections - as well as the bombing of a local newspaper, had all combined to prompt foreign governments to cease all co-operation with Harare.

Instead, EU governments were now refocusing aid on bolstering civic groups, and human rights and political opposition organisations as a way of promoting a wider search for democracy and human rights development.

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Sweden, an influential member of the donor community and the present head of the EU, took the lead by resolving to slash by 45 percent the $700-million it has been giving Zimbabwe annually. The money saved will be channelled to civic groups.

"The government has resolved to cut back on bilateral development co-operation with the government of Zimbabwe," the press secretary in the foreign affairs ministry, Pekka Johansson, wrote to Swedish diplomats in a circular quoted by the Financial Gazette.

"The decision will involve ... virtual cessation of all development co-operation with the government of Zimbabwe."

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From his Stockholm base, Johansson told the Financial Gazette that other EU countries had taken similar action.

Zimbabwe's ministers of foreign affairs and information, Stan Mudenge and Jonathan Moyo respectively, could not be reached for comment.

Johansson said Sweden, one of the staunchest backers of Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party, was finding it difficult to support the development of democracy and human rights in a situation where the government continuously disregarded court decisions and left political violence unchecked.

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Germany's ambassador to Zimbabwe, Fritz-Hermann Flimm, said the statements by Mugabe, Muzenda and Msika went against the very foundations of democracy.

The diplomat said Germany, which had already sharply scaled back aid because of Harare's policies, had only a few weeks ago further downgraded Zimbabwe to the lowest level ever among its development partners.

- The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists has asked Mugabe to issue a guarantee of safety for all journalists operating from Zimbabwe and called on him to condemn the bombing of the Daily News and esnure the perpetrators are caught.

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