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Thursday, 25 February 2010


The Corrupt Role of NGOs, Donors and Civil Society in the Zimbabwean Crisis

(Trading The Soul of The Change Movement for Pieces of Silver)

By Paul Rumema Chimhosva

3 February 2009


The Franklin Pierce Law Center in its IP Mall: Traditional Knowledge publications define Civil Society as follows:

“Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. In theory, its institutional forms are distinct from those of the state, family and market, though in practice, the boundaries between state, civil society, family and market are often complex, blurred and negotiated. Civil society commonly embraces a diversity of spaces, actors and institutional forms, varying in their degree of formality, autonomy and power. Civil societies are often populated by organisations such as registered charities, development non-governmental organisations, community groups, women's organisations, faith-based organisations, professional associations, trades unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy group.”

The same publications also define the concept of a non-governmental organisation as follows:

“A non-profit making, voluntary, service-oriented/development oriented organization, either for the benefit of members (a grassroots organization) or of other members of the population (an agency). (World Bank). A non-profit group or association organized outside of institutionalized political structures to realize particular social objectives such as environmental protection or serve particular constituencies (such as indigenous peoples). NGO activities range from research, information distribution, training, local organization, and community service to legal advocacy, lobbying for legislative change, and civil disobedience. NGO's range in size from small groups within a particular community to huge membership groups with a national or international scope. [UNEP]”

It is important to define what exactly is civil society and what is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) is so that the following analysis of the interaction between the political organisations in Zimbabwe and these formations can be truly unraveled. It is important to note also that the MDC is a political formation which now finds itself in government and with the real possibility of being the governing party in the not too distant future, if their own predictions are to be believed.

Zimbabwe as a nation has just (30 years) come out of one of the most protracted wars of independence the earth has ever seen. I use the word just very deliberately as it is now some 70 years after the holocaust and the Jewish people are still tracking down and punishing their oppressors something that black Africans have long been discouraged by various forms of persuasion including corrupt payments to existing and emerging African leadership. Estimates vary from 30000 to 50000 people who died during the liberation struggle. The population of Zimbabwe holds its sovereignty so dearly, close to its heart, that it is disheartening that a Robert Mugabe or a Tsvangirai uses national sovereignty as a political football. The donor community has used civil society and NGOs in Zimbabwe for a variety of purposes all of which serve interests other than those of Zimbabweans.

The operative words in the definitions of civil society and NGOs are voluntary, service- oriented, development, shared interest and values, and most importantly non-profit. These organisations can take the form of grassroot organisations with members being the focus of value migration from donors to the intended beneficiaries (the ordinary citizens).


The strategic objectives of civil society and NGOs in an effort to transmit value to the down-trodden population of Zimbabwe should embrace advocacy for constitutional reform and organizing peaceful resistance to repression and other forms of restriction of individual and societal liberties. The quest for a new people driven constitution in Zimbabwe is central to this objective. The freedom to choose a leadership that is responsive to the people’s needs should be a fundamental objective of civil society and NGO backed revolutionary crusade. The crafting of a national vision and value system coupled to a people driven transformational agenda should be the focus of not only the change movement by of all donors, civil society and NGOs. The rule of law is not only achieved whilst in government but it is also demonstrated during the period of the struggle for people’s power. Therefore it is common cause that civil society should demand of its components total transparency and accountability both in actions and in the distribution of resources. Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe have failed the people of Zimbabwe mainly because there were no democratic structures to hold them accountable to the people of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean parliament has always been a rubber stamp for Zanu PF and its president, there was never any debate apart from eulogising Mugabe as the second Christ. The objective therefore should be to foster a culture of constructive dissent. There should be a culture of transparency in the lead up to the inevitable change from the Mugabe regime. Civil society and NGOs should demand of those who seek to rule Zimbabwe in the near future to embrace the culture of accountability and transparency.

In the light of the above discussion an attempt will now be made to highlight some of the failures of civil society and NGOs and why they should now be discouraged to further undermine the struggle of the Zimbabwean people.


The donor community has accepted the classic definitions of civil society and NGOs and applied it to Zimbabwe as if Zimbabwe was a normal society. The concept of voluntarism does not exist in the context of the chaotic Zimbabwean socio-economic environment. Most entrepreneurial and sharp academic brains in Zimbabwe could not find employment in the public sector or the non-existent private sector. The only available foreign currency based entrepreneurial activity was the NGO and Civil Society sector. Instead of being a voluntary service oriented non-profit sector this sector graduated into a huge profit based industry whose source of competitive advantage was the speed at which the organisations could wood wink unsuspecting western donors into parting with their taxpayers’ funds. The end result has been the betrayal of the reason why civil society and NGOs exist, which is to garner socio-politico-economic value on behalf of an oppressed people.

There is not one leader in the change movement whose individual net worth has not dramatically improved since the escalation of the Zimbabwean crisis with the formation of the MDC in 1999. Granted, Zanu PF has been looting state coffers and development aid for the past 30 years. It cannot be said to be right that corruption is justifiable as long as it is not done by Mugabe. Civil society, the donor community and NGOs need to realize that very little of what they have donated have reached the people of Zimbabwe. The leaders of opposition parties have their children at private schools and universities abroad on the very same resources made to facilitate the struggle of the Zimbabwean people. Leaders in the so-called unity government who have never been gainfully employed in their lives now boast luxury German sedans and a multitude of luxurious suburban houses. These so-called leaders have holiday houses in places like Cape Town and other exotic places around the globe. People based in Zimbabwe, selling out on the people’s struggle, have set themselves businesses in Botswana and South Africa. So- called human rights campaigners on behalf of Zimbabwe, like Eleanor Sisulu of South Africa, have enriched themselves no end. It is a real shame that people who do not understand the struggle of the Zimbabwean people have gone out and got monetary resources on behalf of Zimbabweans and have enriched themselves to obscene levels.

The MDC and the democratic change forces in Zimbabwe got AU$15million from the Australian government, US$5million and 30million British pounds in 2008 to contest the Zimbabwe general elections. These are public figures that Howard, Bush and Blair gloated about as funds necessary to facilitate the demise of the Mugabe regime. In late

2009 Tsvangirai failed to settle a hotel lunch bill in Masvingo. Printers and others support services for campaign support for the MDC were paid late. Simba Makoni abused party vehicles, fuel and funds using them for personal gain. The west has donated a vast

amount of money to the constitution making process where the leaders of that process are pocketing copious amounts of money. The Zimbabwean crisis has long lost its value as the epitomy of the struggle for freedom of the oppressed masses of Zimbabwe but a very vibrant self-enrichment programme for donor sharks based in Zimbabwe, US, South Africa, Botswana, Canada, New Zealand and other countries.

Individuals who cannot provide any meaningful contribution to humanity have found themselves a very lucrative pastime: crying crocodile tears on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe and getting paid for it. A simple audit of estates of the individuals who lead all these mushrooming Zimbabwe crisis NGOs should show the donors how much of their investments actually reach the people of Zimbabwe. A huge chunk of their donations are destined for the pockets of the few and not the people. One would like to be introduced to any poor NGO functionary involved with the Zimbabwean crisis.


Whilst civil society and NGOs, together with the donors, think they are getting rid of the rot Mugabe has visited upon Zimbabwe they need to be aware that they have started breeding a far more corrupt culture in the ranks of the change movement. Money is changing hands midnight and no auditing of the movement’s accounts is done. This culture is going to be transferred into the Zimbabwean fiscus. Already elements of that are beginning to emerge with the introduction of corrupt language like “takiya kiya – we have made a plan” or “nhasi haulume – you are not eating” from the Finance Minister on serious matters of national resources distribution. This comes from the culture that civil society and NGOs is inculcating into the Zimbabwean political leadership. The culture that’s says: you do not have to account for anything to anyone. I am deeply disappointed with the complicity with which donors dish out resources in the name of the common Zimbabwean and then fail to hold people accountable for those resources.

It can be argued that auditing of the movement’s account may open up the movement to Zanu PF propaganda tactics, but how do you let the people know what you have done with the resources meant for them? What effective programme has the MDC done for the people of Zimbabwe except using the people to access power for personal benefit? The whole issue about the outstanding issues is about jobs for pals and nothing to do with the real change mandate. The change movement mandate was very simple: get a new people driven constitution, get free and fair elections and implement a democratic transformational agenda to have a better life for the ordinary Zimbabwean. These issues are not even on the outstanding issues list; they are there by inference if at all.

The preceding argument against transparency is not convincing. The more plausible explanation is that these NGOS and civil society are well aware that there is misuse of resources by the change movement functionaries. This is kept low as leverage to later champion an agenda that keeps Zimbabwe in check in case the Zimbabwean people would want to keep issues such as land distribution and economic liberation on the agenda. These issues cannot be a success in Zimbabwe in case Africa catches a fire, a revolutionary fire. The idea then is to lure the current leadership into the evil web of corruption and blackmail presenting Zimbabwe with a mirage of progressive democratic leadership yet the manufacturing process of a brain dead crop of compromised leadership is well and truly underway. It cannot be that civil society, NGOs and donors are not

aware of the abuse of donor funds by leaders of the change movement. Clearly this is an investment whose return is the ability to produce a malleable and docile leadership amenable to compromising the revolutionary transformational change agenda necessary for a democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe. No organisation will wantonly throw resources at a process from which it does not gain. The Zimbabwean nation must rise to the realization that a political dummy is being sold to the nation.


Donor nations and organisations that participate in the nurturing of this corrupt leadership should bear in mind that they are entrenching themselves deeply in the annals of Zimbabwean history as farmers of corruption and non-democratic tendencies. Their inability to report people who abuse the resources meant for the Zimbabwean people has meant that the name of Zimbabweans has been fraudulently abused for the benefit of a few. There are people who, and organisations which, will not be able to survive should Zimbabweans have a stable and prosperous nation. Where will organisations like Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe and the flamboyant Eleanor Sisulu be if Zimbabweans are at peace? The same people could not hold Morgan Tsvangirai to account as he is seen, in the NGO community and civil society, as a source of donor funds. The only survival strategy that these organisations know of is that of remaining in Tsvangirai good books. It is common knowledge that once Tsvangirai or the MDC labels an organisation or individual Zanu PF, political extinction becomes but a reality. This is the reason why the dictatorship tendencies evident in the MDC today are a foretaste of what’s to come should it be a reality that indeed the MDC is in power.


That Mugabe and his regime should be removed is common cause. What should never be a consideration for Zimbabwe is to allow evil of the same or even worse magnitude, as what has been experienced in the last 30 years, to take root again. Civil society, non-governmental organisations and the donor community have let themselves and Zimbabwe down. These parties will forever be seen as having prolonged the suffering of Zimbabweans and having been facilitators of a succession plan for a dictatorship; they are breeding as sizeable pool of corrupt, inconsiderate, incompetent, affluent and insensitive successors to Robert Mugabe.