Friday, September 17, 2010

Antagonising donors in defence of a thief

Antagonising donors in defence of a thief
By The Post
Fri 17 Sep. 2010, 04:00 CAT

We hope that Rupiah Banda is listening very carefully to what the donors he has so carelessly decided to antagonise are saying.

Many of our people today rely on what some of these friends of our country are doing. There are so many programmes running in our country today which are being funded by our co-operating partners. It is easy for someone who lives in Lusaka or in another urban centre to think that the donors are of no use to us.

It is also very easy for Rupiah to try and ignore the work of the donors in our country because his day-to-day existence does not depend on them. The taxpayer meets all his expenses, including medical care and other services. But this is not the case with many of our people.

There are many of our people who are today benefitting from many programmes being run by donor agencies and NGOs that are funded by the same donors. As we have said before, we might wish that this was not the case. This dependence syndrome that we have developed as a country is shameful and unacceptable, and yet it is a reality at the moment.

If Rupiah was working to wean our country from donor dependence, then we would all have to commend him. But that is not what he is doing. Rupiah is antagonising the donors in defence of a thief.

As Rupiah has been reminded by Marion Pedersen, the Danish Liberal member of parliament and chairperson of the Foreign Affairs committee, that Zambia does not need to get money from the donors. If Rupiah believes that this country does not need this money, he should simply say so, instead of insulting the integrity of those who are trying to help our people. But we all know that if the donors pulled out today, our country would have many problems.

We have seen this happen in other countries that are much stronger economically than ourselves, and the consequences have not been good. What is unfortunate is that if this was to happen, it would be the most vulnerable in our country who would pay the highest price.

It is annoying to see that Rupiah is ready to risk aid to our country in defence of a thief, a lazo. What the donors are concerned about is something that any of us would be concerned about if we were giving money to somebody or another country for that matter.

Rupiah wants the donors to continue supporting our country whilst his government is consorting with thieves who have stolen public funds. Indeed there would be something wrong with the donors if they did not voice their concerns about this whole Frederick Chiluba saga.

It is wrong to reduce everything to matters of politics and the next election. There are things that should be more important than cheap partisan politics.

If Rupiah’s government was supplying all the medicines that our people needed and ensuring that our people were able to educate their children, then one would understand the arrogance with which they are approaching the donors. We say this because everybody knows that the donors are doing quite a lot in the area of health provision for our people.

We would not be overstating anything to suggest that the largest proportion of ARVs that are available in our country today are either directly donor-funded or subsidised. There are people who are alive today because of this donor help.

What about education? There is no doubt that quite a lot of donor resources have been channelled to our education sector, which seems to have all but collapsed. Unless Rupiah is telling us that he is able to address all these problems without help from these co-operating partners, he has no right to antagonise them unnecessarily and on matters that are not even beneficial to our people.

In case our people have forgotten, the only public comment that any of the donors made on the Chiluba matter was the one attributed to the American embassy, which observed that in failing to register the London High Court judgment and refusing to appeal, the government had missed an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to fighting corruption.

They also added that the world was watching. How such a terse statement could evoke the kind of venomous reaction that Rupiah gave is difficult to understand. Clearly, Rupiah felt the heat because he knew that the decision he had taken not to appeal the Chiluba case was a wrong one which was going to earn him a lot of criticism and could potentially earn him electoral punishment from our people.

This is why he started accusing the donors of advocating regime change. How does asking the government to collect the money which is due to our people amount to advocating regime change? This is what happens when people are doing wrong things.

They stop reasoning clearly and, in their paranoia, start accusing everybody of being against them. Why should the donors prefer one government to another? Indeed why should they be against Rupiah? He should accept that his alliance with Chiluba is a disaster for him, instead of blaming everybody else for his wrong choices.

We would all agree with Rupiah’s stance if the donors were questioning him about a matter or decision that he had taken in the interest of our people.

But defending a thief can never, under any circumstance, be in the interest of our people. If Rupiah was a reasonable leader, he would be ashamed that it has to take foreigners to tell him that the position he is taking is against the interests of his people.

It’s like a parent, if Rupiah can be likened to a parent, failing to take care of his own children and having to be told by a neighbour, who in the meantime has already been doing a lot to support his family. A normal person would be ashamed of this. But it seems Rupiah does not have a sense of public shame over his failing to defend the interests of the people he claims to serve.

Rupiah also found it reasonable to lambast our people who have condemned him for his wrong stance on Chiluba because according to him, they were being used by foreigners. This is how much this man disrespects our people. He has the audacity to suggest that they cannot judge for themselves that what he is doing is wrong, and they need the donors to tell them how to think.

Well, it is not very difficult to understand Rupiah’s sharp reaction to the donors. This is because not long ago, Rupiah was bragging that he had good relations with investors and the donors.

To him, it is more important to have good relations with donors and foreign investors than with our people. We say this because our people have been unhappy with Rupiah’s decision on Chiluba’s questionable acquittal and now the failure to register the London High Court judgment.

But this does not seem to bother Rupiah. And yet a criticism from the donors seems to have caught his attention very acutely, as though the donors are the voters. This is why he can even accuse them of trying to foment regime change.

The reaction of the donors should help Rupiah to reflect on how our people feel. If our friends from outside our country can feel so strongly about his misdeeds, what about the people who are directly affected by his misrule? It won’t be long before Rupiah realises just how angry our people are.

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