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EU will not waste taxpayer money in Zimbabwe, where poor financial controls & lack of reform endure

06 September 2020 - 12:24 By Lenin Ndebele
Financial controls on government spending remains a problem in the administration of Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Financial controls on government spending remains a problem in the administration of Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

The European Union (EU) will not reinstate direct budgetary support to Zimbabwe because of the country’s opaque public financial management systems.

This was revealed by EU in Zimbabwe Ambassador Timo Olkkonen, in an interview with TimesLIVE.

“We can’t risk abuse of EU taxpayers’ money,” he said.

Budgetary support for Zimbabwe became an issue when Harare proposed its strategy for developmental co-operation to Brussels last year.

Harare prefers direct funding instead of the current set-up whereby EU support is provided through civic society and development oriented programmes where government is not directly involved.

Harare hoped for change since the EU is currently working on a budgetary framework for the period 2021-2027 in Africa. However, developments in Zimbabwe do not favour President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

“I don’t see that happening. For the reason that the public financial management systems are not up to scratch. From a governance and a management perspective, that is excluding politics, we are not yet there,” Olkkonen said.

Last week Zimbabwe moved ahead with honouring Bilateral Trade Agreements in farming when it committed to compensating at least 200 farmers from EU countries such as Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and Australia.

Olkkonen said the EU wants a clear demonstration of respect for the rule of law, particularly property rights.

“The land reform in itself is irreversible. But there has been no clear security of tenure and we have seen it through a dysfunctional agricultural sector. If these steps taken forward, about agreeing about compensation and other issues on the subject, bring clarity [on] land ownership, then that’s a positive move to get agriculture moving,” he said.

After the fall of Robert Mugabe in November 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa initially enjoyed goodwill from the EU. However, he has been a disappointment.

“On the political side there were a lot of expectations that Zimbabwe would change with reforms taking place. The process of reforms has been significantly slower than we expected at the time," said Olkkonen.

"In the past two years we have had issues on the human rights agenda. Clearly whatever is taking place will take much more time than we had expected.”

Olkkonen spelled out the EU's terms: “We hope for a more active discourse on political issues and economic policies and ways forward. That’s very problematic in Zimbabwe.”