THE European Union (EU) head of delegation in Zimbabwe, Philippe Van Damme, said he was “upset” by how a recent injection of fresh funds into the NGO sector by Brussels was “interpreted”.
Van Damme’s comments come after the EU, last week, announced that it was injecting fresh funding to the tune of $5 million towards strengthening the capacity of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Zimbabwe.
Reacting to the EU gesture, President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, told the state media that government was “watching” Brussels’s “mischief” which he suggested was meant to influence the outcome of 2018 elections. Charamba also said government was “aware” of the West’s “involvement in other areas including fomenting instability in the labour market”.
But, according to Van Damme, Brussels has no intension of sponsoring anarchy in Zimbabwe through funding civil society organizations, but only want the latter to monitor government’s performance with the aim of enhancing good governance, democracy and accountability.
Speaking to members of the CSOs and the media at a discussion on the EU-Zimbabwe Civil Society relations, recently, Van Damme said there was nothing sinister about funding CSOs to strengthen their capacity to monitor government.
“We have been criticized and accused of having obscure hidden agendas, but what I can tell you is that we cannot be more transparent than what we did in this call for proposals,” said Ambassador Van Damme.
'Watching' ... Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba
“This call for proposals was discussed with the government and it was published through the media which also includes one specific component of having an ear- marked funding for inviting CSOs, academia and think tanks to come together and organize their own capacity to monitor what we are also doing in Zimbabwe, in terms of development cooperation,” said Van Damme.
The EU envoy said even the donors operating in Zimbabwe were subject to scrutiny from the civil society.
“So, it is not only that you hold your government accountable, but we are also inviting you to hold us accountable to what we are doing, and honestly speaking I do not see where we could be more transparent in our objectives and I do not understand where this misunderstanding comes from, and I was upset by how this call for proposals was interpreted,” said Ambassador Van Damme.
An EU statement then said Brussels wanted the financially stressed CSOs to play their watchdog role of putting checks and balances on government’s performance in areas of public funds management, rule of law, democracy and the implementation of the new constitution.