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Zimbabwe Still Short of Aid Benchmarks

Zimbabwe's government of national unity has been in office for more than 100 days. But western donor nations have yet to provide the new government with badly needed developmental funds.

Western donor nations have set what they call principles for re-engagement with the government of Zimbabwe. Among these are a commitment to economic stabilization, restoration of the rule of law, respect for property and human rights, and freedom of expression.

VOA asked Regional Integration and International Cooperation Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga how far the new government has gone toward meeting the western criteria.

"We have made a decision that we are not responding to the West's benchmarks. We are basically going to be putting to them our own commitment plan the global political agreement clearly stipulates what we as government would like to do. Incidentally those things do match with some of the issue that the west have raised as their issues of concern," she said.

The minister defended the record of the fledgling government, saying the first 100 days was about building a consensus between the three parties that make it up. But she conceded there have been problems.

"There may be problems at the moment with the way certain things are being implemented, and again we have been very clear. Until you define a policy, you then can then say to this individual, 'Whatever you are doing is against the policy that we have defined," she added.

Despite Minister Misihairabwi-Mushonga's optimism, a western diplomat, speaking to VOA on condition of anonymity, said while the benchmarks and the global political agreement are not very dissimilar, little progress has been made in crucial areas. He said political arrests; harassment and arrests of journalists and respect of human and property rights are still areas of concern. He noted progress has been made on the economy benchmark, but he said economic recovery will not come quickly.

Meanwhile the new government appears to have reached consensus on contested appointments to key posts. But the issue of central bank governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana remains unsolved.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai argues the appointment of the two by President Robert Mugabe was in violation of the global political agreement. Gono is blamed for playing a big role in Zimbabwe's economic collapse, while Tomana has been widely criticized for being an apologist of Mr. Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party. Mr. Mugabe has vowed the two will not be dismissed.