US pulls the plug on funding for local NGOs

12 May, 2024 - 12:05 0 Views
US pulls the plug on funding for local NGOs

The Sunday Mail

Gibson Nyikadzino

Zimpapers Politics Hub

SOME local non-governmental organisations (NGOs), whose activities were funded by the United States government through its agencies, have been directed to stop all undertakings “with immediate effect”, as Washington redirects its efforts to domestic challenges.

NGOs affected by the directive are those engaged in the media, governance and democracy advocacy sectors.

Traditionally, US aid towards these sectors comes through its foreign affairs department, one of whose major objectives is to advance Washington’s agenda and foreign policy, which includes regime change in some instances.

Zimbabwe has, however, been able to blunt efforts to interfere in local affairs by some NGOs and civic organisations.

Zimpapers Politics Hub is in possession of an official message sent last week by the International Republican Institute (IRI) to some recipients of grants involved in “democracy and governance advocacy” work.

In the communication, the recipients were instructed “to pause/halt/stop all work with immediate effect”, and that some ongoing activities be “stopped”.

The move comes at a time when the US is facing growing protests at home from groups that are against its support of the genocide being carried out by Israel against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

US senior director of government relations, Ms Liz Leibowitz, recently acknowledged that the US was cutting its foreign affairs budget as a result of funding constraints.

“Given what’s going on in the world and the number of global crises, it’s a significant failure to meet the moment,” said Ms Leibowitz in a recent media briefing.

One of the recipients of US grants told Zimpapers Politics Hub that the “suspension of grants shows that the US is having a policy shift”.

“I think there is a realisation that governance issues and regime change advocacy instigated by foreigners in Zimbabwe are a lost cause.

“The so-called democracy battle is also a lost cause. It means Zimbabwe has won,” said the source who requested anonymity.

Other organisations whose grants have been reportedly stopped include the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe), the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) and the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS).

The three organisations receive grants from the US government through its Internews agency.

A source privy to the goings-on at Internews said the agency has been failing to pay its workers full salaries for the past four months.

Despite receiving smaller grants from other partners, this year ZACRAS is said to be losing a grant of between US$150 000 and US$200 000, which is extended to them annually by the US through Internews.

Contacted for comment, MISA-Zimbabwe and VMCZ directors Dr Tabani Moyo and Mr Loughty Dube, respectively, referred all enquiries to Internews country director, Mr Tawedzegwa Musitini.

ZACRAS director Ms Sandra Mazunga was not picking her phone by the time of going to print.

Mr Musitini, however, admitted that the organisation was yet to receive any grants in “three months now, hence affecting implementation of programmes by partners such as MISA, VMCZ and ZACRAS”.

“We do not owe any employees salaries. We have no budgets that were cut but only that the release of the finances has been delayed. Grants we were expecting since March have not materialised for various reasons that we cannot share with the press,” said Mr Musitini.

He also confirmed that there are programmes that his organisation has stopped implementing with its “partners and collaborators in the space” because of absence of funds from donors.

“We have stopped implementing any activities because there are no funds. Processes regarding the release of funds are controlled by people whose timelines we cannot control.”

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