Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mugabe diverts AIDS funds

A former board member from the National AIDs Council (NAC) now living outside the country has alleged that a cabinet directive ordering the NAC to use some of its money to subsidise other government departments came from Robert Mugabe himself. Frenk Guni, an AIDs activist now based in the United States said funds collected through a special tax meant to help those with HIV/AIDs are being diverted to other projects like failed parastatals, the defence ministry and trips for international events that have nothing to do with health.

Guni said the directive came as early as 2001 but as a board member he was suppressed by an oath of loyalty. Meanwhile thousands of Zimbabweans have been dying due to a lack of funds for anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs. On Tuesday NAC executive director Tapiwa Magure told a Parliamentary portfolio committee on health the NAC was only able to provide ARV drugs to one in every 12 AIDS patients.
Guni believes the diverted funds could have saved the lives of many Zimbabweans who died without any medication. He said the importance of an AIDs fund was clearly understood and that’s why they pushed for the National AIDs Act which allowed government to tax all workers. But the government hijacked the idea and short changed Zimbabweans who need help with ARVs. Guni said he began revealing the diversion of funds to others outside the NAC and wound up leaving Zimbabwe fearing for his life.
NAC executive director Tapiwa Magure’s statements to Parliament confirm Guni’s allegations. He told the committee on health that funds raised through the aids tax were being spread out to cover other social sectors, leaving a deficit in the budget for HIV/AIDS prevention programmes. About 3 million Zimbabweans are estimated to be infected by the deadly HIV virus.

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