Aid cuts and fee hike hit Harare

August 3, 2001

The University of Zimbabwe is heading for crisis, with looming student anger over a whopping rise in fees and the university set to lose crucial donor funding.

As a state body, the university - already crippled by a devalued currency - will suffer as foreign donors cut aid in protest against what they see as government tyranny and disregard for the rule of law.

The United States Senate last month passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, which stops the US government and all institutions with American links from dealing with the Zimbabwean government and proposes a freeze on aid and bilateral trade worth millions of US dollars.

Sweden - a major source of the university's revenue - has confirmed that it is ending direct aid and shifting funding to non-state organisations. Other donors are also pulling out or freezing aid.

The Swedish ambassador in Harare, Lemmart Hjalmaker, said that the decision "covers all support for the state, including the university.

"All major donors have cut down on government funding," he added. "Our withdrawal has been dramatic because we have cut all state aid, and our package was large."

University spokeswoman Elizabeth Karonga said her institution was "worried" about aid cuts. They would hit all of the university's ten faculties, she said, and new funding would have to wait for the resumption of aid agreements.

Riot police used truncheons last month to disperse 400 students protesting against fee increases. The protest was the latest outbreak in two months of unrest.

Fees will rise from Zm$1,800 (£23) a year to Zm$35,000 next month - a 20-fold increase that will price higher education out of the market for many.

Students are to consider further action when winter holidays end this month.

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