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Facing IMF Expulsion, Harare Steps up Appeal to Pretoria

With an International Monetary Fund assessment team in Harare, the government made an urgent appeal Tuesday to South Africa to pay $175 million to the IMF on its behalf with no conditions attached, official sources said. Unless Zimbabwe arranges to make payment on its arrears to the organization, it could soon lose its membership.

A reserve bank official speaking on condition of anonymity said Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa and Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono appealed to Pretoria after President Robert Mugabe made it clear he would not accept political conditions which South Africa has indicated will be attached to any financial bailout package.

The conditions include opening talks with the political opposition in Zimbabwe, and the rescinding of laws on public order and the media which are seen as repressive. The South African government is also recommending constitutional reforms.

The central bank source and reports elsewhere said the IMF team, which will consult directly with President Mugabe later in the week, will also urge him to accept the terms Pretoria has put on the table. Yet his ruling ZANU-PF party Tuesday pressed ahead in parliament with constitutional revisions that will tighten its grip on power.

South African Finance Ministry spokesman Logan Wort declined to confirm or deny that Zimbabwe sought the unconditional $175 million loan. He said talks continue.

Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with economist Iraj Abedian of the Pan-African Advisory Service in Johannesburg about Harare’s chances of getting the loan it so desperately needs from Pretoria without political concessions.

Should the IMF team’s report to management in Washington lead to the expulsion of the country from the Bretton Woods organization, serious consequences could follow, says economist Eric Bloch of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, an advisor to the central bank.

Mr. Bloch told reporter Chris Gande of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that state assets, including Air Zimbabwe passenger planes, could be impounded on foreign soil.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...