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Southern African Ministers Express Desire To Help Zimbabwe - But No Funds Forthcoming

  • Scott Bobb

Though the Southern African Development Community ministers who met in South Africa this week to discuss funding a US$2 billion humanitarian relief and economic stabilization package for Zimbabwe did not pull out their notional checkbooks at the Cape Town meeting, they did agree to hold a full SADC summit in the coming weeks to revisit the question.

On the one hand, Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti's proposals were well received by his regional peers and the foreign and planning ministers who also attended. But the South African foreign minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and her colleague at Finance, Trevor Manuel, both indicated the economic climate is something less than propitious.

African Development Bank officials also noted that to qualify for aid from their institution, it would have to straighten out arrears in payments on its US$5 billion international debt.

Regional diplomatic sources also said there is some concern within SADC about the viability of the unity government given discord between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai over the refusal by authorities to release political detainees including around 30 members of Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.

The heads of state and government have also clashed over political appointments, especially the continued tenure in office of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, and Mr. Mugabe's unilateral naming of 31 permanent secretaries in ministries including those taken in charge by the two MDC formations.

VOA Correspondent Scott Bobb reported from Johannesburg that the rescue package is to try and revive the economy which has been in a steepening decline for a decade.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe sought perspective on the funding effort from Chief Executive Officer Shingi Munyeza of African Sun Ltd., Harare, who said SADC’s biggest task is to convince a skeptical international community to help.

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