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Defiant Mugabe Tests South African Resolve – and Patience

Zimbabwe’s economy has virtually collapsed with widespread and critical shortages of food and fuel, but despite the country’s need for a financial lifeline, President Robert Mugabe has given no sign of acceding to South African conditions for a large loan.

In exchange for helping Harare pay down debt arrears with the International Monetary Fund and restore the inflow of food and fuel, Pretoria wants Mr. Mugabe to open and sustain a political dialogue with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked Dr. Chris Lansberg of the Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg about Mr. Mugabe’s intransigence.

The MDC was dismissive of Mr. Mugabe’s caustic comments when he branded it on Monday as a puppet of Britain, ruling out discussions with its leadership. Mr. Mugabe added that if the MDC really wanted talks, it should urge the international community to lift what he called “odious sanctions” imposed on the ruling party's top circles.

Reporter Zulu asked MDC spokesman Paul Themba-Nyathi for his response to Mr. Mugabe’s broadside at a commemoration of the national liberation struggle.

South African opposition parties, meanwhile, were stepping up pressure on Pretoria to disclose details of the proposed loan. The government has yet to issue an official statement on the terms of a loan that could amount to a half billion dollars.

Zenzo Nkomo, a prominent South African Communist Party member, told reporter Chris Gande of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that stringent conditions must apply.

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