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IMF Seeks Details on $120 Million Zimbabwe Debt Payment

The International Monetary Fund is putting together a technical team to determine the precise origin of a $120 million payment that Zimbabwe made to the institution before a critical September 9 IMF board meeting, a senior Fund official told VOA.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the team will review transactions involved in preparing the payment to see if there was any violation of private property rights in the process. Matumwa Mawere, a Zimbabwean businessman who formerly enjoyed close ties with the ruling elite around President Robert Mugabe but fled the country last year, has accused Harare of looting his assets for part of the funds.

IMF Africa Department Deputy Director Siddharth Tiwari said last week that the Fund’s executive board ordered the investigation. He said officials in Harare would be called upon to address the issue in a “transparent and open manner” in the investigation.

The IMF Executive Board met September 9 to vote on whether to recommend that the institution’s board of governors vote to require Zimbabwe to withdraw its membership because of debt service arrears piled up to $295 million before the recent payment.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono told the government-controlled Herald newspaper that the funds in question were legitimately sourced from “export proceeds, free funds and foreign currency liquidations,” then paid to the IMF through South Africa’s ABSA bank and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Mr. Gono charged that “some quarters felt offended and angered” when Zimbabwe was able to reduce its arrears – an apparent reference to Western nations including the United States and Great Britain which have criticized Mr. Mugabe’s policies

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked independent economist John Robertson about some of the technical aspects of the transaction in question.