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Debt-Ridden Zimbabwe Squeezed by Struggling Malawi to Pay $23 Million Maize Debt

The Malawian government, which sent a delegation to Zimbabwe last week to demand payment of a $23 million debt for maize supplied four years ago, has managed to force Harare to part with at least $10 million and settle the rest in installments.

According to sources, Zimbabwe is expected to pay the agreed amount within the next few days and the remaining balance by the end of this year.

Though Finance Minister Tendai Biti and Malawian authorities were not available for comment, the sources said Malawi was forced to dispatch its former vice president Cassim Chilumpha to Harare on Saturday after initial talks with some senior ministers reached a deadlock.

Faced with a huge grain deficit, Zimbabwe got 66,000 tonnes of maize from Malawi four years ago but failed to pay. Sources say good relations between President Robert Mugabe and his late counterpart Bingu Wa Mutharika stopped Malawi from successfully demanding payment.

Idriss Nassah, senior reporter with Daily Times of Malawi, told VOA the Malawian delegation had not expected to squeeze anything from the cash-strapped Zimbabwe government.

“I understand that the delegation managed to press for the payment until Zimbabwe agreed to part with at least half of the demanded amount,” said Nassah.

President Joice Banda’s government is facing serious fuel and foreign currency shortages following her country’s fallout with international donor agencies during Wa Mutharika’s rule.