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South Africa Considering Financial Options to Help Zimbabwe Revive Economy

President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare, March 12, 2019.

HARARE (Reuters) - South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday his country was ready to help Zimbabwe revive its economy, but within its means, while the two neighbours consider options that could see Harare receiving some financial assistance.

A dearth of U.S. dollars in Zimbabwe has fanned shortages of fuel, drugs and food, choking an economy yet to recover from the disastrous rule of Robert Mugabe, who was removed in a coup in 2017.

South Africa said in January that it had turned down a request in December from its southern African neighbour for a $1.2 billion loan.

But in a joint communique issued after a meeting between Rampahosa and Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa and officials, the two countries said they were looking at increasing a standing credit facility between central banks of the two nations.

Under the facility, Zimbabwe can access 100 million rand ($7 million) from South Africa’s central bank.

“Other financing options beyond this are also being explored, for example a facility from South African private banks to the Zimbabwean private sector and guaranteed by the South African government with an appropriate counter-guarantee from the Zimbabwean government,” the communique read.

Ramaphosa had earlier told the meeting that Zimbabwe, which also faces a severe drought this year, deserved support from the rest of the world to help reboot its economy.

He repeated his previous call for sanctions against Zimbabwe to be lifted.

Zimbabwe says U.S. sanctions, which were extended by another year by President Donald Trump last week, throttle its ability to access funding from lenders like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and raise its political risk profile.

“South Africa, Mr President, stands ready to render support to Zimbabwe within our means in your quest for economic renewal,” Ramaphosa said, without giving details on whether this would entail financial help.

“We want to see meaningful support being given by international development partners to Zimbabwe because Zimbabwe does deserve the support that the world can give.”

South Africa is Zimbabwe’s largest trading partner and home to millions of Zimbabweans who flocked to the country amid an economic meltdown during Mugabe’s rule.

Mnangagwa pledged to protect South African businesses operating in Zimbabwe, which range from mining to manufacturing to construction.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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