SA bails out Zimbabwe

The cabinet has confirmed South Africa’s openness, in principle, to assisting Zimbabwe, including providing a loan facility in relation to Zimbabwe’s obligations to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The cabinet has confirmed South Africa’s openness, in principle, to assisting Zimbabwe, including providing a loan facility in relation to Zimbabwe’s obligations to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Briefing the media after the cabinet’s fortnightly meeting yesterday, government communications head Joel Netshitenzhe said the approach was based on the principle that such assistance should benefit the Zimbabwean people as a whole, “within the context of their programme of economic recovery and political normalisation”.

Asked if any such assistance would come with conditions attached, Netshitenzhe said the South African government did not relate to other countries on the basis of conditions.

“We do not believe in behaving like Big Brother.

“As we have said, our approach in principle would be one based on the understanding that any such assistance should benefit all the people of Zimbabwe and that it should be sustainable and not result in the current difficulties recurring next year,” he said.

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has asked South Africa for US1bn to help it out of its current economic woes.

It was expected that President Thabo Mbeki would use this as leverage to set conditions on Zimbabwe committing to a stable monetary system and a possible review of its dual monetary policy.

Part of the new pressure comes from the IMF, which last month called in Zimbabwe’s US$900m debt, raising fears that Zimbabwe could be expelled from the IMF.

Netshitenzhe said, however, it was the government’s opinion that far less than the amount of US$1bn would be needed to cover Zimbabwe’s IMF debt.

“It is well believed that for them to remain in the IMF it would not need to settle all of the debt, it might be a percentage of that,” he said, speculating that it may be as little as US$100m.

In terms of other assistance, Netshitenzhe said the government would work with the United Nations and South African religious leaders to provide emergency humanitarian assistance, particularly in the aftermath of “Operation Restore Order”.

“There are matters pertaining to humanitarian assistance as it relates in particular to people who have been removed as a result of Operation Restore Order,” he saidThe United Nations last month released a scathing report on Harare’s campaign of demolition that saw some 700 000 people left homeless and, it is believed, 2.4m people affected negatively.

Netshitenzhe said in the medium term South Africa may further supply its beleaguered neighbour with fertiliser and seeds as the rainy season approached.

He urged the international community to heed the UN’s report which recommended that the international community “rally around and provide the humanitarian relief which is going to be urgently needed”.

The DA yesterday slammed the decision to grant the loan, saying it “amounts to an endorsement of the Mugabe government and its policies”.

It went on to say South Africa would be “helping to prop up a government which has recently been described by the United Nations as carrying out policies which are a “clear violation of international law”.

“This decision marks an important change in South Africa’s stance. President Mbeki has now given way to active support from a position of quiet diplomacy,” it said.

The money would be better spent at home on housing and essential issues, it added.

The Independent Democrats said the cabinet’s statement was too vague.

“Our position on this matter is that any assistance should go to the people and not the government of Zimbabwe.

“It’s the ordinary poor people who are the hardest hit in Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis, which was, and is, largely due to their government’s policies and actions.

“South Africa should not pay for Zimbabwe’s IMF debt, instead the money should be channelled to the suppliers of humanitarian aid rather than giving it to the government.”

Cape Times, August 4, 2005

Categories: Africa, Odious Debts, Zimbabwe

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