Zimbabwe

SA cabinet agrees on Zimbabwe loan

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CAPE TOWN - South Africa's cabinet on Wednesday agreed to offer a financial loan to Zimbabwe to avert economic meltdown in its troubled northern neighbour.

South Africa's government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe yesterday told the Press that Pretoria's approach to the issue was based on the principle that such a loan should benefit Zimbabweans "within the context of their programme of economic recovery and political normalisation."

But the decision by South Africa's cabinet to grant Zimbabwe the much-sought after loan will however be subject to parliamentary approval.

There were reports last month that President Thabo Mbeki, who has pursued a policy of "quiet diplomacy" in the past, was seeking to use the loan to nudge President Robert Mugabe back towards the democratic path.

Mbeki last month said South Africa could not afford to have a collapsed state as a neighbour saying such a prospect would be catastrophic for the country.

South Africa has also demanded that Mugabe halts a controversial campaign to demolish thousands of houses in urban areas which was roundly condemned by United Nations (UN) special envoy Anna Tibaijuka as "misguided."

Yesterday's decision by South Africa's cabinet comes amid spirited attempts by opposition parties in South Africa to stop Mbeki from giving Mugabe the crucial life-line.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance party has harshly criticised plans to prop up Mugabe through the loan saying the Zimbabwean leader will abuse the funds to entrench his grip on power.

Mugabe last weekend returned home from a state visit to China where he had sought a similar package virtually empty handed. - ZimOnline