SA, Zimbabwe set to resume loan talks

JOHANNESBURG - South African and Zimbabwean government officials are set to meet next week to resume talks on a US$500 million loan to the embattled Harare authorities.

A senior South African government official Logan Wort told the Press that officials in Pretoria were constantly in touch with their Harare counterparts on progress concerning the loan deal.

The South African government agreed in early August to extend a US$500 million loan to Harare to avert economic collapse in its troubled northern neighbour.

But Pretoria also attached a set of tough conditions on the loan. Among the conditions, South Africa insisted that President Robert Mugabe engages the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party in talks in search of a negotiated solution to Zimbabwe's five year political and economic crisis.

The Zimbabwean leader has however rejected talks with the opposition party which he labels a puppet of Western governments which is out to reverse the gains of the liberation struggle.

Pretoria has also demanded that Mugabe repeals harsh pieces of legislation used to silence the private media and other divergent voices.

Mugabe needs hard cash to pay off a US$175 million debt to the International Monetary Fund after making a surprise US$120 million payment last month that helped save the country from being expelled from the Fund.

The country also needs the South African money to pay for badly needed fuel and food. The country is facing serious fuel and food shortages with at least four million Zimbabweans, a third of the country's population, in need of food aid this year or they will starve. - ZimOnline