Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: Opposition says SA money will not force Mugabe to shift an inch

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JOHANNESBURG - Outraged opposition parties in Zimbabwe and South Africa last night said a bailout loan for Zimbabwe provisionally approved by Pretoria on Wednesday would do little to change the policies of President Robert Mugabe or alleviate the suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans.

South Africa's official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party and Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) spoke as economic analysts told ZimOnline that the financial handout was a stop gap measure that could help Zimbabwe avoid expulsion from the International Monetary Fund (MF).

But the analysts said the financial rescue package that Pretoria said it had only "approved in principle" could not stem Zimbabwe's six-year economic recession which they squarely blamed on wrong economic and political policies by Mugabe and his government.

"We are not opposed to assistance that will help end the suffering of Zimbabweans but we are strongly opposed to assistance that will strengthen a dictator to inflict more harm and misery on his people," MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said last night.

He added: "What guarantees does South Africa have that this government (of Zimbabwe) which has destroyed people's homes and income generating projects will after getting the money simply not continue with its repressive policies?"

Media reports in the last three weeks indicated that Pretoria was demanding wide-ranging political and economic reforms by Mugabe's government including reopening negotiations with the MDC to find a solution to Zimbabwe's crisis before it could release money to Harare. The South African government has not denied the reports.

Crisis-hit Zimbabwe initially wanted US$1 billion from South Africa to pay off IMF debts and avoid expulsion and also to import food and fuel, in critical short supply in the country.

South African government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe on Wednesday did not shed much light into what preconditions Pretoria may have set only saying: "This loan agreement will be in the wider context of Zimbabwe's economic recovery and the process of political normalisation and talks are on with the Zimbabwean players to this effect."

Netshitenzhe said South Africa was not going to provide the whole amount sought by Zimbabwe but would not be drawn to say how much exactly Harare would receive.

He also said the date when the loan may be finally granted depended much on the IMF which has given Zimbabwe up to the beginning of September to pay back US$300 million or be expelled.

The DA accused President Thabo Mbeki and his government of abandoning their quiet diplomacy policy on Harare, under which they have refused to publicly censure Mugabe, to now actively supporting the Zimbabwe government with financial aid.

"South Africa is 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'," the DA said in statement. It added: "This decision marks an important change in South Africa's stance. President Thabo Mbeki has now given way to quiet diplomacy to active support."

The DA, which said the loan should be debated in Parliament, demanded that Mbeki and his government come out clear on the conditions they had set for the bailout to Zimbabwe.

Harare-based economic consultant John Robertson said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was primarily a result of wrong political decisions and policies and could not be corrected by a financial loan alone.

"Throwing money at Zimbabwe's problems is not going to work," Robertson said. He added: "The idea of giving money is an economic answer to an economic problem but Zimbabwe's problems are a result of wrong political decisions that have destroyed the country's ability to earn money."

An economist with one of Zimbabwe's leading banks said the South African loan would in the long run not help much unless Harare addressed "the major issues that had estranged it from the international community."

The economist, who did not want to be named, said: "We need to address the issues of human and property rights, rule of law and democracy in order to become a worthy destination for foreign capital and investors again. Anything else is just like treating the symptoms and not the root cause of the crisis." - ZimOnline