Zimbabwe: SA sets aside R300m Zim agric rescue package

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by Nokuthula Sibanda

HARARE - The South African government has set aside a whooping R300 million to assist Zimbabwe's crippled agricultural sector, finance minister Trevor Manuel said on Tuesday.

According to the adjusted estimates of national expenditure presented to South Africa's Parliament by Manuel, the money will be used to procure inputs to try to revive Zimbabwe's collapsed farming sector.

"An estimated amount of R300 million has been allocated for the recapitalisation of the African Renaissance and International Co-operation Fund for agricultural inputs for Zimbabwe," the document states.

Manuel told the legislature that the cash, initially promised Zimbabwe's broke government by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, would "assist in meeting Zimbabwe's short-term food requirements".

However this was "subject to acceptance of an appropriate role for international food relief agencies by a recognised multi-party government", he said.

The aid is listed as an "unforeseeable/unavoidable" international transfer under the foreign affairs budget vote.

Once a regional breadbasket, Zimbabwe is in the grip of severe food shortages that Mugabe blames on poor weather and Western sanctions he says have hampered importation of fertilizers, seed, and other farming inputs.

However critics blame Zimbabwe's troubles on repression and wrong polices by the veteran leader such as land reforms that displaced established white commercial farmers and replaced them with either incompetent or inadequately funded black farmers resulting in the country facing acute food shortages.