South Africa demands enquiry on missing R300 million

Cape Town – South Africa should not withhold aid to Zimbabwe because of what had happened with donations in the past, MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said on Monday, amid reports that South Africa through SADC is demanding full enquiry into alleged disappearance of R300 million handed out to Zanu PF regime three months ago.

It is believed that South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and Central Bank Governor Tito Mboweni have refused to discuss any new loans to Zimbabwe until a full SADC Commission of Enquiry has established the alleged disappearance of R300 million handed out to Zanu PF government.

Other sources say South Africa will only make a decision after the country’s national elections which are scheduled for April this year.  

"This is a new administration. It’s a clean pair of hands," said Chamisa.

He was speaking as SADC ministers gathered in Cape Town for a meeting expected to discuss the size and shape of a massive aid package to the crippled country.

According to Zimbabwe’s government-owned Herald newspaper, nine legislators – two from Zanu-PF and the rest from the MDC – have been named as being party to the misappropriation of fertiliser and seed sent to the country last year as part of a R300m South African agricultural aid package.

The country’s new prime minister, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, last week said his country could need as much as R50bn in aid, and South African President Kgalema Motlanthe has said South Africa is prepared to take the lead in any financial rescue package.

Chamisa, speaking from Harare, said on Monday that the MDC was investigating the allegation that some of its MPs were involved in the agricultural aid fraud.

However the seven had all denied wrongdoing.

"From preliminary findings it would appear it’s a big hoax meant to paint us in a negative picture," he said.

He said even if there had been misuse of the aid, it was no reason to hold back on a larger aid package.

"You can’t crucify Mr Tsvangirai or anybody on the basis of the past."

It was reported in a weekend newspaper that a Southern African Development Community task force had completed a probe into the allegations of misuse.

However South African government spokesperson Themba Maseko said that as far as he was aware the report had not been finished.

He did not believe the affair would influence South Africa’s willingness to commit to more aid.

"We don’t know what happened with that money, so we are still waiting for a report on that," he said.

South African government departments were also compiling their own report on how the R300m had been spent, he said.

Zimbabwe media say substantial quantities of fertiliser and maize seed sent to the country as part of the R300m package were "looted".

SADC secretariat officials are in Cape Town for the formal council of ministers meeting that starts on Wednesday.

However getting information from them about the body’s report on the agricultural aid, and in fact about anything, proved an insuperable challenge.

– SAPA