Tanzania's Kikwete urges help for Zimbabwe

DAR ES SALAAM – Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has called on the international community to help Zimbabwe out of its economic crisis, saying conditions had become too bad to ignore.

Kikwete, one of Africa’s first leaders to criticise Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, told Reuters in an interview in Tanzania’s capital the country had "come a long way" after forming the coalition government of Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. "People now should go and try to help them."

Tanzania was part of Southern Africa’s regional bloc SADC, alongside Namibia and Lesotho, charged with dealing with Zimbabwe’s political crisis.

A high-level International Monetary Fund this week returned to the country after a two-year break to assess the economy and review policies to address the economic and humanitarian crisis. Regional leaders have put Zimbabwe’s needs at around $2 billion.

Under its rules, the IMF cannot provide financial aid until Zimbabwe pays off its arrears and demonstrates it is able to implement credible policies that will help the country. Any future lending will probably be made under an IMF programme.

"They have a $50 trillion dollar that is worth $1.50. Everybody is a trillionaire but worthless. This is the kind of situation we cannot leave, the economy is almost in free-fall," Kikwete said.

He said measures to fix the economy, especially to lower inflation, would be difficult, but added: "It will be difficult but all of us have to lend a hand for the people of Zimbabwe."