SADC leaders meet to discuss Zimbabwe, Madagascar

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Southern African leaders are expected to finalise a regional economic aid package for Zimbabwe and discuss possible sanctions against Madagascar in South Africa next week, a government official said on Monday.

Heads of state from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will meet on March 30 to discuss a regional economic deal that would help spur Zimbabwe’s recovery from a massive economic and humanitarian crisis, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said.

"We expect a final decision to be taken on the $2 billion Zimbabwe economic aid package … proposed by the SADC finance ministers last month," he said.

Finance ministers from the 15-nation SADC agreed on February 27 to push for donor help to rebuild Zimbabwe’s ruined economy and put the initial need at $2 billion.

The unity government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have said at least $5 billion was required for a broader economic recovery.

Mamoepa said the SADC summit, which will be preceded by a council of ministers meeting, would also mull adopting a tougher stance on Madagascar.

If SADC agreed to sanctions, it could spell growing isolation for new president Andry Rajoelina, who ousted elected leader Marc Ravalomanana in an army-backed takeover, condemned as a coup by foreign powers.

The African Union suspended Madagascar last week and the United Nations have criticised Rajoelina’s power grab.

No country has officially recognised the new leadership so far, which has said it would revise any contracts with foreign investors not in the public interest. 

"The meeting will also discuss proposals by the SADC organ troika on politics, defence and security… to develop an approach following the unconstitutional transfer of power. Among others the troika recommended tougher sanctions and non-recognition of the administration," Mamoepa said.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe is the current SADC chairman.