SADC leaders are demanding further reforms

JOHANNESBURG – SADC leaders meeting in South Africa are demanding further political reforms for the embattled Zimbabwe unity government to get Western aid, with reports that the country has run out of cash to pay civil servants, army and essential services.

Reports say South Africa is refusing to release any money until after the country’s elections in April and the Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and his Central Bank  Governor Tito Mboweni are not playing ball. It is reported that President Mugabe has been sending SOS messages through out the weekend to his regional counter parts as the country falls into a major financial crisis which could affect its security situation.  Without Thabo Mbeki involved, Robert Mugabe now finds himself a lone figure in the SADC meetings, and analysts say he is now weaker with all the mounting problems in his backyard.  

 

Zimbabwe’s $5 billion (about R50 billion) short-term economic recovery plan unveiled this week appears certain to fail unless the rule of law is urgently restored, as demanded by international donors. President Robert Mugabe, the leader of Zanu-PF, and Tendai Biti, the Finance Minister, of the Movement for Democratic Change, shared a platform in Harare as Mugabe outlined the elements of the plan, which includes an end to price control and the easing of foreign exchange controls and focused spending on agriculture and infrastructure.

Biti hinted at drawing Zimbabwe into the rand monetary area and insisted that the rule of law would have to be restored before recovery was possible. But to the surprise and annoyance of many in the unity government and South Africa, which Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was counting on for quick assistance, Western donors are demanding proof that the rule of law has been restored before they will pump in big money.

 

 

Authoritative sources say that Tito Mboweni, the South African Reserve Bank governor, and Trevor Manuel, the Finance Minister, are also reluctant to throw money at Zimbabwe while Gideon Gono remains at the helm of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank.

Gono’s wild policies have been blamed for the chaotic economy.

A minister in the new government, who did not want to be named, said: "Nothing tangible has been agreed with the South Africans yet. It’s a bit disappointing because after the role they played in pushing for this unity government, we would have expected them to come in with quick aid to help stabilise their own creation."

In a dramatic policy shift, Mugabe this week dropped his usual "we will go it alone" mantra to make an impassioned plea for international aid to kick-start his country’s moribund economy.

But a senior International Monetary Fund official told a meeting of civic organisations: "We can’t just step in and shore up the budget. We want to see sound policy changes."

Scandinavian donors, whom Zimbabwe had expected to be more sympathetic, are also holding back.

It appears Mugabe will have to demonstrate real change before the taps of aid are opened. –