South Africa 'extremely concerned' about Zimbabwe

CAPE TOWN – South Africa on Thursday lambasted Zimbabwe's political leaders for failing to reach agreement on outstanding issues and announced immediate help to deal with the cholera outbreak there.\r\n

"Cabinet is extremely concerned about the political impasse that is creating a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe," government spokesman Themba Maseko told a media briefing following Cabinet’s regular Wednesday meeting.

The reported outbreak of cholera in parts of that country was a clear indication that ordinary Zimbabweans were the true victims of their leaders’ lack of political will and failure to demonstrate seriousness to resolve the political impasse.

"The government is disappointed to note that political interests have taken priority at the expense of the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.

"South Africa calls on the leaders of Zimbabwe to take urgent steps to finalise the amendments to the constitution, the allocation of the remaining cabinet posts, and the formation of a representative government without any further delay and before the situation of ordinary Zimbabweans degenerates any further," Maseko said.

No amount of political disagreement could ever justify the suffering that ordinary Zimbabweans were being subjected to at the moment.

Like the Southern African Development Community (SADC), South Africa would like to see a political settlement sooner rather than later so that the region could start focusing on the most urgent measures needed to rebuild Zimbabwe’s economy.

South Africa would immediately assist the people of Zimbabwe to address the cholera outbreak, as well as scaling up malaria control activities in the cross-border area, he said

South Africa was already in discussion with multilateral agencies, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) in this regard.

A strategy would be put into place on an urgent basis to provide assistance to the people of Zimbabwe and to provide support to the health authorities in Limpopo province to enable them to cope with the serious situation, Maseko said.

An interdepartmental task team would be set up urgently to identify and implement measures to ensure that the reported service delivery crisis in Zimbabwe did not lead to increased cross-border movement to the already over-stretched health facilities in Limpopo province.

The team would be led by the health department and would include the departments of foreign affairs, water affairs and forestry, and provincial and local government.

Maseko said Cabinet had also noted the "window of opportunity" for South Africa to provide assistance to the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe had passed due to the failure of Zimbabwean political leaders to form a representative government.

"Cabinet decided that the approved R300-million will be retained for agricultural assistance to Zimbabwe.

"However, this money will only be disbursed once a representative government was in place and in time for the next planting season in April 2009."

Agriculture and Land Affairs Minister Lulu Xingwana would prepare a proposal on South Africa’s contribution to address the immediate humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, he said. – Sapa