19 April 2013

Zimbabwe: SA Urged to Explain Multimillion Dollar Zim Loan

South Africa's ruling ANC government is being urged to explain the details of a multimillion dollar loan it is allegedly giving Zimbabwe, amid calls for the money to be hinged on tough pre-conditions.

Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Tendai Biti said this week an estimated $100 million has been approved by South Africa to loan to its financially challenged neighbour. Biti had approached his South African counterpart Pravin Gordhan last September for assistance, with Zimbabwe still battling to make ends meet.

Biti then told a press conference on Monday that a "positive decision" had been made by South Africa.

"Pursuant to discussions in September 2012, I'm aware the South African Cabinet has made a decision -- and it's a positive decision," Biti told reporters.

There has been no official confirmation about the loan from South Africa's Finance Ministry. But finance portfolio committee chairman Thaba Mufamadi has slammed Biti for going public with the proposed loan before it had been finalised by the two governments.

"While issues are still being discussed between the two governments, somebody jumps the gun elsewhere. Biti says we'll bear the brunt of not adhering to their request because people will vote with their feet and come across (to South Africa)," said Mufamadi.

Opposition groups in South Africa, along with concerned citizens and observers, are now demanding answers from the government about the details of the loan. The main opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has led the calls, saying any loan to Zimbabwe must have preconditions that the election in that country this year be free and fair.

DA finance spokesman Tim Harris said this week he had submitted a parliamentary question to the South African Finance minister to clarify the terms of the supposed funding.

"If we indeed intend providing the loans to Zimbabwe then Minister Gordhan has a duty to explain to South Africans the motivation for extending such generous financial support. There are three main issues that urgently need to be clarified: the motivation for the loan, the terms of the repayment and any conditionality attached to it," Harris said, adding that South Africa should not be extending credit without strict political conditions.

Last week, ZANU PF blocked a visit by a United Nations (UN) delegation that was meant to conduct a fact-finding mission in Zimbabwe, as part of the UN's preconditions for financial support for the country's elections. These preconditions angered ZANU PF who want money without any strings attached, and a request for a loan from the UN has reportedly been withdrawn.

Political analyst Clifford Mashiri told SW Radio Africa on Friday that it is no surprise that Zimbabwe would now turn to South Africa, which, historically "has a controversial friendship with ZANU PF."

"The preconditions stipulated by the UN should be enforced, just like the Global Political; Agreement should be enforced. But ZANU PF has been defiant. Yet they will still find money elsewhere, like South Africa," Mashiri said.

He continued: "South Africa, as the mediator in the Zimbabwe political situation, has a conflict of interest by supplying these funds."

To contact this reporter email alex@swradioafrica.com or follow on Twitter

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