New Zimbabwe (London)

Zimbabwe: Economy - Govt Denies Army Bosses Appeal

THE government has dismissed as "blatantly fabricated" media reports claiming a panicking Patrick Chinamasa recently briefed security services chiefs as the Zanu PF administration fears the failing economy is fast becoming a national security issue.

According to the weekly Independent newspaper, the Finance Minister, in panic mode after allegedly failing to secure a rescue package from China - Zanu PF's "all-weather friend" - held an urgent briefing with the powerful Joint Operation Command (JOC) which brings together the army, intelligence services and police top brass.

The alleged briefing followed warnings by the opposition and independent analysts that the country's failing economy could spark civil unrest with Zanu PF nowhere near to delivering the two million jobs the party promised when campaigning for last year's elections.

According the newspaper, apart from China, Chinamasa had also unsuccessfully appealed to the likes of South Korea and Kuwait for assistance.

The minister reportedly told the security chiefs that "international financiers and countries approached were reluctant to offer a rescue package and lines of credit to Zimbabwe due to its bad debt record, poor credit rating and political risk."

In addition, "mobilising resources had become a challenge because institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and African Development Bank (ADB) are owed billions of dollars by Zimbabwe."

But a senior government official denied the alleged briefing ever took place. He accused the publication of wilful mischief and trying to spark needless panic.

"The story is blatantly a fabricated one. It has no basis whatsoever in fact as it builds on something that did not happen," said Regis Chikowore, a principal director in the information ministry.

"This is an example of what has gone wrong with our journalism and we hope that the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) takes note of this kind of journalism.

"The effect of this sensational story is to cause panic and also to pooh the sterling efforts, which are being deployed both to defend the economy against hostile sanctions and to grow it on the steam of the just recovered agricultural sector, that both aspects elude the Zimbabwe Independent, itself a financial paper, mirrors poorly of our journalism.

Chikowore added: "It is also interesting that this mischievous article comes hard behind very hostile pronouncements at the MDC-T-organised ZCTU May Day celebrations.

"Was this mere coincidence, or are we beginning to see the unfurling of a sinister programme to destabilise our country in the agricultural sector?

"Press freedom is guaranteed, but it is not a licence to tell a naked lie. It is regrettable that this has happened on the eve of the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day."

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