21 January 2019

Africa: Mboweni - South Africa Plans to Help Bail Out Zimbabwe

Photo: Justin Mutenda/The Herald
President Emmerson Mnangagwa (right) speaks to his South African counterpart, President Cyril Ramaphosa, during the just-ended Third Session of the Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission meeting in Harare.

South Africa is planning to extend short-term credit to Zimbabwe and also to help it write off its US$7.4-billion external debt, to prevent its neighbour spiralling out of control. Critics say this will be a waste of money unless it can pressure Zanu-PF to make political reforms.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni disclosed the plan in an interview with Daily Maverick as Zimbabwe slipped closer to the brink after a massive fuel price hike on January 12 sparked a general strike and then widespread street protests, many of which were violently suppressed by state security forces.

However, some critics believe that South Africa is just tinkering with the Zimbabwean crisis and that any money that it channels to Zimbabwe will be wasted unless it persuades the ruling Zanu-PF to make fundamental political and economic reforms.

"It's an act of self-delusion if you think you can avoid talking politics as you engage Zimbabwe, as in many other places," Piers Pigou, senior consultant to the International Crisis Group said in response to Mboweni's disclosure.

Harare is clearly desperate for a bailout from South Africa and/or any of its other allies to resolve an economic crisis which is slipping out of control.

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