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Zim Talks Impasse ‘threat to recovery’

THE ongoing political impasse in Zimbabwe poses a threat to regional plans for the country’s economic recovery, especially in the fragile agriculture sector, foreign affairs director-general Ayanda Ntsaluba said on Wednesday.


He expressed concern at the lack of progress in talks aimed at negotiating a power-sharing deal in Zimbabwe.
Ntsaluba said an agreement on the allocation of cabinet posts would open the way for South Africa to help Zimbabwe to address its bigger challenges of “bringing stability to food security”. South Africa’s treasury has set aside R300 million to aid Zimbabwe. “Unfortunately, there is no Plan B for Zimbabwe, and we are hoping that the leadership there would take the opportunity and rise to the challenge,” Ntsaluba said.
The Zimbabwean talks are blocked over the allocation of cabinet posts, most recently the finance and home affairs ministries, which President Robert Mugabe claimed for his Zanu PF party against strong objections from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The MDC said this week it looked increasingly possible it would abandon talks with Mugabe and seek new elections.
Ntsaluba praised Finance minister Trevor Manuel for pledging R300 million which will be channelled towards Zimbabwe’s economic recovery with an emphasis on agriculture projects. Manuel says the R300 million is “subject to acceptance of an appropriate role for international food relief agencies by a recognised multiparty government”.
Ntsaluba said he hoped for a breakthrough at the next Southern African Development Community (Sadc) mediation effort in Harare next week.
“South Africa’s intentions are very good but time is not on our side. We are already looking at another disastrous agriculture season,” said John Makumbe, a University of Zimbabwe lecturer. “What would make sense is to use the money to purchase food for millions of people who are starving or buy farming inputs for next year (the 2009-10 season) because the agriculture season is already on us and we have been caught wanting again,” he said.
Even if South Africa was immediately to release the funds, buy inputs, transport them to Zimbabwe and distribute them among farmers, it could take more than three months, which would be too late in the season, Makumbe said. The United Nations World Food Programme has warned that the number of Zimbabweans needing food aid is expected to double by early next year, to more than five million. — Business Day.

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