As Zimbabwe issued a new 100 trillion dollar note this month, Mr Mugabe tried to avert economic catastrophe by making contact with Libya and Iran – two countries with large oil reserves and a history of bad relations with the West.
Mr Mugabe has long shown himself impervious to the suffering caused by his country’s almost total economic collapse, which was precipitated by the seizure of white-owned farms in the late 1990s.
Yet the additional hardship caused by sanctions has struck directly at Zimbabwe’s political elite – and threatened to undermine the veteran president.
Now the collapse of power sharing talks between Mr Mugabe and Zimbabwe’s opposition has made his need for money all the more urgent lest Western countries redouble their efforts to put pressure on the dictator.
In response, Mr Mugabe is courting rich countries that might prove less amenable to Western scruples about human rights.
Earlier this month, he dispatched his foreign minister, Simbarashe Mbengegwi, to Tripoli to deliver a begging letter to the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
“Mbengegwi was sent to Tripoli on Jan 11 to canvas for an economic package from Gaddafi,” said a central committee member of the ruling Zanu PF party. “The economy needs billions of dollars in foreign capital to halt our economic woes.gn
“Mugabe is trying everything possible, and if we are lucky the Chinese are soon going to chip in. Already diplomatic engagement has been made with Beijing, and with Iran.”
China’s unwavering support for the dictator – despite his wanton destruction of Zimbabwe’s economy and disregard for its voters – has long irritated Western diplomats.
Even at the height of election violence last year, when Zanu PF thugs were roaming the countryside attacking opposition voters, China dispatched a cargo ship, laden with weapons, to the African state.
An Asian diplomat in Harare confirmed that China was considering helping Mr Mugabe again to protect its economic interests in the country.
“China is considering making an economic loan to Mugabe,” the diplomat said. “But this has yet to be finalised.”
Iran, locked in its own acrimonious dispute with Zimbabwe’s enemies, signed a memorandum of understanding to renovate the African country’s defunct oil refinery in 2007.
Sitting on the world’s second largest reserves of crude oil, the Islamic republic is now said by Zimbabwean officials to be offering long-term fuel supplies in return for exclusive rights to mine some “strategic” minerals in Zimbabwe.
The agreement appears to be part of a broader Zimbabwean effort to use its natural resources as an incentive to potential patrons.
The central bank, under one of Mr Mugabe’s closest lieutenants, Gideon Gono, has reportedly made fresh overtures to Russian businessmen who have in the past shown an interest in buying Zimbabwe’s biggest coal mine.
According to Zimbabwe cabinet sources, Russian businesses would be exempt from tough new investment rules that compel foreign companies to cede more than half their shares to the government.
The acting information minister, Paul Mangwana, confirmed that Harare was seeking an economic package from its would-be allies, but could not say how much money was involved.
“Zimbabwe has friends in Southern Africa and other parts of the world who are sympathetic with us, but we not at liberty to discuss the full details about it,” he said.-Telegraph
BY ITAI MUSHEKWE