Tsvangirai Travels to SA in Bid to Get Assistance

PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (pictured) will travel to South Africa Friday for the first time in his official capacity to seek an immediate rescue package to stabilise Zimbabwe’s comatose economy and explore the use of the rand to improve foreign currency liquidity

Tsvangirai’s spokesperson James Maridadi confirmed to the Zimbabwe Independent Thursday that the Prime Minister would lead a delegation that includes Finance minister Tendai Biti and Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi to Pretoria.

Maridadi said the delegation would meet South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and central bank chief Tito Mboweni.

The delegation would not include officials from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, he said.

Zimbabwe urgently needs financial support to stabilise the economy and deal with the humanitarian crisis characterised by a cholera outbreak that has killed 3 700 people and infected about 79 000 others since last August and critical food shortages. More than five million people need food aid.

The engagement of the South African authorities would take place after Tsvangirai yesterday chaired the first meeting of the Council of Ministers where he created five ministerial clusters to run the government.

The five are Security and Infrastructure to be supervised by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, Rights and Social Issues to be headed by second Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, and an Economic cluster to be led by Tsvangirai.

Sources in the power-sharing government said Tsvangirai  would ask the South African government to bankroll his government’s proposed economic stabilisation programme and will also open negotiations on the possibility of Zimbabwe adopting the rand as its standard currency.

Earlier this month Motlanthe said his government would help Zimbabwe “so that the coalition government works” and that it might be practical to enter into an agreement with the South African central bank to use the rand as the standard currency.

“If South Africa provides the rescue package we need, the new government is of the view that this will open avenues for the international community to follow suit,” one of the sources said.

While welcoming the formation of the inclusive government, the United States, Britain and its European Union allies said they would “wait and see” if there is genuine power sharing between President Robert Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara before offering financial assistance.

Addressing business leaders in Harare Thursday, Tsvangirai said his week-old government was engaging its neighbour for emergency support.

“I don’t want to pre-empt this, but we are really engaging the South Africans to make sure we can discuss (using the rand) … to provide relief,” Tsvangirai said.

“We are in an emergency situation, a fire-fighting situation. For now we are talking of an emergency plan.”
Zimbabwe has over the past 10 years received financial assistance from South Africa, the latest being the R300 million agricultural package extended to it last year to buy inputs.

BY CONSTANTINE CHIMAKURE