PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and a longtime opposition leader-turned-Finance minister made an unusual joint appeal yesterday for US$5 billion in international aid to revive Zimbabweâ€™s shattered economy.
The two men presented an economic recovery programme that scraps stringent price controls that fuelled black marketeering and inflation. It also sets up â€œsafety nets and social protection for vulnerable groups exposed to market forces,â€ Finance minister Tendai Biti said, without offering details.
The longtime opponents disagreed, however, over the causes of the countryâ€™s economic meltdown.
Biti said that Zimbabwe had to do its part by restoring democratic freedoms and the rule of law. He said a new wave of seizures of white-owned farms in recent weeks blamed on Mugabe loyalists must stop.
â€œFor the economy to turn around, we need to have good governance. Our politics must be right,â€ he told business leaders and government officials at the presentation in Harare. â€œWe are asking our international friends to help us.â€
Mugabe said economic recovery required foreign aid and the removal of Western economic sanctions he deemed â€œinhuman, cruel and unwarrantedâ€.
â€œWe wish to appeal to all those countries which wish us to succeed to support our national endeavour. Friends of Zimbabwe, please come to our aid,â€ he said. â€œI appeal for the removal of your sanctions which are inhuman, cruel and unwarranted.â€
Britain, the former colonial power, the European Union and the United States insist their official sanctions â€” imposing travel and visa restrictions on Mugabe and more than 200 of his party leaders, government officials and loyalists â€” have little bearing on the economic crisis.
Some whites have been driven from their properties and homes and farm equipment have been looted since Mugabe ordered an often-violent land redistribution campaign in 2000. The former regional breadbasket now faces chronic shortages of food, gasoline, most basic goods, power and water supplies and by far the worldâ€™s highest rate of inflation.
International donors are already helping Zimbabwe cope with hunger and cholera crises. But, suspicious of Mugabe, they have hesitated to pour in development aid until they see that Bitiâ€™s party has real authority.
In addition, the global financial crisis is likely to dampen the response. Last month, Biti appealed to Zimbabweâ€™s neighbours in the Southern African Development Community for US$2 billion. The bloc, whose members have been hard-hit by the global economic downturn, promised to help, but put off writing a cheque until an as-yet unscheduled regional summit on Zimbabwe.
Private farming organisations say that militants aided by police and troops have targeted at least 100 of some 400 farms remaining in the hands of white farmers this year.
Farmers â€œmust be given security on their land and a chance to grow their crops,â€ Biti said yesterday.
The finance minister presented a budget to parliament Wednesday that sharply cut a US$1,7 billion interim budget proposal by Mugabeâ€™s party in January. Biti called the US$1 billion plan a â€œreality budgetâ€, saying Zimbabwe has to live within its means.
Mugabe signed a power sharing deal with Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change on September 15 after disputed elections earlier that year.Â â€” AP.