Harare seeks aid to avert disaster


ZIMBABWE: Zimbabwe is seeking a massive $1 billion (€830 million) rescue package from South Africa to stave off the economic and humanitarian disaster threatening the southern African country.

The appeal for cash to buy much-needed food, seed and fuel has come amid reports that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are preparing to call in Zimbabwe's debt of nearly $682 million (€565 million).

It is understood that any loan from South Africa would have a number of preconditions attached, including an immediate halt to President Robert Mugabe's urban renewal drive that has made an estimated 400,000 people across the country homeless.

According to reports in South Africa's Sunday Independent, South African deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is said to have emphasised the need to stop the mass eviction of poor urban families when she met Mr Mugabe and his second vice-president, Joyce Mujuru, in Harare last week.

Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka told Mr Mugabe that relations between the two countries could reach a "turning point" when United Nations envoy Anna Tibaijuka releases her report on the "clean-up" operation in less than two weeks in New York.

President Thabo Mbeki and UN secretary general Kofi Annan have both indicated they will wait for the report before taking an official stance.

Over the weekend Zimbabwean authorities announced a temporary halt to their controversial campaign which has drawn criticism from the United Nations, western governments, Zimbabwean and international human rights groups.

The World Bank and IMF withdrew aid to Zimbabwe several years ago.