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SA parly presses minister to explain Zim loan

SOUTH Africa’s National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete told parliament’s programme committee yesterday that she would approach Finance minister Trevor Manuel to make a statement on the proposed lo

an to Zimbabwe.

The committee is attended by the whips of the various political parties represented in the Assembly.

Mbete said: “I am approaching the Minister of Finance to make a statement (on Zimbabwe).”

She said it was “clearly” a matter of public interest and the statement would be an opportunity “to see what this is all about”. It would also give parliament the opportunity “to express itself”, said Mbete.

Cabinet is expected next week to provide a final pronouncement on the loan to troubled Zimbabwe but it has already agreed “in principle” to aid Zimbabweans but said this was tied to long-term economic and constitutional reforms involving civil society, business, labour and political parties.

Embattled Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has already said he would not accept SA aid if it depended on dialogue with the official opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) – although the opposition party has indicated that it had not demanded bilateral talks with the ruling Zanu PF.

Official opposition Democratic Alliance chief whip Douglas Gibson said in a statement that following President Mugabe’s apparent rejection of the bail-out for his country, “government must in no way bend its conditions or beg the Mugabe government to accept its offer of financial assistance”.

“It is now quite evident that government’s strategy on the proposed loan is starting to fall apart. It was obvious right from the outset that attaching conditions to the bail-out package would be problematic because first, the Mugabe government has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted to abide by its word, and second because it has also made it clear on a number of different occasions that it will not accept any conditionalities.

“What is also concerning is that the government’s apparent insistence on talks between Zanu PF and the MDC is out of step with the views of the MDC. The MDC has made it clear that it has never demanded talks … and further that it has no interest in serving in a government of national unity with Zanu PF.

“What is now glaringly obvious is that years of a confused and misguided foreign policy towards Zimbabwe have now come home to haunt the government. It is quite bizarre that after the government and ANC delegations went out of their way to legitimise a fundamentally flawed election held earlier this year that the government has now decided to put the issue of elections and talks on the table.

“How can the government make such a demand when its official policy is to view Zanu PF as the democratically-elected government of Zimbabwe? Had it not adopted such a fawning approach to Zanu PF over the last five years then it would have been in a much more credible position to make such demands.”

Gibson said: “It now appears that yet again President Mbeki has been outplayed by the cunning of Robert Mugabe, who will quite obviously not accept strict conditionalities. Now is the time for the government to play hard ball and either enforce these conditions or more appropriately abandon the loan altogether. Either way the time has come for President Mbeki to take the nation into his confidence about how the government is going to act.” – I-Net Bridge.

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