By Ray Ndlovu
There is much speculation that the Zimbabwe government will press South Africa to commit to a $100m loan request that Zimbabwe Finance Minister Tendai Biti brought last month to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, as a delegation of Zimbabwean ministers meet their South African counterparts on Tuesday.
The Zimbabwean delegation is led by Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi. Mr Biti refused to confirm the exact details of the $100m loan request, mainly to shore up a budget deficit, but expressed optimism that South Africa would open up lines of credit.
“We have been promised a figure, and more promises have been extended to us and we remain hopeful of some financial assistance,” he said. Mr Biti has begun countrywide budget consultations in preparation for a $3.8bn budget presentation to Parliament next month.
A senior Zimbabwean government official, who could not comment officially, said the ministers would discuss several “hotspots”, including: the auctioning of Zimbabwe government properties in South Africa, the looming elections in March next year, and the country’s 51% indigenisation programme.
Mr Biti said at the weekend he wanted Zimbabwe’s next election to be financed by donors, as the cash-strapped unity government could not afford to foot the $104m election bill. “The 2013 budget is the crucial one in the life span of the inclusive government because it’s a pre-election budget,” he said.
“Countries such as the UK, Norway, and China, as well as the United Nations, have an obligation to fund the elections, and we will soon approach them for assistance.”
Meanwhile, the meeting of the ministers would take place against the backdrop of the country ratcheting up its indigenisation drive further this week, with Tongaat Hulett’s Zimbabwe unit issued with a 14-day ultimatum to comply with the country’s indigenisation laws.
“South Africa is unhappy over the perceived lack of respect by Zimbabwe for the Bilateral Investment Promotion Protection Agreement signed between the two countries. Part of the reason for this meeting is the hope to dispel the mixed messages coming from the indigenisation programme,” said the official.
“The South Africa government wants an assurance that this intimidation will come to an end.”
The indigenisation programme has become the central plank in President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) election campaign.
Eric Bloch, a senior partner at H&E Bloch consultancy, cautioned the politicking around the indigenisation programme would see the country miss its growth target of 8.9% next year.
Attorney-general Johannes Tomana confirmed yesterday preparations were under way to contest, in the Constitutional Court, the North Gauteng High Court ruling allowing property owned by the Zimbabwe government to be auctioned. | Business Day|
To help maintain editorial independence Nehanda Radio relies on donations from readers like you. No donation is too small or too big. Help by donating to fund our operations.