Zimbabwe 'meltdown'

02 November 2006

A 37-tonne consignment of food and blankets, destined for Zimbabwe but held up since 1 August in Johannesburg by demands for certificates to prove it does not contain GM maize, was due to be given the all-clear on Wednesday. The aid has been collected by South African churches.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane, said this week: "We hope the trucks will be on their way soon."

He described the situation as "very precarious". If Zimbabwe went into "meltdown", it would be disastrous for all southern Africa, he warned.

The Archbishop was speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, after a meeting of senior church leaders in South Africa and the country's President, Thabo Mbeki, and the Deputy President, Finance Minister, and Minister for land affairs. Their presence was "an indication of how seriously the present situation in Zimbabwe is viewed by our government", he said.

He said that Zimbabwe faced three major areas of concern. The first was the humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by Operation Murambatsvina - the clearance of shanty dwellings which has left thousands homeless ( News, 29 July). The second was the danger of "meltdown" if the country was expelled from the IMF; and the third, "most importantly", was the need for all sections of Zimbabwean society to come together and be informed of the facts of the crisis.

Zimbabwe will be expelled from the IMF if it defaults on a $100-million payment due at the end of this month, the press conference was told. Archbishop Ndungane said that if the IMF "rescues" Zimbabwe, it will impose conditions that could "result in its citizens being far worse off". He dismissed fears that a proposed South African government multi-billion-rand loan to Zimbabwe would be irresponsible.

"We South Africans need to lend our support to finding a solution to this quagmire. This is not the time to be arguing among ourselves about details," he said. "It is very clear to all of us that this crisis needs clear heads and options for a solution rather than political posturing in either South Africa or Zimbabwe."

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