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Southern Africa to hold summit on Zimbabwe aid

CAPE TOWN, Feb 27 – Regional leaders will hold a special summit to help Zimbabwe source two billion dollars in aid to revive its economy and rebuild shattered infrastracture, South Africa\’s foreign minister said Friday.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma did not offer any concrete support to Zimbabwe\’s desperate financial condition, after the country\’s new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai turned to neighbouring countries for help.

"Basically they\’ve said they need about two billion US dollars," Dlamini-Zuma told reporters after a two-day meeting of southern African ministers in Cape Town.

Leaders of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) will meet to consider Zimbabwe\’s financing proposals and to back its efforts to win support from international lenders as well as donors, she said.

"We are all, as SADC, determined to help Zimbabwe mobilise the resources," she said. "The economic environment globally is difficult, so we will do our best."

She said the summit would likely be held in South Africa before the Group of 20 summit in London on April 2.

Tsvangirai had originally sought up to five billion dollars in aid and investments to rebuild his country, which has been in economic freefall for nearly a decade, with record hyperinflation and unemployment at 94 percent.

That package would have amounted to more than twice Zimbabwe\’s gross domestic product last year.

Tsvangirai joined a unity government with President Robert Muagbe two weeks ago in a bid to end political turmoil and halt Zimbabwe\’s stunning decline.

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But western donors have indicated that they are not willing to pour major new money into Zimbabwe until Mugabe proves that he is committed to political reform.

In an interview with state media Thursday, Mugabe showed no sign of compromise, indicating that he would not back down on controversial appointments — including his decision to extend the term of central bank Gideon Gono, who has presided over the total collapse of the local currency.

An official close to the talks in Cape Town said that the only SADC countries in a position to offer were South Africa — the continent\’s biggest economy — and oil-rich Angola.

Other SADC countries include some of the poorest nations in the world struggling to cope with their own needs.

Even South Africa is still working to provide decent housing, education and health care to its own people, while Angola is rebuilding after decades of civil war.

Dlamini-Zuma said the region wanted to help Zimbabwe by normalising its relations with global lenders like the International Monetary Fund, which suspended its dealings with Harare three years ago.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said during a visit to South Africa this week that Mugabe needed to heed the concerns about the international community, including the fate of political prisoners still detained despite the unity government.

Tsvangirai\’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was meeting Friday in Harare to assess the unity government\’s peformance in the first two weeks.

The prime minister has accused disgruntled members of Mugabe\’s party of trying to derail the unity government, targetting in particular the attorney general who he blames for the ongoing detention of MDC supporters.

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