CAPE TOWN, Feb 26 – Southern African ministers opened a meeting on Thursday in Cape Town to devise a plan to aid the reconstruction of Zimbabwe, which is requesting billions of dollars to rebuild its economy.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said last week the country would need five billion US dollars to rebuild schools, a crumbling health system and shattered economy after almost a year of political crisis.
South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel told public radio that Tsvangirai was now seeking about two billion dollars.
South Africa, chair of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community, has gathered together the ministers of finance, foreign affairs and planning to see how the region can assist its neighbour.
Manuel said some money would be needed for water sanitation to battle a cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 4,000 people and affected 83,000.
"It will be necessary to try and get as much support as possible to prevent this horrible, horrible, horrible scourge of cholera that Zimbabwe has lived through over these past few months," Manuel said.
Tsvangirai was sworn in two weeks ago as prime minister in a power-sharing government with rival President Robert Mugabe, ending months of deadlock over a tense election in March last year.
Zimbabwe, once the region’s breadbasket, has disintegrated into a blackmarket economy with inflation last pegged at 231 million percent, but believed many multiples higher, rendering the local currency worthless.
SADC ministers would also discuss the global financial crisis and its impact in the region, whose reliance on commodity exports has severely hurt economies as demand for raw materials plunges.