Biti: 20% of Soweto births are Zimbabwean children

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By Leopold Munhende

ZIMBABWE’s economic and political crisis is putting pressure on South Africa’s ability to deliver services to its people, MDC vice president has claimed.

Biti was speaking in a panel discussion at the Southern African Political Economy Series (Sapes) Trust last Thursday.

The former Finance Minister claimed some 20% of the children being delivered in South African hospitals in areas such as Soweto were Zimbabweans.

“You read the first quarter results of the South African economy, the economy has shrunk by volumes it has never done in 45 years. We are going to feel it because in many ways, the South African economy has been subsidising us.

“If you go to a hospital in Soweto, 20% of mothers giving birth are Zimbabweans. So the Zimbabwean crisis is putting a premium on the South African economy and indeed other economies in the Sadc,” said Biti.

Official figures indicate that about 600,000 babies are born in Soweto each year.

An estimated two to three million Zimbabweans are said to be staying in South Africa with most of them undocumented immigrants trying to escape economic and political turmoil in their country.

The Harare East MP said the only way Zimbabwe could avoid going back to the 2008 situation where inflation reached alarming levels and there were massive shortages of goods was by de-dollarising or joining the Rand Monetary Union (RMU). He however admitted it could take as much as four years for this to happen.

“Joining the RMU is not a walk in the park, you need a window of at least four years because there has to be both fiscal and monetary convergence because if there is no convergence, we will export into the region our unique abnormality and disequilibrium,” said Biti.

He said there was need for structural adjustments to the country’s fiscal and monetary policies before joining the union that includes regional economic power South Africa, Namibia and eSwatini so as not to upset the working system.

Biti accused international multi-lateral institutions of going into bed with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government that the opposition has refused to recognise after last year’s elections.

“That will force serious structural reform which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cannot impose on Zimbabwe but is busy cosying up and cuddling with this erratic regime.

“The South Africans, the Namibians and eSwatinis have a real stake in that union so they will insist on huge structural reform to make sure that key indicators are all converged. That is why I am in favour of it,” the former Treasury chief said.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube last week announced new fiscal measures that abandoned the multi-currency system in favour of a mono-currency in which the local dollar was designated as sole legal tender for all domestic transactions.

This has angered the opposition and other pressure groups who have been agitating for the adoption of the US dollar or the Rand.