No financial assistance to Zimbabwe for now, says Ramaphosa

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PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa says his government will not provide any immediate financial support to Zimbabwe as discussions on the matter are still ongoing.

The move comes as a blow to Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, which had been counting on its neighbour to provide financial support to boost its faltering economy. The cash-strapped country had a request for R1.2bn turned down by SA in 2018.

Zimbabwe is also facing acute shortages of cash, basic commodities and has an unusually high unemployment rate of more than 90%. With virtually no industry left in the once prosperous country, Zimbabweans now have to rely mostly on South African goods.

Responding to questions by journalists at the end of the SA-Zimbabwe bi-national commission in Harare, Ramaphosa said although the matter of possible financial support had been “discussed in great detail”, the issue was yet to be finalised.

“Even as we deal with difficult issues, we find that we always have solutions to the matters that you are raising, which you have referred to as financial issues; we have discussed this in great detail and our discussions are ongoing and our various teams are busy finding workable solutions,” he said.

Ramaphosa, who spoke at length during the summit about SA’s own economic challenges, said he hoped to find solutions on the possible financial support to the neighbouring country in the future.

“Because of the strength of our relationship we have no doubt whatsoever that we are going to find solutions that will lead to the strengthening of our two respective economies so that we can address the challenges that both our countries are facing.”

Earlier in his opening remarks Ramaphosa had said SA was prepared to help Zimbabwe only “within our means”, as he called on the international community to support the economically troubled neighbour.

Ramaphosa described the third edition of the bi-national commission “as the best ever”, saying the meetings had touched on various issues including trade, investment, transport, railways, water and mining.

He also reiterated his call for the lifting of western sanctions against Zimbabwe, saying the restrictive measures “should be removed yesterday”.

The two countries signed two memorandum of agreements, but several other agreements that were expected to have been signed were pushed forward to other dates.

At the ministerial session of the bi-national commission on Monday, international relations and co-operation minister Lindiwe Sisulu indicated that cabinet approval would be needed on some of the agreements.

In his remarks at the summit, Mnangagwa promised South African investors that their businesses in Zimbabwe were safe.

“We are a listening government and we are open for dialogue in order to address the challenges that they may face during their operation in Zimbabwe.”

The two countries agreed to fast track rehabilitation of the Beitbridge-Musina port of entry into a one-stop border post.