Moses Mudzwiti

Moses Mudzwiti

Zimbabwe, buoyed by initial support from regional neighbours, has revised its request for urgent financial assistance from the Southern African Development Community upwards to $8billion (about R78billion).

However, President Robert Mugabe, who attended yesterday's SADC conference in Swaziland, does not enjoy complete political backing from the 15-member regional body.

Mugabe has also failed to get immediate relief from Western donors and financial institutions owing to the country's bad credit record. Zimbabwe already owes the IMF, World Bank and the African Development Bank collectively more than $1billion (about R9,7billion).

Zimbabwe's hopes of survival are now firmly on SADC.

Initially, Zimbabwe's new unity government asked SADC to help it raise $2billion (about R19,8billion) to tackle the country's failed social services.

But, yesterday Zimbabwe put forward a revised request for financial assistance.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said SADC was reviewing a Zimbabwean recovery plan requiring financial assistance.

Last week Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti revealed that the country's woes were much worse than initially estimated. He said Zimbabwe now needed at least $8billion to revive its comatose economy. Hospitals, schools, roads, water and sanitation were in need of urgent attention. Most Zimbabweans are on the verge of starvation.

Biti said running the government was costing $100million a month (about R970million) - way above its monthly $20million (about R194million) revenue collected. "We need help," Biti pleaded.

Yesterday the US said it would only assist Zimbabwe to rebuild its shattered economy if it met certain conditions. These included:

l the immediate release of all political prisoners;

l the end of farm seizures;

l the cessation of politically motivated violence;

l the establishment of a credible and transparent Central Bank team;

l an end to harassment and intimidation of the media, and

l a commitment to credible elections in a timely manner.