'ZIM NEEDS ITS PROFESSIONALS'

WHILE professionals are needed, it is still too early for many Zimbabweans to return to the neighbouring country from South Africa, Zimbabwean prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai said on Saturday.

WHILE professionals are needed, it is still too early for many Zimbabweans to return to the neighbouring country from South Africa, Zimbabwean prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai said on Saturday.

"I understand the concerns of Zimbabweans who are here as economic refugees and as political refugees," he said.

"The majority are economic refugees and until such time that the situation back home improves I think you would understand, for economic reasons, they would like to stay in [South Africa]," Tsvangirai told reporters in Johannesburg.

But Tsvangirai said professionals were desperately needed in Zimbabwe for both their skills and the money they had saved in other countries.

He lashed out at those who had become "too comfortable" in other countries.

"You have an obligation as a Zimbabwean to make a reconstruction contribution. You are too comfortable in other people's countries," Tsvangirai said.

"You want the comfort. You don't want to come and face the sweat and tears to contribute to the advancement of the country."

Tsvangirai was speaking to reporters at the swanky Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg. The hotel's rates for suites range from R6400 a night to R25000.

Tsvangirai had stopped over in Johannesburg on his way back to Zimbabwe after a three-week tour of Europe and the US.

The purpose of his tour was to repair the country's relationship with the West and raise funds for reconstruction, as opposed to only receiving humanitarian aid.

"We've had a positive response from all the countries. We still have to follow up," Tsvangirai said.

While Tsvangirai was out of the country Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe continued to lash out at the West and imperialism.

Tsvangirai said Mugabe's opinions were not relevant to his mission.

"I don't have to defend Mugabe and his position towards the West or other countries. As an inclusive government we have adopted a policy of re-engagement," Tsvangirai said.

Government officials in Zimbabwe have expressed disappointment that Tsvangirai did not get promises of developmental aid.

Some have suggested that Zimbabwe should approach China, which has supported Mugabe in the past.

France and Britain have both promised humanitarian aid, to be distributed by non-governmental organisations and charities.

US President Barack Obama has also promised about R575million with conditions, while German chancellor Angela Merkel pledged humanitarian assistance but said developmental aid would be connected to compensation for white farmers who lost their land in invasions. - Sapa

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