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20 Feb 2009 16:20
Repairing Zimbabwe’s battered economy could cost as much as $5-billion, said Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday, adding the country is looking to attract direct foreign investment to help its recovery.
Meeting South African President Kgalema Motlanthe and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel to discuss a recovery strategy, Tsvangirai said Zimbabwe planned to use a number of currencies but was not considering adopting the rand as legal tender.
“As for the long-term economic recovery it has not been assessed ... but I think it would run into billions of dollars, maybe as high as $5-billon,” Tsvangirai said at a news briefing.
Zimbabwe’s new government, formed between Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party and President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF, is faced with resolving an economic meltdown manifesting itself in hyperinflation which has seen prices double every day.
Tsvangirai, acompanied by Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti, said Harare had to look at ways to encourage foreign direct investment.
“Obviously as a country that is emerging from such a dire situation, foreign direct investment is one of the areas of focus ...
anything that is inhibitive for foreign direct investment ...
“Our currency is devalued almost to a point of non-use, so we are going to use a multi-currency approach ... But at the moment there is no talk about the randification [of the currency]. It is a multi-currency facility we are looking at,” said Tsvangirai.
Motlanthe said earlier this month Zimbabwe, which is grappling with inflation of 200-million percent, could adopt the rand, but he did not give details.
The rand is already widely used on Zimbabwe’s black market, alongside the US dollar.
Bennett to get bail
Tsvangirai announced at the press briefing on Friday that it had been agreed between himself, President Robert Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara that Roy Bennett and other “abductees” should be released on bail.
Bennett was designated as deputy minister of agriculture in the unity government but was not able to be sworn in because he was arrested as he arrived back in the country.
The prime minister told journalists that he was still in custody, however, because there was agreement that the law must take its course. “There are other more important things to be dealt with,” he said.
Cholera cases top 80 000
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday that more than 80 000 people have now been infected with cholera in Zimbabwe’s six-month-old outbreak which has killed 3 759.
About half of the patients who died from the water-borne diarrhoeal disease failed to reach any of the country’s 365 cholera treatment centres, the United Nations agency said.
The proportion of deaths has been decreasing steadily since early January, but the fatality rate remains above the acceptable level in such an epidemic, according to the WHO.
The deadliest cholera outbreak in Africa in 15 years has also spread to neighbouring countries, including South Africa.
The intestinal infection spreads through contaminated food and water and can cause severe dehydration and death without proper treatment. While cholera is both preventable and treatable, an economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe has caused the near-collapse of health services.
“Given the outbreak’s dynamic, in the context of a dilapidated water and sanitation infrastructure and a weak health system, the practical implementation of control measures remains a challenge,” the WHO said.—Reuters and I-Net Bridge
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