Thu, Dec 18, 2008 - Page 6 News List

African countries to launch aid drive for Zimbabwe

AGENCIES , PRETORIA AND LONDON

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe announced yesterday that the region was launching an urgent international campaign to assist Zimbabwe with a humanitarian crisis amid a cholera outbreak.

“The SADC [Southern African Development Community] Troika has decided ... to launch an urgent international campaign to mobilize financial and material resources for the people of Zimbabwe in order to help them overcome the challenges facing their country,” Motlanthe told journalists in Pretoria.

The announcement comes after Motlanthe called a meeting with health and water ministers in the troika of the SADC from South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.

“Zimbabwe is facing serious humanitarian challenges characterized by acute food shortages and the recent outbreak of cholera,” he said.

Motlanthe said all countries in the 15-member bloc were expected to contribute to the campaign with their available resources.

He said the campaign was about aid and not Zimbabwe’s political crisis.

“This is not political work, this relief work is not to be politicized. It’s done on a humanitarian basis,” he said.

“So the mandate of this structure is really to ensure that the relief is distributed fairly to all deserving Zimbabweans. It is not to deal with the political challenges — those will be handled by the inclusive government once the inclusive government is in place. They will have the authority to deal with all challenges on the political front.”

The UN estimated this week nearly 1,000 people had died in a cholera epidemic that has affected more than 18,000 in Zimbabwe, compounding the country’s woes, which include inflation of 231 million percent and a political crisis.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s neighbors said they did not believe allegations that opposition militants are training in Botswana to overthrow Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

Motlanthe said the main regional bloc opened an investigation into the allegations when Mugabe’s regime first raised them last month.

But “we never believed that,” he said.

The Zimbabwean opposition says the allegations, which were made again this week, are part of a plot to create a pretext for declaring a state of emergency.

Motlanthe would not say why he thought Mugabe’s regime was pressing the allegations, but noted the “mistrust” among Zimbabwe’s politicians.

Motlanthe also said South Africa would not join international calls for Mugabe to step down, saying it was “not for us” to do so.

“It’s really not for us,” he said when asked by reporters how bad conditions had to get in Zimbabwe before South Africa would say it was time for him to step down.

“I mean I don’t know if the British feel qualified to impose that on the people of Zimbabwe but we feel that we should really support and take our cue from what they want.”

Motlanthe said he was hopeful Zimbabwe would have a unity government in place by the end of the week.

But the Brussels-based International Crisis Group described the rivals’ power-sharing talks as “hopelessly deadlocked.”

Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai should both step aside to allow a neutral administration to tackle the country’s crisis and prepare for a new election, it said.

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