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Zimbabwe Leaders Review Economic Progress

  • Ish Mafundikwa

Finance Minister Tendai Biti says the country needs billions of dollars to pull its economy back to the levels of a decade ago when it was at its peak.

Finance Minister Biti was addressing the media at the launch of a three-year economic blueprint. He warned uncertainty over the future of the fragile unity government is hampering economic recovery.

Zimbabwe's economy has experienced negative growth during the past decade. But it is forecast to expand by more than four percent this year and grow by seven percent in 2010. The economy has stabilized since the national unity government came to power in February and the Zimbabwe dollar was replaced.

Minister Bitty said Zimbabwe must carry out a land audit following the sometimes-violent land-reform program carried out by President Robert Mugabe. The exercise saw white farmers being run off their farms for the resettlement of landless blacks.

Critics of the program say most of the land went to individuals close to the president. Some of the beneficiaries, they say, have helped themselves to more than one property. After the land reforms, the agriculture-based economy was decimated and Zimbabwe became dependent on international food aid. The new owners have no title deeds.

Meanwhile, President Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, the three leaders of the unity government met to discuss outstanding matters on the deal that brought the government together.

Afterward, they addressed the media in what turned out to be an end-of year review of their partnership in government. Asked when the outstanding issues would be resolved, Mr. Mugabe said time frames could not be kept as negotiations are about give and take.

PM Morgan Tsvangirai (L) and President Robert Mugabe (R) are pictured at Zimbabwe International Investment Conference in Harare, 09 Jul 2009

PM Morgan Tsvangirai (L) and President Robert Mugabe (R) are pictured at Zimbabwe International Investment Conference in Harare, 09 Jul 2009

"Arguments that take place go beyond those time frames because they are arguments not just of ourselves they are argument even of the bodies that we represent and the bodies that we represent are prone to criticizing us much more than to accepting our decisions," he said.

The president said the unity government had fulfilled much more than what remains to be resolved. He added that negotiations should not get bogged down over the appointment of individuals such as Attorney General Johannes Tomana. Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change insists the appointments of Tomana and central-bank governor Gideon Gono were in breach of the unity government agreement.

Prime Minister Tsvangirai said the difficult negotiations happened before the government was formed and now it is about implementation, which takes time.

"It is going to be frustrating, but that is now about implementation, it is not about substance. The substance we have already concluded," he said.

Mr. Tsvangirai said the parties' negotiating teams should be given time to deal with the outstanding issues.

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