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Burden of Proof On Zimbabwe In Quest For Reconstruction Aid - Analysts

Southern African ministers formally opened a meeting in Cape Town aimed at drafting a plan to fund Zimbabwe's economic recovery following the installation of a unity government which was said to have asked its regional partners for US$2 billion in assistance.

South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had asked for US$2 billion aid from the Southern African Development Community, whose foreign, finance and planning ministers assembled to discuss a possible package.

VOA correspondent Scott Bobb reported from Johannesburg.

Economist Tony Hawkins of the University of Zimbabwe told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the US$2 billion under discussion was just a starting point, as recent estimates for an economic relaunch projected needs of US$5 billion while rebuilding national infrastructure could soak up US$20 billion.

African Development Bank officials called Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti's master plan "impressive," but sceptics wondered if the new unity government could muster up the economic discipline and political will to stay the financial course.

Among other tasks the country must settle large arrears with multilateral institutions.

For perspective, reporter Patience Rusere turned to independent economist Nhlanhla Nyathi and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Advocacy Officer Gladys Hlatshwayo.

Nyathi said the government should avoid pouring international funding into recurring costs such as public salaries, and dedicate such money to rebuilding infrastructure.

The collapse of the national water delivery and sanitation systems has contributed in great measure to the cholera epidemic that has claimed nearly 4,000 lives and is not over.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe..