Heads of state of the Southern African Development Community will meet on Monday, March 30, to discuss the regional grouping's role in funding the reconstruction of Zimbabwe, which has asked its neighbors to collectively come up with US$2 billion.
A spokesman for the South African Foreign Ministry, Ronnie Mamoepa, said Monday that the regional leaders will seek to decide on the package urgently needed by the new national unity government in Harare to resurrect a moribund economy and meet social needs.
The Zimbabwean government has put a US$5 billion price tag on a more ambitious program to rebuild the country's water and sanitation systems and other key infrastructure pieces.
But the United States, Britain and other Western countries have said they are not ready to provide development assistance without more convincing evidence that the government in Harare has committed itself to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
As for regional powerhouse South Africa, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel has signaled that Pretoria is feeling the impact of the global downturn and urged the Western powers to get involved despite their reservations about the power-sharing government in Harare.
Manuel said in an interview published by Britain's Observer newspaper on Sunday that while a "fundamental set of issues...needs to be addressed by Harare," the government led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in partnership with the long-ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe should be "afforded the opportunity to make a difference."
Political analyst John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe cautioned reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that good intentions among SADC members might not translate into funds as most of them lack the means to back a major bailout.