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Botswana Offers US $70 Million Credit To Restart Zimbabwean Industry

Botswana proposed Thursday to provide a US$70 million credit line to help revive Zimbabwe's industries in line with a Southern African regional initiative to help the country recover from a decade of economic decline now that a unity government has been installed.

A delegation from Gaborone including representatives of Botswana's central bank, Ministry of Finance and export development agency met Thursday in Harare with Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti, following which the industrial credit facility was announced.

Botswana delegation leader Taufila Nyamadzabo, who also met with business people, said conditions would apply to the credit line, but he declined to elaborate on that point.

"We are looking at providing some credit lines for Zimbabwe, especially for industries where there could be mutual benefit such as the steel, leather, pharmaceutical, agro-industries and manufacturing sectors," said Nyamadzabo, secretary for economic and fiscal planning.

Botswana becomes the second SADC member country to make a firm pledge of financial aid to Harare two weeks after a regional summit on reconstruction. South Africa promised 800 million rand in government operating funds and commercial support after the summit.

The Zimbabwean government is seeking an initial US$2 billion to jump start the economy, but eventually hopes to raise as much as US$10 billion.

Finance Minister Biti described Botswana's pledge as "fairly substantial," adding that he was "excited" by the response from abroad coordinated by the African Development Bank.

But Biti told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA"s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the largest potential Western donors may not step forward unless ongoing farm invasions stop and new management is put in place at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

"We as Zimbabweans have to play our part and make sure that we deal with all the smelly and stinking things that are affecting this government, in particular farm invasions must stop and those in detention must be released," Biti declared.

Respect for human rights is one of the main criteria on which potential Western donors are assessing the performance of the national unity government.

Attorney Andrew Makoni of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told VOA that despite the installation of the unity government, officials on the side of the government controlled by President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party continue to violate human rights.

The American Bar Association on Thursday named Makoni international human rights lawyer of the year. Makoni was obliged to flee Zimbabwe last year during the April-June period of post-election political violence because of his work as a rights defender.

Elsewhere, a Zimbabwean-South African agreement on property rights that was supposed to be signed Wednesday failed to garner the requisite signatures because Zimbabwean officials did not show up for the meeting in Polokwane. Sources said Zimbabwean officials withdrew after noticing a clause in the agreement that clashed with the Zimbabwean constitution.

Economic planning minister Elton Mangoma told reporter Gibbs Dube of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that it was simply not possible to go ahead due to the conflict.

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