Zim delivers fuel to repay Malawi loan

HARARE - Zimbabwe has delivered two million litres of fuel to Malawi in part payment of a $24 million loan Harare owes Lilongwe for maize supplies.

National Oil Company of Malawi chief executive, Robert Mdeza, confirmed the development on Saturday saying: “All the 17 tankers are already in the country and the rest will come in next week.”

Mdeza said the delivery comprised diesel only and added that there was another 10 to 15 million litres still outstanding to pay up the loan.

“We can’t know for sure what is remaining because prices of fuel change everyday,” he added.

The late Malawian leader, Bingu wa Mutharika, supplied maize to help Zimbabwe address biting shortages of the staple cereal in 2007 and did not press his close friend, President Robert Mugabe, for payment.

But Mutharika’s successor Joyce Banda dispatched her energy minister to Harare to push for payment as Malawi reeled from an economic crisis characterised by acute foreign currency shortages that led to fuel shortages.

The crisis was triggered by a fall-out with Western donors who either suspended or cut-back support to protest what they described as deteriorating economic and political conditions under Mutharika.

Banda has since moved to repair relations with key donors and, although the United Kingdom, IMF and the World Bank have since resumed support, the country’s foreign currency situation is still to normalise.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear how Zimbabwe, which faces its own financial constraints with donors holding onto their purse-strings, is managing to repay the loan.

Finance minister Tendai Biti recently said the government was stung by a $400 million budget black hole with the money required for various key expenditures before year-end. — New Zimbabwe

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