Zim P500m loan on course — Botswana

HARARE - Botswana says it will soon disburse the P500m loan it promised Zimbabwe in 2009.

Dorcas Makgato-Malesu, Botswana’s Trade and Industry minister, last Friday told businessdaily that responsible authorities have finally ironed out security issues and other outstanding matters.

“The two (countries’) Finance ministers have had some minor things to sort out,” she said.

“They were just small things to do with security and all but I can safely say it will be out soon,” said Makgato-Malesu on the sidelines of a Women’s University fundraising dinner.

Botswana pledged the money four years ago in the aftermath of Zimbabwe’s power-sharing deal between long-time rivals, President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The loan was part of  Sadc’s commitment to support Zimbabwe’s Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme.

Under the same bail-out facility, South Africa (SA) pledged $100m while Angola promised $50m.

But Zimbabwe is yet to receive the funds.

Makgato-Malesu’s assurances come amid worries or speculation that Zimbabwe has failed to unlock the loans extended to it by regional countries due to high country risk, political discord and policy inconsistencies in the unity government.

In November, former SA Finance minister Trevor Manuel stressed that his country did not want to throw money at bad policies in Zimbabwe.

Makgato-Malesu, however, dismissed the talk that her government has delayed disbursing the P500 loan to Zimbabwe due to an uncertain political environment.

“I can confidently say that is mere speculation. The delay has nothing to do with elections or the political situation but those (security) issues I have stated,” she said.

Recently, Zimbabwe and Botswana ratified the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection agreement (Bippa) to meet demands by the business community hence paving way for the loan’s release through local commercial banks.

Botswana officials are on record saying the two governments have already agreed on terms and conditions of the lines of credit, which include interest rates, repayment period, arrangement charges, guarantee fees and loan thresholds per project.

According to Botswana, 70 percent of the facility would be earmarked for the manufacturing sector while other sectors would share the remaining 30 percent.

On the SA loan, Economic Planning and Investment Promotion ministry’s permanent secretary Desire Sibanda last month told businessdaily that they set to meet South African authorities this April to discuss, among other issues, the $100 million loan promised by the latter four years ago.

Sibanda said the Zimbabwean delegation will be in SA to also ratify the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa), which is key in the country accessing the loan.

“I cannot say much about the $100 million loan but, it is one of the issues on our agenda when we get to South Africa,” he said adding, he remained hopeful Pretoria will release the funds.

In 2009, South Africa (SA) pledged the money to help its neighbour restart her economy — battered by a decade-long crisis.

Currently, Zimbabwe is struggling to access funding from multi-lateral lenders such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) due to perceived country risk and a huge domestic and foreign debt.

The country owes IMF in excess of $10bn. - Wendy Muperi

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