Thursday, June 14, 2007
By Kingsley Kaswende in Cape Town
Thursday June 14, 2007 [11:44]
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has given us hope that a positive solution will be found for his country, foreign affairs minister Mundia Sikatana has said. And Bank of Zambia governor Dr Caleb Fundanga has said Zambia is not celebrating Zimbabwe's woes but is rather suffering with the neighbour. Sikatana was responding to a question on what Zambia was doing to help resolve the problems in Zimbabwe at a private dinner for Zambia, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Africa.
He said Zambia would embrace fully the SADC approach, which has mandated South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate for truce in Zimbabwe. Zambia will take over the chair of SADC in August and the foreign affairs minister said Zambia would put Zimbabwe high on the SADC agenda.
"We are positive that sooner than later things in Zimbabwe will improve. We are given this confidence because the SADC meeting that met in Tanzania was able to bring to the same summit Mr Mugabe, who has given us hope thata things will change and change for the better," Sikatana said.
"Zambia is a neighbour of Zimbabwe and neighbourhood under that relationship is not by choice. It is God and His nature that have made it possible for us to be neighbours and we intend to remain so. We are the first to get concerned if our neighbour has a problem. Fortunately, we have SADC that has made it possible for President Thabo Mbeki to be appointed to oversee efforts that are intended to normalise the situation in Zimbabwe."
Sikatana said it was not a secret that Zambia was affected by the situation in Zimbabwe because of the bond that existed between the two countries.
"When there are critical shortages in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabweans trek to Zambia. In fact it is the reverse of what used to happen. Zambia usually had shortages of essential commodities and we were trekking to Zimbabwe," he said.
Sikatana said now that Zambia was doing better than Zimbabwe, it was an opportunity to help. "We appeal to everybody in the region to assist Zimbabwe get back to normal and we do hope we'll work together with SADC to continue efforts to normalise the situation in Zimbabwe.
The country has been crippled by sanctions by western countries, which have seen economic deterioration and world record inflation at over 3000 per cent.
And Dr Fundanga said contrary to reports that Zambia was benefiting from Zimbabwe's woes, the two countries were suffering together.
"I have heard some people say that Zimbabwe is in problems and Zambian tourism is benefiting. The opposite is true," he said.
"If your neighbour is doing well, you also do well. If your neighbour is sick, you'll also be sick."
Dr Fundanga said Zimbabwe was one of the strongest economies in the region until the start of its problems.
He said once the problems are resolved, Zimbabwe's agriculture and industries would start producing as they did in the past because the infrastructure was still intact.