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congo government pressured by zimbabwe






  1. Financial Gazette (Harare)

    January 9, 2003
    Posted to the web January 9, 2003

    Staff Reporter
    Harare

    THE government is pressing the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to pay part of the $100 billion Zimbabwe spent on the DRC's four-year civil war in foreign currency in a bid to boost the country's hard cash resources, it was learnt this week.

    Government officials said the Zimbabwean ministerial delegation that visited the DRC last November had tabled the proposal to the Congolese because of the country's biting fuel crisis.

    "Various ways were discussed on commercial deals which can be implemented by the two governments (to settle the debt)," an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Financial Gazette.

    "One option Zimbabwe has tabled is to have compensation of the war effort paid in foreign currency to help pay for our fuel bill."

    Officials in the Ministry of Finance, which has been involved in negotiations on the DRC war debt, could not comment on the matter yesterday.

    Contacted on his mobile phone, the ministry's permanent secretary, Nicholas Ncube, said he was attending a funeral and was unable to discuss the issue.

    Energy and Power Development Minister Amos Midzi declined to comment, saying he was "busy attending to pressing issues".

    Sources however said the Zimbabwean government had received no response to their proposals from Kinshasa, which wants to compensate Zimbabwe through timber and diamond concessions.

    The sources said representatives of the DRC government had told the Harare officials at the November meeting that the onus was on Zimbabwe to ensure that the concessions the country was granted became operational.

    They said the proposal made to the DRC was only one of several options the Zimbabwean government was considering to pay its fuel bill after a procurement deal with Libya failed to halt the country's liquid fuel crisis.

    Zimbabwe needs about US$45 million a month to meet its fuel requirements, but has been unable to raise the money because of a hard cash squeeze, which has adversely affected business and the country's public transport system.

    Official sources said the country's fuel shortages had worsened in the past few weeks because President Robert Mugabe had been advised against acceding to demands by Libya to barter fuel for the national oil-pipeline at Feruka and storage depots in Masasa.

    Libya emerged as the country's main liquid energy supplier after a deal in which the North African country supplied Zimbabwe with fuel on preferential terms in exchange for investment opportunities.

    According to government sources, the Libyans had initially been interested in ventures in the hotel, tourism, farming and financial sectors, before further casting their eyes on key Zimbabwean fuel assets.

    Sources say government and National Oil Company of Zimbabwe officials had advised Mugabe against endorsing further demands that they described as "outrageous".

    "President Robert Mugabe was advised that it was improper to let the Libyans get the pipeline and depots as they had been demanding because those are of national strategic and security importance," a government official told the Financial Gazette. "That was the hitch."

    Analysts this week said the government was under pressure to quickly resolve the fuel crisis, which has been cited as one of the key factors affecting the viability of local businesses.

    The Matabeleland Chamber of Industries this week warned that the fuel crisis was one of the reasons that could forced half of its 75 members out of business in the first quarter of this year.


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