By Ray Fleming
MANY people have wondered how Zimbabwe has been able to maintain even a slight semblance of normal life when the currency has virtually collapsed, the institutions of the law and government have been dismantled, and President Mugabe's priority has appeared to be the destruction of city homes and the expulsion of their owners to farm land seized without compensation from white farmers which lacks any kind of the basic amentities of existence. The answer, it seems to be that in fact he is fast losing the ability to keep his country going. Reports from Pretoria say that Mugabe is trying to negotiate a loan of about 570 million pounds to ensure adequate supplies of food, fuel and power in the immediate future. The same reports say that although President Mbeki of South Africa is thinking in terms of only about half the amount sought by Mugabe he is determined that any substantial loan will be accompanied by stringent conditions on political and economic reforms in Zimbabwe, including an immediate halt to the programme of housing demolitions. Mr Mbeki has been criticised by the West for not taking strong action to bring Zimbabwe into democratic line, saying that he preferred the “quiet diplomacy” approach. It is believed that when the South African president was at the recent G8 summit at Gleneagles he met with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Tony Blair who jointly urged him to use his weight to make Mugabe see sense. But perhaps Mr Mbeki has known all along that the day was not far off when President Mugabe would come knocking at his door and asking for a loan, and that he would then be able to impose conditions on any help he offered. There are others interested in a change in Zimbabwean policies; the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are threatenning to expel the country from membership if it fails to make payments on debts of more than £150 mln. We can be confident that Zimbabwe is not on the list of African countries due to benefit from the debt relief agreed at the G8 meeting.

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