Zim meltdown worries SA
Johannesburg - South Africa on Wednesday expressed concern over the economic meltdown in neighbouring Zimbabwe, saying it could have fuelled the influx of more than two million illegal immigrants here.
Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad also expressed alarm over the skyrocketing inflation rate in its beleaguered northern neighbour which last week crossed the landmark 1 000% threshold to 1 042.9%.
"We have been concerned about the deteriorating economic situation, where inflation has now reached 1 000%, and the predictions are it can get worse," the SAPA news agency quoted Pahad as saying.
"We remain concerned not only about the effects on the people of Zimbabwe, but the effect on the region as a whole, because Zimbabwe is an important player," he said.
Pahad said the situation in its northern neighbour could have led to more than two million "undocumented" Zimbabweans flooding into South Africa.
"By any standards this is high - even if it's not as much as this, it is high. Our own missions in Zimbabwe are reporting that they are having increasing numbers of people seeking visas to come to South Africa," he said.
Zimbabwe is in the midst of an economic crisis, characterised not only by hyperinflation but also by soaring poverty levels and unemployment, and chronic shortages of fuel and basic goods.
United Nations aid agencies estimate that more than four million people out of a population of 13 million are in need of food aid in Zimbabwe, once southern Africa's breadbasket and an agriculture powerhouse.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is trying to meanwhile resolve a political crisis in Zimbabwe, has come under fire from critics for his so-called policy of "quiet diplomacy" towards President Robert Mugabe.
Mbeki has so far not criticised the octogenarian leader who has led Zimbabwe since it gained independence from Britain in 1980 and is branded as a repressive leader by critics.
Pahad on Wednesday said that South Africa and Zimbabwe were continuing talks on a bail-out loan package as Harare was "going beyond the earlier request for $1.2bn assistance".