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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 12:56 GMT
SA looks for regional stability
Zimbabwe war veterans block road in occupied white-owned farm
The Zimbabwe crisis is affecting the whole region
By Elizabeth Blunt in Blantyre

Heads of state from the Southern African Development Community (or SADC) are facing a somewhat lengthy list of troublesome issues.

We cannot afford an economic collapse in Zimbabwe

Mandisi Mpahlwa, South Africa's Deputy Finance Minister

Their discussions in Malawi will cover civil wars in Angola and the Congo, as well problems surrounding land distribution in Zimbabwe and the tense run-up to the presidential election there.

In one sense Zimbabwe's internal affairs would normally be none of SADC's business, but they are having a profound effect on the whole of the region.

Every nation represented at the summit in Blantyre is well aware that much of southern Africa is in severe crisis.

And in an inter-connected region, where local problems spread quickly, no country is more aware of this than South Africa.

Committed to growth

South Africa's Deputy Finance Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa said that even his country, the strongest economy of all, could not afford to ignore the troubles of its neighbours.

"We've made a commitment as South Africa that it is sensible for us to seek to grow together with our neighbours," he said.

"Because in a sense, if we don't do that, we will end up being an island of success surrounded by... countries that are struggling economically."

Whatever we do, it must be something that seeks to assist

Mandisi Mpahlwa

Mr Mpahlwa was under no illusions as to where that would lead.

"You'll be a magnet that draws people from everywhere else and you might end up not having the capacity to really absorb all of those people," he said.

The minister said it made sense to ensure that countries in the region grew together with their neighbours.

But given that South Africa has close links to both Angola and Zimbabwe - two countries in deep crisis - South Africa faces challenges on several fronts.

"If you were to take... newspapers over the last three to four months, you would find many reasons that have been cited for the depreciation of our currency," Mr Mpahlwa said.

"And Zimbabwe... is one of those reasons that have been given for that depreciation. We cannot afford an economic collapse in Zimbabwe."

The minister said South Africa's approach to its neighbours was informed by the need to prevent what he described as "spillover effects".

"Whatever we do, it must be something that seeks to assist, to assist Zimbabwe rather than precipitate a collapse of the Zimbabwe economy."

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt reports from Blantyre
"For eight hours, the presidents of southern Africa were cossetted behind closed doors"
See also:

18 Dec 01 | Africa
Neighbours back Mugabe
12 Jan 02 | Africa
Mugabe renews attack on Britain
30 Nov 01 | Business
Zambia's manufacturing malaise
24 Nov 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Malawi
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