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Tsvangirai seeks to ease doubts in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday sought to overcome worries about the country's unity government insisting that restoring the rule of law was a top priority.
"Only through restoration of the rule of law can we remove the uncertainy of doing business in Zimbabwe and restore investor confidence," Tsvangirai told a gathering of executives on the sidelines of a trade show in the city of Bulawayo.
His speech was part of a major push to ease doubts about the power-sharing deal with President Robert Mugabe, as Finance Minister Tendai Biti headed to Washington for an International Monetary Fund meeting on Zimbabwe next week.
The government is seeking 8.5 billion dollars over three years to revive the economy that has been shattered by a decade of hyperinflation, but major donors have said they want Mugabe to show concrete signs of reform.
Human Rights Watch said yesterday that donors should withhold development aid until Zimbabwe improves its rights record by cracking down on violence on white-owned farms and ending police intimidation and arrests of activists.
"Humanitarian aid that focuses on the needs of Zimbabwe's most vulnerable should continue," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at the US-based group.
"But donor governments such as the UK should not release development aid until there are irreversible changes on human rights, the rule of law, and accountability," she said in a statement.
The unity government installed in February, after nearly a year of political turmoil stemming from disputed elections, has taken some steps to halt the economic collapse.
The local currency has been abandoned, after it was left worthless by astronomical levels of hyperinflation. Price controls and import restrictions have been lifted, meaning food has returned to store shelves.
But most Zimbabweans have no way of buying food. Unemployment is an estimated 94 percent and more than half the population depends on international food for survival.
Teachers and doctors returned to work only after the government promised to try to seek aid to improve salaries.
Teachers say their patience is wearing thin with their 100 dollar monthly salaries, and are threatening to strike from Monday unless they receive an increase.
"There has not been any concrete response to address the issue of teachers salaries," Tendai Chikowore, president of the Zimbabwe Teachers' Association told AFP.
In Tsvangirai's speech, he tried to reassure potential investors but offered no concrete measures to improve confidence. "The uncertain political climate over the past decade has created a negative image of the country internationally," Tsvangirai said.
"Restoring the rule of law is both a moral imperative and business necessity," he said.
"The rule of law is the catalyst that provides the foundation of confidence for contractual dealings and investor activity without which no economy can run effectively."
Deputy premier Arthur Mutambara has launched an investigation into violence on the farms, which were once the backbone of the economy but have devastated by Mugabe's chaotic land reforms.
So far Mutambara has not announced any steps to curb the violence.
Tsvangirai spoke at the launch of a trade fair meant to lure investors to Zimbabwe, but no major international firms are attending. Most of the foreign business leaders came from South Africa, with a few from China, Indonesia and Malaysia.

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