SADC announces new mechanism for delivering urgent aid to Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's neighbours in the Southern African Development Community on Wednesday announced a new mechanism for delivering urgent humanitarian aid to the crisis-hit southern African country, reported dpa.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, whose country currently chairs SADC, said financial and material aid would be channeled through a new structure called the Zimbabwe Humanitarian and Development Assistance Framework (ZHDAF).

The ZHDAF, which would be non-partisan, would be comprised of government, non-profit organizations, religious leaders and agricultural unions, he told a press conference at government buildings in Pretoria.

Every member of the 15-nation grouping was expected to contribute to ZHDAF "in accordance with (their) resources and capabilities."

All parties to Zimbabwe's political impasse, including autocratic President Robert Mugabe, supported the initiative, he said.

"President Mugabe accepts also that the situation is very dire and that the people of Zimbabwe need assistance to relieve them of the deprivation they've had to endure for some time," Motlanthe said.

The severe cholera outbreak that has killed around 1,000 people since August had compounded an "already bad situation," characterized by serious food shortages, he said.

Over 3 million Zimbabweans are in need of food aid, a number expected to exceed 5 million by early 2009.

Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis has accelerated in recent months in the absence of a legitimate government.

Mugabe's Zanu-PF has been in negotiations with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) about the formation of a unity government for three months since signing a power-sharing agreement in September.

Motlanthe said he was optimistic that the new government would be in place by the end of the week after a constitutional amendment giving effect to the September deal was gazetted by government.

The MDC has however vowed to block the amendment's passage through parliament until all of its concerns about sharing power with Mugabe are addressed.

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