South Africa denied Zimbabwe $1.2bn loan request

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SOUTH Africa declined a request from its southern African neighbour Zimbabwe for a $1.2bn loan in December, a spokesman for the finance ministry said on Monday.

‘South Africa does not have that kind of money,’ National Treasury spokesman Jabulani Sikhakhane said.

Zimbabwean officials were not immediately available for comment.

Zimbabwe was hit by anti-government protests last week after a hike in fuel prices stoked anger over an economic crisis.

Police say three people died during demonstrations that turned violent in the capital Harare and second city Bulawayo. However human rights groups say evidence suggests that at least a dozen were killed.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Sunday that he would return home from a European tour and skip the World Economic Forum in Davos to address the crisis.

In a related development, Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa has dismissed rumours that a coup is being planned after a week of violent protests against massive fuel-price increases.

‘The president is aware of whispers of a “palace coup” brewing amidst the current turmoil persisting in the country,’ Bloomberg quoted Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba as saying on Twitter on Monday.

‘We as an elected administration tend not to acknowledge trivia. It is prudent of the administration to clear the air.’

Mnangagwa is expected to return to Zimbabwe after visiting Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan in an effort to drum up investment for his economically crippled nation.

Demonstrations erupted on January 14 when the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called a three-day strike to protest a 150 percent hike in the price of diesel and gasoline.

Meanwhile lawyers and a media-advocacy group on Monday asked the high court to declare the shutdown of the internet illegal after the government blocked access to most social-media services last week.

The shutdown has caused loss of business and income and threats to life, according to the urgent application filed on Monday by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Zimbabwe unit of the Media Institute of Southern Africa.

The legal action is directed at the three mobile networks operating in the country, including Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the national security minister and the head of the intelligence services.

The country’s biggest mobile-phone operator Econet said last week that Facebook, WhatsApp, Youtube and Twitter had been blocked on government instructions. A spokesperson at Econet’s Johannesburg office said on January 18 that the company could not respond to criticism in Zimbabwe or on social media.

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