HARARE – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on President Emmerson Mnangagwa to “collaborate peacefully” with opposition rivals, as it ruled out any immediate resumption of lending to Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is in a “difficult situation”, the IMF said.

“We encourage all stakeholders to collaborate peacefully. I think that’s the word I would want to stress, is ‘peacefully’,” IMF communications director Gerry Rice said during a briefing with reporters on February 7.

Rice was responding to a question about a crackdown by security forces which followed nationwide fuel protests on January 14.

Rice called on Mnangagwa and his government to “try to develop policies that will stabilise the economy and promote sustainable and inclusive growth”, adding: “It’s clearly a very difficult situation there in Zimbabwe and we recognise that.”

He said Zimbabwe, which cleared its 15-year debt with the IMF in 2016, must clear its other obligations before it can be considered for lending.

“Zimbabwe has cleared, indeed, its arrears to the IMF. But arrears remain outstanding to other multilateral creditors including the World Bank and that severely limits Zimbabwe’s access to international financial support. Although Zimbabwe has no arrears to the IMF, our rules would preclude lending given the arrears to other financial institutions,” Rice said.

Zimbabwe owes $687 million to the African Development Bank, $1.4 billion to the World Bank and $322 million to the European Investment Bank.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has anchored his plan for economic recovery on clearing Zimbabwe’s international debts to unlock new funding, but that was before the government unleashed troops to quell unrest on the streets after Mnangagwa decreed a 168 percent fuel price increase.

Human rights groups say at least 17 people have been killed, over 600 brutalised and more than 1,000 arrested in the ongoing operation by security forces which has drawn international outrage.

Harriet Baldwin, Britain’s Minister for Africa, said last week they would vote against any lending to Zimbabwe.

“The idea that we would step up to the plate and say ‘look guys, the government is doing this to its own citizens, shooting them with live ammunition, a range of other egregious violations, and you know what, the UK is really happy to argue that now is the time for them to be helped with their international arrears’; you may push back on this, but I find that a very difficult political case to make,” Baldwin said February 5.