Pretoria - South Africa is always willing and ready to assist Zimbabwe at any time that the authorities request assistance, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Thursday.
"Insofar as Zimbabwe is concerned, we stand very ready at all times to assist the people of Zimbabwe. We have had a very long standing relationship with the people of Zimbabwe from the time we were in the struggle," said Sisulu.
"At any time they need our assistance, they are able to request our assistance."
Sisulu, however, said Pretoria cannot play big brother to Harare, and waits for the neighbouring country bedevilled with massive economic challenges, cash shortages and food scarcity to ask for the specific aid.
"We would not be able to go to Zimbabwe and say here is a bag of whatever and you will have it. I think international relations depends on reciprocity," she said.
"As and when Zimbabwe requests our support in anything, we will be able to provide them with that support, fully. We wish the people of Zimbabwe well. It's a country that we regard as a friend, and we would like some stability there. We would like the economic reforms that have been put in place to succeed there."
Sisulu emphasised that if Zimbabwe requests help, South Africa would be "too happy to assist".
Fuel shortages have intensified across Zimbabwe as long queues formed at service stations that selling the commodity amid widespread panic-buying of basic goods blamed on government’s new austerity measures.
On Thursday, human rights lawyers in Zimbabwe said police arrested dozens of trade union activists ahead of a planned protest in Harare as tensions simmer over the economic downturn -- the worst in a decade according to analysts.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said police arrested members of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) -- the country’s largest trade union.
Zimbabwe has been battling a cholera outbreak blamed on damaged water pipes, and broken sewerage systems have been in urgent need of repair for more then a decade.
Several shops in Harare have put up "closure signs" on their doors as the cash crunch deepens, signalling a worsening of the economic crisis epitomised by the return of fuel shortages last seen eight years ago.
Earlier this week, clothing store Edgars, eatery Teta, fast food outlets KFC and St Elmos Zimbabwe, as well as Corky's Pub and Grill, all warned customers they were shutting up shop.
African News Agency/ANA