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News24

Bodies piling up in fuel crisis

Media24 Africa Service


Harare - Bodies are piling up in Zimbabwe's funeral parlours as the fuel
crisis enters its fourth week and is not sparing any sector.

Harare's major funeral parlours are struggling to get fuel and meet funeral
arrangements for hundreds of bereaved people.

Chomi Makina of Moonlight Funeral Services says: "The situation is bad and
we have been forced to pre-programme our operations.

"Our hearses can't transport bodies and the bereaved to burial places - and,
in some cases, in rural areas - or cemeteries on time.

"We are in the business where trust is the key word and we find ourselves in
the invidious position of going back on our word of being able to deliver on
time."

Makina said the government should chip in and give a special allocation to
funeral parlours since they provided an essential service.

"If we could get a special allocation or first priority at filling stations
it would help, but sometimes hearse drivers are told to join the queue,
while at other filling stations they are allowed to jump the queue only
after pleading.

"As this goes on, bodies will be piling at mortuaries and very soon we face
the real risk of running out of space."

Can't take bodies to final resting place

Officials at the leading funeral parlour in Zimbabwe, Doves Crocker Morgan,
said the fuel shortage had gravely hampered their operations.

One said: "The fuel crisis has not spared our operations because, in this
service, transporting bodies to their final resting places is a major part
of our business."

One bereaved family in Harare's Budiriro suburb said they had been highly
inconvenienced by the failure of one funeral parlour to get fuel.

"We have now gone into the second day without being able to ferry our
relative to Chivu for burial," said Samson Mbasera, whose elderly father had
died. Chivu is about 240km south of Harare.

"And, you must realise that we have been forced to feed two crowds, one
gathered here and the other in Chivu, and this is no joke in these hard
times."

Makina said: "Clients are increasingly getting mad with us, not realising
we, like everyone else, are failing to find fuel."

There is no end in sight for Zimbabwe's fuel crisis which has entered its
forth week.
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Flights Cut

The Herald (Harare)

December 30, 2002
Posted to the web December 30, 2002

Harare

THE national airline, Air Zimbabwe, has lost considerable amounts of money.
Sources said the airline struggled recently to secure accommodation for over
100 passengers, who had confirmed bookings, but could not secure seats from
London to Harare.

Mrs Pamela Hove of Borrowdale said she only managed to fly into Harare after
a four-day delay. The airline's senior public relations manager, Mr David
Mwenga, said the number of passengers affected was much lower than the 100.

"The reason for this is that the visa requirement has reduced the number of
people qualifying to go to the UK. "We had planned for six flights per week
before the visa ruling, but we have had to cut this to only two flights per
week because of reduced business.

"Flights, which used to have a load of between 400 and 450 passengers, are
now attracting less than 150 passengers. "It is therefore, not economic for
us to fly an empty plane to London to pick up passengers from that end. "We
advised customers to seek alternatives elsewhere, but we still had 33 people
who were affected by what you people are calling an over-booking,' he
explained. - Business Reporter.
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BBC
Monday, 30 December, 2002, 12:15 GMT
Journalists face Zimbabwe deadline


Independent journalists in Zimbabwe are in a precarious position as the end of the year approaches.

They have been working under draconian legislation that was introduced at the start of what has been a tense and dangerous 2001.

They have been required by law to register themselves with the government by the end of December if they are to be allowed to practise journalism in Zimbabwe next year.

The legislation holds that journalists publishing falsehoods or undermining the credibility of President Robert Mugabe can be heavily fined or liable to a two-year prison sentence.

In addition, the law requires independent journalists to register with a special government commission.

Delays

So far journalists in the country have been allowed to continue to practise pending the approval of their request for registration but that grace period is expected to expire at the end of this month

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo decides who can be a journalist
And so far the registration process has been plagued by delays.

If journalists are not registered on time, they will be legally obliged to stop work and the entire future of independent journalism in Zimbabwe will be in jeopardy.

Already a number of foreign media organisations, including the BBC, have been banned from the country.

The media bill is being challenged in court by a group of independent journalists, but there is no guarantee that this will change anything.

Zimbabwe this year has degenerated into a desperate state where huge sections of the population face severe food shortages and where political criticism is suppressed.

President Mugabe has cracked down on the media because he believes that a foreign conspiracy is to blame for his country's woes.

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SABC

Foreign based Zimbabweans protest against Mugabe
December 30, 2002, 14:00


About one hundred Zimbabweans are protesting against President
Robert Mugabe's government near the SABC's headquarters in Auckland Park in
Johannesburg.

Jairos Tama, the Concerned Foreign-Based Zimbabwe Nationals
spokesperson, says today's protest marks the end of the year and the
beginning of serious action against Mugabe government. Tama says they're
also celebrating the removal of Kenya's former ruling party, KANU, from
power.

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BBC
Monday, 30 December, 2002, 15:12 GMT
Leading Zimbabwe editor resigns
Zimbabwe protestors
Journalists say the government is gagging the press
The editor-in-chief of Zimbabwe's leading independent daily newspaper, the Daily News, has resigned after a strike by journalists over pay.

The paper, which is believed to have the highest readership in Zimbabwe, has failed to appear for 10 consecutive days.

The editor, Geoff Nyarota, said he was standing down in the interests of the newspaper he helped to found in 1999, but he gave no specific reason for his decision.

The Daily News has been a strong critic of President Robert Mugabe's government.

Mr Nyarota has been arrested several times and has won numerous awards for journalism and press freedom.

"It was not an easy decision. It breaks my heart," he said.

The resignation comes at a precarious position for independent journalists in Zimbabwe with a registration deadline looming.

Deadline fears

They are required by law to register themselves with the government by the end of December if they are to be allowed to practise journalism in Zimbabwe next year.

They have already been working under draconian legislation introduced at the start of the year which holds that journalists publishing falsehoods or undermining the credibility of President Mugabe can be heavily fined or liable to a two-year prison sentence. So far journalists have been allowed to continue to practise pending the approval of their request for registration but that grace period is expected to expire at the end of this month

The registration process has also been plagued by delays.

The BBC's Southern Africa correspondent says that if journalists are not registered on time, they will be legally obliged to stop work and the entire future of independent journalism in Zimbabwe could be in jeopardy.

Already a number of foreign media organisations, including the BBC, have been banned from the country

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Editor at Zimbabwe's only independent newspaper is fired

ASSOCIATED PRESS

HARARE, Zimbabwe, Dec. 30 - The award winning editor of Zimbabwe's only
independent daily newspaper was fired Monday, state radio reported.

The Daily News has not been published for the past nine days because
of the strike.
Nyarota was not immediately available for comment, but he has
suggested the strike may have been instigated by government agents trying to
silence the newspaper.
The increasingly authoritarian government of President Robert Mugabe
has cracked down heavily on the independent press as part of its attempts to
stymie dissent in the troubled southern African country.
In recent months, Nyarota has been repeatedly charged with violating
Zimbabwe's new security and media laws.
A broadcast on state radio, which serves as one of the government's
main mouthpieces, said Nyarota was unpopular among his staff because he had
been trying ''to vilify President Robert Mugabe.''
The radio report also said the newspaper published lies about human
rights and electoral abuses for which Nyarota was ''showered by accolades by
the Western media for his stories, most of which turned out to be untrue.''
Nyarota has won awards for his work from the United Nations, the
World Newspaper Congress, and Human Rights Watch.
In May, Nyarota won the World Association of Newspapers annual press
freedom prize in recognition of his ''outstanding service to the cause of
press freedom in the face of constant persecution.''
Daily News staff members, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
Nyarota was fired by the chairman of the newspaper's board, Sam Nkomo.
Nkomo was not available for comment. He had been recently named in
the paper for being involved in a possibly corrupt construction contract.
Nkomo had had some ties with the ruling party and some board members opposed
his appointment earlier this year, staffers said.
The Daily News and its staff have repeatedly been the target of
harassment.
Its printing presses were destroyed in a bomb attack in December
2000, days after Information Minister Jonathan Moyo described it as an
opposition mouthpiece and a threat to national security. No arrests have
been made in that bombing.
Many of its reporters have been beaten by ruling party militants or
arrested by police.
Since its foundation, The Daily News circulation has outstripped that
of the main government daily, The Herald. But two weeks ago, staffers went
on strike, demanding wage increases of 150 percent.
Mugabe has ruled virtually unchallenged from independence in 1980
until the economy collapsed and political violence erupted over two years
ago.
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From Reuters, 29 December


Zimbabwe widens price controls to include newspapers


Harare - Zimbabwe's government has frozen prices of all newspapers as part
of sweeping controls aimed at curbing soaring inflation in its crisis-hit
economy. The Ministry of Industry and International Trade, in a government
gazette published this weekend, said prices of newspapers, both state- and
privately-owned, would remain at current levels. President Robert Mugabe's
government announced sweeping price controls in early November covering
hundreds of goods and services, from food and fuel to farm machinery, light
bulbs and toilet paper, saying this was necessary to fight inflation. The
list also included newspapers and newsprint but had not set any prices.
Since then, the government has been announcing new prices for various
products and services. Both state and privately-owned newspapers had been
forced to raise prices to offset the cost of soaring newsprint. Some
newspapers are likely to suffer if the government fails to control other
costs such as labour. Staff at the privately-owned Daily News went on strike
before Christmas after the newspaper failed to meet demands for a 150
percent wage rise. The Daily News sells for 100 Zimbabwe dollars, while the
state-owned Herald newspaper costs Z$70 a copy. Prices for other newspapers
range from Z$60 to Z$200 a copy. The measures announced in November came
just days after Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa had said price controls on
other goods set two years ago had not worked because they ignored the impact
of rising input costs. Analysts have said the price controls will not work
and are clear sign of desperation by government as the economy sinks deeper
into crisis. The southern African country is grappling with shortages of
fuel and foreign currency, while nearly half its 14 million people are
hungry due to drought and the upheaval caused by the state seizure of
white-owned farms for black resettlement. Unemployment and inflation are
running at record highs of 70 percent and 175 percent respectively.
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'Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company Edging Towards Collapse'



The Herald (Harare)

December 30, 2002
Posted to the web December 31, 2002

Hama Saburi
Harare

AS operational problems at the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Zisco)
deepen, thousands of people who dependent on it are hoping that the giant
Redcliff steel-maker does not collapse and lead to the creation of yet
another ghost town.

Fears gripping communities around Zisco and employees of one of Africa's
largest steel producers are basically an extension of harsh experiences
endured in other smaller settlements in recent times.

Several mining towns around the country, which were a hive of social and
economic activity in the 1970s and 1980s, have turned into ghost towns
following widespread closures.

In 1994, the country's only tin mine, Kamativi, collapsed. Seven hundred
workers and their 6 000 plus dependents were devastated by the closure.

A few years later, Mhangura Copper Mines and Alaska Mines in Mashonaland
West also suffered the same fate, creating ghost towns, whose future is
still being debated.

Zisco is simply the lifeblood of the small Midlands town of Redcliff and its
demise would jeopardise the future of its 6 000 workers, their families and
many downstream industries.

It would also mean that the payment of rates to the Redcliff town council
would no longer be certain.

Caught in between would be the fiscus (the Government's purse), which will
lose out on revenue. The economy at large though would also lose out through
lost production.

But unlike Alaska and MCM, whose demise was a result of the exhaustion of
mineral deposits, Zisco could cough to a halt because of failure to make
decisions on time.

Analysts say Zisco is edging towards collapse because of a backlog of
decisions that were not executed for no apparent reason.

A record 18 technical studies, with detailed recommendations, were done on
Zisco and yet very little has been done. In some cases, other studies were
merely to verify the validity of findings made by previous decision makers.

Among the studies carried on Zisco is the much-publicised Voest Alpine Study
of 1982; the British Steel Study of 1984; the Booz Alen-USA Market Study of
1986; the Chinese Study CICC, carried out between 1989 and 1990.

In 1985, the British Steel Consultants were recalled to revisit a study they
had conducted ten years back.

But as decision makers hesitated, the cost of rectifying the situation at
Zisco has shot through the roof. At the same time, problems besetting the
company have become more acute.

Zisco is now saddled with debts exceeding $30 billion, with its major
creditors being the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), Wankie Colliery
Company (WCC), the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) and the
Jewel Bank, formerly the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe Limited.

It is estimated that US$250 million ($13,75 billion at the official $55 to
US$1) would be required to put Zisco back on its rails.

Zisco is capable of earning US$105 million ($5,8 billion) every year if it
receives sufficient capital injection.

This is enough to cover Zimbabwe's fuel requirement for three months
considering that the country needs US$40 million ($2,2 billion) to cover its
monthly fuel needs.

Experts said the fact that studies are piling up in Zisco's cupboards
indicates that nobody is prepared to take responsibility in case the revival
of the company goes wrong.

Probably the only notable achievement in reversing the decline at Zisco came
in 1996 when Dr Nathan Shamuyarira was appointed Minister of Industry and
Commerce. The veteran politician scoffed at attempts to institute further
studies.

Dr Shamuyarira and management at Zisco proceeded to repair Ripple Creek Mine
and the Sinter Plant, and embarked on the rehabilitation of Blast Furnace
Number 4. Various schools of thought have now emerged on the way forward
with regard to the deteriorating situation at Zisco.

There are others who believe the current top management and board should be
relieved of their duties. This view is shared by a Parliamentary committee
established to look at the situation at the parastatal.

Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions vice-president Mr Joseph Chinotimba
recently made remarks that seem to support observations made by the
Parliamentary committee, led by flamboyant businessman, Mr Phillip Chiyagwa.

Mr Chinotimba told guest at a Zanu-PF conference held recently that the
ratio of management to staff was almost equal.

In other words, there is need to trim management to acceptable levels.

Mr Chiyangwa said his committee was surprised by the management's decision
to buy a mill for US$3 million against the backdrop of serious financial
problems at Zisco.

Management at Zisco has also failed to remit medical aid contributions
amounting to $120 million, exposing the health status of the workforce.

A group of workers key to the survival of Zisco has also left the company.
For example, 20 employees trained in China to operate Blast Furnace No 4
have already left.

The credibility of the report tabled by Mr Chiyangwa was however, dealt a
heavy blow after some members of the committee distanced themselves from the
document.

This was followed by accusations that some individuals were up to destroying
Zisco for selfish gains and parceling out its units to their cronies.

A spokesperson for Zisco, Ms Fortunate Chikukwa said dismissing management
and the board would worsen problems at the company. Zisco can only recover
if more money is poured into the rehabilitation of the giant steelworks.
There is a solution to Zisco's problems and this must start with a holistic
approach to the issues involved.

"A piece meal approach to Zisco's problems will not be effective. First the
rehabilitation programme must be completed.

"This will put the company's operations into new and current technology that
will allow for improved productivity, improved product quality, reduction of
production costs and open new export market with competitive value added
products," she said.

Ms Chikukwa also called for the authorities to relieve Zisco of its debt so
that it can start to operate on a clean slate.

But this could prove to be a tall order to the Government, which is the
controlling shareholder in Zisco, given the pressing and immediate task of
financing the land reform and importation of maize to avert starvation.

But that Zisco needs to source offshore funding to limit its exposure to
punitive interest rates prevailing locally cannot be over emphasised.

Turnaround strategist and prominent banker, Dr Gideon Gono said the revival
of Zisco should involve synchronising all operations within the company and
the activities of its outside business partners.

Zisco uses electricity from ZESA and heavily relies on NRZ for the
distribution of its products and raw materials.

The company is also dependent on WCC for coal and Sables for chemicals. The
bulk of these companies are also wobbling from a number of problems.

"Mistakes have been made in the past to focus on resources on Zisco alone
and forgetting the inter-linkages that are critical for its success.

"You have to take NRZ's needs and tie them to Zisco's capacity. One cannot
talk of Zisco's requirements without tying them to the needs and well being
of WCC, which supplies coal and ZESA, which supplies electricity. They
should be a co-ordinated arrangement or total approach to the problems at
Zisco, as opposed to an isolated strategy," said Dr Gono.

Dr Gono, who is the managing director of the Jewel Bank, lamented negative
perceptions that have failed Zisco in its efforts to recover. Most investors
develop cold feet when it comes to financing Zisco, but are quite
comfortable with funding other loss-making parastatals.

Zisco has on more than three occasions failed to get offshore funding. An
attempt by the company to raise $500 million locally also fell flat in 1999
when the company only managed to raise $34 million.

But the Government has made the resolve to ensure that Zisco does not die.

About $3,7 billion was set aside in the current national budget to cover
Zisco's debts as well as the requirement of other parastatals. Zisco will
also get $2 billion in the 2003 budget for its rehabilitation programme.

On its part, Zisco has struck a $5,9 billion arrangement with the National
Oil Company of Zimbabwe where the oil procurer would pay for materials and
related power to enable the company to produce cast steel billets for
export. In return, Zisco will pay Noczim in foreign currency from the sales.

Critics however, argue that the steel industry has not been profitable.
Steel companies came in the fold as initiatives by governments to support
sectors such as manufacturing, building and construction, agriculture and
the mining industry.

It was in 1957 that the private sector was invited locally to become part of
Zisco.
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Financial Times

Problems point to 2003 being crunch year for Zimbabwe
By Tony Hawkins
Published: December 30 2002 4:00 | Last Updated: December 30 2002 4:00

"If you think the current food situation is bad, just wait until next
season," says the white farmer's wife. "That's when we'll see a real
disaster."


Her husband, one of Zimbabwe's most successful farmers and president
of the Commercial Farmers' Union in the 1980s, was recently evicted from his
farm. The property used to produce 400,000kg of tobacco annually, along with
flowers, citrus and beef for export, and maize for domestic consumption.
Today it is nearly derelict.

The land has been split into more than 20 plots for "new age" black
farmers, only two of which are occupied. His workforce had been with him for
most of his working life, leaving him with a redundancy bill of Z$60m
(700,000).

As the campaign gathers momentum in England and elsewhere to boycott
six cricket World Cup games scheduled to be played in Zimbabwe next year,
hundreds of commercial farmers across the country have similar stories to
tell. While the government insists that it has broken the mould of white
colonialism and "given the people back their land", even government
ministers are now backing away from claims of a great leap forward in farm
production.

Official figures show some 300,000 to 350,000 people have been
resettled on the 3,000-plus farms acquired from their former owners -
without compensation, although some have been partially paid out for
improvements.

But even Joseph Made, the agriculture minister, is unable to say how
much is being planted and what the 2003 harvest is likely to be. "We only
hope that the new farmers will be able to produce enough grain to feed the
country," he recently told a parliamentary committee.

First-hand assessments by those who have driven through or flown over
the country are near-unanimous: huge areas of former commercially owned land
lie idle.

The Zimbabwe Tobacco Association recently upgraded its forecast for
the coming harvest by 20 per cent to between 80m and 85m kg but this is
still about half the 2002 figure and two-thirds down on 2000's record. The
crop is unlikely to earn more than US$180m (112m), less than half the 2002
level.

Since tobacco normally accounts for 25 to 30 per cent of export
earnings, it is clear that Zimbabwe's import capacity will be squeezed even
more during 2003, especially as beef and horticultural exports, and possibly
also cotton, will fall too, albeit less dramatically.

As exports slide, import demand is increasing - specifically for food.
The Zimbabwe Grain Producers Association (ZGPA) is estimating a 17 per cent
reduction in the area under maize to 1.1m hectares. The combination of
erratic rainfall, severe shortages of seed and fertiliser, and a shift from
high-yielding commercial farming to semi-subsistence production could mean a
crop of only 660,000 tonnes.

This is little more than half of estimated human consumption and 37
per cent of total demand, including livestock requirements. The ZGPA expects
a shortfall of at least 400,000 tonnes in the current season ending next
March. As a result, Zimbabwe will have to import upwards of 1.6m tonnes of
maize during 2003.

In their recent assessment of the regional food supply situation, the
International Monetary Fund and World Bank warned that prospects for 2003
were "very poor". They estimate food production has fallen to one third of
previous years' levels while the prevalence of HIV/ Aids, foreign exchange
shortages and growing unemployment have exacerbated shortages.

The World Food Programme defines some 6.7m Zimbabweans - more than
half the population - as "food insecure". But by the end of last month, aid
agencies had reached only 2.2m people, and current food aid stocks can feed
less than half of those in need.

In its December report, the USAid-funded Famine Early Warning Systems
Network said food security was "still critical in most rural areas".

As well as the staple maize meal, people queue for bread, sugar,
cooking oil and salt. But with food price inflation of 21.5 per cent last
month and 235 per cent over the past year, fewer and fewer can afford to buy
what they need. Predictably, across-the-board government price controls are
being either ignored or bypassed via a booming black market.

While some of this deepening catastrophe can be laid at the door of
last season's drought - and a widely forecast poor rainfall season in
2002-03 - analysts say President Robert Mugabe's government must shoulder
much of the blame. As one bank economist puts it: "Interest rates, the
exchange rate, the budget, price controls, land resettlement - you name it,
the government has got it wrong."

As the problems pile up, 2003 increasingly has the look of a crunch
year. Threatened cricket boycotts notwithstanding, Mr Mugabe's statements
and demeanour suggest that for him, at least, change is not on the agenda.
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