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Zimbabwe to delay new currency launch - report

Reuters

Sun 4 Nov 2007, 9:50 GMT

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's central bank has deferred the introduction of
a new currency until next year to focus on improving the supply of basic
goods after a June price freeze ignited panic buying which emptied shop
shelves.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono said last month the launch of
a new currency would be "very soon" and warned dealers against holding cash
outside the bank system.

But in an interview with the state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper, Gono said
the launch would have to wait until the supply of goods improved.

"Although all the preparations (for introducing new currency) are in place,
the launch is not until next year," Gono told the weekly.

"For the people of Zimbabwe, the current battle is ensuring survival through
the ability to get basic goods and services at affordable and yet viable
prices," said Gono.

Gono -- who at time has criticised President Robert Mugabe's government's
economic policies -- has warned the country against returning to the
"anarchy" triggered by the price cuts.

The price freeze led to a slowdown in inflation in August. But the figure
shot to a record 7,900 percent in September and analysts see it surging
further as companies continue to hike prices to keep production up.

The central bank says a new currency would curtail rampant black market
trade in foreign exchange and help fight the world's highest inflation rate.


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Magistrates, prosecutors' strike set to continue

Zim Online

Monday 05 November 2007

Own Correspondents

HARARE - A strike by Zimbabwean magistrates and prosecutors demanding better
pay that began last week is set to continue today after the striking workers
failed to reach agreement with the government over the weekend.

The strike, that began last Tuesday, has paralysed Zimbabwe's judicial
system after prosecutors and other support staff joined the strike to press
for better salaries and working conditions.

Zimbabwe's judiciary has over the past eight years struggled to remain
functional amid an unprecedented eight-year economic crisis described by the
World Bank as the worst in the world outside a war zone.

A prosecutor who refused to be named for fear of victimization said at the
weekend that the strike was set to continue this morning after prosecutors
and magistrates turned down a new salary offer from the government last
Friday.

"We were addressed on Friday afternoon by the permanent secretary in the
Justice Ministry, David Mangota. He promised us that the government would
push our salaries to between Z$80 - $90 million a month.

"But we rejected the salary offer with some people demanding to see the
money in their accounts first before they could return to work. We can't
work on promises. Unless something dramatic happens tomorrow (Monday), the
strike will continue," he said.

In a stinging rebuke of President Robert Mugabe's government earlier this
year, Judge President Rita Makarau openly accused the Harare authorities of
undermining the judiciary by starving it of resources.

Makarau said the government had reduced the judiciary to "begging for
sustenance," a situation she said had almost crippled the justice delivery
system in Zimbabwe.

The Judge President said court libraries were barely functional while judges
and magistrates had to operate without basic computers and stationery.

The crisis in the judiciary appears to have boiled over last week after
magistrates and prosecutors embarked on the strike to demand better pay.

The lowest paid magistrate earns about $20 million a month, while provincial
magistrates earn around Z$28 million a month.

The magistrates and prosecutors say the salaries are still too low, given
the fact that the poverty datum line (breadline) is estimated at around Z$21
million a month for a family of five.

Zimbabwe has over the past eight years been gripped by a debilitating
economic crisis shown by the world's highest inflation rate of nearly 8 000
percent, shortages of food, hard cash and just about every basic survival
commodity.

The economic meltdown, critics blame on state mismanagement, has also seen
President Robert Mugabe's government scrounging for cash to pay for
day-to-day operations. - ZimOnline


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Good news from Zimbabwe, at last

Zim Online

Monday 05 November 2007

By Justin Muponda

HARARE - Statistics never quite make much sense these days in Zimbabwe. From
figures showing rapid economic decline to figures showing the number of
hungry people in the country rising, Zimbabweans are used to such depressing
data confirming that things can only get worse.

But last week the government announced that the country's HIV prevalence
rate had dropped sharply this year to 15.6 percent from 18.1 percent,
putting smiles on a population grappling with an economic crisis described
by the World Bank as the worst in the world outside a war zone.

"I think as far as I can remember this is the first piece of good news in a
while and it is good that we have something positive from the media," said
Tafadzwa Chinyani, an accountant with a Harare food manufacturer.

Zimbabwe is at the centre of an AIDS pandemic that is estimated by the
United Nations and World Health Organisation to kill two million people
every year in sub-Saharan Africa, 140 000 of them in Zimbabwe.

Despite a choking economic depression, the southern African country is
showing the way in the fight against the scourge, thanks largely to
government and donor awareness campaigns, focusing on prevention, condom use
and reduction of multiple sex partners.

More people in the country are voluntarily getting tested for HIV,
especially the youths before marriage as a measure against the scourge that
continues to take away the most productive population.

The country's economic crisis is magnified by world record inflation rate of
nearly 8 000 percent, growing unemployment, crumbling infrastructure and
rising poverty levels, all fertile ground for the spread of HIV/AIDS.

International donors have pulled out of Zimbabwe after clashing with
President Robert Mugabe over his controversial policies especially the
seizure of prime white-owned farmland to redistribute among landless blacks
in a bid to address imbalances brought about by century-long colonial rule.

This has hit the government's ability to provide anti-retroviral drugs to
HIV/AIDS patients but the same donors continue to pour their funds directly
into non-governmental organisations HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.

As the economic crisis bites, girls and women - traditionally marginalised
from the economy - are at greater risk of contracting HIV/AIDS as some turn
to prostitution for survival. Women make half of those affected by the
pandemic.

Yet, against all these odds, Zimbabwe is one of the few countries in
sub-Saharan Africa recording a decline in HIV prevalence.

"Ours is a miracle story of sorts because ordinarily poverty and HIV/AIDS do
tend to co-exist. But it is a fact that women feel the pressure more but I
think because of the high level of awareness, there is also a high level of
protection especially condom use," an official from a local AIDS group said.

The government has been humble in its response, saying the drop in
prevalence was no cause for celebration yet as it targets to bring the
prevalence rate to single digit levels and ramp up access to anti-retroviral
therapy.

"We should caution ourselves that this is still an alarming figure that we
must address," Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said when officially
announcing† the figures last week.

Official statistics show that the number of people dying of AIDS each week
was down to 2 214 from a peak of 2 500 in the late 1990s, when one in four
Zimbabweans was infected. One in seven people are now infected.

Officials say 86 000 people are on anti-retroviral treatment while 260 000
people who need the treatment have no access out of a total 1.3 million
infected Zimbabweans.

Despite the country being rated as having the world's highest percentage of
children orphaned by AIDS - with one in four children having lost at least
one parent to the disease - Zimbabwe continues to lead in the care of the
orphans and vulnerable children, thanks to a traditional extended family
system. -ZimOnline


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Populist policies haunt Zimbabwe central bank chief

Zim Online

Monday 05 November 2007

Own Correspondent

JOHANNESBURG - The chickens are coming home to roost for Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono as years of populist monetary policies
come back to haunt the central bank chief, analysts said.

After four years of ill-conceived policies, often introduced to appease the
political leadership of the country, Gono - tasked by President Robert
Mugabe to resuscitate Zimbabwe's comatose economy - is beginning to pay for
the extravagance of his four-year term at the helm of the central bank.

Gono announced at the weekend that the central bank was shelving the
introduction of a new currency initially set for this year, arguing that the
bank first wanted to address bottlenecks in the supply of goods and services
before the launch now set for next year.

The central bank chief had last month - the second time since last January -
announced plans to phase out bearer cheques currently in circulation and
replace them with a new currency.

Bearer cheques are promissory notes which were first introduced by the
central bank at the height of cash shortages four years ago. Bearer cheques
are used in the same way as money.

The introduction of the new currency for the economically troubled southern
African nation is the next phase of Gono's monetary reforms dubbed Project
Sunrise Two.

But the central bank has twice so far developed cold feet on the new
currency, blaming the deteriorating economy for the latest hesitation.

According to consultant economist John Robertson, Gono is caught between a
rock and a hard place and would have to move faster to stem further
deterioration of economic conditions or risk completely losing the war on
the economy.

Robertson agreed with Gono that introducing the new currency would not be a
wise move and said the central bank chief must seriously act on the runaway
inflation as the first step to normalising the economic climate and
improving the supply of goods.

"However, you cannot beat inflation while you continue to print money to
finance unproductive activities and while you continue to suffer foreign
exchange shortages. These are issues that the governor must address first
before any talk about normalizing the situation and launching the new
currency," Robertson said.

Gono has been accused by economists and the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) for the RBZ's quasi-fiscal activities that have seen the bank pumping
trillions of Zimbabwe dollars into financing newly resettled black farmers,
most of whom are ruling ZANU PF party supporters and have failed to produce
enough food to feed the nation.

Once one of Africa's food-baskets, Zimbabwe has perennially faced food
shortages since Mugabe violently ejected former white farmers from their
land in 2000.

The country is now a net importer of food, with more than four million
people feared to be in need of food aid between now and the next harvest
expected around March 2008.

The analysts said Gono was paying the ultimate price for "selling his soul"
to Mugabe's land reform crusade.

"He is now caught in a net that he himself willingly helped to cast because
everything that they are now trying to adjust right now is the culmination
of years of bad policies that started with the appointment of Gono as
governor of the reserve bank in December 2003," said a Harare-based
investment banker who refused to be named for professional reasons.

The investment banker said launching the new currency would be the toughest
challenge ever faced by the central bank governor since his appointment. -
ZimOnline


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Tin of beans

cathybuckle.com

4th November 2007

Dear Family and friends,
I am writing this letter by candlelight and with battery power and do not
know how long either will last. It has been a very harrowing week with
electricity cuts of 16 hours every day in my home town and apparently in
many other areas of the country too. The week has culminated in a marathon
where we've had just 35 minutes of electricity in the past 38 hours.

Basic survival really has been uppermost in our minds and our activities
this week and there is an air of exhaustion and a feeling of exasperation in
the streets. Food in fridges and freezers has gone bad; precious dairy
produce is ruined; geysers have gone cold, clothes are un-ironed and
nutrition has been pushed to the limits. All our ingenious recipes for home
made bread, vegetables stews and bulked up soups and porridge have either
gone unmade or been tainted with smoke and debris from our outside cooking
fires.

There seems no limit to the hardship and struggle of life in Zimbabwe. Just
as we get through one crisis another great trial is waiting to test us and
see if this one will be the straw the breaks the camels back. We've survived
4 months of shops without food and there is very little improvement to
report. There is still no bread, flour, rice, pasta, biscuits, beans,
cereals. oil, margarine, sugar or salt. This week strangely enough there
were baked beans in one local supermarket but they were 1.2 million dollars
a tin - five hundred times more than the cost of a four bedroomed house on
an acre of land in 2001.

The latest product to disappear from sight is toilet paper and most daily
toiletries are close behind. Going into a string of pharmacies this week I
struggled to find a tube of locally made and well known antiseptic cream.
Eventually I found some but it had been 'repackaged' - spoonfuls had been
scooped into little plastic pill bottles and each was selling for almost
half a million dollars.

I guess you have to see life on the streets of Zimbabwe to really get the
feel for the struggle of everything, and for the irony and simplicity of it
too. In a local bank I gave up counting when I got to 78 - that was the
number of people queuing to withdraw money. A few blocks away four little
poppets stood on the pavement with their newly checked out library books
carefully wrapped in old plastic shopping bags. They gleefully showed each
other their books: Doctor Seuss, Enid Blyton, The Wind in The Willows, The
Hardy Boys. A man walked past carrying two bottles of milk and a small pink
plastic cup. He was selling the milk by the cupful to people passing by -
health and hygiene not a factor. Further along outside a big but empty
supermarket was a smart, silver, double- cab Isuzu truck. Two brand new
bicycles still wrapped in plastic lay in the back of the truck. Clothes from
the dry cleaner, on a coat hanger and wrapped in plastic hung inside the
car. The owner appeared in a smart dark suit and people looked, looked again
and then looked away. Everyone knew who he was, this man who has made
himself rich and famous by wearing a grass hat and invading commercial
farms - chasing farmers and their workers out of their homes and off their
land. You have to wonder, if he ever wonders if his activities on those
farms had anything to do with the state of the country now, or if he too
blames the world, the west and sanctions.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.


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SA's Little Zimbabwe bears a heavy load

From The Sunday Argus (SA), 4 November

Traders happy as sales are up - but so is crime

Fiona Forde

'We call it 'Little Zimbabwe' now," says Musina man John Nchabeleng. "You
can't move around here any more without bumping into a Zimbabwean. They're
everywhere." For many, their presence is a godsend, pushing trade to levels
not seen in these parts for a long time. Over at the local 92-bed public
hospital, I told the receptionist I was looking for a family friend from
Zimbabwe whom I believed was a patient there. "Do you have a name?" he
asked. "I believe he's using a false name," I explained. "Just go through to
the medical ward. There are some in there," the man replied in a blasť
manner. Staff at the hospital say for every one South African patient there
are two, if not three, Zimbabweans occupying a public bed today. In the
maternity unit on Wednesday night, there were four Zimbabwean women and
three South Africans preparing to give birth.

Throughout last month, 98 babies were born at the Musina hospital, 60% of
which were born to Zimbabwean mothers, according to one medic who asked not
to be named. Little wonder they are calling it Little Zimbabwe today. "It's
become a big, big problem," a second medic says. "It's not just that they
are crowding the hospital, but they are carrying the drug-resistant form of
TB, and it's a danger for the staff and our patients. We've become more
exposed to this, and nobody is doing anything about it." Although no member
of staff had contracted the killer disease to date, the person we spoke to
said they were "not so sure" about the patients. Many women come in for an
evacuation after a botched back-street abortion. Other people need the
injuries sustained in the border jump attended to.

Although a fee-paying policy was put in place two months ago for all
non-South African patients using the hospital's services, many of the
Zimbabweans didn't have money, "and they can't be turned away either", one
of the medics explained. Emergency patients aside, there are many more who
will take a day-trip over the border to receive antenatal care, or their
monthly supply of, for example, TB drugs or ARVs. "They usually carry fake
IDs. We had one woman here the other day who didn't have any ID. So she was
turned away. She came back a few hours later with an ID card and told us
she'd forgotten she had had it with her. And she was attended to," the medic
says. The pressure on the small hospital is phenomenal. Staff say they are
overworked. They bemoan the fact that medical supplies and resources "are
just being given away".

They also admit to xenophobia creeping into the wards. "People are becoming
very angry with this," the medic said. "It's hard for many of our own people
who can't afford medical care to watch these Zimbabweans coming down here
and living off our system, while our own can't." As in any small town with
such a burgeoning illegal migrant population, crime is steadily rising and
locals are all too eager to tell tales of rape, break-ins, thefts and the
like. Many people will express, if not sympathy, at least an understanding
for the desperate plight of their neighbours. But most say they find it hard
to forgive the fact that the town has become a hotbed of criminal activity
and claim Zimbabweans are the main culprits. "I carry pepper-spray with me
all the time now, even during the day," Lydia Mangala says. "This is
something new for me. I never had to do this before." The police station
refused to give information about current crime levels and the number of
reported incidents.

Yet other folk in Little Zimbabwe wouldn't have it any other way. Pieter
Koekemoer is the general manager at the local SuperSpar on the main street
and these days he is laughing all the way to the bank. Business is booming
he said, and since July trading had been up 50% to 60% on the same months
last year. The outlet has become the main trading post for NGOs, churches
and other groups throughout South Africa, who raise money for their
counterparts in Zimbabwe. Shopping lists are faxed through to Koekemoer and
the items are then collected by Zimbabweans who drive down to make the
pick-up. It has also become the one-stop-shop for many Zimbabweans who come
down to buy in bulk "and I guess they are either selling it on the black
market or in their own shops back home", Koekemoer explains.

This day last week, as the store was heaving with end-of-month activity,
shoppers pushed trolleys piled high with bulk purchases through the crowded
aisles. In the parking lot outside, 17 of the 23 cars bore Zimbabwean
registration plates. They are all cash-paying customers, and in Koekemoer's
view he couldn't ask for more. Although many locals will tell you prices are
rising at such a rate that they are forced to drive down to Makhado to do
their weekly shopping, Koekemoer says his prices are controlled by Spar's
nationwide list and therefore no different from what they will pay further
south. "The real problem is that our store has become a black person's
supermarket, and the whites just can't handle this. It has got nothing to do
with prices," he says. Construction is under way for a large shopping mall
at the southern end of the town, an expression of confidence in the fact
that these good days are here to stay. "I'm not saying that the situation in
Zimbabwe won't change, but when it does, people will have become accustomed
to good service and a supply of products they maybe won't be able to get up
there, and they will continue to shop over the border," Koekemoer reckons.


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Kunonga keeps diocesan assets

From The Church Times (UK), 26 October

By Pat Ashworth

The crumbling judicial system in Zimbabwe has allowed the discredited Bishop
of Harare, the Rt Revd Nolbert Kunonga, to hold on to the assets of the
diocese, including its bank accounts, (News, 19 October). An appeal by the
Province of Central Africa against his retention of the money has failed. A
judge ruled on Monday that the matter was "not urgent", and could take its
course. Bishop Kunonga, who, at an illegally constituted diocesan synod
meeting on Saturday, announced the withdrawal of his diocese from the
province, still has all the money and goods at his disposal. In the view of
the Chancellor of the diocese, Robert Stumbles, it could be three months
before the case can be brought to court again. The lack of any available
member of the judiciary last Friday and Saturday also meant that the illegal
"synod" convened by Bishop Kunonga took place as he had instructed.
Documents requesting a court order stopping the meeting taking place had
been prepared, to take before a duty judge in chambers. Lawyers took the
papers to the registrar of the High Court, but no judge could be found.

In an unprecedented move, the meeting took place in Harare Cathedral, and
was preceded by a 40-minute speech by Bishop Kunonga. Reports say that when
the meeting was convened, Bishop Kunonga announced that rules no longer
applied, and that the canons and constitution did not need to be heeded. A
loosely worded resolution followed, that the diocese could now link up with
any province in Africa or the world. Someone is reported bravely to have
requested a vote by houses, in the knowledge that a defeat in the House of
Laity would have ended the matter. The assistant registrar, acting for the
absent registrar, James Mutizwa, refused. She is reported to have asked:
"All in favour, say Aye." Silence is said to have followed, after which she
insisted a vote must be taken, and, hearing a few muttered "Ayes", declared
the motion carried. Objectors asking for their written objections to be
lodged before the end of the meeting are said to have been told to return on
Monday, which would have invalidated them. The Harare Herald, which supports
President Mugabe, reported this week: "The diocese is now seeking to join
the Anglican Province of Kenya following a message of solidarity from Kenyan
Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi in support of the anti-homosexuality stance taken
by Bishop Kunonga.


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If he had a hammer: music for Zimbabwe

kentucky.com
Sun, Nov. 04, 2007

Now living in exile, Thomas Mapfumo is still 'Mad as Hell' about homeland
By Walter Tunis
CONTRIBUTING MUSIC WRITER
Thomas Mapfumo has never understood why the rest of the world remains quiet
while his homeland bleeds. But then try and make yourself heard over "The
Lion of Zimbabwe" and see what happens.
"My music has a history," said the singer, activist and world music stylist
who performs at the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville on Monday. "So
already, people know me and know what my music stands for. My music is for
freedom and justice. It has never been difficult for me to express myself."

Initially, Mapfumo was drawn to a mixture of songs and styles that reflected
the rural Shona language and lifestyle he grew up with in what was then the
landlocked African nation of Rhodesia. Then he got a taste of American soul
and rock, blurred the boundaries of both musical worlds and forged the mold
for an audacious new sound called Chimurenga. But the real fire came from
the lyrics.

They contained bold political pronouncements in the '70s to revolt against
white Rhodesian rule. One of his songs, Hokoya (Watch Out), even landed
Mapfumo in prison without charges for three months in the late '70s. He
probably would have been incarcerated earlier had the Rhodesian government
had a better grasp of the Shona language that was Chimurenga's greatest
means of cultural reflection as well as its most effective form of
camouflage.

Rhodesia became the independent nation of Zimbabwe in 1980 under the
leadership of Robert Mugabe. Mapfumo and his band, Blacks Unlimited -- a
group that mixed the sound of the traditional African thumb piano instrument
known as the mbira with dense patterns of guitar and brass -- initially
championed Mugabe. But disillusionment grew as the country's economy and
human rights record began to erode.

Mapfumo's music, particularly songs from his landmark album Chimurenga
Explosion, earned the ire of the Mugabe regime and an eventual ban from
state-owned airwaves. Accepting the fact his homeland was no longer a safe
place to live and work, Mapfumo emigrated to the United States in 2003. He
currently lives in Eugene, Ore.

"Moving away was very, very difficult," Mapfumo said. "You would like to be
in your country and work with your own people for the sake of promoting that
country. At the same time, we had to understand the situation in Zimbabwe
was not good for anyone."

Mapfumo's newer music understandably reflects the inner turmoil and outer
rage of a life in exile. His 2005 album, Rise Up, further explored unified
grooves in African and American music while offering a diary of mixed
emotions ranging from Ndodya Marasha (I'm Mad as Hell) and Kuvarira Mukati
(Suffer in Silence). Mapfumo's most recent album is The Long Walk.

But as he sings from a foreign shore, his homeland continues to
disintegrate. Once Africa's second-largest exporter (after South Africa),
Zimbabwe is at present plagued by crime, a shortage of food and basic goods,
a horrific 85 percent unemployment and inflation of about 7,000 percent and
worsening.

"The rest of the world keeps very quiet about Zimbabwe," Mapfumo said. "They
don't know this man (Mugabe) is doing a lot of harm to his own people. There
should be shouting from the rest of the world."

And yet, Mapfumo remains hopeful that the situation in Zimbabwe is "bound to
change."


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Rising Prices Affect Food Aid To Starving Millions

AHN

November 4, 2007 2:28 p.m. EST

Paul Icamina - AHN News Writer
Rome, Italy (AHN) - Rising prices are increasing the food cost burden of aid
agencies. This is reflected in part by the five-fold increase of the food
budget of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).

Funding for food will increase by another 35 percent in the next couple of
years, according to WFP head Josette Sheeran who warns that "the world's
most vulnerable who spend 60 percent of their income on food have been
priced out of the food market."

The WFP is looking for additional funding to support its massively expanded
aid operation for 3.3 million people in Zimbabwe who face severe food
shortages until the next main harvest in April.

WFP has 138,000 metric tons of food already in stock or in the pipeline but
still needs another 207,000 tons of cereals and other commodities worth $118
million to cover its increased relief activities until then.

Without additional funds, WFP said its food stocks will be completely
exhausted by December.

As the price of wheat, maize, corn and other commodities that make up the
world's basic foodstuffs is soaring the poorest people in the poorest
countries are the hardest hit, The Economist reports.

Periods of high prices followed by times of low prices are common in
agricultural markets, the magazine says, but what makes the current cycle
different from previous periods of high prices is the rise has hit nearly
all food commodities.

Prices will probably remain high for the next year or two while the world is
adapting to food scarcity, it said.

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