Harare Thursday April 24, 2003 The Guardian
Zimbabwe was largely
brought to a halt yesterday by a three-day strike called by the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions in protest at the government's decision last week to
triple the price of fuel. Most factories, shops, supermarkets and banks were
closed, and even government services such as the post offices were
Union officials estimated that the first day of the strike was
70% successful, and peaceful.
The drastic increase in fuel prices
means that transport alone now eats up about 80% of the average worker's pay,
the ZCTU says.
The police used the government's stringent labour laws to
declare the strike illegal and to arrest some ZCTU executives who were caught
distributing strike leaflets in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, on
The current strike comes hard on the heels of a two-day walkout
last month organised by the main opposition party, the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC).
They are a stinging vote of no-confidence by
the workers in President Robert Mugabe's economic policies, which have taken
inflation in Zimbabwe to 228% and unemployment above 60% and have resulted in
an acute shortage of basic foodstuffs.
The success of the stoppages is
boosting the confidence of the MDC, which has vowed to use mass action to
drive Mr Mugabe from office.
The government showed signs of being worried
as the strike took hold yesterday.
A military helicopter flew over the
capital, Harare, the police erected roadblocks on main roads, and troops
patrolled the impoverished suburbs of eastern
Pretoria - The rush is on to complete the construction of
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's "retirement mansion" after rumours that
he would probably become a president with non-executive powers as of July 1
Informed sources say feverish negotiations between Zanu-PF
and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are underway to reach an
agreement that could save the country from "suicide".
As part of this
agreement, Mugabe is expected to move into his new mansion in Borrowdale
Brook Lane, an upmarket suburb in northern Harare, on July 1.
is estimated to be worth more than R37m. Construction work on the house
started two years ago, but has recently gained momentum with the new deadline
Mugabe apparently regularly visits the construction site to
check on the progress.
The front of the house is built in a Chinese
style, while every room in the house apparently has a different international
culture as a theme. Those who have been inside the house, describe it as
Four Moroccan craftsmen have been carving a dome in the
banquet hall for more than a year. The decorations on the dome are apparently
similar to that of President Saddam Hussein's palace domes in
The house alone is said to comprise about 1 000 square metres.
Two bulldozers in the garden are creating two dams on the
Residents of Harare say it is a disgrace that Mugabe is openly
flaunting his wealth while his fellow countrymen are living in
This is probably the reason why a sophisticated security system,
to prevent uninvited guests from entering the property, is part of the plans
for the house.
Several members of Mugabe's inner circle live in this
suburb in equally luxurious homes. General Constantine Chiwenga, one of
Zimbabwe's army generals who lives in a four storey house equipped with
lifts, will be one of Mugabe's neighbours.
CANBERRA: Australian Prime Minister John
Howard and Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon were due to meet here
Wednesday for talks likely to be dominated by Zimbabwe, officials
Zimbabwe was suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth
after international observers ruled that its elections held a year ago, and
which returned President Robert Mugabe to power, were seriously
The Australian leader chairs a tri-nation Commonwealth committee
which decided to maintain the suspension despite pressure from the two
other nations until the next Commonwealth leaders' meeting. Nigeria and
South Africa had pushed for Zimbabwe's readmission to the Commonwealth but
Howard stood firm, achieving the extension until December.
announced the decision after talks in London with McKinnon in February.
McKinnon said in February the Commonwealth had survived much worse and the
current crisis over Zimbabwe's status did not mean the end of the 54-nation
body or of Zimbabwe's long-term membership.
Meanwhile, a general strike
call from Zimbabwe's powerful trade unions after a more than 200 percent fuel
price increase drew a mixed reponse in the capital Wednesday, an AFP
Many people who reported for work on the first
day of the three-day job stayaway found their workplaces shut. Others failed
to make it because of lack of transport as many privately-operated buses were
did not run on Wednesday.
Nearly all commercial banks, large
supermarket chains and some manufacturing plants did not open Wednesday
morning. Others partially opened saying they feared violence could break out.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) called for a three day national
strike after the government almost trebled the pump price of petrol last
The labour body has said the increases make it impossible for the
average worker to pay commuter fares, let alone buy food and other basics.
ZCTU wants government to reverse the price hikes, failure of which the the
job boycott will be indefinite.
Next Zim strike 'will be the
big one' April 24,
Harare - A three-day strike called
by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to protest against a three-fold
petrol price hike has begun, bringing the country to a
Wellington Chibhebhe said that between 65 and 70% of workers stayed at home
Opposition members said the
strike was just the next step in an ongoing campaign, vowing that "the big
one" was still to come.
coincided with the visit to Zimbabwe of Angola's foreign minister ahead of a
Southern African Development Community task force set to investigate human
A date has not yet been set
for the visit, but the minister claimed its aim was to end the standoff
between Zimbabwe and Britain.
wave of arrests and retribution, ZCTU officials abandoned their run-down
Harare city centre headquarters yesterday. Instead they co-ordinated the
strike from homes and cars as police set up
After the successful March
18-19 national strike called by the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change, state agents and men dressed in military uniform went on a violent
More than 250 people were
hospitalised after being tortured, while the MDC said more than a thousand
people had to flee their homes.
officials said the strike had been violence free by
reported that in parts of the country it was business as usual, but claimed
that thousands of workers had been unable to find transport because of the
Four cabinet ministers,
including Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, appeared on state television on
Tuesday night, warning people not to heed the call to strike. Police declared
the strike illegal.
spokesperson Will Bango said: "The whole country is now effectively shut down
by the ZCTU strike, which is a curtain-raiser to the big one coming
"The big and final one is set to
include the rural areas. Drum beats from rural hamlets will signal the
imminent arrival of freedom, justice
Meanwhile the World Food
Programme has said it is grateful for the "very significant and timely"
donation of about R150-million from the South African government, which has
helped the WFP to feed hungry people in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Southern
With the money, the WFP had bought
about 100 000 tons of maize in South Africa. Two-thirds of the maize - in
sacks marked "Gift of South Africa" - is being distributed in
The WFP is relying quite heavily
on South African maize in Zimbabwe because it came after donations from
elsewhere had almost been depleted.
Strike stops cars due for delivery to Mugabe
cabinet By Peta Thornycroft in Harare (Filed:
The factories of Zimbabwe were deserted yesterday, its
crumbling streets empty and even the government's Mercedes Benz suppliers
closed as an estimated 90 per cent of the country's workers went on a general
The protest, called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and
backed by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, was triggered by a
300 per cent fuel price rise ordered by Robert Mugabe's
Among the businesses paralysed by the strike was Zimbabwe's
most profitable vehicle company. Its workshops were locked up, 10 new
Mercedes Benz E240 saloons inside them awaiting delivery to Mr Mugabe's
cabinet. A further 22 are due to arrive later this week.
cost of the order has been estimated to be equivalent to two weeks' fuel
supply for the entire country.
On the eve of the strike workers at the
firm had been seething. "If only George Bush would come here and Saddam us,"
said one. "But he won't and so we will have to strike, and be arrested and
"We have no choice. The ministers break the cars that we pay for
and get new ones and we pay for those too. We have no fuel, no food, no
medicines at the hospitals, and Mugabe doesn't care."
Only two banks
had branches fully open, Standard Chartered and Barclays, both British-owned.
"We don't know why we are at work today," said an employee at a Standard
Chartered branch in the once spruce Borrowdale suburb north of
The strike, due to continue until the end of the week, was the
second in a month. The first was called by the MDC to protest against
political repression, and employers have supported their workers in both
"Their interests and those of the workers coincide," said a
major industrialist. "Where we can we are paying them while they are on
Easter holidays and the strike mean Zimbabwe's dwindling number
of factories have been open for just one day in two weeks.
they are working there is electricity for only four hours a day because Mr
Mugabe cannot pay his neighbours Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of
Congo for the power they supply.
A police spokesman said there had been
no violence during the strike. "It seems to be peaceful
Jenni Williams, a human rights activist, said at least nine
union officials had been arrested in Bulawayo.
people are making the mistake thinking that the stay away called by the ZCTU
and starting tomorrow morning is just another strike. It's not. This is
the start of a concerted drive by civic organisations and the MDC to do what
Thabo Mbeki and Obasanjo were tasked to do and failed and that is
to get Mugabe to either come to the negotiating table or to leave the
This is a concerted push to remove the barriers to change thrown
up by the Mugabe regime. Why is it different? Because life has simply
become impossible for the great majority of Zimbabweans. We cannot buy
food, shortages are endemic and getting worse and now we have virtually
no liquid fuels and electrical cuts are threatening what is left of
the economy. The fuel price rise last week may be the trigger, but this
regime has been loading the gun for use on itself for a long time.
have warned our neighbours that this could be nasty - by the measure
of Mugabe's statements over the weekend - we can expect a fight. However
if no one will come to our aid in an effective way - we must now rely
on ourselves. If we do not there is no future for anyone in this
The Prime Minister of Israel was asked after the 6 day war why
Israel was able to overcome such huge odds - she said, it is because we have
no where else to go.
We have reached that point and Mugabe is about to
experience the wrath of the people, enraged by years of abuse and disregard,
years of violence and oppression, years of failure in all areas of governance
and stark refusal to even acknowledge the facts.
Zimbabwe shut down once again on Wednesday as workers heeded a
call by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions not to report for work to
protest against steep fuel hikes imposed by President Robert Mugabe's
Banks, factories and stores were closed across Zimbabwe during
the first day of the three-day protest. Commuter bus stations, which are
normally a hive of activity as workers jostle for transport to go to work,
were deserted. Traffic in central Harare was sparse.
Zimbabweans and analysts in Harare said the success of the strike should be a
clear signal to Mugabe that the people were now fed up with him and he had to
retire to save Zimbabwe from further chaos.
"If that's not a clear signal
to Mugabe that his time is up, then he has indeed gone bonkers," said
prominent activist and law professor
has declared the strike illegal Trade union president Lovemore Matombo warned
that the three-day strike could become indefinite unless Mugabe reversed last
week's steep fuel hikes which Matombo branded as "criminal".
alone was hiked by 210 percent, the highest ever.
Matombo said there was
no way the ordinary worker could afford the steep fuel hikes and their
knock-on effect on other commodities at a time when the Zimbabwe government
had imposed a freeze on increases in salaries and wages.
The strike is
the second successful one in a month after the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change called for one of the biggest protests in Mugabe's 23-year
rule three weeks ago. The trade union is closely affiliated to the
The trade union said tensions were running high in Zimbabwe after
four top labour officials were arrested for "organising" the latest strike.
Soldiers had been deployed across townships on the eve of the
Mugabe's government has declared the strike illegal. -
Independent Foreign Service
This article was originally
published on page 4 of The Mercury on 24 April 2003
Just over a year ago South Africa's northern neighbour, Zimbabwe,
went to the polls and controversially re-elected Robert Mugabe as president.
The election results briefly put the brakes on the rand's
The rand was trading at around R12 per dollar at the time --
better than the all-time worst level of R13,86 it touched on December 21,
2001, but a far cry from the R7,50s where it is trading at
When the rand was the world's worst performing currency in 2001,
the crisis in Zimbabwe was frequently cited as a reason for the local unit's
Now that the rand has been the best performer in 2002
-- and so far in 2003 -- the turmoil in Zimbabwe continues unabated. However,
South Africa's bad neighbour has fallen off the currency market's radar
screen -- a point illustrated by the fact the rand continued to firm in
February, when it broke below R8 per dollar for the first time since June
2001, despite the devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar.
International market analyst Michael Keenan said that in order to understand
why Zimbabwe was not having a negative influence on the rand, one needed to
understand why the currency was strengthening.
Reasons for this include
interest rate differentials, the improved gold price as well as the weaker
dollar against the cross currencies, he says.
He continues that when the
rand was weakening, there was a lot of negative sentiment, which aided
speculation against the currency.
"It all comes down to checks and
balances. When it was depreciating, it was a no-brainer to short the rand.
Our interest rate differentials were not strong enough to counteract the
daily fall in the currency. The rand fell far faster than what the interest
rate differential was, so it was a one-way bet," he explains.
continues that now, the opposite is happening. Four rates hike last year mean
that our interest rates are high, which makes speculating against the rand
Keenan adds that that last year's Myburgh Commission into the
rand's depreciation helped stop speculation. The Reserve Bank also clamped
down on speculative trades.
"It comes down to which way it makes sense
to make money. If it makes sense to short the rand, people will push any
negative factors that can be found," he asserts.
He says the same
applies to markets world wide, with sentiment basically justifying the
fundamentals. If the underlying fundamentals suggest the rand should
strengthen, people will ride the reasons for this.
On the million dollar
question of whether the rand's rally against the dollar has run out of steam,
Keenan says that the Monetary Policy Review will play an important
"If Reserve bank governor Tito Mboweni comes out with a dovish
stance which rekindles the hope of a rate cut in June, it will be negative
for the rand as it will cut short the carry play for the currency. Then R7,50
will prove a tough floor."
Conversely, if Mboweni's remarks are
hawkish, it will inspire the rand bulls to take the currency below R7,50, he
Currency traders are also confident that Zimbabwe is not
having the effect on the currency market it used to.
One asserts that
part of the reason for this is that bigger news stories such as Iraq have
bumped it off the front pages of the world's newspapers.
"Zimbabwe is not
making headlines as much as it used to. People are not interested as much as
they were," says one.
A second trader agrees. "The news out of Zimbabwe
has been pretty quiet," he says. "For now, Zimbabwe is out of the picture
unless there is some big blowout."
However, positive news out of
Zimbabwe, like the resignation of Robert Mugabe, would capture the market's
attention, he says.
"I think it would be fantastic. The rand would
definitely take some heart from that." - I-Net
Zimbabwe tobacco loses blue
chip status April 24,
Harare - Zimbabwean tobacco,
which is used to flavour cigarettes such as Camel and Marlboro, might fade
from world markets, growers said yesterday as farmers began selling their
smallest crop in 22 years.
Robert Mugabe's programme of seizing land from white commercial growers and
giving it to black farmers, most of whom produce food only for themselves,
has cut this year's harvest to about 85 million kilograms. It averaged 199
million kilograms during the 1990s, when Zimbabwe was the world's
Altria Group, the
owner of the world's largest cigarette maker, and RJ Reynolds Tobacco
Holdings may turn to Brazil and the US to make up for any shortfall in
Standard Commercial Corporation
and rivals that buy tobacco and resell it to cigarette makers are
reconsidering investments in the country, threatening the future of the $600
"If it's not
grown, if that infrastructure isn't there, then we have to deal with that
reality," said Keith Merrick, the treasurer of North Carolina-based Standard
Tobacco was first grown in
Zimbabwe in 1894. In recent years the country accounted for about a fifth of
global exports of flue-cured tobacco, which is mixed with cheaper leaf to
give cigarettes their flavour.
Zimbabwe's biggest export. The industry has employed as many as 150 000
people in a country of 11.6 million, where 70 percent are unemployed. Fewer
than 500 large-scale tobacco growers are still on their land, a third of the
number in 2001, when the land seizures
Some growers say this year's crop
will fall short of the 85 million kilograms estimated by the Zimbabwe Tobacco
Association, and may drop below the 67 million kilograms harvested in 1981, a
year after the end of a 15-year civil
"Even 80 million kilograms is an
ambitious estimate," said Bruce Gemmill, who grew tobacco in Macheke, east of
Harare, until his farm was taken last
"There's virtually nothing in the
ground from large-scale producers, and small-scale growers have been hard hit
by fertiliser and fuel shortages."
of the crop will be sold at the world's biggest tobacco auction floors - TSL
and the Zimbabwe Tobacco Auction Centre - during a season that started
yesterday and runs until October
Each day auctioneers will walk down
lines of tobacco bales weighing about 100kg, selling the leaf to buyers who
Buyers make purchases based on
criteria such as feel and the number of spots on the leaves, which indicate
quality and the flavours required by cigarette
Brazil exported 280 million
kilograms of flue-cured tobacco last year, compared with about 166 million
kilograms for Zimbabwe and 110 million kilograms for the US, said Rodney
Ambrose, the marketing director for the Zimbabwe Tobacco
China exported 120 million
kilograms. Its crop is of a lower quality than the three other major
producers, Ambrose said.
"Everybody in the
tobacco world is looking at Zimbabwe," said Antonio Abrunhosa, the chief
executive of the International Tobacco Growers' Association in
The chances of recovery are
small. Analysts said many of the new black farmers did not have the training
to produce the top-quality tobacco international buyers were looking
for. And banks might not finance tobacco
planting because the smaller farms did not provide enough security for the
"We are going to lose the people
who know how to do it," said John Robertson, a Harare-based economist. "Quite
a high proportion of the crop would be of a lower
This year's crop and dim
prospects for the future might discourage buyers such as Standard Commercial,
Universal and Dimon from maintaining warehouses and other investments they
needed to do business in Zimbabwe.
doubt the buyers will ever trust" Zimbabwe again, said Mike Murray, who grows
tobacco near Marondera, east of Harare. "There are so few of us going and
even those of us who are can just limp
While the new farmers are
encouraged to grow tobacco, their efforts are being hampered by a five-year
recession that has led to shortages of the diesel needed to transport the
crop to auction floors in Harare, and the coal needed to heat barns and cure
Zimbabwe would probably earn
$160 million this year from tobacco, less than a third of the total in recent
years, estimated Robertson. "It could be a terminal experience for the
industry," he said. - Bloomberg
Zimbabwe workers heed call
for three-day strike April 24,
Harare - Banks, factories and
stores across Zimbabwe were forced to close yesterday as workers heeded the
call of the largest labour federation to
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade
Unions organised the protest against the government's decision last week to
triple the price of petrol.
high as the first day of the planned three-day strike took hold. Police
manned road blocks on main highways, and troops patrolled townships in
A military helicopter flew
over the capital, where traffic was light .
Bus stops and parking lots were virtually
Factory owners in Bulawayo said
about three-quarters of the city's factories had
State radio reported that most
businesses were also closed in the eastern cities of Marondera and
The government has declared the
strike illegal under stringent security laws. Four union officials have been
arrested for helping to plan the strike and there are fears more retribution
could follow. - Sapa-AP