businesses and factories across Zimbabwe remain closed for a third day in a
protest over the government's decision to triple the price of
fuel. Buses have also not been running,
despite government warnings that operating licenses would be
Zimbabwe's Congress of Trade
Unions has declared the three-day strike a success, saying 90% of its members
have stayed at home.
But it is also
threatening to take the dispute into a second week if the government does not
reverse its fuel price rise.
"We are doing
this with a vision. That vision still stands," said ZCTU President Lovemore
The strike was declared illegal
and police have been out on the streets, but there have been no major reports
of trouble so far.
The economy is in
desperate trouble with inflation running at more than 200%, soaring
unemployment and shortages of fuel and foreign
The ZCTU argues that for many
workers it will now cost almost as much to get to work as they would earn in
The impact has been considerable in
the capital and the second city Bulawayo, but state radio reported most shops
and factories in other towns across the country were
The government said the 200% rise in
petrol prices was necessary to help pay for fuel imports. which have become
scarce since shipments from Libya stopped last
The opposition Movement for
Democratic Change has backed the strike and has said it is planning its own
mass action soon.
Last month, the
MDC staged a two-day strike that shut down about 80% of businesses and
industries in one of the biggest protests seen
In a security crackdown
that followed, hundreds of MDC officials
Meanwhile, 45 MDC
supporters have been arrested in a town just south of the capital, Harare,
after they took the body of a party activist to the home of a policeman, who
they alleged beat and tortured him.
Tonderai Machiridza was arrested after the mass protests last month and died
in hospital of his injuries.
The MDC said
his grieving relatives, including his wife and mother, were held by police
and some were assaulted.
spokesman said the officers allegedly responsible for Machiridza's death are
to face murder charges.
He added that the
MDC supporters being detained would face charges for "desecrating a
Herald Reporter THE illegal stayaway called by the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions fizzled out on the third and final day
yesterday with many banks and supermarkets opening.
The volume of
traffic and commuter omnibuses ferrying workers to and from work also
increased in the city centre.
A number of large department stores, banks,
furniture shops, salons and retail shops, flea markets, butcheries, cafes and
food outlets, hotels and hardwares were operational.
There were long
winding queues in banking halls and at automated teller machines in the city
centre as many people queued to withdraw money.
Yesterday was April pay
day for many in the private sector and for most of those who are weekly
Transport operators had a fair share of business because of the
large number of people who commuted into town to do various errands ahead of
the last weekend of the month.
Many people who endured long queues at
the banks slammed the ZCTU leadership.
"It would have been logical for
ZCTU to indulge in a comprehensive dialogue with other stakeholders to solve
the problems people are facing," said Mr Caleb Chaguta, an accountant with a
"Calling for any protest action against the Government is not
a proper way to solve the economic hardships we are facing but only
contributes to serious economic repercussions for the country."
slammed the ZCTU for calling for a strike instead of addressing the plight of
They commended the Tripartite Negotiating Forum for coming
up with new minimum wages for workers in agriculture, agro-industry,
horticulture, mining, commerce on industry.
The TNF on Thursday
announced minimum wages for these sectors which range from $23 070 to $47 696
a month to cushion workers against price increases.
The Government took a
swipe at some elements in labour who are working with external forces hostile
to Zimbabwe to undermine national sovereignty and cripple the economy and
cause chaos using an illegitimate stayaway and lock-outs.
who had been reporting for work on the first two days of the strike found
their work places closed and had to go back home.
The Minister of State
for Information and Publicity, Professor Jonathan Moyo said in the interest
of the rule law, relevant authorities in Government were compiling data on
those industries that had illegally locked out workers for political reasons.
Firms which heeded the ZCTU stayaway and locked out workers had breached the
Public Order and Security Act and the Labour Relations Amendment
Thirty (30) senior MDC officials were picked up by Harare police
in a raid at the party's Havest House headquarters today (Friday) morning.
They are all at Harare Central Police Station.
Among them: Morgan
Femai, the chairman for the Harare Province, Tendayi Nyamshana, the director
of security, Nomore Sibanda, the co-ordinator of elections and other senior
administration and clerical staff.
Also caught in the swoop were several
party activists who were brutally assaulted at the funeral wake of Richard
Tonderai Machiridza, the late MDC activist who died on Zimbabwe's
Independence day (18 April) after he was arrested and tortured by police in
The activists were at the offices seeking assistance to get
medical treatment for injuries sustained when they were assaulted and
tortured by the police at the funeral wake.
No reason was given for
the arrests, or the raid. More details will be made available
Protest strike continues in
Zimbabwe Friday, April 25, 2003 Posted: 3:28 PM EDT (1928
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- A national strike against massive fuel
price increases kept many stores closed Friday, the third day of protests
which have crippled much of the economy.
Most stores remained closed
in the main cities, which are opposition strongholds, but some banks reopened
for the month-end pay day.
Factory owners reported more workers showing
up at their jobs to collect their monthly pay, but estimated about half the
industries in the capital of Harare were closed.
Small lines of people
waited at banks to redeem pay checks. Bank staff said shortages of cash were
expected because little business was transacted on the first two days of the
strike, slashing deposits by commercial firms.
The Zimbabwe Congress of
Trade Unions, the main federation of 90 percent of labor groups that called
the work stoppage, estimated up to 70 percent of the country's businesses
were shut on Wednesday and Thursday.
Strikers are demanding the reversal
of last weeks' government-imposed gasoline price increase of up to 300
The strike has been declared illegal by the government under
stringent security laws that have outlawed any anti-government
The government, stung by the effectiveness of the
stoppage, accused factory and shop owners of locking out workers and has
threatened to withdraw the licenses of bus owners who refused to ferry
commuters to work.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo accused strike
organizers of "working with external interests hostile to Zimbabwe to cause
chaos," the state Herald newspaper reported.
The government has
repeatedly accused Britain, the former colonial power, and the United States
of backing efforts to oust President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe, at the state
funeral of provincial governor Stephen Nkomo, returned to his regular theme
of blaming Western powers for fueling dissent against him.
enemies now seek desperately to divide us and plunge this country back into
the dungeon of colonialism," he said.
The labor federation is closely
affiliated with the country's main opposition party, the Movement for
Democratic Change, which organized a two-day strike last month that also shut
down most of the economy.
Later Friday, the opposition said 30 of its
officials were arrested in a raid on the party's Harare offices.
reason was given for the arrests of Morgan Femai, the party's
provincial chairman for Harare, Tendayi Nyamshana, its director of security
and Nomore Sibanda, an elections co-ordinator and other senior administrative
and clerical staff, the MDC said in a statement.
Police were not
immediately available for comment. Sibanda is a former labor federation
official working for the labor-backed opposition.
The opposition has
vowed to step up a campaign of strikes and demonstrations to demand
democratic reform in Zimbabwe and drive Mugabe from office.
The nation is
suffering its worst economic crisis since independence from British colonial
rule in 1980, with acute shortages of food, gas, medicine and other
Minimum Wages Raised in Response to
UN Integrated Regional Information
April 25, 2003 Posted to the web April 25,
Following days of strike action over
hyper-inflation in Zimbabwe, the government announced that it had reached
agreement with business on new minimum wages.
The official The Herald
newspaper reported that government and business, through the Tripartite
Negotiating Forum (TNF), had set new minimum wages ranging from Zim $23,070
(about US $27) to Zim $47,696 (about US $57).
Workers in the
agricultural sector would now be paid a basic wage of Zim $23,070 and those
in commerce and industry would receive a minimum of Zim 47,696 per month, The
Not included in the new set of minimum wages were those
of civil servants and domestic workers, and those in "unclassified
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), a member of the
TNF, boycotted the final round of talks on the new minimum wages as it had
organised a workers' stayaway to protest the impact of recent fuel price
The government has condemned the strike, calling it illegal,
and has threatened to take action against companies who "locked out" workers,
and commuter bus operators who failed to run their services during the
But the ZCTU expects that the strike will increase pressure for
economic reforms. Zimbabwe's inflation rate reached 228 percent in March,
fuel prices have more than doubled and power cuts have begun to occur more
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Friday issued a stern rebuke against
people he accused of wanting to divide the country, on the third day of a
national strike against fuel prices.
Without directly mentioning the strike, Mugabe said "our enemies today seek
desperately to divide and weaken us and to plunge this country back into the
dungeon of colonialism and imperialism".
Mugabe was speaking at the state burial of veteran nationalist Stephen Nkomo,
which coincided with the third day of a nationwide job stayaway called by the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).
The labour body has threatened an indefinite strike if the government refuses
to reverse last week's fuel price hike, which saw the pump price of petrol
almost treble and commuter fares
Mugabe said his government was falsely accused of a 'host
of sins' The government has condemned the
strike action, as it did last month when the main opposition party, Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC), called a similar two-day stayaway in protest
over alleged misgovernance.
his government was falsely accused of a "host of sins" including human rights
abuses and allowing a breakdown of law and
"We are villified for being
allegedly harsh with an opposition that has clearly proven to be lawless and
deviant, but more dangerously, an embodiment of violence and terrorism," he
The Zimbabwean leader often accuses
the opposition party of trying to overthrow the government with the support
of former colonial power, Britain.
month's MDC-led stayaway was followed by a crackdown by the government, which
saw hundreds of opposition supporters arrested, and some allegedly
On Thursday MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai was barred from attending the burial of a party supporter who died
allegedly from injuries he received at the hands of police when he was
arrested during last month's strike, the party said. -
THE transformation of the
Agriculture Bank of Zimbabwe is likely to be derailed following revelations
that the financial institution is facing serious financial
Investigations by Business Herald have revealed that the bank
is operating with a negative capital account, which has largely been
attributed to bad debts inherited from its predecessor, the Agricultural
The bank has also failed to produce its financial
statements for the past two years. Impeccable sources said the financial
institution made a heavy loss of about $400 million last
However, managing director Mr Taka Mutunhu this week denied that
its finances were in a shambles.
"It is not true, our books are in
order," he said.
He said the bank had not produced its results as
stipulated by law, "because we are working on the land
Agribank's financial position could, therefore, delay its
conversion into the land bank. Depositors will need to be paid back their
funds before the transformation.
This paper has it on good authority
that the Government actually directed Agribank management to map out the
transformation strategies last year but up not now, nothing has materialised,
indicating that all is not well at the financial institution.
Government made the decision to transform Agribank into a land bank
into which all resources of agricultural credit provided by the public
sector could be disbursed, co-ordinated and administered.
The bank is
critical for support and sustenance of the agrarian
The ministries of Lands, Agriculture and Rural
Resettlement and that of Finance and Economic Development and the Reserve
Bank of Zimbabwe were tasked, under the National Economic Revival Programme,
to ensure the successful transformation of the bank.
The procedure was
scheduled to have been completed last month. The Government has since said it
will not extend deadlines set under NERP and has challenged all those lagging
behind to catch up.
However, the Secretary for Information and Publicity
in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Mr George Charamba, acknowledged
that the transformation process could take a while.
"It cannot be
implemented overnight because there are depositors fees at stake. Meetings
are being held with a view of taking into account the interest of depositors
otherwise the transformation of the bank will be implemented soon," he
However, it has also emerged that top management at the bank are
resisting the conversion of the bank and are more comfortable with its
continued existence as a commercial bank.
"If the worst comes to the
worst, the management is saying that the bank's arm which inherited the bad
loans from the AFC (Agricultural Development Assistance Fund) should itself
be transformed into the land bank while the commercial banking division
should continue operating as such.
"In fact, the top management intends
to take over the commercial banking activities themselves," said a
However, it is understood that the Government is not
going back on its decision to transform the bank, as a means to boost
"The conversion to a land bank is not an option.
In fact, Agribank was given a directive to pursue this strategy last year and
not to defend its position," said one observer.
Agribank has been
operating on a commercial basis charging market-lending rates since its
transformation from the Agricultural Finance Corporation a few years ago.
However, it has failed to assist the recently resettled farmers due to the
punitive lending terms.
Its lending window to farmers, ADAF, has failed
to adequately cater for new farmers due to lack of resources, hence the need
to transform it into a land bank that is sympathetic to farmers.
Government allocated $500 million to ADAF in the 2003 national budget
to assists small-scale farmers.
The existence of a land bank is not
new in this country. AFC started as such, providing loans to most commercial
farmers then, who repaid the funds under relaxed conditions.
enjoyed a long grace period and were only required to pay after their
ventures became profitable.
Although AFC eventually suffered from bad
debts as some farmers failed to pay back the loans, the success of many white
commercial farmers was built around it.
The newly resettled farmers
need access to finance their cropping and livestock programmes. A significant
number need to purchase capital equipment and engage in other programmes to
develop their farms.
So far more than 54 000 new farmers have been
resettled under the A2 model while at least 300 000 have been allocated land
under the A1 scheme.
OPINION April 25, 2003 Posted to the web April
Jethro Goko Johannesburg
AM I the only one worried
that Saturday's elections for the presidency and 36 state governors in
Nigeria the country's first civilian-organised polls in 20 years have been
tainted by allegations of fraud made by the opposition and international
Gen Muhammadu Buhari, the former military dictator whom
President Olusegun Obasanjo defeated in the presidential ballot, has
graphically portrayed the exercise as "a massive and state-organised rape of
democracy". And while the Commonwealth observer group has given the election
a passing grade, the European Union has concluded that the elections were
"marred by serious irregularities", adding that in a certain number of
states, "minimum standards for democratic elections were not met". Similarly,
US-based observers spoke of widespread rigging, voter intimidation, violence,
and "many instances of obvious premeditated electoral
What worries me about the allegations of extensive
electoral manipulation in the ballot is that they carry potentially dire
negative implications beyond Nigeria's borders.
Indeed, Nigeria is not
just another African country.
In spite of its many problems including a
history of cyclical military dictatorships and low living standards, where
two-thirds of its estimated 130million people live on less than $1 a day
(according to the World Bank) Nigeria is a political giant on the continent.
Outside of SA, it is just about the only other sub-Saharan Africa country
that the developed world occasionally listens to.
One measure of its
continental importance is that Abuja heads the implementation committee of
our latest recovery programme, the New Partnership for Africa's Development
Nigeria, under Obasanjo, has together with Pretoria also been at
the forefront of trying to solve many of Africa's myriad other
From efforts to nudge Uncle Bob in Zimbabwe to behave himself,
to putting mechanisms in place to stop unrest and military coups in West
Africa, Abuja has been willing to invest time and resources in these noble
Yet, despite Obasanjo's laudable panAfrican intentions, his
first term in office as a democratically elected leader has failed to have a
positive effect on Nigeria's well-documented economic problems, as well as
the violent and frequent flare-ups of ethnic, religious and political
divides that have ravaged the country since its independence four decades
Almost inevitably, then, his controversial re-election has once
again raised questions about his ability to lead the country out of the many
difficulties which it faces.
Corruption remains endemic in both public
and private sector business deals; the much-hoped for democracy dividend that
Obasanjo said he would deliver to ordinary Nigerians during his first term is
yet to come; and there are no signs of a pay-off, for that matter, from the
past few years of buoyant oil prices.
So can he, indeed, keep
Nigeria's fragile democracy intact?
Let's keep to the matter at hand; the
implications of the allegations of electoral manipulation. Assuming Obasanjo
is ultimately deposed because of this mess (he has said he will resign if the
courts annul the ballot), who will President Thabo Mbeki rely on to help make
this century an African Century, if the Nigerian leader is not
Nepad is predicated on the hope that the developed world will
give financial meaning to the programme. But in turn, the west is looking up
to countries such as SA and Nigeria to lead Africa out of the morass the
continent finds itself in.
It would be folly to assume that if
Obasanjo loses the reins, say, to a military dictator, that person would be
as positively enthusiastic about Africa as the incumbent leader. Nigeria's
military rulers before Obasanjo were only really interested in lining their
pockets with loot stolen from state coffers.
It is, thus, in Africa's
interest that the negative perception of Obasanjo's victory in many quarters
is dealt with urgently and adequately. As they say, when Nigeria sneezes,
Africa catches a cold.
One of the by-products of Robert Mugabe's regime is an
increase in poaching. Zimbabwe's Wildlife Producers' Association estimates
that 50% of the country's wildlife has been killed in the space of just two
years. Much of the poaching has been blamed on the so-called war veterans
occupying white-owned farms; and woodlands in conservation areas have been
torched to clear space for new farms.
GENEVA, April 25 (Reuters) -
Human rights activists said on said on Friday a key U.N. body had been
hijacked by countries bent on stopping it naming those that abuse human
"An 'abusers club' of governments hostile to human rights has
further consolidated its position and blocked several important
country initiatives," said Human Rights Watch.
The six-week annual
meeting in Geneva of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has
traditionally sought to bring pressure on countries that are grave violators,
but activists said there had been an increasing trend to stop pointing the
finger at individual states.
At this year's session which was ending on
Friday, the 53-country commission voted to halt a probe into human rights
abuses in Sudan despite the fact that an investigator had reported no
improvement there over the past 12 months.
Debate on Zimbabwe, which
Western countries and activists accuse of widespread abuse, was blocked by
African states and a resolution critical of Russian policy in the separatist
region of Chechnya was defeated for the second successive year.
commission narrowly voted to maintain pressure on member Cuba by insisting it
agree to a visit from a special U.N. rights envoy and to add three states --
North Korea, Turkmenistan and Belarus -- to the shrinking list of those whose
records will be the subject of individual scrutiny.
But in none of these
cases was an individual country investigator appointed who could have
intensified the international pressure on the three states, activists
"A growing bloc of repressive governments -- including Algeria,
China, Cuba, Libya, Russia, Sudan, Syria and Zimbabwe -- have become
progressively more aggressive in blocking or obstructing resolutions critical
of any specific country," the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a
These countries are all members of the
"States are undermining a large part of what the U.N. system
was established to do, namely to serve as a vanguard of human rights
protection," declared Ian Seiderman of the Swiss-based International
Commission of Jurists.
NORTH VS SOUTH
Many developing countries
are ideologically opposed to putting individual states in the human rights
dock. They also feel that the commission ought give more emphasis to social
and economic rights -- such as the right to health and food -- saying that
political rights mean nothing to those who are starving.
commission is divided between North and South, unfortunately,"
said commission chairwoman Najat al-Hajjaji of Libya, whose election came in
the first ever such vote on the chairmanship in the 57 years of the
India, the world's most populous democracy, is among developing
countries opposed to singling out offenders. Its delegation has consistently
voted against such resolutions.
"We believe in advancing the cause of
human rights but not through 'naming and shaming' because it almost never
works," Debabrata Saha, deputy head of India's delegation, told
But rights activists also accuse Western states, notably the
United States and the European Union, of increasingly putting political
considerations ahead of the fight for human rights.
They say that
Washington did not lobby against China, despite continuing allegations of
political and religious persecution there, or against Russia over Chechnya
out of a desire not to worsen relations already fraught
Herald Reporter The National Oil Company of Zimbabwe
wants Syfrets Corporate and Merchant Bank as lead financial advisor to raise
$60 billion for fuel imports.
Others in the desired team that will
undertake the task include Sagit Advisory Services and Prudential Advisory
Noczim board chairman Mr Charles Chipato confirmed that an
application for Noczim to appoint Sybank as lead financial adviser had been
made to the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, but would not give
details about the deal.
"As far as I know, yesterday (Thursday) they
were still processing it," he said.
It is understood that the team
would provide Noczim with the necessary financial advisory services and
negotiate, structure and mobilise the required finance both locally and
off-shore through private placement and the issue of "petrofin
The financial advisors would review Noczim's current operations
with regard to both local and foreign currency requirements.
has to put in place a structure to secure a sustainable supply of foreign
currency and the Zimbabwe dollar equivalent to ensure the
continued availability of fuel.
Zimbabwe's fuel crisis has affected
the viability of several industries. The recently introduced electricity load
shedding has added to the woes of business.
Foreign currency shortages
have been worsened by a slump in exports as the country continues to face
The Government increased the price of fuel by up to
309 percent to bail out Noczim from collapse.
Noczim is experiencing
severe cash-flow problems as it has wiped out the oil company's reserves when
it purchased fuel using the US$35 million Anglo-American Corporation facility
and the US$5 million Zimbabwe Leaf Tobacco scheme at $824 to the
The country has been experiencing fuel shortages since 1992
due to years of corruption, mismanagement and a wrong pricing policy by
A string of deals aimed at ensuring a lasting solution to the
fuel crisis are being pursued and efforts are still on to revive the deal
with Libyan oil company, Tamoil.