The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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Sent: Tuesday, December 21, 2004 3:22 PM
Subject: Democracy watch

Democracy Watch.

The MDC National Executive spent the whole weekend debating whether or not
to lift its suspension of participation in any elections in Zimbabwe. The
debate raged and strong feelings were expressed on both sides but in the end
we decided to maintain the suspension until we were more fully aware of just
what the Zanu PF led government was doing - even at this late stage, only 90
days at most from the date of the next election. We meet again within the
next 30 days to review this decision.

When we met in August, just after the Mauritius meeting at which Mugabe put
his signature on the SADC Protocols for elections in the SADC region, we
again spent the whole weekend, debating the situation and the way forward.
We examined the conditions for elections in Zimbabwe and what the State had
said about reform and concluded that under these circumstances we could not
justify participation. Now remember, for the MDC elections are the only way
forward. We have consistently and firmly rejected the idea of confrontation
and the use of force in any form. We have not requested economic sanctions,
we have not suggested armed intervention by external forces, we have simply
demanded that the Zanu PF allow the people to vote freely, in an informed
manner and on the basis that their vote is secret and will be respected.

What we have asked our neighbors to do is to demand that Mugabe live up to
the SADC Protocols in the way the electoral system is managed in Zimbabwe.
This past week Mbeki and the Chairman of SADC, the Prime Minister of
Mauritius, said they were coming to Harare to see Mugabe and Tsvangirai
about compliance and the progress made so far. Mugabe promptly invented an
excuse and flew to Pretoria himself - an obvious effort to preempt the
proposed meeting with the MDC in Harare. It is ironical that every time
Smith wanted to see the South African President - he went to watch rugby.
Mugabe goes to weddings! We have asked the SADC to send a team of electoral
experts to Zimbabwe to investigate our compliance to the SADC norms and
report formally to the SADC leaders. This was the issue at stake this
weekend on the SADC front.

What about the situation here in Zimbabwe? Has Mugabe made any meaningful
concessions in recent weeks as they claim? Lets look at what they have done.

1.                   They have allowed the MDC access to the most recent
voters roll. This was after two years when the MDC went to court to demand
the roll that was used in 2002 for the presidential elections and the
consistent refusal by the government to allow us access. They have the whole
roll - nearly 6 million names and addresses in electronic form and we asked
for this, as it would then be easy for the MDC to analyze the roll. But no -
we have to buy the thing in hard copy - the pile almost reaches to ceiling
and then input the data into our own computers at great cost and effort. It
will take us a long time to get the roll onto our own discs, something the
State could have done in minutes and at virtually no cost.

2.                   They have agreed to a number of reforms in the way the
elections will be held - voting will be in one day, there will be no mobile
stations and translucent boxes will be used. Counting of the vote will be at
each polling station immediately after voting closes. This is all well and
good but it is expected that this will raise the number of polling stations
to something like 12000 sites and this makes the task of administration much
more difficult. In previous elections we had 4500 fixed polling stations and
about 1100 mobile stations with 120 counting centers. MDC had to deploy
about 30 000 electoral officers to supervise the poll and teams to each
mobile station with vehicles to ensure that the system was not abused. In
this next election the task of supervision has now been multiplied three
times in terms of supervision at polling stations and nearly 100 times in
terms of the control of counting.

In the two previous elections the task of voter education, poll monitor
training and deployment, was shared between the MDC and several NGO's who
provided much of the financing and expertise. All of these NGO's are now
expected to have to close down their operations and this avenue of support
for the electoral system will be unavailable this time round. Zanu knows
that and they are fully aware of the implications - hundreds of rural
polling stations without MDC or civil society monitors at which they can do
what ever is necessary to ensure a massive victory for Zanu PF.

Zanu has announced that only "friendly" countries will be allowed to monitor
the elections. We all know what that means and apart from a few diplomatic
teams and perhaps some clandestine presence the poll will go unobserved in
any serious way. In any event, what can 100 foreign observers with limited
resources do in an election spread over thousands of square miles and at
12000 voting stations?

On the ground it is business as usual - POSA is used to control all MDC
activities, even small constituency committee meetings to plan activities in
local areas. AIPPA is used to control the media - astonishing to know that
Morgan Tsvangirai is one of the best known opposition politicians in the
world and he has not been seen or heard on radio or TV in Zimbabwe for the
past two years. All references to the MDC and its leadership and policies
are simply propaganda cleared through the offices of Zanu PF. The State
controlled media will not even accept paid advertisements.

Violence and intimidation is a daily occurrence - and we have not even
agreed to participate in the election! The use of arrest and detention
powers is so widespread that they hardly merit a press release. MDC is
spending hundreds of millions of dollars on lawyers and bail costs when it
can hardly pay its own staff at the end of each month. Almost all key legal
actions mounted by the MDC related to the situation are in limbo - held up
simply by Judges sitting on their judgments or simply being remanded from
month to month. There has still not been a single prosecution of the persons
responsible for over 400 political murders of MDC activists in the past 4

Now in the past three weeks we have seen a budget passed for the elections
of a massive Z$300 billion dollars plus, the budget for the CIO increased 5
fold to a billion dollars a day! What for - just to ensure that the State
has the resources required to manage and manipulate the forthcoming
elections. And even then - we have yet to be told what the electoral
boundaries will be in the election and the actual date of the election
itself. Even after all that Mugabe still appoints directly 20 per cent of
all seats in the house without a vote being cast!

We have firm evidence that a consistent campaign to intimidate traditional
leaders and rural structures of the MDC is underway. In my own constituency
in recent weeks, the CIO has visited every traditional leader. They were
told to create a list of all the adults in their villages. They were also
told that if their people supported the MDC in any way - they would lose
their positions and their State allowances. The two Chiefs have been given
vehicles and substantial tax fee allowances. The people are being forced to
attend Zanu PF rallies and meetings. Non-attendance attracts "fines". People
are told - "vote for MDC and you will starve, vote for MDC and you will be
kicked out of the community." Both are life or death issues in this area of
the country where there are no private property rights left and no food is
available except through the aid agencies or the retail stores.

Eddie Cross

Bulawayo, 22 December 2004

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Mugabe refuses opposition ads

By Geoff Hill

JOHANNESBURG — Zimbabwe's opposition party has moved closer to a boycott of a planned general election in March after the government of President Robert Mugabe refused to air its campaign ads.
    Paul Themba Nyathi, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said in an interview Sunday that the rejection of the ad by the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp. (ZBC) was proof that Mr. Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party planned to use the media to "hide the truth and spin lies to a vulnerable electorate."
    "The refusal by ZBC to accept our [ad] not only underlines the extent to which the Zimbabwe government is failing to comply with the election standards. It also provides a stark reminder of the fact that ZBC is now simply a propaganda arm of the ruling party," Mr. Nyathi said.
    Mr. Mugabe's government controls all of the country's radio and television stations and the daily press outlets. But the president in August signed new election guidelines brokered by a group of Zimbabwe's African neighbors that, among other things, give all parties equal access to state media.
    At the time of the August agreement, MDC officials said they were considering a boycott of the general election if the government did not live up to its promises for a free vote.
    Mr. Nyathi said his party will make a decision on whether to participate in the vote by next month.
    The Zimbabwe state broadcaster reportedly told the MDC that campaign ads should not criticize the government or ZANU-PF, and could not refer to human rights issues.
    Rights groups, including Amnesty International, accuse the Zimbabwean government of widespread abuses, including rape, torture and intimidation of those who oppose Mr. Mugabe's 24-year-long rule.
    The MDC last week tried to hold forums with its members across the country, only to have several meetings broken up by police. New laws ban political meetings without police authorization, and it is now a criminal offense to criticize Mr. Mugabe or his record.
    The MDC has called for a repeal of these laws and has made clear it is unlikely to contest the election unless one of its legislators, Roy Bennett, is released from jail. Mr. Bennett is serving a one-year sentence with hard labor for pushing a ZANU-PF minister in parliament.
    Mr. Mugabe was returned to power in 2002 in a presidential election that many observers said was marred by fraud and violence. Members of the European Union and other Western countries, including Australia and the United States, refused to recognize the result.
    Up to 4 million black Zimbabweans have fled abroad in recent years, but a 2002 law denies them the right to vote even if they return in time for the election. The law requires that voters prove they have been living in Zimbabwe for 12 months prior to an election.

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General Motors Bags Sh240m Zimbabwe Deal
The East African Standard (Nairobi)
December 17, 2004
Posted to the web December 20, 2004
Noel Wandera
General Motors East Africa Ltd has won a Sh240 million tender to supply buses to a Zimbabwean transport company.
The firm's General Manager, Bill Lay, yesterday flagged off 29 of the 40 buses bought by Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO). "Eleven buses left Thursday, on an eight-day journey to Harare. Zupco is in the process of revamping its fleet."
"Earlier this year," said Lay, "Zupco took delivery of 100 Isuzu mid-sized minibuses with a capacity of 33 passengers."
He said Zupco will take delivery of another fleet of up to 30 vehicles between next month and February 2005. "It is the biggest order outside Uganda and Tanzania," said Lay.
The Sh240 million Zupco tender was competitive, and also featured companies from South Africa and the Asian Pacific Basin.
"They have chosen the Isuzu buses assembled in Kenya because of their proven durability across the region, even under demanding conditions and strong after-sales support, including warranty," said Lay.
The ability of the vehicle assembler to meet tight delivery schedules and its long experience in export logistics were also considered.
Lay said the reforms of the transport sector this year have seen unprecedented growth in sales.
He said the company will this year assemble 2,124 vehicles, the highest since 1989. "We are targeting 2,500 next year. We have even hired 65 extra assembly personnel to meet this increased demand," said Lay.

The last time the company had an assembly boom was the years 1987/08, when out of 20,000 units produced, GMEA accounted for 4,500 units.
The transport reforms, that mainly targeted the PSV industry players, were aimed at offering passenger a safe, comfortable and dignified ride.
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Nyazema Leads Consortium After Masiyiwa's ANZ Stake

Zimbabwe Standard (Harare)
December 19, 2004
Posted to the web December 20, 2004
Rangarirai Mberi

FORMER Econet Wireless Chairman Norman Nyazema has emerged as the lead bidder for Strive Masiyiwa's controlling stake in the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), owners of the banned Daily News and Daily News on Sunday.
However, despite Masiyiwa's confirmation that he wants to sell, none of the parties involved can yet place value on either Masiyiwa's shareholding in the company or the value of ANZ itself.
ANZ Chief Excutive Officer Samuel Siphepha-Nkomo confirms there is yet to be agreement on how much ANZ is worth, saying valuations are the subject of current discussions between all parties involved. This means Masiyiwa could solely determine the value of his shareholding.
"What is going to happen is that Masiyiwa will decide how much he intends to sell his shares for," Siphepha-Nkomo told StandardBusiness.
The Daily News' printing press, a Solna Distributor D300, and other assets are currently being valuated.
Masiyiwa is selling his interests in the Independent Media Group, the investment company he used to buy control of ANZ, to a consortium sponsord by Nyazema, journalist Jethro Goko and former ANZ CEO Muchadeyi Masunda.
Siphepha-Nkomo also confirmed that Nyazema, the founding chairman for Econet, could be part of a group of businssmen eager to take ownership from Masiyiwa.
"He could be part of the groups that might want to buy IMG shares (from Masiyiwa)", Siphepha-Nkomo said.
Although Masiyiwa has confirmed that he is cashing out from the ANZ, Nyazema could not be reached for comment last week. Nyazema gave up his Econet chair to return to teaching medicine last year.
It has also emerged that Nigel Chanakira, Masiyiwa's shareholding partner in IMG, has also indicated his intentions to sell his minority stake in the investment group.
Masiyiwa has in the past been quoted as saying he had no plans to sell, saying he was ready to support salaries for staff for years. However, the continued fighting between staff and management seems to have persuaded the telecoms baron to change his mind.

ANZ was forced to retrench after the closure, but is facing a legal battle against its 167 workers, who were awarded hefty severance packages by the Retrenchment Board. Nkomo's management says the closure its closure has meant it has been unable to generate its own resources, and is therefore unable to meet the retrenchment bil. ANZ has appealed against the Board's ruling.
The Daily News, and its sister paper The Daily News on Sunday, were shut down in September last year after ANZ refused to register under the discredited Access to Information and Protction of Privacy Act (AIIPA).
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SABC news

African standby force, elections discussed in Pretoria

December 21, 2004, 11:30

The SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation met in Pretoria today to discuss various issues including upcoming elections in the region, the department of foreign affairs said. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the foreign affairs minister, accompanied by her counterparts from Lesotho and Namibia, said that upcoming elections in countries within SADC would be discussed but refused to comment on the prominence Zimbabwe would hold in the discussions.

The delegates, who included Mosiuoa Lekota, the South African minister of defence, and Aziz Pahad, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, were also set to debate "the operationalisation" of the African Standby Force and other peace-keeping issues.

Zuma accompanied by Marco Hausiku, the Namibian foreign affairs minister, and Monyane Moleleketi, her counterpart from Lesotho, said they had a long agenda to debate before reporting back to the SADC. "It is a late meeting with Christmas just a few days away and we still have much work to do," Dlamini-Zuma said. - Sapa

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Cape Argus

Redraw favours Mugabe
December 21, 2004

A Zimbabwe state-appointed commission has redrawn the country's voting constituencies, strengthening President Robert Mugabe's party ahead of elections in March.

Yesterday's new demarcations increase seats in strongholds of the ruling Zanu-PF and reduce the number in areas where the opposition enjoys support.

The commission presented its report on the constituencies, traditionally compiled before parliamentary elections, to Mugabe in Harare yesterday.

"We will in due course naturally also be looking at making this information available to the public and the various parties that might want to participate in the election," Mugabe said on television after receiving it. 

The areas of Manicaland, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West, where Zanu-PF enjoys popular support, gained three constituencies.

Harare and Matabeleland South provinces, opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) strongholds, lost two constituencies. - Reuters
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2004 is almost over and we would like to thank all of you for your support
during the year, especially the people who donated money to us to enable us
to purchase the tranquilizer M99 for the snared elephants in Bumi and to
pay for the lion rescue in Kariba.

We have applied for the import licence for the M99 which we will be
importing from South Africa because it is not available in Zimbabwe and as
soon as we have paid for the drug, we will forward copies of the invoice to
all those who helped us to buy it. Once the rescue operations start, we
will also send out photos of our progress.


We recently received a very disturbing report about a magnificent bull
elephant in Kariba who was seen walking around with a snare wrapped around
his leg. This bull was a prime specimen and apart from the snare, was in
peak condition. National Parks were called in to remove the snare but when
they arrived, they shot him. When asked why they hadn't tranquilized him
and removed the snare, they replied that they didn't have any M99. Needless
to say, they made good use of the meat and tusks. Thanks to the generous
people who have donated funds to us, there will in future be no excuse for
this sort of thing to happen again.


It has been alleged that Captain Bhebe of the Boat Section of the Zimbabwe
National Army is engaged in a lucrative game meat business in Kariba.
According to reports, he is using the army boats to transport and
distribute meat from animals poached in the area.

We have also had reports from Gokwe that ivory from elephants poached in
the Chirisa National Park is being smuggled by boat to Zambia via the Chete
Gorge in Kariba.


4 months ago, there was an outbreak of anthrax in Gonorezhou, resulting in
the deaths of cattle and several members of the big cat families. Due to
the absence of game fencing, the disease quickly spread as far as the North
West of Harare. The last we heard is that it is now under control.


According to information received, National Parks are planning a "test
cull" of elephants in Hwange National Park. The purpose of this is
apparently to "test western opinion" regarding the culling of elephants. We
are strongly opposed to this in view of the fact that no accurate counting
has been done and nobody knows how many elephants we have. There have been
very few elephant sightings in Hwange this past year and we sincerely hope
enough pressure can be put on National Parks to abandon this idea until
such time as a proper count can be done.


We are really going to have our work cut out for us in the new year with
regard to fish poaching. Fish swim down the rivers to breed in the rainy
season which is from November to April and we have been receiving report of
intensified poaching in the rivers country wide, especially in Kariba. We
are planning several anti poaching patrols to try and combat this.


Marimba Angling Society has become the headquarters of fish poaching in
Lake Chivero and the staff of Marimba, together with at least 3 National
Parks employees are doing a roaring trade. Fish are attempting to breed in
the river that flows into the lake where Marimba is situated and 21 nets
were counted there recently. The poachers have the use of 4 boats and it is
not known how they acquired them. They are apparently making between $300
000 and $400 000 per day on fish sales and the 3 National Parks employees
who are involved have been spending thousands of dollars drinking in the
bar at Marimba. The head of National Parks at Chivero was alerted and she
organized a night time raid. Unfortunately, the poachers were alerted,
probably by the corrupt National Parks employees, and they managed to get
away. We are currently working on a plan to catch the culprits and stop
them in their tracks.


One of our members who lives in Bumi Hills has been doing wonders with the
local people in the area. He has been teaching them the principals of
sustainable development and explaining how they can use the wildlife to
their advantage instead of "killing the goose that lays the golden egg".
They are now enthusiastically scouring the bush for snares and are removing
between 200 and 400 per week. These results are very encouraging and this
is probably the best way of minimizing the poaching problem. One of our
main aims for the coming year is to raise funds to initiate more
educational progammes of this nature because we believe this is the way
forward in the long term. Any financial assistance we can get for this
project will be gratefully received.


Last weekend we were invited to a farm on the outskirts of Harare where 2
orphaned lion cubs are being kept. We had a delightful time with the cubs,
Bones, 3 months old and Savanna, 9 months old (see attached photos). Please
note, we had to reduce the quality of the photos in order to save
downloading time so if the photos appear in the body of this email, rather
go into the attachment and look at them where the quality looks much
better. The reason we were invited there is that the lady who has taken the
lions under her wing is hoping to start a gene pool for lions. She has 40
hectares in which they can roam and her intention is to breed them in order
to release them back into the wild which will hopefully boost our dwindling
cat population. Although Bones and Savanna are in contact with humans, any
future orphans that our lion lady accommodates will have no contact with
humans. They will be treated as wild animals so that they will be better
prepared for release into the wild but this will only happen when we have a
return of law and order and our wildlife is once again protected from
poachers and illegal hunters. They are appealing for funds to enable them
to accommodate more orphans and start their gene pool. If anyone can
assist, please email me.

We wish everybody a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year and once again,
thank you so much to all those who have contributed to our wildlife fund.
We are extremely grateful for your generosity and we intend to make a big
difference in 2005.

Best wishes

Johnny Rodrigues
Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force
Phone 263 4 336710
Fax 263 4 339065
Mobile 263 11 603 213
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ZIMBABWE: Plight of urban poor worsens, rural food stocks dwindle

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JOHANNESBURG, 21 December (IRIN) - Unemployment and a steadily rising cost
of living have worsened the vulnerability of the urban poor in Zimbabwe.

While government and labour unions do not agree on the level of
unemployment in Zimbabwe, statistics compiled by the country's consumer
council point to an ongoing increase in the cost of living.

Economic analysts and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) have
dismissed government claims that the country's unemployment rate now
stands at nine percent.

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Paul Mangwana told IRIN
the country's effective unemployment rate was nine percent, as many people
were employed in the informal sector.

He said the land reform exercise had also created numerous job
opportunities, with more new farmers needing labour. "I cannot give you
the exact number of jobs created so far but, yes, the agricultural sector
has created most of them. In fact, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has
the same figures on unemployment, and that is what I am using."

But a CSO official, who declined to be identified, said the organisation
had not released any statistics on the unemployment situation since 2001.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) has reported that the cost of the
monthly food basket for an average family of six rose from Zim $1.4
million (about US $246) in October to Zim $1.6 million (US $280) in
December - a 12.5 percent escalation.

The CCZ noted an increase in the prices of basic foods as well as non-food
items. A 50 kg bag of the staple maize meal now costs Zim $60,000 (US
$10), while the price of a 750 ml bottle of cooking oil is now Zim $21,000
(US $3.67), up from Zim $16,000 (US $2.80), a gain of almost 24 percent.

The CCZ collects information by monitoring the selling prices of goods in
retail outlets.

The rising cost of basic items comes at a time when humanitarian
organisations warn of widespread food shortages in the country between
December 2004 and March 2005. In its latest situation analysis for
Zimbabwe, the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) noted that the
majority of rural households had run out of the food they had harvested in
the 2004 season.

FEWSNET said the situation was equally bad in urban areas, where most
scarce foodstuffs were being sold at high informal market prices beyond
the reach of many families. The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment
Committee (ZIMVAC) predicted in April that 3.3 million people would be
food insecure by the end of this year.

In terms of unemployment, ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo disputed
minister Mangwana's claim that joblessness stood at nine percent. He said
ZCTU currently estimated the rate at a conservative 75 percent, but warned
that the actual figure could be well over 80 percent, given the number of
jobs lost in 2004.


"Anyone who estimates this country's unemployment rate at less than 70
percent is out of touch with reality - our records show that 600,000
people had lost jobs due to various reasons between 1999 and the end of
2003. Current CSO figures show that 50,000 people have lost jobs this year
alone, so the trend [in unemployment] cannot go down, it can only get
worse," said Matombo.

The minister has argued that the labour unions' estimates do not take into
account new employment opportunities in the agricultural sector, nor do
they include the number of people working in the informal sector.

But Matombo said "our assessment of sector performances over the past four
years shows that, contrary to what the government says, the agricultural
sector has dropped from employing the highest number of people to being
one where there are no opportunities at all".

"The disruption of agriculture through the land reform programme threw
many people out of employment. The present situation in the sector is that
it is no longer employing because there is nothing happening on the
farms - most are under-utilised, if not derelict altogether. As for the
contribution of the informal sector, Zimbabwe would be the first country
to count on it as a formal source of employment," Matombo remarked.

Economic analyst Erich Bloch also ruled out the inclusion of the informal
sector in calculating national employment figures, adding that the
agriculture sector, which used to employ over 300,000 before the farm
seizures of 2000, had not contributed much to employment over the past
four years.

"The conservative [unemployment] figure is 75 percent. It could be higher,
but that is the lowest anyone can come when looking at Zimbabwe's
employment trends; but, from what we get from employment councils, trade
unions and mining chambers, the figure is much higher," Bloch commented.
"Our conservative estimate is that about 2.7 million out of the country's
employable population of about 3.5 million are out of work right now."
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Zimbabwe Opposition: First Step Toward Elections Unfair

21 December 2004

The Zimbabwe government has taken the first legal step to allow a general election in March by publishing a list of voting districts.  The opposition is angry that the new list eliminates some voting districts in its strongholds.

Some journalists have copies of the new voting districts, called constituencies, in Zimbabwe.  The new district plan may be published Friday, accompanied by a map.  That will be the first legal step to declare the election period.

State radio reported the Delimitation Commission appointed by President Robert Mugabe has merged six urban constituencies to form three.  The opposition Movement for Democratic Change won all six parliamentary seats in those districts in the 2000 general election.

Three additional voting districts have been created in the ruling Zanu PF party's traditional rural strongholds.

There are 120 parliamentary seats and the winner of the majority forms the government.

In 2000, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was only nine months old when it won 57 seats, and almost 50 percent of the vote, mostly in urban areas.

Drawing up the boundaries, according to state radio, was determined by grouping together groups of about 47, 000 registered voters in each of the 120 constituencies.

MDC spokesman, Paul Themba Nyathi says the data used to draw up the boundaries was suspicious.  He said the Movement for Democratic Change had again been denied access to an electronic version of the voters roll to check it.

The Movement for Democratic Change is to decide in early January whether to contest parliamentary polls, scheduled for March.

Independent observers say that neither the 2000 general election nor the presidential poll two years later were free and fair.

In August the Movement for Democratic Change suspended participation in elections until the government reformed electoral laws to comply with regional election principles agreed to in August by Mr. Mugabe.  The Movement for Democratic Change says reforms made so far are minor and do not change the fundamental way in which Zimbabwe runs elections.  It says repressive security and media laws remain.

MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube says the opposition would not be able to challenge the voters' roll in court unless it had an electronic version so that more than five million names on the roll could be checked.

The University of Zimbabwe's recent research on population trends says it is unlikely that there are five million voters above the voting age of 18.

Parliament was adjourned Monday until February 8, although justice minister Patrick Chinamasa says it is unlikely to meet again before the general election.  The Movement for Democratic Change says this means the door has been shut on any possibility of changes to existing laws.

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Zimbabwe opposition barred from advertising

afrol News, 21 December - Zimbabwe's principal opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has again been denied access to state media. Political ads from the party were refused by the state broadcaster because they were "criticising the government."

MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi protested the decision taken by state broadcaster ZBC to ban party political advert for the opposition. ZBC's refusal was "in contravention of SADC principles governing the conduct of elections in member countries," said the spokesman, referring to recent agreements in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), where Zimbabwe is member.

The MDC had submitted the advert to the state broadcaster for transmission on national radio in early December, together with a guarantee of payment. ZBC however refused to air it. "We submitted this advert with the view to having it broadcast by ZBC radio," said MDC spokesman Nyathi.

- ZBC radio refused to flight it on the basis that it has some offensive reference to [the ruling party] ZANU-PF, added Mr Nyathi. "We don't believe that it was turned down because of its content."

The opposition party said it believed that the problem was simply that Zimbabwe Information Minister Jonathan Moyo and the ZANU-PF party "simply refuse to adhere to the SADC Mauritius protocol." One of the electoral principles contained in that SADC protocol provides for "equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media."

The Zimbabwean government undertook to abide by the protocol at the SADC summit in Mauritius in August this year. According to the MDC, however, opposition access to sate media is "still far from reality."

ZBC officials at the state broadcaster's commercial offices in Mbare had used less than half an hour to take the decision to refuse to transmit the advert, saying that MDC adverts should not criticise the government, or make any reference to the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe.

This "in effect prevents any campaigning on national radio by opposition parties as they are unable to challenge the ruling party's record," noted the MDC spokesman. The opposition is to focus much of its campaign on the government's economic policies, which have led to a collapse of the economy in Zimbabwe.

The MDC however is not letting the decision by the pro-government ZBC officials stop the party from airing its message to Zimbabwean voters. The banned advert was broadcast on 'SW Radio Africa', which broadcasts to Zimbabwe, and on South Africa's 'Radio 702' this week.

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Mail & Guardian
Zim's white farmers spread their wings
Harare, Zimbabwe
Scores of white Zimbabwean farmers dispossessed of their farms under the government's controversial land reforms have turned to countries in the region and beyond for sustenance, their union says.

Dozens have invested in farming in neighbouring Zambia and Mozambique, while others are preparing to settle in Nigeria.

Others have been invited to grow food for workers at some mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

"These are business decisions relating to being able to economically sustain their lives," said Doug Taylor-Freeme, president of the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU).

"Obviously the first choice for the farmers is that they would like to continue farming in Zimbabwe, but as time goes past they have to look after their families and educate their children.

"That is why they tend to drift into other countries," Taylor-Freeme said in an interview.

Thousands of white Zimbabweans have been driven from their farms since 2000 when President Mugabe instituted a policy of seizing and redistributing prime agricultural land to black people.

Taylor-Freeme said a number of countries are interested in Zimbabwean farmers investing in their countries.

"There are a number of countries that have contacted us to say they would like our expertise to help develop their agriculture," he said. "The farmers are creating branches of their businesses throughout Africa with the hope that one day they will be able to invest back home."

"The sad thing is that these are countries that used to be worried about the competition that Zimbabwe used to provide," he added.

Taylor-Freeme, who was recently elected co-vice president of the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions, said among other countries that have expressed interest in Zimbabwean farmers are Ethiopia, Angola, Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania.

Authorities in Nigeria's central Kwara State have allocated 1 000ha of farmland to each of 15 Zimbabwean farmers on 25-year leases. The farmers will move in as soon as the infrastructure is in place.

A Nigerian government official said early this month that the Zimbabweans will carry out "irrigation farming and not conventional farming. This allows them to begin their farming any time they are ready."

Of about 4 500 large-scale commercial farmers operating in Zimbabwe four years ago, about 600 white farmers now remain in Zimbabwe and own just 3% of the country's land.

The 4 500 white farmers used to own a third of the country's land, including 70% of prime farmland, before the government launched its reform programme in February 2000. -- Sapa-AFP
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IOL Africa
Zimbabwe land minister arrested for theft

    December 21 2004 at 02:19PM

Harare - Permanent secretary in Zimbabwe's land ministry Simon Pazvakavambwa was arrested on charges of theft and vandalism of farm equipment on already commandeered farms "running into billions of dollars", state radio said on Monday.

This follows the high-ranking official this year coming under attack for writing letters on behalf of white farmers confirming that attempts to give their land to state-selected black locals had been put on hold.

However, his arrest was a move widely seen as political.

Pazvakavambwa had given written reprieves to white farmers under imminent threat of having their land confiscated.

The farmers had faced harassment from ruling Zanu-PF party militants since President Robert Mugabe launched his land reform in 2000.

 Pazvakavambwa also came under fire for allegedly sabotaging a scheme many farming experts considered impractical - growing a mielies under irrigation in the winter months.

Police spokesperson Oliver Mandipaka said the civil servant was arrested on Friday on allegations of stealing equipment that became state property under new seizure laws, forbidding evicted whites from removing their farm infrastructure.

It was also alleged that he did not use a farm he received under Mugabe's redistribution plan, but left workers unpaid and removed equipment. - Sapa-dpa

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SABC news

More countries approach dispossessed Zimbabwean farmers

December 21, 2004, 15:00

Dozens more African countries have approached Zimbabwean farmers dispossessed of their land to settle elsewhere and help boost their economies. The Zimbabwean Commercial Farmers Union (ZCU) says scores of farmers dispossessed of their properties have already turned to other countries in Africa for sustenance.

Many have invested in farming in Zambia and Mozambique, while others are settling in Nigeria. The CFU says more farmers have been invited to the DRC, Ethiopia, Angola, Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania.

Thousands of white Zimbabweans have been driven from their farms since 2000 when president Robert Mugabe instituted a policy of seizing and redistributing prime agricultural land. The union says farmers are creating branches of their businesses throughout Africa with the hope that one day they will be able to invest back home. - Sapa

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Emergency meeting could lead to domestic split

Mashonaland set to take on board

Steven Price

December 21, 2004

The Mashonaland Cricket Association are soldiering on with their showdown with Zimbabwe Cricket, and are preparing to hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the matter. Elvis Sembezeya, an MCA board member, confirmed that the meeting will go ahead at 10am local time.

Sembezeya said his board will consider a possible vote of no confidence on a possible breach of the former ZCU constitution when the board rebranded itself as Zimbabwe Cricket. "A number issues will be discussed including our affiliation to the Zimbabwe Cricket Union," Sembezeya explained. "As far as we are concerned, we are affiliated to the ZCU and not Zimbabwe Cricket, so we want to discuss our position."

The week before last, Mashonanaland, the biggest and most powerful stakeholder in Zimbabwe Cricket, issued a press statement dissociating themselves from the board's rebranding exercise. Mashonaland's clubs have refused to fulfill National League matches, and Mashonaland will not take any further part in the Logan Cup, which is unlikely to be completed if the dispute is not resolved.

"It doesn't make sense to change the name and logo when they fail to give clubs support to sustain themselves," Sembezeya continued. "[The board's] mandete is to make sure that cricket survives and not change the name and logo." He added that Mashonaland were taking their stand for the good of the game, and that the current ZC board did "not have cricket at heart".

© Cricinfo

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Business Day
Band Aid for a Terminal Illness

 Business Day (Johannesburg)
December 21, 2004
Posted to the web December 21, 2004
Richard Tren
TWO years ago I, along with public health experts, criticised the Nobel Prize-winning health-care organisation Doctors Without Borders for supporting the Zimbabwean government's decision to import generic AIDS drugs.
The move, I argued, would do nothing to improve access to medicines as it did not address the fundamental problems of a lack of infrastructure, corruption and the Zimbabwean government's failure when it comes to HIV and AIDS.
Recently I felt myself slipping from the moral high ground I had assumed when I found myself sitting near Zimbabwean Health Minister David Parirenyatwa .
Zimbabwe's government has decided to reintroduce DDT spraying to control malaria, which is a good thing. For decades DDT ensured that malaria was well under control in the country but when it was removed in the early 1990s, malaria cases and deaths began to rise. At the same time, Zimbabwe's economy began its decline under the tyrannical grip of President Robert Mugabe and as a consequence all medical care and public-health programmes began to suffer.
The Zimbabwean government invited me to a press conference in Harare to raise the profile of malaria and dispel any myths about DDT. I felt that I could possibly do some good and help save lives by assisting. I was probably wrong.
Yet there I was, sitting near a senior member of Mugabe's government. I have met many people who have been arrested and tortured by Mugabe's secret police, the Central Intelligence Organisation. Their horrific stories kept playing in my head as I listened to Parirenyatwa say that Zimbabwe was well prepared to deal with malaria.
Certainly, if the government were as effective in its battle against the Anopheles mosquitoes as it is against its opponents, there wouldn't be a malaria problem.
To be fair, Parirenyatwa is quite widely respected as a health minister. Yet he is a high-profile member of Mugabe's regime, and in Zimbabwe you can judge a man by the company he keeps.
In any event, his assurances rang hollow, as I had already spoken to several Zimbabwean doctors and read many reports that describe the almost complete breakdown of the country's health-care system. But it was curious that the minister felt he had to defend himself and his government's policies .
Since passing the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act , Mugabe's government has silenced most of the independent media. No independent journalists were invited to the malaria press conference, just the state broadcasters, journalists working for the state-backed newspaper and Zanu (PF)'s newspaper, the Voice. These socalled journalists think nothing of writing hate-filled stories designed to belittle Mugabe's opponents. Their favourite phrase is to call Mugabe's critics the "running dogs of imperialist Britain and the US".
Their writing often incites violence and is normally completely divorced from the truth. So when one of the journalists started to question me fairly aggressively about the use of DDT, the effrontery was too much . Was I expected to argue and explain myself to these disciples of Goebbels? What is the point in trying to impart truths to people only interested in lies?
However, within Zimbabwe's health department there are ordinary men and women who are trying their best to save lives and improve malaria control.
Unfortunately the main reason malaria cases have risen is that the malaria-control programme has been starved of funds. Only 3,4% of the houses that are supposed to be sprayed with insecticides were sprayed last year. Malaria-control officers had no budgets .
Zimbabwe is in a sort of truth twilight zone. One or two publichealth experts I spoke to would tell me of their hatred of Mugabe and the real health-care problems only in private. Publicly, of course, the government blames the "running dogs" for everything.
The decision to use DDT is a good one, but this is overshadowed by countless human rights outrages and ongoing state violence.
DDT may save the lives of some Zimbabweans, only for them to be denied food and starved, raped, tortured or murdered for the crime of not belonging to Zanu (PF). Until Mugabe's reign of terror ends and democracy is restored, this running dog is staying away.
Tren is a director of the South Africa-based health advocacy group Africa Fighting Malaria.
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Bread Price Goes Up 10pc, Rising Input Costs Cited

The Herald (Harare)
December 21, 2004
Posted to the web December 21, 2004
THE price of bread has gone up by about 10 percent with a loaf now selling at $3 500, up from $3 200.
According to a price list released by the Ministry of Industry and International Trade yesterday, a 700-gramme white or brown loaf should be sold for $3 200 at wholesale price and $3 500 at retail price.
Prior to the increases, the same loaf was going for $3 000 at wholesale price and $3 200 at retail price.
The new set of prices, the ministry said, was agreed upon in consultation with bakers who have been grappling to remain viable.
The latest round of price increases, however, comes as little surprise to most consumers who were already buying the commodity at the new retail price.
Some were even paying more for a loaf of bread.
Only such retailers as OK and TM supermarkets, who have in-house bakeries, and Bakers Inn were selling bread at the stipulated $3 200.
The National Bakers' Association last month ordered its members to revert to the gazetted price levels after they had unilaterally increased the charge without Government approval.
The bakers had pegged the retail price of a loaf at between $3 600 and $5 000 from $3 000.
In June, bakers and retailers slashed bread prices from $2 900 to between $2 500 and $2 800 per loaf owing to consumer resistance.
This was after the price of bread had gone up by almost 50 percent the previous month, with bakeries attributing the increase to rising costs of inputs, notably flour, the main ingredient.
The wholesale price of a 350g white or brown loaf was put at $1 600 against a retail price of $1 750.
A 700g white or brown loaf (standard loaf), on the other hand, would cost $3 200 at wholesale price and $3 500 at retail price.
The price of white flour was pegged at $3 470 000 per metric tonne, while that of brown flour was put at $3 231 864 per metric tonne and that of cake flour at $3 929 265 per metric tonne.

The producer price of a kilogramme of self-raising flour was put at $4 000, with the wholesale price pegged at $4 200 and the retail price put at $4 620.
The cost of a 2kg packet was put at $7 840, $8 240 and $9 060 in respect of the producer price, wholesale price and retail price.
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Daily News Online Edition, 21 December
MDC loses two potential seats

Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change has lost two potential seats in its political strongholds after a government-appointed delimitation commission cut the number of constituencies in some areas and increased seats in known ruling party strongholds. The Delimitation Commission, which presented its findings to President Robert Mugabe yesterday, said the number of urban voters had reduced, which resulted in the number of seats in the affected areas being cut. There are 120 constituencies in the country. "There are 5.6 million registered voters in the country, the majority of whom are now living in rural areas," said Commission chairman Justice George Chiweshe. The other commissioners are Dr Job Whabira, Dr Charles Mukora and Dr Maclean Bhala, all of whom were handpicked by President Robert Mugabe. Chiweshe attributed the increase in the number of rural-based voters to the government’s land reform programme which he said had seen a reversal of the rural-urban migration. Under the reform programme however, only about 150 000 people were resettled in the whole country under the government’s land programme. The provinces which have lost seats are Bulawayo and Harare which each lost one constituency, while the provinces of Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Manicaland each gained one constituency. Each constituency is said to have a total of about 46 000 voters.
The commission was appointed in September and took eight weeks to complete its work. The urban areas of Harare and Bulawayo are considered MDC strongholds as the party romped to victory in all the contested seats in the last election in 2000. In the rural areas, however, the situation is different as a number of factors have over the years ensured that the ruling Zanu PF party wins all seats in the provinces. The ruling party has adopted a number of measures, among them violence, denial of permission to the opposition to contest in the rural areas and use of war veterans, police, army and militia gangs to intimidate potential voters not to cast their vote for a party of their choice. Only last week, the ruling Zanu PF demonstrated its penchant for undemocratic policies, with the Mutoko district co-ordinating committee (DCC) openly declaring it would not tolerate any opposition party politics within its constituencies. DCC chairman Petros Chatambarara declared that even if the MDC chose their candidate in Mutoko - some 220km north-east of the capital Harare - the aspirant would have to hold rallies elsewhere, notably Harare, as they would not be allowed to campaign there. He said they reached a consensus with the district war veterans’ association to "bury any British-sponsored candidate", once and for all. Zanu PF has since accused the MDC of working in cahoots with the British and the West to topple President Robert Mugabe and his government – a charge vehemently denied by the opposition.
Remius Makuwaza, the MDC director of elections, said the "work" of the delimitation commission was a mockery of promises of electoral reforms in the country. Makuwaza said the determination of boundaries was part of the electoral process, and with proposed changes on the way elections are run, an acceptable situation would have been for the delimitation commission to fall under an independent electoral supervisory commission. He said as long as members of the body were handpicked, the outcome of their work would be compromised. "The work of determining boundaries must be part and parcel of an independent electoral supervisory commission. Swearing in a commission under the provisions of the past shows that the government is not serious about electoral reforms," said Makuwaza. Wurayayi Zembe, president of the Democratic Party, expressed similar views, adding the handpicking of the commission’s members showed that next year’s parliamentary polls would not be conducted under new electoral laws. "This just shows that these people do not mean to reform anything. They are just reinforcing their dictatorial tendencies. There is no difference between the government and Zanu PF," Zembe said. The acting president of the United Parties, Godwin Mutambirwa, said his party had unearthed anomalies in previous delimitation exercises. He said there was need to involve other stakeholders in the process and do away with the current situation where government made the appointments. MDC spokesman Paul Themba-Nyathi said: "The electoral field is not even. That is why we have said our participation in the 2005 parliamentary elections will only be on the basis that government adopts the SADC protocols on elections, which promote equal opportunity to campaign."
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Daily Mirror, 21 December
Mudenge, Mahofa in trouble
Takunda Maodza
Zanu PF has dispatched a team to the ruling party’s fractious political hotbed of Masvingo province amid reports that war veterans have demanded the expulsion of six bigwigs from the party on allegations of corruption and forsaking the sacred 1987 Unity Accord. Masvingo war veterans’ chairman Isaiah Muzenda yesterday said the ex-freedom fighters recommended the ejection of Foreign Affairs Minister Stan Mudenge, Gutu South MP Shuvai Mahofa, Governor and Resident Minister Josaya Hungwe, Chief Fortune Charumbira, legislator for Zaka East Tinos Rusere and suspended chairman Daniel Shumba, from Masvingo province. Colonel Munemo and economist Samuel Undenge lead the task force. "The leadership in Masvingo is against the Unity Accord, some of them attended the Tsholotsho meeting. Hutungamiri hunodakuparadza. Havakodzeri kuvanesu. (That is divisive and destructive leadership. They don’t deserve to be part and parcel of us.) Mudenge, Mahofa, Shumba, Charumbira, Governor Hungwe and Rusere are the people we want out of the party," said Muzenda.
He claimed that some of them were newcomers to the party and had no history (apart from reading about it in text books) of the liberation struggle that culminated in Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. "They should go back to where they were when we were fighting for the liberation of this country. Mudenge was enjoying himself lecturing in Lesotho at a time some of us were in the struggle," alleged Muzenda, who also accused the six of disrespecting war veterans in the province by denouncing them whenever they hold meetings. The war veterans also alleged that the six were multiple farm owners, who were resisting government’s one-man-one-farm policy. "We carried out our own assessment on the distribution of land in Masvingo and discovered that they own more than one farm each. We have since surrendered the document to the Minister of Special Affairs in the Office of the President, John Nkomo," added Muzenda. Nkomo could neither confirm nor deny receiving the document. He said of late, he has been very busy and would have to verify whether such a document was delivered to his office. "I was very busy and would have to check," said Nkomo, Zanu PF’s national chairman, who could have lost his seat to Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa had the Tsholotsho game plan succeeded.
Muzenda also alleged that the Masvingo leadership was abusing government’s scholarship programmes by awarding them exclusively to their relatives. Zanu PF national political commissar Elliot Manyika confirmed that the ruling party last week dispatched a team to Masvingo and other parts of the country. "The party operates 24 hours. The teams are everywhere in the country on fact-finding missions, but there is nothing sinister about it," explained Manyika, while Undenge, the ruling party’s aspirant for Chimanimani, said their mission was not to investigate anyone. Contacted for a comment yesterday, Charumbira threatened legal action against this newspaper if it published the on-goings in Masvingo. "Wanatsa. Mukangonyora nyaya iyoyo ndingatowana mari yedefamation, (Just as well you phoned. If you dare write that story, I’ll sue for defamation)," Charumbira said before his mobile phone went off. A secretary who picked up Shumba’s mobile phone said her boss was in a running meeting at his TeleAccess offices in the capital, while Hungwe would not comment. Mahofa professed ignorance of the task force. "I am not aware of that," she said, before her phone too went off. Rusere said he was not aware that the veterans of the liberation struggle in the province were calling for his dismissal from the party. "I am not aware of that, but they should know that I am the acting chairman for the party in this province. They have no say in issues regarding the party. Theirs is just an association," Rusere said. Mudenge could not be reached for comment yesterday.
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Sunday Mail, 19 December
Mystery continues to surround Chiyangwa’s whereabouts
Sunday Mail Reporter
Mystery continued to surround the whereabouts of Cde Philip Chiyangwa yesterday with police and his family declining to comment on the rumour that the businessman and politician was picked up by police for questioning on Wednesday. When reached to comment on the rumour yesterday, Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri only said: "He (Chiyangwa) is fine," before declining to entertain more questions. Cde Chiyangwa could not be reached on his mobile phone while a Sunday Mail crew that went to his house in Borrowdale was only told that the Chinhoyi Member of Parliament was "safe". Police spokesman Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka on Friday denied that they were holding the flamboyant legislator who also presides over a diversified business empire. "Our Press and public relations department has been trying to establish whether he was arrested, but we have not found any information. In fact, we feel there is someone phoning the independent media claiming that the legislator was arrested," Supt Mandipaka was quoted as saying. Cde Chiyangwa’s solicitor, Mr Lloyd Mhishi of Dube, Manikai and Hwacha law firm, could not deny or confirm the reports. He said he had been in touch with Cde Chiyangwa, who indicated that he was "in control of the situation". Cde Chiyangwa was arrested this year on charges of contempt of court, perjury and attempting to obstruct the course of justice in a case involving Nyasha Watyoka and Gilbert Muponda, the directors of the collapsed financial services company, ENG. He was cleared of the charges in August.
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The Herald

ZSE suspends CFX

By Leonard Makombe and Jeffrey Gogo
THE Zimbabwe Stock Exchange suspended trading in CFX Financial Services shares on Monday this week in the wake of a severe liquidity crisis at the beleaguered institution.

This marks the deepest a financial group has sunk following last week*s revelations that the merger between CFX and Century Holdings was based on half-truths and doctored figures.

CFX, which becomes the first merged entity to be placed under curatorship this year, joins four other counters that are currently on suspension.

The other "bad boys" are Barbican Holdings, First Mutual Limited, Trust Holdings and TZI Limited.

ZSE chief executive Mr Emmanuel Munyukwi said CFX had gone into voluntary suspension to pave way for audits into cheating by its partner, Century Holdings.

CFX merged with Century in July this year, but revelations of falsified figures by the latter and the ultimate curatorship debacle are threatening to tear apart the alliance.

As a natural consequence of its financial troubles, CFX had no option but to request for voluntary suspension from the stock exchange (or risk being suspended by the ZSE itself).

CFX curatorship caught the market by sur- prise.

Apart from catching the market unawares, it has also raised a number of questions about ethics in the country*s banking sector in general and the two partners in particular.

Questions are also being asked as to what actually transpired prior to the marriage, with some analysts putting the blame on CFX of either hurrying things or signing the deal under blindfolds.

It appears as if CFX suspended facts and reality and in a stupor signed the deal with a dishonest partner.

Any firm worth its salt would have been a bit more cautious given the unsavoury events in the country*s banking sector since the beginning of the year.

While these questions are still to be answered, some have started looking at the bigger picture, asking what is going to happen to CFX Financial Services after these shocking revelations.

Does it now mean that either CFX Financial Services as a group is now a candidate for the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group or is there a split looming on the horizon?

Should there be a split, then maybe CFX would return to its former self after the five months of hypnotised marriage with Century, leaving the latter a candidate for ZABG.

Many of the bank*s clients are curious to know the fate of the group especially as the developments came barely a fortnight before ZABG opens its doors to the public.

When the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe announced the formation of ZABG, there were a number of financial institutions — Trust Bank, Barbican Commercial Bank, Royal Bank and Time Bank — which were ready-made candidates.

These questions and issues have further dented the public*s confidence in the banking sector, which has sunk deeper than implied by the word "plummet".

It also raises questions on the thoroughness of spot checks being carried out by the RBZ seeking to ascertain company liquidity levels if fraudulent activities such as these could not be detected during negotiations.

After having absorbed the shocks that came with the December 18 2003 monetary policy and disturbances that rocked the financial industry early this year, depositors were to be "treated" to another shock by the placement of CFX under curator- ship.

This "bolt out of the blue" has literally taken the "steam" out of depositors who had started regaining confidence in the local banking sector after the tremors experienced during the greater part of 2004.

But expectations still remain high that the banking public will view the current efforts by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe as positive gestures targeted at redressing flaws in the financial industry.

The Herald

Agribank transformed into development financier

Business Reporter
THE recent restructuring at Agribank is expected to transform the commercial bank into a fully fledged agricultural development financier.

This was said by Agribank managing director Mr Sam Malaba when he presented the results of the bank’s restructuring in Harare yesterday.

The transformation is expected to complement Government efforts in the resuscitation and development of the agricultural sector, which has borne the brunt of successive droughts that have gripped the country over the past four years.

The new legal framework, which will be implemented early next year, would play a pivotal role in the land reform programme as emphasis would now shift to the country’s new farmers, many of who have been sidelined by the traditional banking system.

Far-reaching changes have been made in the new structure to ensure its activities are in harmony with the bank’s new strategic thrust.

The new structure would give Agribank more room to focus on the development of the agricultural sector, which is the backbone of the country’s economy, while allowing it to create and develop innovative financial products to reach more farmers.

"The land bank should not solely rely on Government funding. We should innovate our own financial products to make resources available to farmers.

Said Mr Malaba: "The bank would also focus shareholder mandate and specific needs of the market."

The new structure would lay the foundation for future partnerships and strategic alliances with other agricultural funding institutions in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region, he added.

This, Mr Malaba said, would develop and nurture the indigenous commercial farmer most of who were allocated land under the Government’s historic land reform exercise, put it motion in 1998.

The agrarian revolution has seen more than 127 192 landless peasants under A1 model and 12 943 individuals under A2 benefiting from about 6,3 million hectares of land, previously owned by about 4 500 commercial white farmers.

To prevent abuse of funds, Mr Malaba said strict vetting measures would be put in place to weed out potential fraudsters seeking to borrow funds for purposes other than agriculture. The bank would at the same time ensure the transparent and efficient distribution of available resources.

In order to address challenges arising from the new strategic thrust, an advisory body would be established.

Its main functions would be to monitor and evaluate the organisation’s activities as well as review operating standards.

However, under the new structure, the managing director said his institution would implement debt recovery strategies to ensure the bank did not collapse under the weight of bad debts.

Mr Malaba expressed optimism that the new structure would be a major boost for land reform as many of the problems facing new farmers were currently being addressed at various levels.

"Organisation effectiveness will be achieved through creating a seamless organisation built around key processes benefiting customers especially financing farmers.

"The structure will facilitate quicker decision- making and role empowerment as well as better resource utilisation, and with a better service to its farming clientele," Mr Malaba said.

Agriculture is the hub of the economy, contributing about 16,5 percent of total output and as much as one-third of the foreign exchange earnings.

The bank has played a critical role in financing new farmers since the advent of the land reform programme.

According to figures released by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), the sector has utilised about $1,642 trillion or 57,1 percent of the total disbursements under the Productive Sector Facility.

This, coupled with more than $87 billion availed to tobacco farmers under Vision 160 (V160), has given tobacco farmers a headstart as plans to rebound the "golden leaf" gather momentum.

Agribank projects a 28 percent increase in agriculture output in 2005 following an estimated 3,3 percent decline this year.

State seeks to convert Zisco’s debt into equity

Business Reporter
THE Government is still assessing ways of converting Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Ziscosteel) debt into equity to improve the performance of the country*s steelmaker.

The debt currently stands at $25 billion.

Sources within the company said the Ministry of Industry and International Trade and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were holding consultations with various stakeholders on how to turn the $25 billion debt into equity.

The source said the Government had decided to engage the two ministries in light of Ziscosteel*s strategic importance.

"The Government is still to convert the debt of Ziscosteel into equity as consultations are still in progress with various stakeholders over the issue.

"The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Ministry of Industry and International Trade are the major parties involved in the considerations for the conversion and when consultations are finished, the proposal may then be tabled before Parliament for consideration before implementation," said the company top official.

The steel manufacturing concern failed to secure a $25 billion loan from the Productive Sector Facility (PSF) which was extended to the various productive sectors of the economy by the Reserve Bank.

"This is the only way to ensure the company*s viability after it failed to access funds from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe loan facility," the official added.

In contrast, State companies such as Hwange Colliery Company, Zesa Holdings and Air Zimbabwe had accessed PSF loans as of 30 September this year.

Ziscosteel*s loan application was turned down by the central bank citing the steel manufacturer*s "unsatisfactory" audited financial results, poor corporate governance and unclear turnaround strategies.

Government holds the majority shareholding in the steel making company, accounting for more than 89 percent equity.

The parastatal has for the past two years been reeling under huge debts owed to both local and external creditors.

As such, efforts by the parastatal to operate at full capacity were being hampered.

Government, through the Ministry of Industry and International Trade, has so far adopted various strategies to revitalise the operations of the Redcliff-based steelmaker.

Ziscosteel has the potential to meet national steel requirements and export 70 percent of its output, but has since fallen on hard times due to undercapitalisation and poor corporate governance.

The company also requires more than $14 billion to realign blast furnace number four in order to raise production of hot metals to a target of 60 000 tonnes per month.

At present, production is confined to blast furnace number three only, which means production comes to a standstill when the furnace is under repair or maintenance.

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