|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
By Andrew Cawthorne
ABOARD PRIME MINISTER'S PLANE (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tony Blair has
pushed aside talk of a compromise on crisis-torn Zimbabwe and insisted its
former colony should remain suspended from the Commonwealth.
"The key thing is to maintain the suspension of Zimbabwe from the
Commonwealth because that sends the right signal of strong disapproval for
what is happening in Zimbabwe at the present time," Blair told reporters on
Blair, heading to Nigeria for the biennial summit of the group of 54 mainly
former British colonies on Friday, said the suspension was a mild reprimand
for President Robert Mugabe after accusations that he rigged his re-election
in 2002, but that something was better than nothing.
"The Commonwealth has got a limit to the power that it can have. But it is
far better to send a signal than do nothing," he said.
Canada suggested on Wednesday the suspension should be maintained but that a
mechanism be created to allow Zimbabwe back in before the next summit.
At the same time, many southern African states have rejected the suspension
and asked that the former Rhodesia be allowed back into the fold
In a tough message to the region, Blair said it was ordinary Zimbabweans who
were suffering from the country's economic meltdown and widespread human
"It is particularly important for the players in the region in southern
Africa to exert strong pressure, as I hope they will do, in the interest of
the people in Zimbabwe," Blair said.
"The situation in Zimbabwe has not got better. It is worse. Everyone knows
that the situation in Zimbabwe is a situation caused by the Mugabe regime.
Zimbabwe should be able to feed its own people, it is a potentially rich
country," he added.
Unemployment in the former southern African breadbasket is running at more
than 70 percent, inflation is above 500 percent and millions of people now
rely on food aid.
Political opponents of Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party, in power since
independence from Britain in 1980, are regularly harassed and there are
strict curbs on press freedom.
Mugabe, whose government has forcibly acquired white-owned commercial farms
for redistribution among landless blacks, has accused Britain of colonial
But Blair dismissed the charge as patently unfounded.
"You have only got to see the terrible suffering of the people to realise
this has nothing to do with old fashioned debates about colonialism. But it
is simply to do with regimes that don't treat their people properly," he
He noted that Britain had trebled aid to Africa in recent years, had a
record of opposing apartheid in South Africa and gave "a very large amount
of aid" to Zimbabwe in the past.
Blair held back from calling for Mugabe to step down, but said abusive
regimes needed to reform.
"I would like to see all regimes that oppress their people change. But you
have got to accept the limits of what you can and can't do," he said.
Zimbabwe's Ruling Party Faces Internal Disputes as Annual Congress
04 Dec 2003, 15:58 UTC
Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF, in power since independence 23 years
facing internal wrangling as it opens its annual congress Friday.
No one within the ruling is expecting that Mr. Mugabe will step down as its
leader. But because of internal disputes, political observers say Mr. Mugabe
has decided he will stay on at the helm of the party. After a meeting of the
Central Committee Wednesday, Mr. Mugabe told state media that many party
leaders had betrayed the founding principles of Zanu PF, and were now only
interested in enriching themselves.
The agenda for the three-day party congress includes an examination of the
economy, which is in its worst state in the country's history, and recent
setbacks in public support, especially in cities.
Zanu PF has lost control of all but one of Zimbabwe's urban centers, but won
two key parliamentary bi-elections to fill vacant seats. All elections in
Zimbabwe are run by the government and there is no independent oversight of
On the eve of the congress, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
launched an urgent appeal to the international community for more food aid.
It said current food stocks would run out in the last week of January, and
the World Food Program had not received a formal request from the Zimbabwe
government for further assistance.
More than five million people, or nearly half the population, are being fed
by the WFP already. The opposition party's agriculture spokesman, Renson
Gasela, said Thursday, that, even if good rains fell this summer season,
only about 40 percent of the country's farmers have enough planting seed.
Malawi To Press For Zimbabwe's Inclusion In Commonwealth
Copyright © 2003, Dow Jones Newswires
(AP)--President Bakili Muluzi promised Thursday to
intercede on behalf of Zimbabwe with the Commonwealth, saying its continued
exclusion from the organization of the U.K. and its former territories would
only hurt its people - not President Robert Mugabe.
Muluzi spoke before his departure for a Commonwealth heads of state
meeting starting Friday in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
"The position of Malawi is to encourage the international community to
create a window of assistance to Zimbabwe so that the people do not suffer,"
Muluzi told journalists. "The issue of isolating Zimbabwe cannot resolve the
problems in Zimbabwe."
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth's decision-making
councils after disputed 2002 elections which saw Mugabe returned to office
amid allegations of vote-rigging and intimidation.
When Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo didn't invite Mugabe to
attend this week's summit, Mugabe threatened to pull Zimbabwe out of the
Zimbabwe faces its worst political and economic crisis since
independence from the U.K. in 1980, with inflation running at 526% and acute
shortages of food, gasoline, medicines and other essential goods.
Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund took the first step toward
expelling Zimbabwe, saying the country had run up arrears of $273 million
since 2001 and wasn't cooperating with them.
Muluzi's comments came after Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa said he
was leading a campaign to have Zimbabwe reinstated in the 54-member
Muluzi said, however, that some of Zimbabwe's laws, which "are not
meant to benefit the people," should be repealed.
Mugabe's government has used sweeping new security and media
legislation to crack down on the political opposition and shut down the
country's only independent daily newspaper.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
PM tells African leaders: clean up corruption
Last Updated Thu, 04 Dec 2003 12:24:44
ABUJA, NIGERIA - In a blunt message to African leaders, Prime Minister Jean
Chrétien said they must tackle corruption and government mismanagement to
attract foreign investment.
The prime minister made the comments during a
speech to business leaders at
the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Abuja, Nigeria.
Responding to questions from the audience, Chrétien told delegates that
investors need to know there is rule of law, respect for basic human rights
and fair elections before they invest.
"You need political stability to stop these bloody conflicts that you have
too often in some parts of Africa," said the prime minister. "You have to
have a system to cure that. You know, this is the reality. And the capital
Chrétien, who has days left as prime minister, arrived in Nigeria Thursday.
Queen Elizabeth will officially open the meetings on Friday.
The political crisis in Zimbabwe will likely dominate the
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth last year after President
Robert Mugabe held onto power in elections that were widely viewed as
Canada is pushing a compromise position that would see Zimbabwe's suspension
continue, but then be reviewed in six months to a year.
Written by CBC News Online staff
Mugabe told: Get house in order
04/12/2003 21:00 - (SA)
Blantyre - Shortly before leaving home for
the Commonwealth Congress in
Nigeria on Thursday, Malawian President Bakili Muluzi warned Zimbabwean
President Robert Mugabe it was time he got his house in order.
"My brother, comrade Mugabe, and his Zanu-PF must realise the world is
changing in the direction of democracy. Laws that don't benefit the people
should be scrapped," he said.
This is the first time an African leader has publicly opposed Mugabe to such
But Muluzi said he did not think Zimbabwe should be isolated to this extent
by the international community.
Malawi feels the international community should offer Zimbabwe a window of
opportunity to stop the people's suffering, he said.
Muluzi's comments come amid a great divide among African countries
concerning Zimbabwe's re-admittance to the Commonwealth.
Zambia said on Thursday it would ask for Zimbabwe to be re-admitted.
South Africa's stand is not yet clear.
Muluzi told journalists Mugabe needed to embrace democracy fully in a bid to
stop his country from falling apart completely.
Citizens take ANZ case to High Court
MORE than 1 000 Zimbabwean readers of the
Daily News and its sister
weekly, Daily News on Sunday, will next week petition the High Court under
the Class Action Act to order the reopening of the two newspapers shut down
by the government two months ago.
At least 1 017 people from various parts of the country had by Tuesday
this week appended their signatures to the petition that is being handled by
human rights advocacy group, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).
Several thousand more people are expected to have signed the petition
by the time it is filed at court next week.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo and state Media and Information
Commission (MIC) chairman Tafataona Mahoso are cited as the respondents in
The petitioners say that the state grossly violated their right to
information as enshrined in the constitution of Zimbabwe and in the
Universal Declaration of Human rights when it shut down the two newspapers
on September 12.
The petition reads in part: "We as Zimbabwean citizens are being
denied access to diverse information.
"We are also being denied the other side of news which we used to
obtain from the Daily News and the Daily News On Sunday, hence our right to
freedom of information outlined under the constitution of Zimbabwe and the
Bill of Rights are being trampled by the government's action."
Armed police forcibly closed the two titles owned by private
publishing company, Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), and had their
equipment seized following a ruling by the Supreme Court that ANZ was
operating its newspapers illegally because it had not registered them with
But the citizens who are now taking the government to court say the
closure of the two newspapers was now forcing them to rely for news on
state-controlled newspapers, radio and television stations.
Harare businessman Paddington Japajapa, who is leading the citizens,
said: "What the government is doing is muzzling the Press and the citizens
at the end are the ones who suffer because they have been denied diverse
views and different news angles."
One of the signatories to the petition, Thabiso Makhalima, who is a
constitutional lawyer, said religious groups, political parties, civic
organisations and other interest groups whom the state media denied a
platform to propagate their views had been ruthlessly silenced by the
closure of the ANZ publications.
Makhalima added: "The lives of the employees of ANZ have also been
jeopardised by government's shameful intolerance of dissent."
The signatories say they will take their case to the country's highest
court the Supreme Court, if they fail to get relief from the High Court.
The Class Act empowers a group or groups of people to take collective
legal action to initiate change or to lobby authorities for a certain cause.
ANZ is the second media organisation to be closed by President Robert
Mugabe's government. Three years ago a private radio station, Joy TV, was
taken off air under unclear circumstances.
Zimbabwe's Administrative Court, which is a branch of the country's
High Court, last month ordered the MIC to issue the ANZ newspapers with an
operating licence by Novemember 30.
The MIC however has appealed to the Supreme Court against the ruling.
Meanwhile Administrative Court judge Sello Nare is expected to deliver
judgment this week on another application by ANZ seeking permission to be
allowed to publish its newspapers pending the outcome of the MIC's appeal at
the Supreme Court.
Nare, who is president of the Administrative Court in Zimbabwe's
second largest city of Bulawayo had to take over the case after president of
the court in Harare, Michael Majuru, recused himself following allegations
by the state-run Herald newspaper that he had been heard telling his friends
and relatives on separate occasions that he was going to rule in favour of
Why let the vision dim now when we are so near the goal?
AN unemployed man with a
family to support and feed who lives in a
home where he cannot afford electricity or paraffin has a vision when he
goes out with an axe and chops down a tree for firewood.
This man's short term thinking when he destroys a 30-year-old tree in
order to cook a meal is a daily vision called survival.
A government minister with an expense account, luxury vehicle and
stately home had a vision when he went out and grabbed a productive and
profitable farm because he liked the house and garden and rather fancied
himself as a farmer.
The short term thinking of the minister was not for the purpose of
survival but a vision based solely on selfish greed.
When Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo announced that Zimbabwe
would not be invited to CHOGM this week, President Mugabe responded with
short term thinking.
Speaking at a funeral of all places, President Mugabe first challenged
other African leaders to stand up for him, then threw insults at whites who
he called "a dangerous lot" and threatened to pull Zimbabwe out of the
"If our sovereignty is what we have to lose to be readmitted into the
Commonwealth, well, we will say goodbye to the Commonwealth, and perhaps the
time has now come to say so."
President Mugabe has tried to make the world believe that his vision
was to give land to the people when the facts on the ground proved that the
only vision was for ZANU PF to retain power - regardless of the cost.
Pulling Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth may help soothe President
Mugabe's bruised ego but it will increase our isolation and further
exacerbate the plight of Zimbabwe's collapsing economy.
In the last week workers and journalists employed by the Daily News
have said they want terminal exit passages from the temporarily banned
Their daily frustration has overwhelmed them and begun the process of
short term thinking. Accusations and counter accusations between management
and staff are flying and are suffocating the vision which we have all
strived so very hard to find and maintain – that of telling it like it is.
For three years those of us who wrote for the Daily News did not do so
for either fame or fortune but in the pursuit of truth and a vision of a new
During those three years we have all made the ultimate sacrifice for
our country. There are few people outside of the ANZ who understand what
these three years have been like.
We may have been applauded outside of Zimbabwe but have been
ostracised in our local communities. We cannot get other jobs and our
friends no longer think it safe to be seen with us.
Our children and families have been victimised, we have been followed
and watched and some have been arrested. Others have been repeatedly
harassed by government agents, been held hostage by war veterans, even
beaten and tied to trees with chains by farm invaders.
Full or part time writers we have stood together in pursuit of the
vision. We have survived and continued as editors have come and gone.
At times we have worked without pay and have always turned the other
cheek when insults and insinuations were thrown at us by the State.
Now we are forced to write under pseudonyms for an unknown and unseen
audience and in the process seem to be losing our identities and our
The Daily News and her employees have been through hell but throughout
it all the long term vision shone brightly. It was not a one day vision of
survival or a view of selfish, greedy personal enrichment.
Nor was it a vision of sour grapes or political perpetuation. It was a
long term vision of truth, democracy and good governance. God forbid that
vision dims now, so near the realisation of the goal.
By The Litany Bird.
Youths Petition Commonwealth Over Election Rigging in Nigeria
Daily Trust (Abuja)
December 4, 2003
Posted to the web December 4, 2003
The concerned Youths
Alliance of Nigeria, an amalgamation of 18 Youth
associations, has written a petition to the secretary-General of the
Commonwealth demanding sanctions against President Obasanjo over the
April/May elections in Nigeria.
A copy of the petition made available to Daily Trust says: "The Commonwealth
Observer Group which monitored the April 12th , 19th , and 3rd May, 2003
elections, reported wide spread malpractices, fraud and rigging, and of
course concluded that the elections were neither free nor fair."
It says that in so many respects, reports were strikingly similar or even
worse than the one returned on Zimbabwe's election.
"Obasanjo was allowed to get away with it. Indeed, rather than being
ostracised and shunned"' Obasanjo is being propped up by the same
commonwealth which has even offered him its most prestigious post of
chairmanship," it said.
The group regretted that the Commonwealth action of allowing president
Obasanjo to go scot free is like giving legitimacy to an illegitimate
The Youths therefore demanded that the
Commonwealth: "strip Obasanjo of his
can - do - no - wrong status, condemn his undemocratic actions, antics and
inactions, reschedule the CHOGM to a more suitable venue (where genuine
democracy thrives) and punish Obasanjo and his cronies for serially raping
The petition has been copied to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen
of England and Head of the Commonwealth of Nations, all presidents of member
nations, Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Dr. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary - General,
Dr. Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, Dr. Mahathir Mohammed,
former prime Minister of Malaysia, as well as Mr. William Jefferson Clinton,
former president of the United States of America.
Zim haunts C’wealth
12/4/2003 11:53:14 AM (GMT +2)
CRACKS that emerged after Zimbabwe’s suspension from the Commonwealth
appeared set to widen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in
Abuja, with African diplomats in the Southern African Development Community
(SADC) indicating a tough war to lobby for the country’s re-admission into
This emerged as Britain stepped up its campaign against Zimbabwe’s
re-admission. The country’s International Development Minister, Hilary Benn,
urged other Commonwealth states to "maintain the suspension (of Zimbabwe)".
But he warned that the issue should not "dominate the summit because there
are lots of other things we want to talk about".
Zimbabwe’s suspension from the Club comprising mostly former British
colonies, has always inspired a wide range of reactions from across the
world which many feared would spark a diplomatic and political storm.
Now the fissures have cratered after Nigerian President Olusegun
Obasanjo failed to wring concessions for Zimbabwe’s eleventh hour invitation
to the Club’s meeting in Abuja.
It emerged during The Financial Gazette’s investigations this week
that the SADC lobby, which feels that the decision to bar Zimbabwe was
wrong, was likely to get the support of Antigua and Bermuda. The two
Caribbean states, diplomatic sources said, had individually written to
Commonwealth secretary-general, Don McKinnon, protesting over Zimbabwe’s
continued suspension after the expiry of a one-year ban from the group’s
councils in March.
Malaysia, which also dispatched its High Commissioner to Zimbabwe to
the Nigerian capital, as well as India and Sri Lanka, were expected to rally
behind Zimbabwe’s re-admission into the Club, the diplomatic sources said.
Diplomats who spoke to The Financial Gazette said regional countries
had resolved "to re-affirm the indivisibility of SADC and solidarity with
Zimbabwe" at the CHOGM, where Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo refused
to give an invitation to President Robert Mugabe.
"Countries that are part of SADC have a common position contained in
the Arusha final declaration. That is the position to be taken at the
CHOGM," a diplomatic source said.
In what appeared set to become a gruelling battle over Zimbabwe’s
suspension, many of the SADC country High Commissioners accredited to
Zimbabwe had reportedly left for the Abuja meeting by yesterday. It was not
immediately clear what role they were expected to play by their governments
during the meeting.
A SADC communique issued in August this year stated that SADC
countries would commit themselves "to continue opposing the Commonwealth" as
well as the United States and European Union sanctions on Zimbabwe, which
the US and the EU have said are targeted at President Mugabe and his close
associates for human rights abuses.
"The accent is not about the invitation, it’s on what will happen at
the opening of CHOGM tomorrow," a diplomat said, indicating that SADC
members will ask, on introduction, why Zimbabwe was not at the meeting.
This will inevitably create a backlash against McKinnon, who faces a
challenge from a Sri Lankan, Lakshman Kadirmar, an ex-foreign affairs
minister whose candidature for the secretary-general’s post had been put
forward by his government at the last minute.
"There is deep-seated agitation about McKinnon’s claims that he widely
consulted; some members will take that opportunity to ask which countries
had been consulted before the meeting can start," a diplomatic source said.
The diplomat maintained: "You have to understand that Sri Lanka would
not put forward Kadirmar’s name without consultation with India. Besides, he
also enjoys the confidence of South Africa."
South Africa, together with Nigeria, supports the re-admission of
Zimbabwe, which has been vigorously opposed by Australia and Britain, New
Zealand and Canada.
A diplomat from one of the Caribbean states indicated that Caribbean
countries in the Commonwealth had resolved to "take a cue from the African
countries themselves. We will back whatever decision the African countries
take over Zimbabwe."
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth councils in March 2002
for a period of 12 months on allegations that President Mugabe had stolen
the 2002 Presidential poll from the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai, who is facing charges of treason international critics
describe as "trumped up", is challenging President Mugabe’s re-election in
President Mugabe’s government was accused of gross human rights
violations, intimidation of opposition party supporters and of promoting a
breakdown in the rule of law in the country when it was suspended from the
It was asked to mend its record before re-admission, and critics of
the government, who include British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australia
Prime Minister John Howard, say President Mugabe has done nothing to redeem
The government was also requested to first achieve national
reconciliation and dialogue with the MDC. The dialogue, which was put in the
deep freeze mid this year, has however not yet resumed. The country’s
position was also complicated by the closure of the Daily News in early
September, which was widely viewed as an assault on the people’s right to
information. This further damaged the government’s reputation or what was
left of it and instead increased opposition to Zimbabwe’s participation at
A source said President Obasanjo had not invited Zimbabwe’s head of
state and government because "he wanted to be above contending views".
"(President) Obasanjo is a personality split by roles. As head of
state for Nigeria, he has promised to vote for Zimbabwe’s re-admission into
the Commonwealth councils," the source said.
President Mugabe has threatened to pull out of the Commonwealth in
what many observers described as a "show of brinkmanship".
A spokesman in the President’s office, George Charamba, yesterday told
The Financial Gazette: "The white component of the Commonwealth is trying to
enslave us using the Harare declaration. We say no obviously. We have
several options to exercis [abrupt ending to story on website...]
MDC to tackle Chombo head-on
12/4/2003 11:59:21 AM (GMT +2)
THE Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is contemplating legal and
political action in response to the abrupt dismissal of six Harare
councillors in what could further cripple the operations of the ailing
Reacting to the dismissals, MDC senior leaders said Local Government
Minister Ignatius Chombo was "spoiling for a brawl", instead of facilitating
the smooth operation of the opposition-dominated council.
Chombo, who has virtually taken over the running of the capital city
through his constant interference, is blamed for the ongoing squabbles that
have crippled Town House.
Morgan Femai, the MDC chairman for Harare province, said the party
would convene a meeting on Saturday to chart the way forward.
MDC Member of Parliament for Kuwadzana, Nelson Chamisa, said the party
was contemplating both legal and political action, describing Chombo’s
decision as both "vindictive and frivolous."
"Chombo has been on the warpath with the MDC council since they
assumed office and he will not rest until he kicks them all out," Chamisa
"His latest move is a clear indication and invitation for
confrontation. He is against an effective council that can deliver on its
promises, but would rather have the residents suffer. We are now going to
tackle him head on. Our strategy would be two pronged — political and legal.
It’s not up to him to fire elected people. If the residents feel they have
been let down, then let them through periodic elections boot them out, not
The six councillors dismissed are Benjamin Maimba (Hatfield, ward 22),
Tsaurai Marima (Kuwadzana 3, ward 37), Fani Munengami (Glen View 8, ward
30), Jerome O’brien (Highlands, ward 8), Falls Nhari (Tafara, ward 20) and
Kennedy Nhemachema (Budiriro 3, ward 33).
The councillors, who were first suspended on October 16 this year,
were fired for disrupting the smooth running of council business.
The expulsion means there should be by-elections in the six wards to
fill the seats. But council would have to notify the Registrar-General of
the vacancies to allow for the preparation of the by-elections.
While Harare residents are faced with water shortages and poor
sanitary conditions, Chombo has literally dismissed the entire MDC-led
council — a move critics say is politically motivated.
First to bear the brunt of Chombo’s campaign was the capital’s
executive mayor Engineer Elias Mudzuri, who was suspended earlier this year
on similar allegations.
Analysts had expected Chombo to slow down on his confrontational
approach after the MDC won most of the seats in the urban council elections
held sometime this year.
Dramatic rise in short term interest rates
12/4/2003 12:00:17 PM (GMT +2)
SHORT-term interest rates dramatically shot up this week and touched
the 300 percent mark as the money market presented a poser to incoming
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono.
Some money market dealers said apart from the returning liquidity
problem which saw a deficit of $133 billion on Tuesday, the interest rates
rally was a thinly veiled statement to the central bank: the market will
defy all attempts to force low interest rates down its throat.
"We know the RBZ has a mandate to effect and maintain a low interest
rates regime. Now this is designed to show the Central Bank that the market
will brook no regulation," a dealer told The Financial Gazette.
Gono, who started work on Monday, is
expected to deliver a new
monetary policy statement within a fortnight.
The government has in the past made no secret about its desire to keep
interest rates down to ensure the containment of its domestic debt as well
as to support production.
The money market has been defying the low interest rate direction the
monetary authorities have sought to chart.
The RBZ has, since May, been largely rejecting Treasury Bill bids as a
means of keeping the rates down, but this has put upward pressure on the
short-term investment rates which shot up as a result of the shortage
created by low TB holdings by financial institutions.
Short-term interbank rates had opened the week at around 150 percent
but were spurred on by a tight market, which experienced huge shortages
amounting to $133 billion, over 330 percent up from last week’s closing
level of $30 billion.
"It’s a big shortage," said Nyika Chidemhe, a money market analyst
with Highveld Financial Services.
Dealers said banks were looking for money "at whatever cost" in a
market they said had been mopped up by year-end corporate tax payments.
"I think it’s going to be short-lived," Nyika said. "I expect the
Reserve Bank to come up with measures to force rates down."
RBZ director responsible for the financial markets, Stuart Kufeni, was
reported to have convened a hurried meeting late Tuesday afternoon amid
speculation that the central bank was considering injecting funds into the
Mugabe’s threat to quit C’wealth draws fire
12/4/2003 12:02:08 PM (GMT +2)
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s threats to pull out of the Commonwealth have
been roundly condemned by critics who say the country should comply with the
grouping of former British colonies’ principles of democracy.
Analysts described President Mugabe’s threats as "brinkmanship",
saying it was hypocritical of him to begin trashing the ideals and
principles of good governance that he helped craft before falling out with
"The President cannot ask the Commonwealth to let him keep his
‘sovereignty’ when in other words he is asking for freedom to oppress his
people, to steal the ballot and to batter the economy," said political
analyst Alois Masepe. "We are behaving like spoilt brats by saying if we
cannot have the toy, then no one else should have it. It is because of our
misbehaviour that we got suspended from the Commonwealth."
Last week, President Mugabe suggested that Zimbabwe could pull out of
the Commonwealth instead of surrendering its sovereignty to the whims of the
white members of the 54-nation Club who are opposed to the country’s land
"If our sovereignty is what we have to lose to be re-admitted into the
Commonwealth, well, we will have to say goodbye to the Commonwealth and
perhaps time has come for us to say so," President Mugabe said during his
graveside speech at the burial of the late former deputy minister of
Political Affairs Norman Zikhali.
President Mugabe’s outburst came as it dawned upon the country that
indeed Zimbabwe had been excluded from the four-day Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting (CHOGM) starting in Abuja, Nigeria tomorrow.
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Club of mostly former British colonies
in March last year shortly after President Mugabe was controversially
re-elected in a poll that the Commonwealth and European observer missions
said was not free and fair.
The suspension was extended this year.
President Mugabe has angrily reacted to the suspension, accusing
members of the "white Commonwealth"— Australia, Britain, Canada and New
Zealand — of abusing their influence in an attempt to reverse his
controversial land reform.
"It is not the Commonwealth that is in trouble, but Zimbabwe, so even
if Zimbabwe would decide to quit because someone does not want to comply
with the rules of the Commonwealth, that will not solve any problem," Masepe
University of Zimbabwe law lecturer and National Constitutional
Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku said the decision to pull out of the
Commonwealth might benefit President Mugabe, not ordinary citizens.
"He should not use the term ‘we’ because it is only himself who might
benefit from that move in that it may take away a lot of the international
scrutiny he is receiving, but ordinary individuals will not benefit from the
withdrawal," Madhuku said. "There are a lot of benefits that ordinary
Zimbabweans get simply because the country is a member of the Commonwealth .
. . things like scholarships, grants and exchange programmes."
Madhuku himself is a beneficiary of the Commonwealth scholarship
"This is not a wise thing to do," said Heneri Dzinotyiwei, the
chairman of the Zimbabwe Integrated Programme and a University of Zimbabwe
lecturer. "We don’t have to be necessarily hostile to any group, including
He said although Zimbabweans themselves have a bigger role to play in
resolving the crisis facing the country, the international community still
has a major role to play, most importantly in bringing the two main
political factions — ZANU PF and the Movement for Democratic Change — to a
Masepe added that when countries like Pakistan fell short of the Club’
s standards, they were suspended, and Zimbabwe agreed to the suspension and
the same standards should also apply to the southern African country.
"If they start saying the Commonwealth is a useless group now, then
someone would have to explain why the country has over the past 23 years
been wasting money on people flying around the world to attend meetings of a
useless body," Masepe said. "It cannot suddenly be a useless body because we
are not in compliance with laid-down rules."
The exclusion of Zimbabwe from the December 5-8 CHOGM has threatened
to split the Commonwealth, which is already riven by deep-seated mistrusts.
The analysts said it was difficult to predict what effect last week’s
eleventh hour announcement by Sri Lanka that it was sponsoring its
ex-foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in the campaign to upstage Don
McKinnon as Commonwealth secretary-general would have on the organisation.
Harare authorities loathe McKinnon, whom they view as the person at
the forefront in the campaign for Zimbabwe’s continued suspension.
"He (Kadirgamar) might be a bit late but depending on what issues he
is basing his campaign , he might get some Third World countries to vote for
him and people like Mugabe might benefit," Madhuku said.
Dzinotyiwei said although it is not known how much ground work the Sri
Lankan diplomat has covered in canvassing for votes, he still stood a chance
because the incumbent, McKinnon, who is hoping for another four-year term,
is now widely viewed as partisan.
"We don’t know how competent the Sri Lankan is but I think anyone who
is not partial would be attractive," Dzinotyiwei said. "The
secretary-general should always aim at not being viewed as partisan, but the
incumbent has not been able to do so, especially on the issue of Zimbabwe
and this is why some member states may decide to vote against him."
Last week, the international news agency Reuters quoted some
diplomatic sources saying South Africa, Zimbabwe’s neigh-bour, which has
been pushing for Harare’s re-admission into the Club, was behind Kadirgamar’
"The Sri Lankans have sent letters to governments promoting his
(Kadirgamar) candidature. We believe South Africa is behind it," Reuters
quoted a source as saying. "This is Zimbabwe, once again coming to the fore,
and causing quite a bit of havoc."
British Secretary for International Development Hilary Benn said this
week that the former colonial master will urge other member states to keep
the pressure on President Mugabe by maintaining the punitive suspension.
"It is important the Commonwealth maintains the position it has
adopted because it is sending a very clear message about upholding values to
which we all subscribe," Benn said.
Chaos reigns in Zim’s education sector
12/4/2003 12:03:32 PM (GMT +2)
"OUR progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in
education. The human mind is our fundamental resource."
The above words, spoken by the assassinated former president of the
United States, John Kennedy, have proved to be as good an axiom for the
distressed Zimbabwean education system.
Flaunted as the beacon of the young nation’s achievements, Zimbabwe’s
education system, along with much of the country’s infrastructure, has come
The early years of the nation, as it emerged from a protracted civil
war that brought an end, first to British colonial rule and then the
Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in 1980, saw a rapid expansion
in primary, secondary and tertiary training institutions.
In the heady years following independence, the country saw the number
of universities swelling from the sole University of Zimbabwe to no less
than 12 degree-awarding institutions, eight of them being State-owned. The
country has up to 60 000 students at these universities dotted around the
The expansionary policy also saw an exponential rise in the number of
primary and educational schools, as was the case with teacher training
institutions and technical colleges.
Primary education was made free and compulsory at independence.
The end of the first decade of independence brought an end to the
halcyon period in the sector, a crucial driver of economic development.
The nation opted for economic reforms driven by the Bretton Woods
institutions, with the attendant cuts on social budgets that wreaked havoc,
largely on the health and education sectors.
The close of the second decade saw the increased isolation of
Zimbabwe, largely by the powerful donor states in Europe and America, as the
economic crisis began to take on a political hue.
With the drying up of donor support for key developmental projects,
the government sought to cut costs and one of the major changes was the
localisation of high school examinations, previously run in collaboration
with the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES).
This was done following the setting up of the Zimbabwe Schools
Examinations Council (Zimsec), which now superintends the country’s
examinations, and the proscription of examinations presided over by foreign
bodies such as UCLES and the University of London.
Headmasters surveyed by this paper, but who are precluded by strict
civil service regulations from speaking to the Press, painted a grim picture
of declining standards and paucity of key learning resources, a situation
most said was getting desperate by the day.
However, of major concern to most was the increasingly sloppy conduct
of public examinations, a phenomenon that has seen wrong examination
question scripts being delivered to the wrong candidates and the mix-up of
In an unprecedented development, Zimsec this year delayed the release
of the June Ordinary and Advanced level results owing to inefficiencies in
The malady plaguing the local education system is fed by under-funding
from the fiscus, high inflation, which topped 525.8 percent in October,
continues to eat into grants provided by the State to schools, low morale
within the teaching profession and the staff exodus this has triggered,
mismanagement and downright corruption, analysts and educationists told The
Financial Gazette this week.
They said the recent mix-ups involving Zimsec not only betrayed the
inefficiencies that are rife in the education system, but also ate into what
little confidence the general public still retained in the system.
Prominent educationist and former deputy minister for higher
education, Dr Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, lamented the regression in the education
sector after the peak of the 1980s.
"Exams are of great intrinsic value to the nation. Zimbabwe was known
for its efficient education system over the years and we have produced
graduates who have gone on and excelled all over the world.
"It is sad that (this happens) at the time when we had reached a peak
and our literacy levels were an example for many. I have expressed my
concerns over missing papers and wrong papers in exams to the respective
minister and Zimsec itself and made my recommendations as I felt they were
not doing a good service to the country. No-one can argue with that so I was
assured that they are taking corrective measures," said Ndlovu, who is the
founder of the Zimbabwe Distant Education Colleges and current president of
the African Association of Distance Education (AADE).
For the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary
general, Raymond Majongwe, the proverbial buck stops with one man —
Education, Sport and Culture Minister and veteran educationist, Aeneas
"Our education system is at its worst since independence. The problem
is the current incumbent minister who insists on majoring on the minors, who
has not sought to positively engage key stakeholders.
"I will recommend that the President does away with Chigwedere,"
Majongwe said, adding that the state of the examination institutions was
symptomatic of the crisis stalking schools.
He also said the government had not demonstrated its will to restore
sanity in the system, as evidenced by the lethargic implementation of the
Nziramasanga Commission’s findings.
The government instituted an inquiry into the education system in
1998, chaired by academic Caiphas Nziramasanga, with a view to weeding out
anachronisms, while adding new innovations into the sector.
The commission recommended the complete overhaul of the system’s basic
structure, but very little has been done to implement the recommendations
Nziramasanga himself expressed surprise at the non-implementation of
his commission’s recommendations.
"This is the fourth year since the report was completed and one would
have expected half of the recommendations to have been implemented."
Ndlovu said while the extent of the crisis clearly showed that no
single man was responsible, it was imperative that the Nziramasanga report
"I would also have expected a faster rate of implementation, but there
must be a budget for the implementation of some of the recommendations,
especially for the setting up of the vocational training centres and the
While the debate rages on about the worsening state of the country’s
education, the government, never one to pass an opportunity for tinkering,
has since finalised plans to re-introduce the Zimbabwe Junior Certificate
(ZJC) exams, which had been stopped a few years ago on the grounds that they
were an unnecessary drain on the fiscus.
What has also startled most observers are the plans that have been
mooted to merge Zimsec with the Higher Education Examinations Council
(HEXCO), which itself has a past littered with bungling.
"What this will amount to is utter chaos, worse than we see now. These
institutions need to be revamped and streamlined to ensure efficiency, not
to provide a platform for them to feed off their mutual ineptitude," said
one educationist who chose to remain anonymous.
As the country sinks deeper into the sea of discontent wrought on by
the worsening economic crisis, the education system, once the pride of the
nation, faces an even bleaker future, punctuated by inefficiency, spiralling
costs, staff exodus, mismanagement and corruption.
It all makes for a glaring confirmation of Kennedy’s truism — the
country’s fast regression into the depths of despair is driven by the chaos
in the education system, which is showing startling signs of failing to
develop the human mind, the fundamental resource.
Unfortunately, in the face of increasing isolation, this is the
primary resource the country will need, more than anything, to extricate
itself from the rut.
Kadoma loss threatens political doom for MDC
12/4/2003 11:55:43 AM (GMT +2)
ANALYSTS yesterday warned that the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) risked slipping into irrelevance unless it reinvigorates itself
after losing last weekend’s Kadoma Central by-election to the ruling ZANU PF
They said the opposition party’s traditional claim of election rigging
and violence against its supporters was slowly withering.
The fact that ZANU PF could still snatch victory in an opposition
party urban stronghold despite an economic crisis in the country indicated
that the MDC was not doing enough to exploit the opportunity presented by
the crisis to endear itself to the people.
"The message coming from this by-election is that if there is going to
be substantial economic recovery of some sort, then the opposition will have
serious problems," said Heneri Dzinotyiwei, the chairman of the Zimbabwe
Integrated Programme. "The opposition is wasting a lot of precious time."
ZANU PF candidate Ishmael Mutema won the election by 9 282 votes
against the MDC’s Charles Mpandawana, who polled 6 038 votes in a
by-election in which only 34 percent of the registered voters bothered to
cast their ballots.
The Kadoma Central parliamentary seat fell vacant following the death
of MDC legislator Austin Mpandawana in August this year.
"The biggest winner was voter apathy," said Eldred Masunungure, a
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer. "The fact that only 34
percent of the registered voters decided to go and vote shows serious voter
Masunungure said the apathy showed that Zimbabweans were resigning
their fate to divine intervention as prospects of change through any
election were becoming dim.
This, he said, does not augur well for the opposition party which
should be seen as the immediate alternative to government.
David Chimhini, director of the Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust
(ZIMCET), said the MDC had to do a lot of groundwork in the area of voter
education as well as encouraging its supporters to participate in elections.
"This voter apathy shows that they (MDC) are not doing much in terms
of voter education and encouraging their supporters to vote," Chimhini said.
Since losing the March 2002 presidential elections, the MDC has called
for a number of not-so-successful mass actions but the party has of late
gone into a lull, which analysts say could be a result of the general
fatigue and frustration.
Mugabe to drop exit bombshell
12/4/2003 11:54:27 AM (GMT +2)
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe, widely seen as balancing on a political
knife-edge, could pull the rug from under his critics’ feet at the ruling
ZANU PF annual conference, which opens in Masvingo today — by announcing his
retirement plans during two closed-door sessions.
Impeccable party sources told The Financial Gazette that ZANU PF would
hold two closed-door meetings at the annual indaba, where President Mugabe,
who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, would share his evolving
vision for the party as well as his retirement plans with party members.
They however said this had been deliberately left out of the agenda together
with the emotive succession issue but could not say why.
Despite opening the succession issue for debate earlier this year, and
the widely held view that he is seeing out his last term in office,
President Mugabe has kept his exit a closely guarded secret. In fact,
opening up the succession debate was the closest he came to hinting his
Since 2000 when the country, previously considered the breadbasket of
the Southern Africa Development Community, touched off an economic melt-down
that has reduced it to an economic basket case, there has been an orgy of
speculation about President Mugabe’s political future.
At home, the economic uncertainty has put a damper on President Mugabe
’s popularity. The depressing situation in the country in the face of a
lengthy economic crisis has sparked off disillusionment and disenchantment
among the general populace. This has prompted political commentators to say
that President Mugabe’s chickens are coming home to roost at the worst
His departure is also craved by the western countries whose political
yardsticks keep on changing to suit their own interests. The western
countries at the turn of independence hailed President Mugabe, a pillar of
the country’s war of liberation, as an embodiment of moral integrity and
cordiality when he pronounced reconciliation as a national policy to heal
the wounds of the bitter war and help bring together the previously feuding
parties. The west however now believes that he no longer enjoys public
confidence and a new man at the helm could do better than the incumbent.
Now, amid relentless international pressure, heightened by Zimbabwe’s
exclusion from the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting to be held in
Abuja, Nigeria starting this week, speculation swirled within ZANU PF
corridors that the 79-year-old guerrilla leader could, for the first time,
bare his soul on his departure.
This could accelerate the succession debate that has divided ZANU PF
into distinct camps. It may also inject a fresh breath of confidence in
Zimbabwe, whose intransigence with the International Monetary Fund and other
foreign backers has fast-tracked the economy’s collapse into a recessionary
In the process, President Mugabe could also close ranks with his
long-time regional friends, notably Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Thabo
Mbeki of South Africa, who are increasingly becoming critical of the
unfolding political drama in Zimbabwe.
ZANU PF information secretary Nathan Shamuyarira confirmed that the
party would hold two closed-door meetings, but refused to give details of
"We are going to have two closed meetings at the conference,"
Shamuyarira told The Financial Gazette. Shamuyarira recently quashed
speculation that the conference would discuss President Mugabe’s succession,
saying: "The national conference does not elect leaders … it is not an
The task of electing new leaders for the party, he said, was the
responsibility of the congress to be held in December next year. Party
insiders indicated that the closed-door meetings would give a cue over
President Mugabe’s choice for a successor, but the President, who is both
the party’s president and first secretary, was unlikely to anoint an heir
because the party’s constitution bars him from doing so.
The ZANU PF constitution stipulates that a party president is
nominated by the party’s provincial structures for election at a party
congress. The incumbent, therefore, has no power vested in him to appoint
ZANU PF sources said that while President Mugabe’s exit was not on the
agenda, provincial national chairmen could raise the issue in their reports
should their party structures mandate them to do so.
"Basically, there is no one within the party prepared yet to openly
challenge Mugabe," the source said. "Although the President has already
declared that party members should openly discuss his succession, this has
not happened. Those that have discussed the issue have done so
There has been widespread speculation in the media that President
Mugabe was considering grooming Parliamentary Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa as
his successor. Mnangagwa is not very popular with party members, but has
managed, as the party’s secretary for administration, to fill provincial
executives with his sympathisers.
Others that are thought to have presidential ambitions include Joseph
Msika, the Vice-President, Dumiso Dabengwa, a politburo member, Sydney
Sekeramayi, the Defence Minister, John Nkomo, the Minister of Special
Affairs in the President’s Office and former finance minister Simba Makoni,
a politburo member.
But some insiders said President Mugabe may now be hoping to settle
for Makoni, but would still want Mnangagwa to play a role in any future
government that excludes him.
President Mugabe was re-elected the party’s president and first
secretary at the ZANU PF congress in 2000, making him the party’s
presidential candidate in the 2002 poll he controversially won against
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
His re-election was condemned by the international community, which
has called for a re-run of the poll on the grounds that he stole the
election by rigging the ballot.
Mugabe contradicts Murerwa on interest rates
12/4/2003 11:56:58 AM (GMT +2)
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe this week gave the clearest official admission
to date of the dual interest rate policy failure, as rates on the money
market rallied to break new barriers.
Short-term investment rates touched the 300 percent mark on Tuesday in
an unprecedented development driven by massive shortages on the market.
Delivering the 16th State of the Nation address in Parliament on
Tuesday, President Mugabe said the dualisation of virtually every aspect of
the economy did not bode well for stability.
"It is quite clear to us that two-tier interest rates, two-tier
exchange rates and a two-tier economy cannot take us forward.
"We are one country that would be best served by one integrated
economy driven by clear, predictable, stable and sensible socio-economic
rules," President Mugabe said.
The President’s speech is likely to compound the interest rate
conundrum and provides a stark contrast to what Finance and Economic
Development Minister Herbert Murerwa said in his budget statement.
In the budget statement delivered last month, Murerwa said the
government would pursue an interest rate policy that would "encourage growth
on one hand, while fighting inflation on the other by discouraging
speculative and consumptive borrowing."
Analysts noted that while Murerwa reiterated the need to ensure
producer and exporter viability, while at the same time fighting inflation,
President Mugabe’s speech was a statement of different intentions.
"There is an obvious contradiction here, but I would go with the
President’s position because wherever you have two prices, you create an
opportunity for arbitrage.
"The intention in the dual policy was good, but it clearly does not
work," Best Doroh, an economist with the Zimbabwe Financial Holdings
(Finhold) group said.
Economic commentator Jonathan Kadzura said while there was an apparent
contradiction between what the President said and Murerwa’s statement in the
budget, it was still imperative for the government to avail concessionary
funds for producers and exporters.
"He (President Mugabe) is contradicting the minister’s budget
statement, but the fact remains that we have to provide cheap funds for
"Production is virtually impossible at the market interest rates. All
that is needed is tighter supervision by the RBZ to ensure the funds are not
diverted to speculative activity such as money market trading, and that is
easy," Kadzura said.
Recently-appointed Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono
is expected to deliver a new monetary policy which will underpin the
government’s efforts to target money supply growth, within a fortnight.
Last year’s monetary policy, delivered by former governor Leonard
Tsumba, sought to avail cheap funds for the export and productive sectors at
five percent and 15 percent respectively, while consumptive borrowing
attracted market determined rates.
The move, which was intended to curb money supply growth, a major
driver of inflation, which peaked at 525.8 percent in October according to
official figures, failed to stem the tide.
The government has since projected inflation to rise to 600 percent at
year-end and 700 percent in the first quarter of 2004.
Analysts said although President Mugabe did not, in his latest speech,
give a clear indication which direction the authorities wanted the rates to
take, as he did at the official opening of the current parliamentary session
in May, it was clear that the RBZ would be mandated to maintain a low rate
President Mugabe has said the rates, which are already in negative
territory, "should come down."
He told Parliament on Tuesday that both the monetary and fiscal
approaches should be geared to address inflation.
"The monetary and fiscal sector should be effectively addressed and
the issues of inflation and interest rates handled in a manner that will
promote production and enable greater credit and investment."
He, however, said the monetary policy would be geared to fight
inflation — dubbed enemy number one by the government.
Fed up with good words of intent
12/4/2003 7:26:17 AM (GMT +2)
THE ruling ZANU PF annual conference kicks off today in Masvingo amid
heightened anxiety over the state of the economy, which is ironically put
squarely on the shoulders of the party which has ruled Zimbabwe since
independence from Britain in 1980. Even though details of the agenda for the
conference are still sketchy, it is hoped that the state of the economy,
which has been collapsing under the party’s stewardship, takes centre stage.
The frightening economic slump must have raised the pressure for the
ruling party, whose policies seem to have lost contact with reality.
Nothing, despite what the politicians might think, is more pressing than the
issue of the deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe today.
This has since been confirmed by none other than the Minister of
Finance and Economic Development, Dr Herbert Murerwa, who three weeks ago
produced worse-than-feared economic data. He projected a gross domestic
product contraction of 13.2 percent.
Zimbabweans, who have so far felt the sharpest edge of the knife under
the economic turmoil, will surely not be expecting too much if they demanded
that the conference should, in a departure from tradition, focus on economic
revival. Such demands would be in order even on ZANU PF, a party that has
all along been seemingly doing everything for political expediency.
The long suffering Zimbabweans are fed up with good words of intent
that more-often-than-not come out of such conferences but do not usually
translate to much — they need action. It is therefore at this conference
that ZANU PF should assure disillusioned and frustrated Zimbabweans that it
has strategic vision and clarity of thinking that will allow it to rekindle
confidence in the sickly economy.
It is time for the party, justifiably blamed for the country’s
economic woes, to have self-introspection with a view to cleaning up its act
and stimulate the economy. Otherwise the once revolutionary party risks
leaving a terrible legacy, characterised by obsolete socio-political and
If that means having a no-holds-barred conference that even risks
splits and raising the ire of the old guard, so be it. We know only too
well, just like some founding members of the party, that talking straight
could lead to crossed lines. It has been a sad trait of the ruling party
that it is often those who want to make a change for the better who are
challenged and put on the defensive and not people who are bent on
preserving an untenable status quo. The fate of those who in the past
suggested workable austerity economic measures is only well-documented. They
were labelled economic saboteurs!
Be that as it may, fear of being thrown out of the party or
stigmatised as economic saboteurs should not in any way shrink the resolve
of those well-meaning party members, if there are still any, from pushing
through economic revival to the top of the agenda. They should not be
intimidated by it.
If anything it should strengthen their moral conviction as they unite
around the position that economic turnaround, and lack of implementation of
past key economic policies, are addressed. This can only be done by
flexible, courageous and evolutionising politicians — a rare breed in
Govt to spend $1 trillion on domestic interest
12/4/2003 8:00:25 AM (GMT +2)
As the upward trend in domestic government debt and interest rates
continues, interest payments on domestic government debt are set to rise
from $152 billion this year to $996 billion in 2004.
Domestic interest payments are expected to account for 11.4 percent of
total expenditure next year, up from 10.5 percent this year.
The stock of domestic debt has risen from $44 billion in 1998 to $346
billion at the end of last year and is expected to end this year at about
In order to manage its domestic interest payment burden, government
intends to restructure its debt by replacing Treasury bills with government
stocks, which have not been issued for several years. Insurance companies
and pension funds are likely to come under pressure to take up the bonds in
order to meet prescribed asset requirements.
Currently, domestic debt is dominated by two-year treasury bills,
which account for over 60 percent of the total debt. Most of these bills
will be maturing next year.
Under the current dual interest rate policy, Government is expected to
continue capping interest rates on its borrowing instruments.
Reflecting the gover-nment’s low interest rate policy, 91-day Treasury
bill yields this year have averaged 50 percent against an average inflation
rate of 365 percent.
In comparison, in the year 2000, 91-day Treasury bill yields averaged
65 percent against while the average inflation rate was 56 percent.
While domestic debt has grown significantly in absolute terms, the
ratio of domestic debt to GDP has fallen steeply over the past three years,
dropping from a peak of just over 50% in 2000 to an estimated 16 percent
this year. Again, this is reflection government’s strategy of keeping
interest rates low under a hyperinflationary environment. With Government
likely to continue controlling interest rates, the ratio of domestic debt to
GDP is expected to fall below 10 percent next year.
In short, by controlling interest rates in a hyperinflation
environment, Government has managed to avoid falling into a debt trap.
But this strategy cannot be pursued indefinitely. Our economic policy
makers need to be reminded of Stein’s Law — a famous law in economics —
which says: "Things that can’t go on forever, don’t". Meanwhile, the
statutory limit on government borrowing from the Reserve Bank is expected to
rise from $60 billion this year to $220 billion next year.
Government is allowed to borrow 20 percent of the previous year’s
revenue in the form of an overdraft.
Revenue receipts are projected at $1.1 trillion this year.
Because of its highly inflationary nature, most governments have moved
away from overdraft borrowing from their central banks.
Money market rates soar
Short -term rates were on the rampage this week, with inter-bank
overnight rates skyrocketing to unprecedented levels of between 310 percent
and 320 percent yesterday.
This situation has been caused by corporate tax-induced shortages in
the money market, with daily shortages of as high as $144 billion being
recorded on Monday.
It appears interest rate volatility is becoming a common feature of
the local money market.
In the past 30 days, overnight inter-bank rates have risen to 200
percent, plunged to levels of 75percent only to rise again to the current
levels of above 300 percent.
Undoubtedly, markets would certainly welcome the central bank’s
intervention to prevent the prevailing wild interest rate gyrations.
Meanwhile, the future of the Reserve Bank’s dual interest rate policy
has been thrown into uncertainty.
In his 2004 budget statement on November 20, the Finance Minister said
government would continue to pursue an interest rate policy that seeks to
encourage growth on one hand and reduce inflation on the other hand.
However, recent government statements have cast doubt on the efficacy
of this policy by saying that two-tier interest rates (and two tier exchange
rates) cannot promote economic activity.
It would be interesting to see what the forthcoming monetary policy
statement will have to say in the wake of these statements.
Africa’s hope lies in its own people
12/4/2003 7:50:36 AM (GMT +2)
Africa is richly endowed with natural resources in sharp contrast to
the plight of its citizens enthralled in numerous ineffective systems.
The natural resources are so abound that it really pains to see their
plunder while deserving Africans live in abject poverty.
Ironically in the 1960s, Africa was comparable to Asia but now, less
than half a century later, most African economies are a hopeless basket
In addition to the perils of civil wars, millions of Africans live on
less than US$1 a day. The major differences arise from the characteristics
of the people who live in the two continents.
In addition to the people, there are the structural problems which
hamper African progress. Let us, in this article, concern ourselves with the
application of the African on his resources before we briefly look at
Despite interference from developed nations, which many African
politicians want to highlight, our worst enemy is ourselves.
Nobody but ourselves can fight for our cause, so the harder we try to
resolve human and structural systems the better.
Most African economies have been through some form of colonialism.
During the colonial period, the owners of capital were the Europeans and it
is in these economic entities that Africans found formal work.
Since these entities belonged to the then Europeans, a colonial
This culture dictated to every worker that the economic entity belongs
to the foreigner and you have nothing to do with it except slaving therein
for little or no reward.
The worker therefore resorted to working only when there was close
Once the supervisor turned to look the other side the worker did his
It is this culture that independent Africa inherited and perpetuated,
even after the ownership of economic interests had shifted to the
Still the employee thinks that the organisation which he/she works for
makes him/her slave. He/she therefore cannot identify with its goals.
How then can economic progression be realised if people are not
putting their very best in organisations; which entities, when aggregated
realise economic objectives? From political colonialism followed political
patronage from African brothers in governments.
Workers are employed more on political considerations than merit.
You realise quasi government organisations being run by "politically
correct individuals" and they in turn appoint among their ranks politically
Once political considerations are applied in selecting individuals for
work, accountability mainly is focused on political concerns and less on the
realisation of work goals.
Objectives of organisa-tions are prostituted for political gain and
noble ideas never see the light of day as the primary objective of the
African politician is power.
People’s allegiance to a particular political party and ideology is
rewarded as opposed to pursuing organisational and economic objectives.
The communication throughout the organisa-tion is clear, your
performance is not worthwhile but political allegiance.
This conduct spills over to public companies where the executives, in
a similar way, offer lucrative remuneration packages to their right hand men
while leaving the rest to wallow with paltry salaries.
And as this syndrome sinks deeper into the economy, it is performance
of the economy that suffers. Many African economies are very vulnerable to
economic shocks like foreign currency problems, energy supply problems and
international relations problems.
These economic and political shocks usually result in massive
retrenchments as companies rationalise their operations to suit the
political and economic dictates.
The main worry should go to the retrenched and in this respect the
effort to cater for these people by the South African government through the
recently launched Expanded Public Works Programme should be commended. It is
a burden on the fiscus but at least a step in the right direction.
In conclusion, it maybe useful to quote the NEPAD positioning document
where it says "… the hopes of Africa’s people for better life can no longer
rest on the magnanimity of others". Only Africans can better themselves!
Nyamunda is a Harare based freelance writer who can be contacted
Understanding quiet diplomacy
By Wellington Mbofana
12/4/2003 7:48:44 AM (GMT +2)
ZIMBABWEANS are masters of the blame game. The government blames
whites and Europeans for the ills afflicting the country, including
droughts. The citizens blame the government and other countries, especially
South Africa, for the continued crisis.
A lot has been said about South Africa’s policy of quiet diplomacy,
especially as regards Zimbabwe. This article seeks to understand quiet
Many critics of quiet diplomacy point to the opinion that South Africa
holds the key to resolving the Zimbabwean crisis. But the challenge is to
what extent is this view informed by the nature of the conflict in Zimbabwe,
the reality of politics in the Third World, the grassroots politics in South
Africa and Pretoria’s ambitions as a growing world power.
South Africa is not an island. It is a country in Africa whose
struggles are African and its nascent democracy still very much to be
Unlike most African countries, Zimbabwe included, that have undergone
and others, like Zimbabwe, still going through the ritual of "new
independent consolidation", South Africa is still to experience that. As
with the economic justice questions still to be addressed and increasing
disenchantment by the grassroots, popular discontent may see the country
coming to terms with the ghost of its sad past that unfortunately refuses to
As President Thabo Mbeki once said, South Africa is two worlds in one
country i.e. one rich and essentially white, the other black and
predominantly poor. His remarks at the funeral of Walter Sisulu indicate
that indeed South Africa is still to consolidate its independence. The
challenge is how and when.
Zimbabwe, another rainbow nation, had her time. But as the saying
goes, procrastination is the thief of time. South Africa still has time, but
that may not be as much as the 20 years that the Zimbabweans gave their gove
This statement by Tony Rich is informative: ". . . some people turned
to Mugabe as the relatively untested, but also untainted, leader who might
be able to deliver the goods." He was thought to be the "epitome of militant
nationalism — the man that could put the white man in his place."1 The 20
years of reconciliation, 1980-2000, did not change much hence this statement
still held sway and led many into the farms.
The poor in many African countries and indeed the Third World regard
President Mugabe as a hero for daring to "put the white man in his place".
This is significant in order to understand the international dimensions of
Although the conflict is Zimbabwean, it has assumed regional and
international — North and South — prominence. Anyone attempting to resolve
the conflict will have to be sensitive to the regional sensibilities and the
President Mugabe thinks he is championing the cause of the Third World
or developing world in its fight against the West.
Commentators on South Africa’s relations with
Zimbabwe, especially on
the current crisis, regard Zimbabwe as a province of South Africa. The
arguments proffered on why South Africa is not acting tough on Zimbabwe i.e.
the liberation movements brotherhood, African culture’s respect for adults
and the elderly and the uneasy relations in the ruling Tripartite Alliance,
are plausible. It is not easy though to understand how respect for adults by
President Mbeki has anything to do with his handling of the regime in
Zimbabwe, as he is known for his tongue lashings.
In the heated atmosphere that surrounds the issue of Zimbabwe, the
tendency to pose as high priests at the inquisition, hungry for the blood of
the accused, has taken root — as though to demonise and punish is the way to
solve the most difficult problems. In this situation, as in war, the truth
soon becomes a casualty.2
This message was meant for
critics of the South African government.
And no punches were held! There could be more to quiet diplomacy than this
African traditional respect for adults by a team of a rainbow people who
spent most of their time in exile, some outside Africa!
To understand the anxiety of the South African government over the
MDC, critics have suggested that it is prudent to view it in the context of
an advent of labour backed political parties in the region. It is
significant to note that Frederick Chiluba’s labour-backed MMD took over
government in Zambia, and across the Zambezi River Morgan Tsvangirai, who
like Chiluba, was secretary general of the ZCTU, was headed for State House.
The prospect of COSATU following suit across the Limpopo with a former
secretary general who is still very much popular with the grassroots could
have been undesirable to Pretoria!
Another view is that the glaring imbalances in Zimbabwe 20 years after
independence are similar to those in South Africa nearly 10 years after
apartheid. The South African government could not be seen not to be taking
the side of the poor and powerless. It is most likely that when the people
rise up to challenge the status quo, the South African government, like its
neighbour across the river, will use the same measures to retain and
President Mugabe received a hero’s welcome and a standing ovation at
the funeral of Walter Sisulu. This suggests that the grassroots in South
Africa identify with him and his struggle. Indeed, the grassroots outside
Zimbabwe see the suffering and human rights abuses as inevitable and
expected in a struggle. In this case, one cannot condemn President Mugabe
without alienating the electorate.
It would be interesting to see to what extent the Zimbabwe debate will
become an election issue in South Africa. With the recovery of the South
African currency whose fall critics once attributed to the Zimbabwean
crisis, the opposition in South Africa can only argue on principles.
In the region, South Africa knows well to go by consensus. After the
Lesotho debacle of 1998 and the polarity that resulted out of the DRC
crisis, South Africa knows that it has to act by consensus; otherwise it
will be treated like an ungrateful big bully in the region. Pretoria
appreciates that it has to shake off the "Big Brother" image.
Similarly in the context of Africa, apart from NEPAD and the AU, there
is a tussle for leadership of the continent. South Africa wants to house the
AU Parliament while Libya is also interested in the same.
With the possibility of Africa getting a permanent seat in the
expanded UN Security Council, South Africa may soon be fighting it out with
some other African country. To get these positions, South Africa needs more
than its economic muscle. It needs to be seen as a champion of Africa and
the Third World that stands up to the West. It has to be "truly African".
During the tyrannical reign of Sani Abacha in Nigeria, South Africa
had a diplomatic row with Abuja emanating from President Mandela’s protest
at the execution of the Ogoni leader Ken Saro Wiwa, that resulted in one
Nigerian minister taking a jibe at Mandela, saying he was the African head
of a white country, meaning he was a puppet of the powerful white minority.
President Mbeki and the ANC government would not want to be seen as such.
It is ironic that those Zimbabweans at the forefront of criticising
Pretoria’s position on Zimbabwe are quick to point out that Zimbabwe’s
descent into hell was precipitated by Harare’s ill-advised adventure in the
DRC. If it was wrong for President Mugabe to use the principles argument to
join the fray in the DRC instead of being practical, why is it not right for
President Mbeki to be practical and avoid the principles argument in quiet
diplomacy? Is it because Zimbabweans want to have their cake and eat it?
President Mbeki and the ANC may be short on principles but they are
very practical. To understand quiet diplomacy demands a study of the ANC.
While many in South Africa were expecting the ANC to act tough on the
National Party during the transitional period, it chose to give the
apartheid regime an exit route, a safe landing.
The ANC chooses pragmatism as an alternative to what they call
"Megaphone Diplomacy". President Mbeki himself had unpleasant experiences in
Zimbabwe, Angola and Zambia during their struggle and if he were vengeful he
would be taking it personally against Harare and Luanda. But no, he is too
smart for that. He once asked critics of quiet diplomacy in South Africa
what they expect him to do. No one could come up with any realistic
He asked what he would do if he threatened President Mugabe, whom he
described as very sensitive to criticism — which everybody knows, and the
man digs in his heels or tell him to go and hang. What will he do? Erect an
electric fence as President Festus Mogae is doing in Botswana?
While many expect South Africa to be using its economic leverage on
Zimbabwe, it is unrealistic to expect it to be going it alone. While Festus
Mogae and Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal are on record for condemning Harare,
they have since been voting with the rest of the Third World against tougher
measures on Zimbabwe!
It is significant to note that a number of development meetings
between donor European counties and recipient SADC and African countries
failed because the Africans and later Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)
countries insisted on Zimbabwe’s equal participation.
To expect South Africa, which is a member of the community of
developing countries, to have gone against the grain is to expect too much.
In African wisdom, to cross a crocodile infested river, you cross in single
file. Pretoria does not need to agree and support Harare to tolerate its
wayward neighbour. Quiet diplomacy is about influence and patience. Those
following post-apartheid South Africa’s strides in world politics would
appreciate her tenacity in consensus building.
Over the past few years, South Africa managed to rally support for a
judicious AU as opposed to the outlandish idea of a single country, the
United States of Africa as proposed by the eccentric Brother leader, Maummar
Gadhafi. Many counties including, Zimbabwe initially ridiculed NEPAD but now
if there are still countries opposed to NEPAD, they are doing so in their
The role any country in the
region can play can best be seen through
the role of SADC. SADC’s intervention is limited by the absence of any
functional and relevant structures that respond to the present crisis. The
AU avoids discussing Zimbabwe because they see it as a North-South issue.
The UN cannot, as the Third World perceive President Mugabe as a hero, as
demonstrated by the standing ovation he received in Johannesburg at the UN
Summit on Sustainable Development and similarly in New York at the UN
Children’s Summit. The Zimbabwe issue has at some point threatened dividing
the EU as from time to time, others like France tend to differ on the way
In a democracy such as South Africa is trying to create, the citizenry
form their foreign policy, foreign policies by design are driven by
self-interest. As argued above, South Africa’s foreign policy on Zimbabwe as
seen through quiet diplomacy is influenced by the nature of the conflict in
Zimbabwe, the reality of politics in the Third World, the grassroots
politics in South Africa and Pretoria’s ambitions as a growing world power.
As presented, South Africa believes in consensus and exit routes. This
means critics of quiet diplomacy ought to be convincing the citizens of
South Africa who unfortunately revere Harare, to see the other side of
developments north of the Limpopo. This means in our view an effective
lobbying strategy should not just focus on institutions but common citizens.
When there is outrage in South Africa, the region and the Third World,
governments will act on their errant neighbour. Those unable to act in the
face of domestic pressure will simply lose support. "No collateral no gain."
South Africa and other regional governments need to be helped to act. And
the help can only come from the affected or victim citizens, in this case
It is only fair to appreciate that responsible governments are
accountable to their electorate and would only take instruction from their
people. Moral arguments are not enough reason to cause the taking of
unpopular decisions on behalf of the electorate. Zimbabweans can testify to
this. Zimbabwe entered the DRC adventure ostensibly on moral grounds but
Zimbabweans, who are now paying the price for the ill-advised decision, did
not support the move. This does not mean that Africans, indeed Zimbabweans,
are averse to supporting friends in need. They need to be part of the
decision. And they can only do this from the point of information.
If the people of Khayelitsha, Soweto, KwaMashu etc think Zimbabwe’s
newspaper of choice, the Daily News, is an illegal newspaper operated by the
former colonial master to undermine a legitimate African government, it
would be very difficult for any government to act otherwise, morals or no
1Tony Rich, Legacies of the Past? The
Results of the 1980 Election in
Midlands Province. Zimbabwe, in: J.D. Peel & Terence Ranger (eds.) Past and
Present in Zimbabwe, Manchester University Press in assoc. with Journal of
the International Africa Institute, Manchester: 1983, p. 48.
2 His speech published by
New facility for importers of fuel
12/4/2003 7:15:27 AM (GMT +2)
A LOCAL financial services group, First Factoring Company of Zimbabwe
(FFCZ), said this week it was introducing a new facility under whi-ch it
would provide guarantee to companies importing fuel into the country.
director Collen Magurah said the facility was aimed at
making the importation of fuel by companies and other organisations cost
effective as they would not be prejudiced of potential income as is the case
when they pay fuel suppliers for the commodity upfront.
He said the FFCZ facility offers fuel importers the opportunity to
earn interest on their money while waiting for the delivery of the product.
"We have introduced this facility after realising that most people
cannot import fuel because of the stringent conditions placed by foreign
fuel suppliers," said Magurah.
One of the fuel suppliers’ conditions is that importers should pay for
the commodity upfront, at least 10 days before it is delivered.
"This requirement has acted as a barrier to most institutions and
companies wishing to import fuel because there is an opportunity cost
involved by paying upfront for something that will only be delivered 10 to
14 days later," added Magurah.
It may take anything up to a fortnight for fuel imports to land in
Magurah noted that, because of the requirement to pay upfront, local
fuel importers were being forced to forego interests that could be earned if
that money was invested on the money or equities markets.
"For instance, where an importer is asked to pay $100 million in
advance before the consignment is delivered, he or she forfeits at least $15
million a month or $500 000 a day in interest, money that could be earned if
it was invested on the money market," he said.
Investments on the money market are currently fetching anything in the
region of 120 percent interest per annum.
Because of the exchange rate vagaries and high risk involved, most
fuel suppliers are demanding payment upfront to facilitate the importation
of the scarce commodity.
Under this facility, FFCZ does not import any fuel but only provides
guarantee equivalent to the amount invested with it.
A company intending to import fuel would approach FFCZ and invest with
the financial services group an amount not less than the value of the fuel
it intends to import.
FFCZ would then provide a guarantee to the fuel supplier. Upon
delivery of the commodity, FFCZ will pay the supplier for the fuel and the
importer will get interest that would have accumulated during the time they
would have waited for the fuel.
"The beauty of the facility is that the importer does not spend
anything until the fuel is delivered and all the interest earned from the
investment is paid to the investor," said Magurah.
"All they have to do is to invest money with us for the whole month
and give us their schedules for that money and we guarantee supplies," he
FFCZ only pays the supplier on presentation of a delivery note from
the importer confirming the delivery of the commodity.
Zimbabwe is reeling under the throes of crippling fuel shortage,
spawned by swingeing foreign currency shortages that have rocked the country
for the past four years.
The FFCZ facility comes in at a time when the government has just
deregularised the fuel sector allowing companies and other organisations
that can afford, to import their own fuel.
Region could save $12m in food imports
12/4/2003 7:22:16 AM (GMT +2)
DROUGHT-prone parts of the southern African region could reduce the
cost of food imports by more than US$12 million annually if regional
countries adopted drought-tolerant crops such as millet and sorghum
varieties for their communal farming sectors.
It emerged during a Southern African Development Community (SADC)
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)
workshop in Bulawayo this week attended by over 50 delegates from nine SADC
countries that Zimbabwe alone is likely to experience a shortfall of 1.6
million tonnes of maize grain.
The state-controlled Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has only received 230
000 tonnes of maize from farmers yet the nation’s national maize grain
requirement is pegged at 1.8 million tonnes.
Delegates to the two-day regional workshop were unanimous that small
grains should be encouraged in the drought-prone region, especially in
Zimbabwe, to stem food shortages that has seen the country beg for food aid
from the international community.
Apart from Zimbabwe, four other southern African nations — Zambia,
Mozambique, Malawi and Botswana — are experiencing food shortages blamed on
the devastating drought ravaging the region. The international community has
spent several billions of dollars shipping food to hungry people in the
Delegates said a major shift from the traditional maize grain to small
grains such as millet and sorghum could go a long way in reducing grain
deficits in the region.
The workshop took stock of the progress made in the Sorghum and Millet
Improvement Program (SMIP) over the past 20 years and assessed future
priorities that need to be addressed by the governments and non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) and the scientific community.
Dr Geoffrey Heinrich, ICRISAT regional representative for Southern
Africa who presented a 20-year overview of SMIP, told The Financial Gazette
that research in small grains for the past 20 years had successfully
improved food security in the drought-prone areas of SADC and benefited
millions of people.
"Through the improved sorghum and millet production, the region can
retain more than US$12 million annually. For example, Tanzania alone this
year retained US$17 million intended for food importation," said Heinrich.
In partnership with the ministries of agriculture in each SADC
country, SMIP has developed 46 sorghum and pearl millet varieties. These new
varieties are early maturing, high yielding and resistant to some of the
diseases common in the region.
Heinrich said his organisation had, for the past 20 years since it
commenced research on small grains, spent between US$40-50 million. He said
the small grains had become popular with communal farmers in southern
"This year alone we have used US$900 000 in four countries on
research. Because Zimbabwe is the headquarters of the project, it has spent
the largest portion of the US$900 000 but I do not have the exact figure of
what Zimbabwe has used except that it has the bulk of the total figure," he
The SMIP programme also links farmers with private seed companies and
millers and facilitates negotiations to ensure that farmers get good prices
for their crops.
For example over 2 500 communal farmers in Tsholotsho, Lupane and
Zvishavane districts participate in a marketing programme whereby they
produce high quality seed for a private company.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe might import more than 200 000 tonnes of wheat to
avert severe bread shortages next year. The seizure of commercial farms from
mostly whites for redistribution to landless blacks has led to a drop in
both maize and wheat outputs.
Farming turned into a song-and-dance affair
12/4/2003 7:37:05 AM (GMT +2)
As the latest jingle designed supposedly to tout the "spectacular"
success of the government’s land reform programme continues to raise hackles
across the nation, one angry and hungry cynic commented scathingly; "With
the powers-that-be-evidently regarding the serious business of productive
farming as a song-and-dance affair, is it any wonder that millions of
Zimbabweans are starving?"
As one of those millions fighting the losing battle of trying to keep
the wolf away from the door, I am in total agreement with this doubting
If you have sat before your television set watching those anarchic and
lewd scenes while trying to ignore the constant hunger pangs that are now
part of everyday life, I am certain you too have wondered what exactly is
being celebrated in that devil-may-care performance.
Government apologists have offered a number of unconvincing defences
for the sometimes downright obscene acts in the jingle. One is that the
throw-all-caution-to-the-wind dancing and aggressive phrasing of the lyrics
in the ditty enable Zimbabweans to look back to the good old days when they
observed their own traditions.
But the government propagandists have missed the point altogether.
They cannot hope to win anyone over by deliberately using diversionary
tactics to mislead the public. The last thing hungry Zimbabweans need right
now is an irrelevant reminder of their cultural heritage. Neither is this
the declared goal of the land reform programme. What the people want is food
in their stomachs, on their tables, on store shelves and in those grain
silos featured in the advertisement.
After three years of being told: "Our land is our prosperity," the
people now need tangible proof that the government’s violent seizure of land
from white farmers beginning in 2000 was a well considered and principled
decision and not one spurred by political expediency.
The trouble is that Zimbabweans cannot find viable and verifiable
evidence of food abundance and spectacular farming success apart from what
they see on television. With food shortages as widespread as they are and
hunger as pervasive as it is, the SENDEKERA MWANA WEVU ditty can easily be
perceived as an insensitive celebration of the suffering of the masses.
It is now heresy to state that the land reform programme has not been
as successful as it has been vaunted to be. Even the government-appointed
Utete Commission admits as much in its recently released report.
The latest jingle is proof that the less success the government can
show to justify the havoc wreaked by farm invasions since 2000, the more
strenuous its efforts become in trying to persuade a sceptical public
otherwise. The attempt to build a superficial image of the good life through
garish choreography can be counter-productive. Advertising that creates a
phoney world in which everything is rosy against a backdrop of the worst
humanitarian crisis this country has ever faced since independence is both
fallacious and hypocritical. The government copy writers and advertising
strategists should surely know that they can not win over a hungry
population by appealing to prurient instincts as evidenced by the suggestive
and sometimes indecent gyrations of the dancers in the video.
The recruitment of children as performers in these scenes does little
to advance the propagandists’ cause. Why then is so much faith placed in
this type of message?
I think the answers can be found in a comment made by writer Wilbur
Schramm many years ago with respect to communist propaganda: "If the
communists have discovered anything new, it is not the power of the word,
but the power of a dedicated, disciplined, ruthless combat party."
I have come to the unavoidable conclusion that the ruling party’s
preparedness to make extravagant claims that are so acutely at variance with
reality is a metaphor for its policy of riding roughshod over the people
instead of consulting them. Things have to be what they are claimed to be
simply because the party says so.
The powers-that-be have deliberately chosen to ignore the fact that
along with the right to persuade comes the right not to be deceived, misled
or befuddled. Excessive and repetitive information that is not borne out by
realities on the ground becomes a form of harassment. But can the constant
drip of party doctrine erode the judgment of a hungry viewer to the extent
that he believes what he sees on his television screen or hears on his radio
can assuage his hunger? I think not. There is a point at which "an
unconscious resistance sets in to shield the eye and ear from assault" as
one observer has put it. That point was reached and passed a long time ago
with respect to "Hondo yeminda". The thing the ruling party is advertising
in the current blitz can be its misguided belief that it can make things
happen through coercion and by decree. A tall order when it comes to growing
enough food to feed the nation on television screens and radio broadcasts!
Will a foreign currency auction system solve forex blues?
12/4/2003 7:29:25 AM (GMT +2)
A feature that has become peculiar with recent government economic
policy statements is the deliberate avoidance of external sector policies
needed to solve the current foreign currency crisis especially the exchange
rate and re-engagement with the international community so as to unlock
foreign direct investment inflows.
Yet an effective and credible exchange rate policy, like monetary and
fiscal policies, plays a highly significant role in the ability of the
economy to attain optimal productive capacity.
As a result, a sound and credible exchange rate policy should be
viewed as a key tool in economic stabilisation and adjustment.
It is, therefore, not economically possible to de-link domestic
economic policies like monetary, fiscal and supply-side policies from
exchange rate policies.
All these policies work together as a system to achieve desirable
results. In fact, exchange rate reforms should be the centrepiece of any
economic revival programme.
In short, an exchange rate policy is part and parcel of the
Given that government has promised to "rigorously implement" fiscal
and monetary stabilisation measures so as to reduce inflation in addition to
sector-specific structural measures, I have found it imperative to talk
about exchange rate issues. For a long time now, government has been
battling to find a workable exchange rate system but to no avail.
After abandoning the fixed exchange rate system that had been in use
in the 1980s, the government embarked on economic reforms in 1991 and
operated a dual exchange rate system until June 1994.
The authorities adopted a managed float exchange rate system the
following month but due to a Budget deficit-propelled inflation and
depletion of foreign exchange reserves to continually defend the currency
the exchange rate had, by August 1995, become overvalued resulting in an
erosion of our export competitiveness. Eventually, the foreign currency
reserves got depleted and the currency crashed in November 1997 and starting
in February 1999. The exchange rate was fixed against the U.S. dollar and
has continually been adjusted since but not in line with inflation trends, a
situation that has seen it being grossly over-valued hence the current
foreign currency shortages and emergency of a vibrant parallel market which
the authorities have failed to curb.
It is against this background of a failure by government to find a
workable exchange rate policy and has become stuck with a fixed exchange
rate system that proposals have been made for it to gradually move to a
floating exchange rate system.
The major problem, however, is the apparent fear by government to just
let the currency go by floating it because of the short-term political and
As a result, proposals have been made for a soft lending approach
through use of an auction system in the management of the exchange rate from
the current fixed to a market-related floating exchange rate.
This is almost the same as the current Reserve Bank Treasury Bill
tender system. The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) first raised
this proposal in July 2002.
In addition to facilitating an exchange rate regime change, the other
purpose of the auction system is to generate information to buyers and
sellers of foreign currency about the realistic price of foreign currency.
There are many trade and exchange relations in which more often than
not a piece of information relevant to the transaction may be known to one
party but not to the other.
Such information asymmetry is corrected by an auction system just like
in the case of the Treasury Bill tender system hence the constant rejections
of higher bids by the RBZ as the banks know where interest rates should be
based on inflation and liquidity conditions on the money market. An
advantage of an auction system is that it is more stable than dealer markets
in times of shortages as it is the buyer who sets the price.
There exists huge literature on designing an optimal foreign currency
auction system. Two well-known auction systems for the determination of the
exchange rate are the Dutch Auction System (DAS) and the Marginal Pricing
Auction System (MPAS).
There is a third less known method called the Reserve Pricing Approach
(RPA). In the DAS, each successful bidder pays his bid price until the
market clears. The market-clearing price is the marginal exchange rate.
Under the MPAS, a single rate, the most appreciated bid price at which
the available foreign exchange is exhausted, is applied to all successful
bidders. Bidders who have offered rates more depreciated than the
market-clearing rate received all the foreign exchange they bid for at
marginal price; those whose bid rates are more appreciated will not receive
foreign exchange; and those whose bid price is equal to the market-clearing
rate will receive only part of what they bid for on the basis of an
allocative rule. The RPA auction method hinges on the use of a reserve price
for foreign exchange, which is the most appreciated exchange rate at the
central bank would undertake to supply foreign exchange.
It should be noted that the auction system does not
eliminate the parallel market in as much as the Treasury bill auction system
will not meet the requirements of all market players. There will always be
some primary dealers that will find themselves short and will have to find
some overnight accommodation at penal rates either from the RBZ itself or
the inter-bank market. In the foreign currency market, once the auction
system is up and running the monetary authorities should then prepare for a
unification of the parallel and official markets. An important institutional
arrangement developed to absorb the parallel market into the legal foreign
exchange system is the Bureau de Change. The key objectives behind the
institutionalisation of the foreign currency bureaus, therefore, include the
elimination of the illegal parallel market, capture of the main market
forces directly behind the determination of the exchange rate and the
subsequent absorption of the parallel/bureau market into a single foreign
exchange market. Against this background the Government should legalise all
Bureaux de Change it abolished last year without delay if it is serious
about implementing viable exchange rate reforms needed to solve the current
foreign currency shortages! Presenting the 2003 National Budget on 14
November 2002, the Minister of Finance abolished Bureaux de Change accusing
them of causing foreign currency leakages and fuelling the parallel foreign
Having said all this, it should be noted
that exchange rate reform
involves a tremendous amount of institutional and foreign exchange support,
sound fiscal and monetary policies and judicious trade and price regimes.
All this must, of necessity be implemented within an enabling macroeconomic
environment. This is because the nature of macroeconomic policy has a major
bearing on the effectiveness of exchange policy. For instance, chronic
fiscal deficits, expansionary monetary policy, trade deficits and a high
debt service ratio, as is currently the case in Zimbabwe, have adverse
consequences on exchange rate stability irrespective of the choice of
exchange rate regime. The fiscal deficit and expansionary monetary policy
through low interest rates increases domestic demand for foreign exchange,
while trade deficits and high debt service reduces availability of foreign
currency to satisfy domestic demand. As a result, as demand rises while
supply falls, other things being equal, the domestic price of foreign
exchange rises. This is exactly what happened in Zimbabwe and the onus is
upon Government to address the situation if we are to have an improvement in
foreign currency inflows.
Comment from ZWNEWS, 4 December
Succession lottery roll-over
By Michael Hartnack
secretary for information Nathan Shamuyarira dropped a
diplomatic bombshell Monday, blowing apart South Africa’s scenario for
"quiet diplomacy" that would yield a dignified exit for Robert Mugabe by
mid-2004. Far from Mugabe announcing his retirement at the Zanu PF annual
conference in Masvingo this week, as South Africa has hinted for months, the
subject of the succession is not even on the agenda, Shamuyarira told state
radio. "The whole thing will be done at the 'people's congress' in December
2004. That will be the place for debating the succession and related
issues," disclosed Shamuyarira, former foreign minister and principal
spokesman for the ruling party. While South Africa has been pressing for an
interim government of national unity, commentators in Zimbabwe have been
warning that Mugabe, who turns 80 in February, has no intention of stepping
down before the next presidential elections - due in March 2008 - if then.
Talk of transition was a ploy both to diffuse foreign criticism and trap the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change into a coalition that would
discredit them with voters.
On the premise Mugabe would step down possibly by June, South African
President Thabo Mbeki has tried to pressure MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai,
and Zimbabweans generally, to abandon the idea of fresh presidential
elections, or an openly determined succession, in favour of a
behind-the-scenes lottery in which they may shorten the odds of getting an
"acceptable" Zanu PF personality by agreeing to take part in the gamble
under Mugabe's rules. South Africa suggested that by joining with civil
society, the current political establishment, friendly neighbours and a
tolerant Commonwealth, the MDC should have been able to maximise the odds
for an amenable candidate getting the presidential first prize. However,
Shamuyarira's latest words confirm fears that each time the eagerly awaited
lottery draw is due, what will be announced is not a new name but a cheerful
statement that, due to unfortunate circumstances, the prize has been carried
South African government has failed to understand the most powerful Zanu
PF succession faction, including Joseph Made at "agriculture", Patrick
Chinamasa at "justice", and Jonathan Moyo at the equally fictitious
"information", is the Mugabe faction who want him to stay on to 2008 - and
beyond if possible. Under these circumstances, there will be no genuine
"draw" for the succession until Mugabe has a health/palace power crisis.
When the draw finally does comes under those forced circumstances it will be
hastily convened and fraught with peril for the entire region. Most
Zimbabweans refuse to accept these dangerous odds, and want the Commonwealth
to help, now, in having this whole gamble declared illegal. In the absence
of an open selection process and fair elections, Mugabe might be succeeded
by a member of his Zanu PF hierarchy who helped drop several thousand people
down mineshafts in the 1980s, looted big time from the Congo in the 1990s,
and treated himself to a farm or three after 2000.
In the past, Africa has run on personalities rather than policies, and no
one is more obsessed with personalities than Mugabe himself. Hear what he
said on Friday at the graveside of an obscure party apparatchik who was
granted national hero status. Mugabe did more than threaten to "say goodbye
to the Commonwealth'' for refusing to invite him to its summit in Nigeria.
The state funeral was to remind the faithful what cradle-to-grave perks come
the way of those who stick by the man with the jam ladle, in a land where
ordinary people queue for the basic loaf of bread. Mugabe loves eulogies for
heroes: dead men tell no tales, neither do they argue with whatever opinions
he may ascribe to them. His methods are based on being able to sway
individual personalities by bribery, flattery or threat. At the graveside,
Mugabe uttered infantile personal abuse against Australian Prime Minister
John Howard as "genetically modified, because of the criminal ancestor he
derives from". Would any white politician, anywhere in the modern world,
survive uttering such racist remarks about a black personality? Whites, he
said "remain a dangerous lot and we should be warned about that."
And then he turned on his fellow black Africans. No one could
have done more
than Mbeki to keep Mugabe in power. But in a clear reference to Mbeki and
other African presidents committed to the New Economic Partnership for
African Development, Mugabe attacked leaders "who are apologetic about being
nationalistic...others who fear to be complete Africans, hesitate to be in
complete solidarity with us." "There were those who feared to be associated
with Zimbabweans because Zimbabweans were said to be taking the white man's
land. They fear Robert Mugabe," he said. "Once we have given Africa back her
pride of place, only then can we talk about a successful renaissance," he
added, in a jibe at Mbeki's hopes. Some analysts in Zimbabwe think Mbeki
dreads being arraigned before a newly reconstituted Race Classification
Board, chaired by Mugabe, that will declare him "non-African" and therefore
ineligible to work in the region. In Mugabe's test anyone who expresses
distress at the sight of people, black or white, farmers or workers, being
robbed and murdered by self-styled ex-guerrillas is not truly African. The
same goes for anyone horrified at the prospect of 5,5 million Zimbabweans
starving next year.
Mugabe has a personality
profile typical of his generation of nationalist
leaders - the alienated Third World intellectual. Tsvangirai, 51, Mugabe's
only serious rival for the presidency if there were ever a free and open
poll, is from a completely different breed. In the past, Africa ran on
personalities first and policies second. South Africa's line that Zimbabwe
should concentrate on getting an amiable new Zanu PF personality in charge
and worry about the policies later is therefore understandable, but long out
of date. Zimbabweans anyway do not want the "One nation, one party, one
leader" philosophy that marked states such as Zambia in their early decades
of independence. They feel there is no safe substitute for free and fair
MDC warns of maize crunch in Zimbabwe
December 04 2003 at 06:42PM
Harare - Zimbabwe will run out of the staple maize
grain by January unless
President Robert Mugabe's government makes an urgent appeal for more aid, a
senior member of the opposition said on Thursday.
Zimbabwe has suffered food shortages for the last three years, with critics
pointing mainly to disruptions in agriculture linked to the government's
controversial land reforms.
Aid agencies say 5.5 million people in the country - more than a third of
the country's population - will need food aid by year-end.
Renson Gasela, shadow agriculture minister for the Movement for Democratic
Change, said Zimbabwe had just enough maize to last until the end of
January. This included 346 000 tons received after the government appealed
to donors for 700 000 tons of grain.
The cash-strapped country, which has suffered chronic shortages of foreign
currency and fuel since 1999, is unable to import its own food.
"If disaster is to be averted, I further appeal to the donors to come to the
rescue of the suffering people of Zimbabwe," Gasela told a news conference.
But he said the United Nations World Food Programme, which has spearheaded a
food aid campaign for Zimbabwe, could only act on a formal request from
Fuel Prices Fall As Supplies Improve
December 4, 2003
Posted to the web December 4, 2003
FUEL supplies in Harare improved yesterday, resulting in the dropping of
prices at some service stations in the city.
The dropping of the prices was also attributed to a recent deal in which oil
companies were allowed to use the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe's
pipeline to transport petroleum products from Beira.
Mobil service stations were selling petrol at $2 650 a litre, with diesel
going for $2 550 a litre.
Before that, petrol used to cost between $3 000 and $3 500 a litre.
Total service stations were selling petrol at $2 900 a litre but BP service
stations sold it at $3 200 a litre while Exor sold it for $3 100 a litre.
The high prices of petrol were due to high transport costs incurred by oil
companies using road haulage trucks to bring in the commodity.
Those service stations selling the commodity at prices between $3 000 and $3
500 a litre were expected to lower the prices in due course as the deal with
Noczim begins to hold.
Oil companies said in a statement countrywide reports indicated there had
been an improvement in fuel supplies over the past seven days.
But the companies said there were different prices from company to company.
They said the different prices were due to different cost structures of
transportation, foreign currency availability and other logistics.
"The variable rates in fuel prices are also due to economies of scale -
order quantity, cost of product versus overheads and logistical capability,"
said the companies in the oil industry bulletin, Fuel Facts.
Most fuel companies were this week expected to finalise their
with Noczim to use the pipeline to transport their products.
A technical committee to oversee the implementation of the deal has already
Dubious Money Lending Firms Mushroom
December 4, 2003
Posted to the web December 4, 2003
A PROLIFERATION of dubious money lending companies could tarnish the image
of the sector, which has experienced growth despite Zimbabwe's economic
crisis, a sector representative told The Financial Gazette.
The Zimbabwe Association of Micro-Finance Institutions (ZAMFI) chairman,
Jestias Rushwaya, said most micro-finance companies were charging exorbitant
interest rates and imposing stringent loan application requirements on
desperate clients who ended up losing their properties to the loan sharks.
The burgeoning money-lending sector has experienced an astronomic rise in
the number of small- to medium-scale companies operating in the country due
to the economic downturn prevailing in the country.
Rushwaya said the increase in the number of players in the sector was riding
on the back of the escalating costs of living due to runaway inflation,
increasing unemployment and the growth of the informal sector.
He, however, said the sector had unfortunately seen the rise of unscrupulous
dealers who were not sympathetic to the plight of the suffering people.
The Financial Gazette established during its investigations during the week
that most micro-finance companies operating in and around Harare and
Bulawayo were charging more than 50 percent per month, which translates to
600 percent per annum.
"We charge 50 percent interest per month and the interest is due exactly 30
days after lending the money," a spokesperson for one micro-finance company
in the city centre, said.
She said their rates were high because, in the long run, they needed to pay
for administration costs and that they needed to keep their bottom line
ahead of inflation.
Currently year-on-year inflation is pegged at 525.8 percent.
The Money Lenders and Interest Rates Act of 1985 stipulates that money
lenders operating in the country charge interest rates of not more than 30
percent per annum.
Rushwaya, however, slammed the practice as unethical. He said: " These
people are not registered with our organisation because it has a code of
ethics that protects our clients.
"Every member registered with our organisation is not allowed to charge such
exorbitant rates. Frankly speaking, the rates they are charging are illegal
and they are shamelessly ripping off their clients."
He, however, said the statutory interest charge on loans needed to be
revised upwards to around 90 percent per annum due to the highly
Zimbabwe's protracted economic crisis has seen thousands of workers, mostly
those in the under-performing agriculture and manufacturing sectors,
bloating the unemployment level to over 70 percent.
The majority of both the employed and unemployed population has, as a
result, been forced to resort to borrowing from money-lenders either to
start small businesses or to settle urgent family commitments.
Some of the conditions for borrowing from the money-lenders entail
submitting, together with standard requirements demanded by other banks,
personal security in the form of stoves, refrigerators, television sets and
radios whose cost at times is 10 times above the loan amounts.
Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa in his 2004 National Budget presented last
week said: "Rapid development of informal and parallel markets for both
goods and foreign exchange are entrenching a growing shadow economy, with
rising incidences of rampant corruption.
"Work and business ethics are fast disappearing as people aspire and search
for overnight wealth."
Analysts said that speculative activity was negatively affecting the economy
and contributing to the high inflation rate.
"Controlling the speculative activity running riot in our economy also
involves curbing the illegal activities of money lending institutions that
charge very high interest rates," the analyst said.
Rushwaya, who is also the chairman of the regional Southern Africa
Micro-finance and Capacity Building Facility (SAMCAF), an umbrella body for
micro-finance lenders in countries in the SADC region, agreed saying that as
long as the money lending companies were not regulated, they would continue
to contribute implicitly to runaway inflation.
He said a taskforce to deal with the micro-finance sector was already in
existence comprising of various stakeholders in the education, economic and
business sectors to lobby government on curtailing the operations of the
companies as well as to review upwards the current lending rates.
Zimbabwe has more than 3 000 companies operating in the micro-finance
industry but more than two-thirds of the companies operate illegally and are
not properly registered.
Zamfi is the only organisation that represents micro-finance companies but
puts more emphasis on development lending rather than consumer finance.
"We do not encourage consumer lending because it is consumptive. Our
organisation is geared towards poverty alleviation and some of our
registered members include Cottco and the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe,"
Prospects of Recovery in Tourism Sector Bleak
December 4, 2003
Posted to the web December 4, 2003
THE tourism industry, smarting from the country's political turmoil that has
prompted an economic meltdown, appears headed for a cul de sac as confusion
about reliable tourist inflow figures and the sector's ability to recover
continue to dominate debate.
Government's high-handed approach to the recovery of the crucial foreign
currency earner, once touted as the country's fastest growing industry, is
seemingly failing to stabilise the sector amidst the deteriorating
In 1999, at the onset of the country's land reform campaign, Zimbabwe racked
in a total of US$700 million in foreign currency earnings. Sadly, in 2002,
the industry was depleted ten-fold, earning as little as US$70 million.
The land seizures, meant to resettle landless peasants, and the
parliamentary elections that followed in the same year saw the country
attracting bad publicity as international media blasted what they termed the
"barbaric" course of the land reform policy.
Zimbabwe became a pariah state overnight, with international financiers
closing their door to any business with the country.
Tourism suffered dearly, and when reputable international airlines including
Lufthansa and Qantas pulled out, citing dwindling international tourist
arrivals in the country, government began trying to stem the haemorrhage.
Hotels frequently talk of rising occupancy levels, but experts explain that
it is due to the domestic market and the coming festive season and not
because of increased international tourism.
The Minister of Tourism, Francis Nhema, in trying to fend off criticism of
the ministry's failure to turn around the sector, has said that domestic
tourism is good for the country after all and should be vigorously promoted.
However Eric Bloch, a Bulawayo-based economic consultant, said: "Domestic
tourism is good for Zimbabwe because it generates income but there are other
aspects it does not satisfy. For instance, international tourists come with
much needed foreign exchange that boosts the country's foreign currency
reserves. Domestic tourism does not satisfy the safari side as local
tourists do not normally go on safari. They might go to a hotel but
international tourists utilise safaris. Safari operators are suffering
because they are probably having very low or no patronage at all."
Gwenda Wawn, voted Tourism Personality of the Year 2003 for her sterling
work in promoting the sector, said the current situation still demanded that
the country go on a massive international campaign to attract international
tourists, create a Zimbabwean tourism emblem and find ways of getting
Wawn, who also works for a local tour operator, said: "We have been
drastically affected by press reports and we are in the process of coming up
with a symbolic logo that will be Zimbabwean."
South Africa, one of the best-packaged tourist destinations on the
continent, is enjoying huge returns from tourism through the 'Proudly South
The emblem is designed in the form of the national flag embedded within a
circle that is virtually seen in almost all of the country's international
"The other problem is that we need huge funding to fuel our campaign if we
are to succeed in targeting Europe, America, and the Far East. It will be
very difficult for Zimbabwe to go it alone," Wawn said.
South Africa has in the past few years prioritised tourism as a potential
foreign currency earner and the results have been overwhelming,
South Africa's initiative has grown in leaps and bounds, spurred by a unique
partnership between the government, international community and the local
Instead Zimbabwe presents a contrast: there is no close and harmonious
interaction between government and the local business community and the low
profile Zimbabwe Tourism Expo (ZTE) held last month is testimony to this.
The ZTE is held annually by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) to link
local tourism players with international markets but this year most
participants felt that the event was not adequately prepared for.
Worse still Zimbabwe does not have any hope of securing any meaningful
The country remains cut off from crucial International Monetary Fund
balance-of-payments support that in turn has reduced international
This has led to a deep-seated economic crisis that has seen the inflation
rate jump to 525.8, one of the highest in the world.
A striking example of how much African countries need the assistance of the
international community in tourism promotion is Kenya.
Terrorist attacks and alerts of more terrorist attacks devastated the East
African country's famed tourism industry.
At one time British Airways suspended flights to Kenya, but though these
have since resumed, Kenya is still struggling to exorcise the ghost of the
The country launched a tourism recovery package last month, assisted
financially by the European Union, and it has already started to send
attaches to vital tourism markets to attract increased tourist inflows.
Again, industry players said, this presents a lesson for Zimbabwe that has
made several attempts to broaden its appeal on the international arena by
sending attaches to Kuala Lumpur, the Middle East and South Africa, but
unfortunately these ventures are crippled by the shortage of funds.
Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of Information and Publicity, launched a video
and song in South Africa to market the country's premier tourist resort, the
Bloch said that the forays to South Africa helped because they enhanced
regional tourism but said that Zimbabwe still needed to repair its damaged
Bloch said:" International tourists need to be assured that there is enough
fuel for travelling, that the police will not stop them at roadblocks and
strip them of their foreign currency, they need to know that flights will
not be cancelled unnecessarily."
A ZTA official said that tourism has raised about $30 billion up to June
this year as compared to $19.7 billion last year during the same period.
This appeared to be a factor of inflation and the devaluation of the
Zimbabwe dollar against the greenback rather than increased foreign currency
Zimbabwe Sun Limited (ZimSun), the country's biggest hotel and leisure chain
group, presented unaudited financial results for the six months ended
September 30 2003 that painted a gloomy picture.
"Patronage from traditional source markets remained weak during the period
under review. A softening of attitude by tour operators is being
experienced, with some consumers and travel agents still to be educated that
Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe are still safe destinations."
ZimSun said that room occupancy on the other hand
dropped from 45 percent
during the same period last year, sharply contradicting claims by the ZTA
that hotel occupancy was at its peak.
But Bloch said: "The figures being churned out in the market are creating a
wrong impression because people give out statistics that are selective and
that suit their plans, those statistics can only come from the information
department and they are not reliable."