July 20, 2007
Jan Raath: Harare Notebook
It's been like this for three months. The first thing when I wake, I press
the switch on my bedside lamp. Six days a week there is no response. The
power is off. It will be like this for at least 12 hours. It sinks any
positive charge I may have woken with, and the mood will underlie the whole
This week I gave a lift to Charles, a technician with the sinking state
power utility company. He said last month he and 250 other technicians went
for interviews in Botswana with the UK National Grid. "We all got offered
jobs," he said, and laughed when I asked if anyone would be left in
I check my landline, which has been dead for three weeks. The phone is not
just silent, you can hear the deadness. The batteries in the local exchange
have run down because of the persistent power cuts.
I try my mobile instead. The red "network busy" sign flashes with the first
ten attempts. It can go on like this for 20 minutes. Congestion became
severe immediately the Price Monitoring and Stabilisation Task Force ordered
the mobile companies to halve their tariffs. Everyone can now use the
telephone with no regard for the cost, and does - if he can get a signal -
all the time. The sense of isolation that comes with being without
functioning telephones for extended periods is profound.
Nyarai, my housekeeper, arrives nearly two hours late. There are almost no
commuter minibuses. Fuel is unobtainable from service stations since the
owners were ordered to cut the price to about 18p a litre two weeks ago. She
had to walk for an hour and then struggle in a heaving mob to get on to an
open truck. My friend Nicolle couldn't find a hairdresser that was open.
They all had power cuts and those that had generators didn't have fuel.
The big OK supermarket near me also closed for a day because it had no
diesel for its generator. TM supermarket has not closed, but inside people
are running toward the back of the shop to join the bread queue. At the
checkout till everyone looks hungrily in everyone else's shopping basket for
something they missed on the thinning shelves. A woman in front of me had a
box of 30 litres of milk in cartons. It will coagulate in the freezer before
she can use it. I snatched up two packets of bacon. I don't eat bacon from
one year to the next.
We are all behaving abnormally. Because we all know that before long there
will be nothing left in the shops and there will be no fuel and we will have
to hunt around the black market for food and fuel, and even that is bound to
dry up and then everything will stop.
Everyone knows that what the Government of Robert Mugabe is doing is not
just bungling, not just senseless - but mad. It feels as though we are
slipping, out of control, God only knows into what.
Jan Raath is Zimbabwe correspondent for The Times
Friday 20 July 2007
By Patricia Mpofu
HARRAE - A South African-led initiative to pluck neighbouring Zimbabwe out
of crisis this week looked in danger of collapsing as President Robert
Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party insisted it would not discuss a new
constitution with the opposition, sources told ZimOnline.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) last March tasked South
Africa's President Thabo Mbeki to lead efforts to resolve Zimbabwe's
eight-year political and economic crisis by facilitating dialogue between
ZANU PF and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
Mbeki - who will report back to SADC leaders in August - has previously said
progress was being made in the search for a negotiated solution, while
reports in Zimbabwean and regional media suggested ZANU PF and the MDC had
agreed on a formal agenda of talks, with the issue of a new constitution
topping the list.
However, sources on Thursday said ZANU PF representatives, Patrick Chinamasa
and Nicholas Goche, earlier this week met the South African team of
mediators led by Safety and Security Minister Sydney Mufamadi to tell them
they had instructions from their party not to discuss a new constitution.
The ZANU PF team is said to have met Mufamadi and his team in Pretoria on
Monday. Frank Chikane, director-general in Mbeki's office, also attended the
meeting at which Chinamasa said ZANU PF's powerful politburo cabinet had
decided the ruling party should press ahead with plans to amend Zimbabwe's
constitution through Parliament.
"He (Chinamasa) told them that the MDC rejected constitutional reforms in
2000 and that the politburo had now resolved to push the 18th Amendment to
the constitution to allow for joint presidential and parliamentary elections
next year," said a top ZANU PF and government official, whom we cannot name.
Constitutional Amendment No. 18, which the government has tabled in
Parliament, will in addition to harmonising elections, empower the House -
in which Mugabe enjoys sweeping support - to elect a successor in the event
that he dies or plans to step down.
The MDC says the amendment is a ploy by Mugabe - who will extend his rule to
33 years if he is re-elected next year and finishes the five-year
presidential term - to hang on to power for life.
The opposition party insists the Mbeki-led talks should lead to the
promulgation of a new and democratic constitution that will guarantee free
and fair polls in 2008.
Chinamasa and Goche were not immediately available for comment on the matter
while ZANU PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa confirmed that the
two party officials had indeed flown to South Africa on party business.
But Mutasa would not be drawn to disclose the nature of the business and
also refused to confirm or deny that the ruling party wanted the issue of a
new constitution removed from the talks agenda.
"I don't think it is any of your business (whether ZANU PF does not want to
discuss new constitution) because I do not think you are a member of our
party," said Mutasa, before cutting off the conversation.
The South African government has remained mum on the talks but our sources
said it had summoned representatives of the two MDC factions to Pretoria to
discuss the way forward after the latest snag to hit the talks.
MDC officials declined to comment on the matter but sources said a
delegation of the opposition party comprising Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube
left Harare on Thursday afternoon aboard a British Airways flight headed for
Diplomatic sources said the talks - which many analysts say could be the
last chance to save Zimbabwe from total collapse - were wobbling but should
not be written off yet.
However, they strongly emphasised that Mbeki needed to work harder to save
the talks from collapse or degenerating into an irrelevant sideshow.
It was critical for Mbeki to ensure that the issue of a new constitution
remained on the agenda and that there was a commitment by all players to end
political violence and human rights abuses, they said.
Zimbabwe is suffering a debilitating economic crisis that is highlighted by
the world's highest inflation rate of nearly 5 000 percent, a rapidly
contracting GDP, the fastest for a country not at war according to the World
Bank and shortages of foreign currency, food and fuel.
The crisis took a turn for the worst after Mugabe three weeks ago decreed
that business should halve prices of all commodities in a desperate bid to
control inflation. Economic experts have said the price cuts will certainly
backfire as more companies will collapse because they are being forced to
sell goods at a loss.
Mugabe, 83, and Zimbabwe's sole ruler since the country's 1980 independence
from Britain, denies ruining the country and instead claims economic
troubles are because of sabotage by Western nations determined to punish his
government for seizing white-owned farms to give to landless blacks. -
Friday 20 July 2007
By Regerai Marwezu
MASVINGO - Six senior police officers in Masvingo town are facing demotion
after they set free several opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
party activists who were arrested during a government crackdown last March.
The six, whose names could not be immediately established, will be demoted
from the rank of superintendent to inspector with effect from 31 July 2007.
The officers were last month hauled before the police disciplinary board for
releasing the MDC supporters who had been arrested for protesting against
the torture and arrest of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai last March.
Tsvangirai and several other MDC and civic leaders were arrested and
tortured by suspected state agents last March after they attempted to hold
an unsanctioned prayer rally in Harare's working class suburb of Highfield.
Under the government's tough security laws, Zimbabweans must first obtain
permission from the police to hold public meetings and demonstrations.
In a memo written to officer commanding Masvingo province, Assistant
Inspector Charles Makono which was seen by ZimOnline, Police Commissioner
Augustine Chihuri said the disciplinary board had recommended the demotion
of the six officers.
"Please be advised that the board of inquiry sat and recommended that six
superintendents based in your province will have to be demoted to the rank
of inspector on 31 July this year," said Chihuri in the memo.
"These officers have been found guilty of releasing suspects especially
members of the opposition in March this year without following proper
procedures," wrote Chihuri.
Makono confirmed the demotion of the officers but refused to give further
details on the matter insisting that it was an internal police matter.
"Who told you all this? It is true that there are some officers who will
have to be demoted at the end of the month but let me tell you that there is
no story here because it is a police internal issue," said Makono.
Chihuri, a fierce Mugabe loyalist, earlier this year ordered the Police
Internal Security Intelligence (PISI) to weed out junior officers suspected
of backing the MDC accusing some of the junior officers of having
"questionable levels of loyalty" to the government.
The police chief has in the past openly declared his allegiance to President
Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party and threatened to expel any police
officers backing the MDC.
Human rights groups accuse the Harare authorities of weeding out police
officers suspected of being sympathetic to the opposition and replacing them
with pliant brainwashed youths from the controversial national service
programme. - ZimOnline
Friday 20 July 2007
By Nigel Hangarume
HARARE - Zimbabwean business tycoon Billy Rautenbach was on Thursday
expelled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where he has
extensive mining interests.
The DRC government yesterday said it had deported Rautenbach, a close
ally of President Robert Mugabe, because he had entered the minerals-rich
Rautenbach, who ran cobalt-mining ventures at the height of the DRC's
civil war, was told by the Interior Ministry in Kinshasa this week that he
was persona non grata but he proceeded to enter the country by private
He was detained by authorities in Katanga on Wednesday and deported to
The DRC government did not give reasons for the expulsion of
Rautenbach, who has a significant stake in Central African Mining &
Exploration Company PLC.
The London-listed company yesterday, according to international media
reports, accused the DRC government of trying to undermine its offer for
Canadian-listed Katanga Mining Ltd.
The controversial businessman first ventured into the Congo as a
relatively unknown in the mining world after he was hired by the DRC's slain
president Laurent Kabila in October 1998 to run Gecamines, then the mainstay
of the former Zaire's economy.
Zimbabwe had deployed its army to help Kabila repel rebels fighting
him for the control of the minerals-rich country.
Rautenbach is a fugitive from justice in South Africa where he is
wanted in connection with fraud involving billions of rand. He has been
holed up in Harare and would make frequent visits to the DRC.
The mining entrepreneur's farm in Mashonaland West was last year
listed for expropriation by the government in a development that was
believed to be linked to the power struggles within ZANU PF.
Rautenbach is believed to be closely connected to ZANU PF strongman
Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is locked in a vicious struggle with former army
general Solomon Mujuru over Mugabe's succession.
Rautenbach, who has denied links to the ruling party, could not be
reached for comment yesterday. - ZimOnline
Friday 20 July 2007
By Mandla Sithole
HARARE - One of the country's most talented guitarists Philani Dube died
recently. Many Oliver Mtukudzi fans remember Philani.
That he died is most unfortunate but that some people expected Oliver to
foot funeral bills, attend the funeral and do whatever the relatives might
have wanted is sad and a great shame.
Yes, he worked with Oliver for several years. He left at some stage. Oliver
is a humble person who helps where it is humanely possible.
He gave the family fuel to take them to Bulawayo and bought them a coffin.
What did the relatives do for one of their own? Where is their sense of
Where I come from, if the deceased had not made his or her own arrangements,
the relatives club together and buy a coffin and pay for transport and food.
Friends chip in, in consultation with family only because they want to and
not because it is their duty.
Why do we always expect our employers and friends to foot our funeral bill?
Why is it so difficult for us to face up to the fact that one day we will
die and when that happens someone is going to have to pay for the funeral?
Is it a crime that at some point Philani worked for Oliver? Does Oliver have
to bury everyone who has worked for him?
If all the business people had to foot funeral costs of their current and
past employees would they be able to prepare for their own death?
What we should all condemn is the fact that despite the fact that we have
already lost several artists who die paupers because they failed to plan for
their future and death, we still have huge numbers of artists who spend
their money on alcohol and women without a thought about tomorrow.
Each band member should be responsible enough to save what he or she makes,
work towards buying a house or building a rural home. It is not the
responsibility of the band leaders to baby sit colleagues. These are adults
People like Oliver have mansions because they plan and know that they will
not always be superstars. They know that one day they need to retire. At
times ill health overtakes one's career and we should all be prepared for
If you live for today, you should not expect your friends to drop everything
they are doing just because you have fallen ill or you have died.
People do go on with their lives and there is really nothing wrong with
that. It is unfair and thoughtless to expect colleagues to foot your health
The sooner we all accept that each and every one of us is responsible for
their own lives the better. If you expect your wife, husband, brother or
sister to be buried by their employer or friends then you are in for a very
Any family that expects an outsider to bury their beloved is not only
misguided but is being very unfair and unreasonable. In my view it is being
That Oliver ended up explaining that he had actually paid for Philani's ARVs
is sad but understandable under the circumstances.
He is only human and he was upset by the fact that after all he had done for
a former colleague some people thought he was callous.
In these times of hardships why do people think they can just phone up
someone and ask for money and expect to get it?
At times tough love is necessary especially where people live for today and
forget that tomorrow might not be so rosy. You should not expect to live off
the goodwill of friends.
People say do not speak ill of the dead but I think it is important that
people be honest with each other. At times we mislead each other because we
are scared of the truth.
If someone was reckless or bad, dying does not turn them into a saint. We
should stop lying at people's funerals and start saying things as they are.
What is the point of turning a blind eye towards a deceased's misdeeds and
blaming friends or employers for not giving someone a proper send-off?
We risk the possibility of people like Oliver deciding in future that they
will not contribute a coffin or the fuel. Who can blame Oliver tomorrow if
he decides not to help ever again?
You want to give your relative a hero's send-off then be prepared to pay for
it yourself. Don't expect others to do what you yourself cannot do.
And what is this about insisting that a person should be buried at a certain
place even when it is so obvious that there is no transport and money to do
Why can't we be more realistic about life and refrain from placing on
strangers burdens that we ourselves cannot carry?
At most funerals the people who have no money are usually the most vocal
about the kind of coffin or where the person should be buried. They always
expect cousin so and so or friend so and so to foot the bill.
If the deceased was employed, you have a small committee of non-contributors
asking what the company is going to do for the deceased. What cheek!
Why don't we have a shred of pride? I would die of shame if I had to watch
helplessly while strangers bought a coffin for my child or husband.
Giving a member of your family a decent burial is the least you can do to
show your love for them and to bid them goodbye.
Friends are there to give us moral support and if they want to help
materially then that is a bonus. And we should not expect all friends and
colleagues to drop all they are doing because someone we love has died.
We are increasingly becoming people who survive from mooching off others and
not even feeling guilty about it. We need to take stock of our lives and
work on getting back our dignity.
By Tony Hawkins, Financial Times
Published: July 20, 2007, 00:12
If Zimbabwe's economic numbers are at all reliable, President Robert
Mugabe's 27-year rule should be nearing its end. Gross domestic product,
already down 40 per cent since the government's accelerated land reform
programme was launched in 2000, is declining this year at its fastest rate
ever - probably about 12 per cent, say economists.
May inflation was 4,530 per cent, with most analysts predicting a June
figure of at least 6,000 per cent. But because the authorities believe that
the release of official inflation figures encourages businesses to raise
their prices, inflation numbers are no longer being published. Instead, the
government statistical office has been told to develop a new - sanitised -
inflation figure that "better reflects the situation on the ground", said
one official. Unofficial estimates put the June figure at 15,000 per cent.
The government's own figures put the poverty rate at 75 per cent (in 2003),
while formal sector unemployment is estimated at 50 per cent. Ironically,
both of these are improving because, according to South African estimates,
2,000 Zimbabweans enter South Africa illegally each day. Official estimates
put the population at 12 million but it is believed to be substantially
less - perhaps as low as 10 million. Accordingly per capita incomes are
higher than estimated while unemployment is lower.
When Mugabe took over as prime minister in April 1980, the Zimbabwe dollar
stood at US$1.50. Today, at the official exchange rate (Z$250 to the US
dollar), it is worth less than half a cent, while at the much more realistic
parallel rate of Z$100,000 to the dollar it is all but worthless.
Yet despite this record of economic failure, it is hard to find anyone
willing to wager on Mugabe's leaving any day soon. Even those who have been
the target of his "price blitz", whereby retailers and manufacturers were
ordered to halve their prices or face heavy fines, imprisonment and the
expropriation of their businesses, are to be heard defending this action.
Guilty of profiteering
The Retailers Association has issued a public statement that admits
implicitly that many of its members were guilty of profiteering; organised
commerce and industry has come out in favour of agreed "pricing models" that
will specify mark-ups for individual companies and sectors. The trade
unions, which bitterly oppose Mugabe, are in disarray with their members
welcoming the price cuts.
Some businessmen, no doubt with an eye on the government's plan to force
companies to sell 51 per cent of their shares to indigenous Zimbabweans, are
anxious to be seen and heard defending the government.
All of this is grist to the government's mill. It is claiming credit for
cutting the parallel market ex-change rate to Z$100,000 to the US dollar
last week from Z$200,000 a fortnight ago. The July inflation figure will
show a sharp fall, and the authorities might go back on their plan to
But short-term gains aside, there is no exit strategy from the price freeze.
One garage owner said he lost Z$300 million ($1.23 million) in three days
when forced to sell fuel at less than half the price it had cost to import.
Obert Mpofu, industry minister, says his officials are working on pricing
models to make controls "permanent".
However, the dozens of filling stations with no fuel, closed butchers and
fast-emptying shelves in the food stores where staff pack meat counters with
soft drinks are a reminder that time is running out.
Mugabe's threat to take over factories that close or retrench staff are
being countered by industrialists who produce evidence of applications to
the central bank for foreign currency to pay for essential imports.
Last week, Gideon Gono, governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, admitted
publicly that foreign currency was extremely short - the key priorities
being imports of fuel, electricity and basic foodstuffs, especially maize
John Robertson, an economist, says the crunch "cannot be far away", but some
other analysts expect Mugabe to climb down as gracefully as he can by
ordering the central bank to print the money needed to finance huge consumer
subsidies, especially for meat, bread and fuel while simultaneously relaxing
the price freeze to allow companies more realistic mark-ups than the 5-10
per cent mooted.
Despite the meltdown, there are many winners - those able to exploit the
price cuts that have opened up a Pandora's box of black market
opportunities, the well-connected party "chiefs" able to become US dollar
millionaires in just three transactions by buying foreign currency at the
official rate from the central bank and selling it in the black market, and
those close to the seats of power cashing in on their political muscle.
SW Radio Africa (London)
19 July 2007
Posted to the web 19 July 2007
Over 100 brand new vehicles were handed out to chiefs by government this
year. War veterans got a hefty increase in allowances and more so-called
youth training camps were opened around the country. Furthermore, government
policies created severe food shortages and hyperinflation which forced
prices to soar. Then government suddenly ordered businesses to reduce those
prices at a loss, causing people to praise the authorities for making goods
accessible. These are signs that can only mean one thing. There are
elections due in a few months.
The SADC initiated talks being mediated by South Africa's Thabo Mbeki are
supposed to lead to free and fair elections, but Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF
are going ahead with their own preparations, using the same system that the
opposition is urging Mbeki to help dismantle. The state controlled Herald
newspaper said it all on June 15th when it reported: "Preparations for next
year's joint presidential and parliamentary elections are gathering momentum
with mobile registration of eligible new voters, including those who have
changed constituencies since the last poll, and inspection of the voters'
roll beginning on Monday next week." And sure enough the national exercise
began and is expected to run until August 18th.
So the question many Zimbabweans are asking themselves is whether they will
participate in these joint parliamentary and presidential elections
scheduled for March 2008, under the current conditions. Should those who
need to register do so, regardless of any rigging and manipulation of the
voters roll? Voter turnout was dismally low in several by-elections that
were held this year and election observers say this is because many have no
faith in the process.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, an independent group which observes
elections in the country, has been urging voters to register regardless of
the outcome of the Mbeki mediation, or the allegations of ZANU PF rigging.
ZESN spokesperson Rindai Chipfunde said:
"Participation is the basis for any democracy. We believe if you are not on
the voters roll, you do not have the basis to participate." Chipfunde added
that if the outcome of the Mbeki talks is positive and changes are made, the
voter registration exercise will already have been completed and potential
voters would lose out.
Although ZESN supports registration now, they are concerned about the lack
of publicity, particularly in the rural areas where information is scarce.
Chipfunde said government advertised the registration exercise in The Herald
newspaper only once and on a Saturday. Secondly she said the time frame
allocated for the exercise was inadequate, and called for an extension. This
would allow more time for government to issue identification or registration
cards to thousands of voters who are on a waiting list due to a lack of
resources at the Registrar General's office.
Zimbabweans in the diaspora are also demanding their right to vote in the
elections. Millions who left the country as the political and economic
crisis intensified are currently not allowed to participate in elections.
During his recent visit to London, Pastor Useni Sibanda of the Christian
Alliance said no election will be fair if the 3 million plus Zimbabweans in
the diaspora are not allowed to vote.
It's impossible to predict Zimbabwe's future - but what is clear is that
everyone who can, should register to vote. Who knows what is going to
By Lebo Nkatazo
Last updated: 07/20/2007 04:49:25
ZIMBABWE has given the country's last few remaining whites commercial
farmers notices to leave their farms by September 30, it emerged Thursday.
The eviction notices, signed by the Didymus Mutasa, the Minister of Lands,
Land Reform and Resettlement, say the farmers should have left the
properties by February 4, but the government extended the period to enable
them to wound up operations.
In an interview Thursday, one of the lawyers representing the farmers, David
Drury of Harare law firm Gollop and Blank said: "We don't know anyone who
has been left out of the equation, apart from Dr (Timothy) Stamps."
Stamps, a former Health Minister, is President Robert Mugabe's advisor on
The eviction notices say those who fail to leave their farmers would be
jailed in terms of the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act.
"Your attention is drawn to the provisions of the Gazetted Land
(Consequential Provisions) Act whose effective date is 20 December 2006,"
reads part of the notice.
It said the said Act gave the farmers 45 days from the date it became
effective to vacate their properties. That day was February 4.
"In view of the above you should have vacated on the 4th of February 2007
following an assessment of operations on the farm by the district technical
committee and in line with guidelines drawn by my ministry authority is
hereby granted to you to wind up your business and harvest your crop or
dispose your livestock strictly up to the dates shown hereunder 30 September
2007," the notice added.
The Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act, which repealed the Rural
Land Occupiers (Protection from Eviction) Act makes it an offence to occupy
or to continue to occupy land without lawful authority after it has been
gazetted in accordance with section 16B(2)(a) of the Constitution.
Part of the Act reads: "If a former owner or occupier of Gazetted land who
is not lawfully authorised to occupy, hold or use that land does not cease
to occupy, hold or use that land after the expiry of the appropriate period
referred to in subsection (2)(a) or (b), or, in the case of a former owner
or occupier referred to in section 2(b), does not cease to occupy his or her
living quarters in contravention of proviso (ii) to section 2(b), he or she
shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level seven
or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or to both such fine
and such imprisonment."
Zimbabwe began a violent seizure of white commercial farms in 2000 after
accusing former colonial power Britain of refusing to honour its Lancaster
House commitment to compensate the farmers. At least 12 farmers were killed
A few hundred farmers still remain on commercial farms but they too will not
escape the latest push by Mugabe's government.
By Tamuka C. Chirimambowa
Last updated: 07/20/2007 07:08:56
IN 2000 when the Zimbabwe crisis reached the crescendo, it was the white
commercial farmers in cahoots with the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) that were undermining the economy through calling for sanctions
and fighting land redistribution.
Posters and press campaigns of the ruling Zanu PF parroted the same message
monotonously. 'Zimbabwe will never be a colony again', 'The land is the
economy, the economy is land' and 'Reclaiming our sovereignty and
territorial integrity'; were some of the messages that Zanu PF invented to
divert the attention of Zimbabwe from the real issues affecting the economy.
Thus people were made to believe that through land invasions, they were
going to be made farm owners and automatically become prosperous.
Many Zimbabweans were misled, and right until today, there is chaos and
bleak hope on the farms. This article seeks to make a contribution to recent
developments that have been happening in Zimbabwe, arguing diversion has
become Mugabe's tactic of ruling.
Mugabe has so far successfully managed to divert attention from the Zanu PF
birthed economic malaise and political quagmire that has been nagging the
country for the past decade. There is need for Zimbabweans to remain focused
and give Zanu PF a retrenchment package in the forthcoming 2008 elections.
In 2000 it was the Bureau de Changes that were claimed to be causing the
massive devaluation of the Zimbabwe currency on the parallel market. The
government alleged that Bureau de Changes were engaged in clandestine deals
outside their normal activities and fuelling the parallel market. The result
was a closure of Bureau de Changes, and strict controls of foreign currency.
There was a temporary drop of the rate of the parallel market and suddenly
after a few days the exchange rate skyrocketed again.
For a few days a lot of people lived in fools' paradise, forgetting that
mismanagement of the economy had resulted in the crushing of the Zimbabwe
dollar. There was no-one who was willing to go to the official market since
our currency was overvalued. It is common sense that people will always go
to the bidder who is willing to pay the real value for their product, and
following that logic, no-one would have gone to the official market.
Nevertheless to Mugabe and his sycophants, it was the bureaus' fault. Seven
years later, the exchange rate continues to plummet and foreign currency is
Gideon Gono's crackdown on the financial sector was the other point of
diversion. People were made to believe that the hyperinflation being
experienced by the country was as a result of the financial sector being
involved in illicit deals and speculation on the parallel market. This led
to a closure of banks and the prosecution of several businesses. These
measures, like the ones before them, failed to address the economic ills
affecting the country.
Zanu PF termed the 2005 parliamentary elections 'Anti-Blair'. This time the
major problem was argued to be Tony Blair, despite that this was a head of
state of another country who was not even eligible to contest. One wondered
how Blair would become an electoral issue in a country in which he holds no
citizenship. Thus people were not to discuss bread and butter issues, but
Blair (Alas!). By the way Blair resigned from office, but we still have
The year 2005 saw another antic from Zanu PF, when there was a crackdown on
informal traders. It was argued that Flea Markets and Tuck Shops were
hoarding and channeling products to the parallel market. The measure was a
closure of flea markets and tuck shops despite a lot of people losing their
livelihoods. This was expanded further to include backyard cottages and even
legitimate building structures in the name of Operation Murambatsvina.
What the authorities forgot was that it is them who have become filthy to
the country and thus need to be discarded. This daylight robbery of ordinary
people's livelihoods was argued to be supposed to eradicate shortages of
basic commodities, but this was not the case.
The most recent has been Operation Dzikisa (Lower Prices), which has been
targeting business across all sectors. The logic of the government's
argument has been that business is colluding with Britain to increase prices
to topple it. Such a siege mentality is very frightening; from a government
that is digging its own grave.
Zanu PF is like the proverbial fool that cuts the branch of the tree that it
is sitting on. Mugabe forgets that the printing of money and buying foreign
currency on the parallel market by the Reserve Bank has been causing the
crushing of the Zimbabwe dollar on the parallel market. Even Mugabe publicly
admitted on television printing money to pay the IMF. There seems to be
amnesia in government that their voodoo economics is the one destroying the
economy not business.
The latest attempt to divert the people's attention has been the case of the
Archbishop Pius Ncube. The story lacks any factual coherence and substance
in it to vindicate the allegations made. It is one of the typical poorly
directed ZBC dramas such as the Cain Nkala murder case. Zanu PF's main
attempt is to divert the attention of the people from the shortages in the
shops, since the honeymoon is over, to this alleged case of adultery. The
major question is how would the committing of adultery by an archbishop
solve our imminent economic and political collapse?
All along Mugabe has perfected the art of diversion, which would lead us to
losing focus lest we are not careful. There is need to be constantly
vigilant and fight Mugabe's dictatorship until it becomes history. We are
approaching the 2008 elections and Mugabe will keep on trying to delude us
from focusing on the real issues.
There is need from Zimbabweans from all walks of life to avoid falling
victim to Zanu PF's tomfoolery. We cannot keep on being diverted from the
real issues forever. The banning of cross-border trading in foodstuffs is
another attempt at diverting the people's energies to forget about the
elections. There is need to be extra careful, and to 'Seek the political
kingdom first' as Kwame Nkrumah once remarked.
The Struggle Continues.
By Jonga Kandemiiri
19 July 2007
Zimbabwe's National Constitutional Assembly, a leading component of the
country's democratic opposition, said the government has been harassing its
members in an effort to silence it, this following the arrest of the group's
chairman in eastern Manicaland Province for criticizing Harare's blitz
against price rises.
It was the third arrest in two weeks for NCA activist Elisha Makuyana. He
was being held at Chipinge Police Station pending his appearance in court
NCA National Director Ernest Mudzengi told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that
Harare is concerned at the large number of NCA activists around the country.
Elsewhere, Harare police summoned Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
Secretary General Wellington Chibebe Thursday and demanded that he answer
charges of making utterances deemed to be inciting the overthrow of the
He was said to have made the comments during a May Day celebration.
Chibebe went to the station with his lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, but the
investigating officer was unable to appear due to transport problems and
Chibebe was released.
By Carole Gombakomba
19 July 2007
Zimbabwe state television Thursday resumed broadcasting video footage and
photos purporting to show Roman Catholic Archbishop Ncube of Bulawayo in his
bedroom with various women, stirring debate over the role of state media in
Ncube was hit this week with a Z$20 billion dollar (US$125,000) suit by a
Bulawayo man who charged the prelate had been sexually involved with his
wife since 2006.
Sources said Zimbabwe state television management had instructed news
executives to stop broadcasting the images, this following a demand from
Ncube's lawyer saying the images were "defamatory." But Thursday evening the
main news bulletin again showed video footage. However, the state-controlled
Herald and Bulawayo Chronicle newspapers appeared to have taken heed of the
defense lawyer's demand.
Lawyer Nicholas Mathonsi said Wednesday that he wrote to state media
managers demanding that the stop showing or printing "unauthenticated and
inappropriate" images, threatening legal action against them if they
Advocacy officer Abel Chikomo of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe
told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that
broadcasting or publishing such images represented a serious breach of
By Patience Rusere, Babongile Dlamini & Taurai Shava
Washington, Bulawayo & Masvingo
19 July 2007
The World Food Program says it is stepping up its efforts to provide food
assistance to Zimbabwe given deteriorating conditions in the country, while
the U.S.-based Famine Early Warning System urged international donors to
mobilize for relief.
WFP Southern African spokesman Richard Lee said the agency had increased its
estimate of the number of Zimbabweans who would need food aid to 1 million
from a "vulnerable group" of 300,000 previously - and expected to raise the
He said the donor community is "alarmed" at the deterioration in food
The Famine Early Warning System or FEWSNET said the Harare government and
the donor community "need to mobilize for an immediate and coordinated
response to address the growing levels of food insecurity in the country."
FEWSNET said stocks of maize and wheat have dwindled while prices have
World Food Program spokesman Lee told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's
Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the crisis will intensify late this year and in
Reflecting the scarcity of basic foodstuffs and public agitation over
shortages, two people were injured today in Bulawayo in a disturbance at a
supermarket when a crowd pursued a truck carrying maize meal, bringing
police to the scene.
Hundreds of customers had been standing in line for hours in hopes the
supermarket might receive a shipment of sugar when a truck loaded with maize
meal passed. Some in the crowd gave chase and jumped onto the truck when it
stopped at a light. Two fell off the truck when it pulled away from the
light, sustaining minor injuries.
Correspondent Babongile Dhlamini witnessed the incident and filed a report.
Elsewhere, residents of Masvingo rural districts complained that they must
travel long distances to purchase basic commodities due to the state's blitz
on prices. Shops in Bikita and Gutu districts have either closed or have
nothing to sell, residents said.
From rural Masvingo, correspondent Taurai Shava reported.
By Joram Nyathi
Last updated: 07/20/2007 07:53:58
IT WAS the same in business, the media and the opposition.
The response to the government's crackdown on business for hiking prices of
basic foodstuffs last week was notoriously familiar: Hang Mugabe.
The results were equally predictable: empty shelves and a burgeoning black
Nobody was bothered that the galloping prices were themselves stoking
inflation faster than government spending and the printing of money by the
Nobody in the media bothered to ask the all-important question why business
was suddenly in this frenzied bout to increase prices, all as if acting in
On June 1, government, labour and business signed the protocol on price
stabilisation. The social partners agreed to act in good faith and create a
conducive business environment.
Government would cut expenditure, business would maximise productivity and
make reasonable profit margins while labour would exercise restraint in its
Prophets of doom were already at the altar telling us the social contract
would not work before they had even read it. Government later raised the
non-taxable benefit without forcing companies to increase workers' wages. It
has resisted calls for a supplementary budget, which Eric Bloch believes is
Business's response was a price madness without precedent in Zimbabwe. In
two weeks, prices of some basic goods went up four-fold, wiping out
overnight the tax benefit I hadn't yet received. Those in the know told you
prices were being pegged to the black market exchange rate of the US dollar.
The major fuel of the price spree was the so-called "replacement cost" of
stocks. It was as if everyone wanted to be counted as having contributed a
sterling effort to the attainment of 1 500 000% inflation by year-end. How
much of this "replacement cost" went into the pocket of the toiling worker?"
The government might have overreacted in reversing all prices to June 18
levels. The cut in prices of 50% is irrational and therefore unsustainable,
but that doesn't take away the fact that business gave a hostage to fortune.
Any government would have responded. Zanu PF is making political capital
which may force some companies to close down and hurt the poor more.
But business was putting the same basic commodities that are now in short
supply beyond my reach. Whether they were available in the supermarket, I
was still denied their enjoyment because somebody felt they couldn't forego
a huge profit margin for the sake of the social contract. ZNCC president
Mara Hativagone admitted as much last week.
Nobody doubts the cost of foreign currency. Nobody doubts the detrimental
effects of pricing distortions on the market. Indeed, nobody questions
government's culpability in the entire economic mess. Unfortunately, that
doesn't diminish business' failure to act with circumspection and in good
faith. They knew the rate of inflation at the time of signing on June 1.
They also knew that the social contract would not flood the country with
foreign currency overnight.
Speaking in a radio programme soon after the contract was signed,
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Callisto Jokonya said with
commitment from all partners, economic recovery was possible within three
months. So what caused the price panic so soon after the signing? To me the
social contract was never given a chance purely for political reasons, not
because it was futile. We have grown to prefer foreign interventions ahead
of local initiatives.
In any case, what is the value of business operations which our businessmen
risk losing relative to the profit margins they could have foregone to meet
their side of the bargain?
What I often find interesting is that while most of our businessmen will
tell you in conversation that we are dealing with a mad government, they
still go for a head-on collision. Land seizures and Operation Murambatsvina
seem to have made no impression about the political leadership they are
For opposition parties, the price escalations were celebration time. They
served three purposes:
. As a demonstration of Zanu PF's failure to run the country.
. Exposed Zanu PF's failure to manage the economy.
. That the opposition was indispensable in the economic recovery.
None showed any sympathy for the starving worker. All waited breathlessly
for food riots and chaos that would force Mugabe out. I was left wondering
whether our nation still has a soul at all. Nowhere was this soullessness
more evident than in a labour-based party failing to balance the interests
of business with those of workers. Nothing was said about the gap between
wages and the PDL as prices skyrocketed.
At the end of the day, what has been exposed is the myopia of both
government and business. The government's harsh response has predictably
left supermarket shelves empty. On the other hand, relentless price
escalations were a classic time bomb. They were bound to lead to a more
catastrophic end. A starving nation staring at well-stocked shops will
likely be tempted to loot before any political considerations. This could
lead to the destruction of property and even loss of lives.
Nobody can deny the resentment among shop assistants as they are made to put
fresh price mark-ups daily on goods they need for their families but can't
afford. Witness how they have been the first to provide incriminating
evidence against their bosses to the price monitoring taskforce about hidden
merchandise. It is what Mahatma Gandhi termed "commerce without morality".
Instead of trying to "fix" each other, isn't this time for a sober
reflection among the stakeholders in the national interest? There is a
certain belligerence that is as futile as it is ill-conceived.
Joram Nyathi is the deputy editor of the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper
By Mary Revesai
Last updated: 07/20/2007 07:54:00
IN HIS weekly column in the Zimbabwe Independent issue of July 13-19,
journalist Joram Nyathi takes Zimbabwean "prophets of doom" including the
media, the business sector , opposition parties and civil society, to task
for rushing to condemn the on-going mayhem unleashed by the Mugabe regime
under the so-called Operation Slash Prices.
Nyathi complains: "The response to government's crackdown on business for
hiking prices on basic foodstuffs last week was notoriously familiar: Hang
Mugabe. The results were equally predictable: empty shelves and a burgeoning
black market. Nobody was bothered that galloping prices were themselves
stoking inflation faster than government spending and the printing of money
by the Reserve Bank."
The respected journalist is concerned that no one in the media bothered to
ask why business was "suddenly" in "this frenzied bout to increase prices as
if acting in concert."
Nyathi talks as if the frenzied raising of prices only began in the past few
weeks when in fact Zimbabweans have lived with the phenomenon for several
years. As a result, millions of them who live below the poverty datum line
can no longer afford to put food on the table, send their children to school
and pay medical bills.
It is not clear to what extent the business sector went out of its way to
"act in concert" this time around but it is generally true that when prices
have gone up in tandem with galloping inflation, the prices of commodities
have generally gone up by about the same margin. This is why Zimbabweans
could no longer use their "buying power" to withhold their custom from any
culprits guilty of overcharging. The business sector had been driven into
one corner the same way pauperized Zimbabweans have been forced to flee to
other countries without consciously acting in concert.
Through all this, the Mugabe regime remained unmoved. If the truth must be
told, Mugabe sprang into the on-going madness because of predictions that
escalating inflation would finally cause his downfall before the end of the
year. It is no secret that after inflation hit the 4500 percent mark, the
Central Statistical Office has not given further updates and has in fact
announced that it is to revise its method of calculating the rate of
However, the blackout on inflation data does not mean things have improved
or stabilised and the business sector could very well have been reacting to
realities it was encountering on the ground.
In view of the fact that the on-going state-sanctioned pillaging has left
supermarket shelves empty and many businesses unlikely to recover, I submit
that the Mugabe regime deserves all the brickbats it is getting for this
latest ill-considered and desperate populist perversity.
The people elect a government into office so that it leads and directs the
country. It is supposed to lead the way in safeguarding and promoting
stability through the observance of the rule of law and a humane and
civilized culture of governance. This is the only way it can improve the
quality of life for the whole population.
Alas, all these tenets of democratic governance are alien to the Harare
regime. It is the mastermind of lawlessness in the country and is the main
culprit in breaking national laws and conventions. Its delinquency and
bullying tactics did not begin with the "price war." There have been so many
other scorched earth policies and approaches in the past that stakeholders
who remain alert enough to see through Zanu PF's self-serving antics are to
be applauded rather than disparaged.
Whenever the ruling party has embarked on a destructive action for the
ostensible purpose of easing the plight of the ordinary people, it has
always turned out to be a foolhardy subterfuge to save Mugabe's political
skin and extend his despotic rule. Consider the long-standing onslaught
against the media, civil society, the judiciary, lawyers, non-governmental
organizations, teachers, students, and the opposition the list is endless.
It is instructive to recall how the regime sanctioned the anarchy sparked by
the farm invasions. The still unresolved humanitarian crisis and mass
suffering triggered by the sadistic destruction of abodes and informal trade
infrastructure under Operation Murambatsvina does not portray a sensitive
government that learns anything from past mistakes.
Nyathi complains: "For opposition parties, the price escalations were
celebration time" because they demonstrated Zanu PF's failure to run the
country and manage the economy. I am not aware of any opposition group
celebrating the escalating cost of living. Instead I remember how leaders of
the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions were battered by the police in October
last year when they tried to organize protest marches to highlight the
deteriorating economic and social situation in the country that Mugabe is
now belatedly trying to tackle by decree.
The opposition party, the business sector, civil society, the media all have
their faults but the fact remains that it is the government of the day that
has the responsibility and the means to implement national policies in an
Against this background it is difficult to understand the context in which
Nyathi claims: "Nowhere was this soullessness more evident than in a labour
based party failing to balance the interests of business with those of
How, exactly was the opposition supposed to achieve this feat when it does
not control the formulation and implementation of national policies? Such a
scenario is even more difficult to imagine when it is an indisputable fact
that the ruling party never listens and never takes advice from anybody.
It is true, as Nyathi says, that "a starving nation staring at well-stocked
shops will likely be tempted to loot before any political considerations."
The nation has been starving for the last seven years since the Mugabe
regime embarked on the systematic decimation of the agricultural sector
through the violent and indiscriminate land seizures. In all that time, the
proud and hard working ordinary people of Zimbabwe have never resorted to
looting and neither has the opposition ever called for such action. The
suffering masses have in fact watched helplessly as the ruling elite has
plundered national resources through endless scandals and rackets that have
all been swept under the carpet.
The on-going madness under the price war was engineered by Zanu PF. The
Mugabe regime alone deserves condemnation for its irrationality. Everything
in the country is being destroyed because of Mugabe's siege mentality and
aberrations of foes lurking every where to effect regime change.
A government that preys on the desperation of its own people by embarking on
a deceitful campaign to win their hearts and minds in the build-up to an
election deserves to be censured by all right thinking people. More-so when
it is the one that has in the first place created the dire economic
conditions spawning world record inflation through corruption, pillaging and
fiscal indiscipline for the benefit of those within the Zanu PF patronage
The July 16 issue of the state-controlled Herald quotes Mugabe as
re-affirming the government's "commitment to fostering close and fruitful
co-operation with well meaning partners from the private sector." This is
vintage Mugabe. He never looks before he leaps and always adopts a
topsy-turvy approach regardless of who has to pay the price.
A related story in the same issue informs readers that the government is
still working on a pricing formula to be released to wholesalers,
manufacturers and retailers!
The question to ask then is: why did the regime not do all this groundwork
before plunging into the rash and arbitrary slashing of prices that has
sparked economic anarchy nationwide? It is obvious that Mugabe has grown
senile along with his regime and it can no longer be depended upon to meet
even minimum standards of how a government should behave.
Mary Revesai is a New Zimbabwe.com columnist and writes from Harare. Her
column will appear here every Tuesday
By Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye
19 July 2007
Zimbabwean swimming star Kirsty Coventry concluded a brilliant All-Africa
Games performance late Wednesday by clinching a seventh gold medal.
Coventry, who also claimed a silver medal in the breast stroke, left Algiers
after the last event for the United States where she attends university.
Zimbabwean athletes in Algiers said Coventry's performance inspired them.
Zimbabwe Swimming team manager Philipa Ferris told reporter Marvellous
Mhlanga-Nyahuye that she was amazed at the outcome and hoped more
Zimbabweans would take up competitive swimming as a result of Coventry's