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Primary elections set to widen fissures

Saturday, 21 July 2012 19:40


POLITICAL parties should gear up for more internal fissures as they hold
primaries to select candidates in preparation for polls in 2013 and possible
by-elections in 38 vacant seats soon, analysts have warned.

They said although primary elections were meant to show a culture of
internal democracy, which should replicate nationally, questions were
increasingly being asked as to whether they are the best way to select

In the past, primaries have caused serious divisions, with the process being
manipulated, meaning that it is not always the best candidate who wins.
Even President Robert Mugabe a few months ago admitted that imposition of
candidates and squabbles, particularly in Manicaland, cost Zanu PF 20 out of
the 26 contested seats in the province during the 2008 elections.

Political commentator, Blessing Vava said although primary elections might
be a good way of selecting candidates, the country had witnessed primaries
being abused, especially by those with money who engaged in vote buying.

He said there should be other ways of identifying the most popular
candidates without necessarily going for primary elections which have been
won of unpopular candidates.
“Free and fair ground rules need to be clearly laid out on the conduct of
primary elections, to make sure that those with resources or power will not
abuse and buy the electorate,” Vava said.

He said divisions and squabbles, particularly in Zanu PF and MDC-T, were
likely to worsen with primary elections, considering the factionalism that
was currently tearing apart the two parties.

Innocent Kasiyano of the Election Resource Centre said although primary
elections were meant to establish party representatives and avert a crisis
of multiple candidates, the reality was that many of those barred and losers
subsequently fielded themselves without the blessing of their parties.

“The result is either double or multiple fielding of candidates by a single
political party,” he said. “In this regard, primary elections have failed to
unite party supporters; instead they have created multiple headaches to an
extent that if it is not dealt with, parties can split.”

Kasiyano said the 2008 harmonised elections proved a thorn in the flesh of
the three main political parties in the country when it came to concluding
their candidate selection process, with the MDC-T being the worst hit.

The party lost a number of seats in Midlands province after the late senator
Patrick Kombayi sponsored parallel candidates in a number of constituencies.

“Subsequently, the failure of internal democracy and its pillars
precipitated into parties fielding what was referred to as parallel
candidates in the same constituency. This in some instances prejudices the
party fielding two or more candidates through splitting of the vote,” said

He said the imposition of candidates, usually at the behest of top
leadership, had resulted in the masses even demonstrating against such
“At times their cries land on deaf ears as the imposed candidates proceed to
contest the respective elections,” said Kasiyano.

Primary elections divisive but still relevant, says Hamauswa

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Shakespeare Hamauswa,
said although primary elections were divisive, parties rallied behind the
selected candidate when it was time for elections.

“Supporters of a losing candidate are usually whipped into line as they are
told to look at the bigger picture and rally behind the winner, even if he
or she was imposed on them,” he said.

Hamauswa said technocrats may fall by the wayside during the primary
elections as they usually found it difficult to get elected compared to
career politicians who could win through unorthodox means, including
violence and throwing mud at opponents.

“If the technocrats are already in government, they will be judged by their
previous performance, but it is the new contenders who may find the going
tough because the electorate may not know them, even if they are potentially
good performers,” he said.

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Police worst abusers of prostitutes — Survey

Saturday, 21 July 2012 19:34


BULAWAYO — Zimbabwe police are the worst abusers of prostitutes, a recent
survey covering six nations on how policing practices against sex workers
impact on HIV prevalence has shown.

The survey, conducted by the UK-based Open Society Foundation, was released
last week and covered Zimbabwe, South Africa, Russia, Namibia, United States
and Kenya.

The survey says the police rank top in terms of “harassing and abusing
physically sex workers”.

“These actions have dire consequences for sex workers’ health and their
clients,” the 36-page report titled Publication of the Sexual Health and
Rights Project of the Open Society Foundations reads.

Local police ranked top as 85% of the prostitutes surveyed confirmed to have
been physically and sexually abused by the law enforcement agents. South
Africa and Russia stood at 80%, United States at 52% while Namibia and Kenya
both recorded 50%.

The report coincided with last week’s march by women activists, vendors and
sex workers in Harare protesting police harassment. The protesters accused
police of making arbitrary arrests on women walking in the streets at night
on suspicion of loitering or soliciting for prostitution.

The police were accused of demanding bribes and sex in exchange for freedom.

Women’s rights campaigner, Tsitsi Dangarembgwa, said they would submit a
petition to Home Affairs co-minister Theresa Makone calling for an immediate
end to arbitrary arrests of women suspected of engaging in sex work.

Harare provincial police spokesman, Chief Inspector James Sabau last week
said that unless prostitution was legalised, arrests of the women would

The Open Society Foundation report said police used condom possession and
suspicion of being a prostitute to justify detaining or arresting women on
charges related to prostitution.

“Police harass and abuse sex workers and use the threat of arrest to extort
and exploit them,” says the report. “Some sex workers opt not to carry
condoms because they fear police harassment and detention, thus increasing
their risk of exposure to HIV and compromising their health and the health
of their sexual partners.”

The report recommended that “lawmakers should pass legislation
decriminalising sex work and removing administrative sanctions on sex work.

“As a first step, justice officials or representatives from other
responsible government agencies should present to legislators a draft law on
decriminalisation of sex work, with accompanying explanation about the role
of decriminalisation in reducing the spread of HIV, violence, and other
health risks,” the report advises.

should prostitution be legalised?

Bulawayo legislator, Tabitha Khumalo has already come out in the open in
support of legalising prostitution.
Khumalo has threatened to expose colleagues using the services of
prostitutes if her campaign is not supported in Parliament.

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Mbare hostels occupants must be vetted — HRT

Saturday, 21 July 2012 19:26

THE current occupants of Mbare hostels must be vetted before the flats are
demolished to determine the rightful owners as some landlords were evicted
from their properties by Zanu PF youth militia for political reasons, the
Harare Residents Trust (HRT) has said.
Several suspected MDC-T members were evicted from their homes in Mbare
during the violent 2008 elections by the Zanu PF militia group, Chipangano,
to make way for supporters of the former ruling party.

“Our demand is that the council thoroughly vets the occupants in those flats
and determine whether they are the legal occupants or if they are illegals
who evicted the legal tenants using their political muscle,” said HRT in a

“Once they have a comprehensive and legitimate list of tenants, then they
must check with the waiting list to ensure that they also benefit from land
designated for that purpose of accommodating those to be displaced by such a
costly exercise.”

The hostels targeted for demolition include Nenyere, Matapi, Shawasha, Mbare
and Matererini, where at least three families share one room, making it
possible unfor 21 people to stay in each room.

The residents trust said, without vetting, the Minister of Local Government,
Rural and Urban Development, Ignatius Chombo could push the council to
undertake an exercise that would only benefit certain political actors, and
not genuinely address a housing crisis.

The trust said there were no concrete plans from either the Local Government
ministry or the City of Harare to suggest that they have intentions, in the
short-to-medium term, to refurbish the flats.

Chombo recently said the hostels would be demolished to enable the
construction of modern accommodation as the flats had outlived their purpose
of housing single black migrant labourers during the colonial era.

But Harare Mayor Mucha-deyi Masunda differed with Chombo saying they must
revert to single occupancy.

More than 56 000 people, mostly the poor, live in the apartments, implying
that if they are reserved for singles, only 5 697 people would be

The HRT has urged the Harare City Council and the government to put concrete
modalities in place to accommodate the inhabitants when the decongestion and
refurbishment exercise is eventually done.

The government has a history of evicting vulnerable residents from their
dwellings since 1990 to 2005 as depicted by the evictions at the Porta Farm,
Churu and Operation Murambatsina, which left thousands of people ho-meless.

“The HRT considers the situation as more delicate than the mere movement of
people,” said the trust in a statement.

“It requires the council’s Housing and Community Services Department, the
Department of Urban Planning Services and the Finance and Development
Committee, and also the Environment Management Committee, to carry out
detailed feasibility studies that assess the social, political and economic
impact of the intended move.”

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Women sell ‘little chicken’ for survival

Saturday, 21 July 2012 19:24

CHIPINGE — They might be a nuisance to small grain farmers but quelea birds
are a delicacy and have become a source of livelihood to many villagers in
Chipinge and Chimanimani districts.

Many villagers harvest the birds for sale to make ends meet in the
drought-stricken areas of the Lowveld, where farmers complain that the birds
are devouring huge quantities of their ripe crops.

At Tanganda junction, Chakohwa bus terminus, Wengezi and Birchenough Bridge
Growth Point, scores of people, mostly women, jostle for customers selling
the “little chicken”, which are popular with most beer drinkers.

Olivia Muyambo is one such vendor making a living from selling the
grain-eating birds, which move around in millions.

She said the birds, popularly known as ngozha, have changed her fortunes
since the time she ventured into the business a few years back.
“We use nets to catch large quantities of birds and in some instances we
catch more than 500 birds to sell at the shops at Tanganda Halt,” said
Olivia Muyambo, a vendor. “I get more than US$15 a day, which is quite a
substantial amount of money here.”

Every evening Muyambo joins the great trek to Gunura village, over five
kilometres away, where the birds are trapped using wide nets and glue
(urimbo) and sold to vendors.

Some of the birds are trapped along Save River during the night.

“After buying the birds, women then roast them in hot cooking oil and pack
10 in each packet to sell to patrons in local beer halls and travellers,”
said another vendor, Grace Sithole.

On average, each pack comprising 10 quelea birds costs US$1.

“I tasted the delicious birds while we were on a bus and from that day I
have never stopped picking a packet each time I pass through Tanganda,” said
Arnold Mazodze from Chipinge town.

A local councillor, Hardwork Masaiti said quelea birds had proved to be a
“blessing in disguise” to the impoverished rural women.

“This is an arid region and selling the birds has proved to be an income
generating project for most women,” he said. “Some are able to send their
children to school from the money they get from selling the birds.”

Godknows Hangari, a senior agricultural consultant said farmers had been
trying to control the birds using pests for decades without success. They
have also used poisonous spray, which also proved fruitless as the birds
reproduce rapidly.

“If people could get income from the troublesome birds, the better. They
should turn their activities into a commercial scale, I am sure markets are
there throughout the country because of the birds’ delicacy,” he said.

Quelea birds are destructive

For several years, the birds have wreaked havoc in the Lowveld and other
areas countrywide where they consume huge quantities of small grains such as
sorghum, wheat and millet.

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Agric vet services official jailed for theft

Saturday, 21 July 2012 19:18

BULAWAYO — An employee with the Ministry of Agriculture, Veterinary Field
Services Department here was recently slapped with a five-month jail term
for stealing about US$3 973 from the ministry.

Fredrick Tafadzwa Chivige (25) of Northend in Bulawayo pleaded guilty to
theft charges when he appeared before Bulawayo magistrate Tawanda Muchemwa.
The magistrate sentenced him to 19 months in jail.

Four months were suspended for five years on good behavior. A further 10
months were suspended on condition that he restitutes the ministry the sum
of US$3 266 which he stole.

The court heard that between July 26 and October 6 2010, Tafadzwa was
employed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Veterinary Services Department as
an accountant based in Bulawayo provincial offices at Steeldale Road.

He received various amounts of money totalling US$3 266 on behalf of the

Instead of banking all the money, he only banked part of it and converted
the rest to his personal use.

Trying to cover up the theft, he altered figures on the deposit slip.

An internal audit conducted established that about US$3 973 could not be
accounted for. A report was made to the police leading to the arrest of
The money has not been recovered.

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Zimplats drills boreholes for community

Saturday, 21 July 2012 19:14


PLATINUM mining giant, Zimplats, has so far drilled 32 boreholes in the
Mhondoro-Ngezi and Chegutu districts, which are set to benefit 4 000
families as part of the company’s social responsibility programme.

Six other boreholes are expected to be sunk before the end of the year to
improve water, sanitation and hygiene (Wash) in the areas.

Speaking at a ceremony to handover the boreholes recently, Zimplats Chief
Operating Officer, Stanley Segula said the drilling of the boreholes was
made possible because they have developed an effective Private-Public
Partnership programme.

He said Zimplats, a member of the South African Impala Group of Companies,
provided the materials while the District Development Fund (DDF) chipped in
with the technical support to drill the boreholes.

“We will continue working with DDF to ensure that boreholes are maintained
and that the community is trained on their usage,” said Segula. “We hope
that by the end of the year, we would have drilled another six boreholes.”

He added: “We have spent US$2 million on infrastructural development in this
community as part of our corporate social responsibility so we can address
the needs of the community.”

Before the boreholes were drilled, the villagers used to walk several
kilometres to fetch water from unsafe sources.

Zimbabwe’s water supply and sanitation services have suffered a major
collapse in both rural and urban areas due to years of under-investment.

Although some progress has been made in rehabilitating water infrastructure
in urban areas, rural populations continue to bear the brunt of poor water
and sanitation in the country.

Zimplats’ main focus

Zimplats’ community investment programme mainly focuses on the areas of
health, education and infrastructural development.

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Maid jailed for kidnapping employer’s child

Saturday, 21 July 2012 19:13


BULAWAYO - A 26-year-old woman was last week slapped with a 12-months jail
term for kidnapping her employer’s three-year-old child.

The maid detained her at a house in Nkulumane suburb for 13 days.

Sifiso Dube of Pumula North in Bulawayo pleaded guilty to kidnapping charges
when she appeared before Western Commonage court magistrate, Richard
Ramaboea last week.

Ramaboea convicted and sentenced Dube to 18 months in jail.

Six months were suspended for five years on condition of good behaviour.

The court heard that Dube was employed as a maid by Talent Moyo (52), a
teacher at Pumula East Pre-school. On June 15 this year, Dube took the
three-year-old girl without Moyo’s consent.

She went with the child to Nkulumane at house number 431, where she detained
the child for 3 days.
Moyo made a report to the police. A follow up to the house by the police led
to the arrest of Dube and recovery of the child.

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Swimming pool only a temporary School

Saturday, 21 July 2012 19:13

A swimming pool complex that is being used as a school for disadvantaged
children in Arcadia is only a temporary home, says Graham Stewart, the board

He said there were community-driven initiatives for the return of the Early
Learning Centre to the residents of Arcadia, which is currently occupied as
accommodation by City of Harare workers.

Stewart allayed fears that the pool where pupils were learning may pose a
danger to the schoolchildren.

“The water in the pool is as a result of the last rains and poses no direct
risk to the children who are always supervised. There have been no pool-
related incidents during the eight months we have been there,” he said.

“We currently have 22 children drawn from the suburbs of ward 2 but we are
limited by resources to assist more children even though there is a greater
need. Progress with their studies has not only been encouraging but also
quite gratifying.”

He said although children came from difficult backgrounds, they had all been
properly brought up.

He thanked the support of well-wishers, donors and a dedicated team of
“teachers” and trustees who have been invaluable to their success.
“So while a lot of progress has been made, there still remains much to do
and so we would like to invite any interested persons to contact us, with a
view to partnering in this noble cause.”

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Govt okays total control of diamond mines: Biti

Saturday, 21 July 2012 19:07

GOVERNMENT plans to enforce a 100% ownership of diamonds, among a raft of
measures designed to leverage on the country’s mining sector.

The move is set to plug leakages and ensure that the country benefits from
its natural resources. The move is likely to set government on a collision
course with investors already operating in the diamond industry.

In his mid-term fiscal policy review on Wednesday, Finance minister, Tendai
Biti, said government had approved a diamond policy to enforce government’s
100% ownership of diamonds.

Biti said government had also approved the enactment of the Diamond
Exploration Act that issues a directive to prohibit the exportation of
unpolished or uncut diamonds.

He said there would be immediate separation of diamond mining from

The Finance minister added that the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) would
be placed in the entire value chain, from diamond mining to marketing.
“In the Finance Bill, we propose to amend the Revenue Act to ensure Zimra is
connected to the entire value chain, not only diamonds but other minerals,”
Biti said.

Clause 10 of the Finance bill gazetted on Friday states that Zimra officers,
authorised by the Commissioner General can at anytime enter any mining
location in Zimbabwe to inspect such location and examine prospecting or
mining operations.

Officers can examine and make copies of or take extracts from books,
accounts, vouchers and documents, among others.

Officers can also examine security systems at mining locations.

Officers can secure that any royalties or taxes payable in relation to the
minerals mined in question are paid and collected.

Any person who bars officers from carrying out their duties would be guilty
of an offence and would pay a fine or face imprisonment for a period not
exceeding six months.

In the six months to June, revenue from diamonds contributed US$41,6

Diamonds, particularly those from Marange fields, have been the source of
bickering in the inclusive government.

Biti said Treasury had not been getting enough and accused Anjin of not
remitting anything to the fiscus.

Anjin — a company in which Chinese are partnering soldiers — hit back in May
saying that it had remitted US$30 million to Treasury. Four companies —
Anjin, Mbada, Marange Resources and Diamond Mining Corporation (DMC) — are
mining in Marange.

Marange Resources is wholly owned by government.

The Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) has 50% in Mbada and is
partnering Pure Diam of Dubai in DMC.
The reforms, if implemented, would be victory for civil society
organisations and Biti, who have been accusing some individuals of
benefiting at the expense of the country.

Mines ministry unaware of Biti’s claim: Mupazviriho

However, Prince Mupazviriho, Mines and Mining Development permanent
secretary, said on Friday as the custodians of the mining policy, the
ministry had not made the announcement.

Told that Biti had announced far- reaching reforms in the mining sector,
Mupazviriho said: “The issue has not been raised by the Ministry of Mines,
so you have to go back to the minister who raised that.”

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RTG breaks deadlock on directors’ appointments

Saturday, 21 July 2012 19:04

RAINBOW Tourism Group (RTG) shareholders have reached common ground on the
appointment of the directors and the new-look board holds its inaugural
meeting on Tuesday.
The board meeting comes after months of haggling among shareholders, after
Nicholas van Hoogstraten’s nominees did not garner enough votes at a stormy
meeting of shareholders last year.

Financial advisory firm, Corporate Excellence, brokered the meeting.

Corporate Excellence was tasked last year with reaching out to the
shareholders and fostering a common understanding after shareholders had
intensified their fight for the control of RTG, the country’s largest
hospitality group by market capitalisation.

In written responses, van Hoogstraten said the National Social Security
Authority (NSSA) and the Hamilton Group (his family vehicle) had agreed to
appoint three directors each on the board.

He said appointment of the new CEO and finance director were matters for the

Van Hoogstraten would be represented by Shingirai Chibanguza, Ian Haruperi
and EFE Securities boss, Edgeton Tsanga, on the RTG board. Haruperi and
Chibanguza failed to garner enough votes to sit on the board during last
year’s AGM.

NSSA general manager, James Matiza, told Standardbusiness the parties were
yet to reach common ground but confirmed the meeting.

“Corporate Excellence is panel beating the appointments. They have been in
touch with us and Mr van Hoogstraten. We have not yet finalised on our side
and hope that by Tuesday, our nominees would have been finalised,” Matiza

However, Standardbusiness was told that NSSA had already nominated Joseph
Kanyekanye, Shadreck Vera and Rosa Dube.

Matiza referred further questions to Corporate Excellence’s boss, Batanayi

Chingwena said there were positive developments happening, adding that he
could not say much as he was bound by ethics to not reveal dealings with his

The new board comes after the resignation of the old board, led by Econet
executive, Tracy Mpofu.

Mpofu was one of the directors representing Econet alongside Chris Chirairo
and John Gould, but was asked to stay put on the board to allow shareholders
to reach consensus.

Econet eventually pulled out its nominees on the board. The remaining
directors also resigned, meaning RTG was operating without a board of
The previous board had drawn the ire of van Hoogstraten after the
hospitality group’s money was locked in the then ReNaissance Merchant Bank,
following the placement of the institution under curatorship last year. At
an AGM last year, van Hoogstraten said the money “shouldn’t be with Mickey
Mouse people in the first place”.

RTG started accessing the money in March after the bank was removed from
curatorship, following NSSA’s acquisition of controlling shareholding.
The convening of the board means shareholders can raise money to
recapitalise the hospitality group.

RTG requires US$15 million, which would be raised through the sale of one of
its properties for US$10 million and the remainder, from existing

RTG has been a theatre of fights as shareholders flex muscles at the
detriment of the group, which is failing to capitalise on the stable
political environment to grow its business.

Other than looking for money from shareholders, the group is disposing of
non-core assets.

In August last year, the group announced that it was disposing of its
interest in non-core assets such as Touch the Wild Private Limited, Hathanay
Investments Private Limited and Zimbabwe Mauritius Tours and Travel Private
Limited, trading as Tourism Services Zimbabwe.

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‘Austerity measures need political backing’

Saturday, 21 July 2012 19:01

FINANCE minister Tendai Biti’s proposal for the country to go back to basics
and swallow the medicine of austerity cannot happen without political will
from the leadership, analysts warned last week.

In his Mid-Term Fiscal Policy review, Biti announced austerity measures that
included a chop in revenue projections, freeze on recruitments and reforms
in the mining sector to raise more revenue.

He said the reforms, if implemented, would move the economy from a winter of
despair into a summer of recovery.

While lauding the measures, analysts said without the backing of political
leadership, the reforms would not fly, moreso, in an inclusive government
where decisions are aligned to political inclinations.

Biti announced a cut of revenue to US$3,4 billion due to the
underperformance of diamonds among others.

In the 2012 budget, diamonds revenue was projected to contribute US$600
million. In the six months to June, revenue from diamonds was US$146

Yet there is a paradox. Diamond production has been revised upwards to 12
million carats from the nine million carats earlier projected. “If revenue
has been revised downwards, how come production is on the increase? It’s a
black hole,” an economist with an international bank said on Thursday.

Analysts say inasmuch as Treasury can assign the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority
(Zimra) to be aggressive in revenue collection, it has to be mindful that
the tax collector can reach a certain point.

“Zimra is trying as hard as possible to collect revenue, but revenue is a
function of economic activity and there are certain limitations,” an analyst
said, adding that the country had to look outwards for salvation in the form
of foreign direct investment (FDI).

Biti acknowledged Zimra’s constraints saying: “One of the things that we
fear is that it is possible that our revenuehad now reached a plateau, so
whatever you do, unless you are able to expand the economy by attracting
further income, you have got a problem.”

Biti also proposed a freeze on recruitments saying such a move would only
take place with the blessings from Treasury and Public Service Commission.
Analysts are wary that Biti would be by-passed in new recruitments. On
Wednesday, Biti said government had recruited 9 000 employees on the first
half of the year notwithstanding the freeze on recruitments.

In 2009, Biti announced that government had set aside US$6 million to pay
off account holders. The process was not done amid revelations some accounts
had allegedly fattened overnight in preparation for the “windfall”.

This means that there is no good news to account holders, the majority of
them pensioners, who have been waiting for the resolution of the case since
2009. Biti provided new investors with relief saying they are exempted from
complying with the 51% rule of indigenisation to lure foreign investors.
Since the gazetting of the regulations governing empowerment, prospective
investors are sceptical.

While Biti said it was government policy to exempt new investors, analysts
say enforcing it would not be easy as the nation gears for elections.
Indigenisation has been Zanu PF’s trump card and analysts say only gullible
investors would buy the ruse.

“Which investor would pour money into a country that does not respect
agreements? Essar tried it and government is now shifting goal posts. Biti
said it is government policy but the question is how many policies have been
adhered to? Zero,” the analyst said.

Essar snapped up a controlling shareholding in Zisco last year.

However, government is now insisting the Indian firm should have 49% to
conform to the empowerment legislation.

Biti blames lack of policy implementation

Biti blamed the slow pace of reforms as inhibiting the growth of the

“Important decisions and policies have been taken by cabinet but
implementation has been zero. The economy, thus, continues to be weighed
down by lack of reform and lack of leadership,” he said.

Yet the minister himself had not adhered to policies set. Three years after
the country embraced multi-currencies, the issue of Zimbabwean dollar
balances has not been resolved.

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Power cuts hit mobile operators

Saturday, 21 July 2012 19:00

MOBILE operators say the use of generators to run base stations during power
cuts had increased operational costs, affecting their profit margins.
The country is experiencing debilitating power cuts as demand has
outstripped the generation capacity. The power utility is generating 1 100MW
against the required 2 200MW.

Giving oral evidence before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media,
Information and Communication Technology last week, Econet CEO, Douglas
Mboweni, said the US$0,20c per minute tariff offered was arrived at after
factoring in all the costs involved. Mboweni said the major cost that was
driving their tariff up was fuel, used to run generators.

“Electricity is a huge cost to us, the cost of generators and the cost of
refilling is estimated at over US$15 million per year,” Mboweni said.

The Econet boss said about 72% of the network at any given time would be
running on generators.

In a separate presentation interview before the same committee, Telecel
chief executive officer, Francis Mawindi, concurred with Mboweni and also
bemoaned electricity woes as the major barrier.

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SA stalling regional integration: Mushonga

Saturday, 21 July 2012 18:56

SOUTH Africa has been accused of frustrating plans to create a regional
customs union and instead preferring to bolster the South African Customs
Union (Sacu), where it holds sway.
A customs union is a trade agreement by which a group of countries charge a
common set of tariffs to the rest of the world, while granting free trade
among members.

Regional Integration minister, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, said there
was a feeling that South Africa wanted to use Sacu as its basis to form a
regional customs union, instead of working towards creating a new one.

“What we see is that South Africa wants to use Sacu as the basis for forming
a regional customs union and sometimes, this is viewed as having a big
brother mentality,” she said.

Misihairabwi-Mushonga said, for this reason, negotiations towards a holistic
Sadc customs union had not gone very far.

Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa make up Sacu, with
the four countries having benefited by aligning themselves to South Africa,
Africa’s largest economy. A Sadc customs union would involve the 15
countries of the region, instead of Sacu, which is considered narrow.

But Catherine Grant, the head of economic diplomacy at the South African
Institute of International Affairs, reckons the smaller nations in Sacu,
like Lesotho, may be opposed to Sacu morphing into a regional customs union.

“This will be opposed by other Sacu members, not necessarily just South
Africa, as this (Sacu) is not just a trade agreement, but involves a broader
range of economic issues,” she said.

“Up to 60% of the Lesotho budget is Sacu revenue, so the vested issues,
whether Sacu is the basis of a customs union, are not just South African.”
Grant felt that it was impossible to expand Sacu in its current form, as it
would cost South Africa too much and would dilute the resources that were
meant for other projects.

The head of the trade and policy think-tank said instead, South Africa
preferred to see the implementation of a free trade area (FTA) as a first
step, since customs union negotiations were usually lengthy and

“The preference is to first channel scarce resources to existing commitments
and trying to make them as beneficial as possible,” she explained.

Grant said while South Africa was the dominant player in the region, hence
engendering a feeling that it was imposing itself as the big brother, the
country was actually holding back from taking a leading role and this cost
the region.

“Sometimes South Africa holds back because they are conscious of not being a
big brother and that could be detrimental to the region,” she explained.
However, Grant said energies should be directed towards the conclusion of
negotiations to set up the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), which includes
the Common Market for East and Southern Africa, the East African Community
and Sadc.

“The TFTA will resolve some of the overlapping issues that can be difficult
to solve when it comes to a customs union,” she said.

Since Zimbabwe adopted multicurrencies in 2009, there has been a call that
the nation either join Sacu or push for the formation of a regional customs

Zimbabwe remains wary of joining Sacu, as it fears for its economic
independence, yet negotiations for a regional customs union are moving at a
snail’s pace.

Sacu was established in 1910, making it the world’s oldest customs union. It
consists of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.

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