Rangarirai Mberi News Editor
Calls Chinamasa a coward who ‘cries like a baby’
BENJAMIN Paradza, the High Court judge who sensationally fled from Zimbabwe to avoid jail last year, has spoken out for the first time against what he describes as a systematic government crusade to purge the judiciary of independent judges and court officers.
Speaking exclusively to The Financial Gazette from Wellington, New Zealand, where he lives in exile, Paradza made a grim assessment of the justice system, slated as "disgraceful" Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa's leading role in attacks against the justice system, and spoke about his new life in exile.
A veteran of the liberation war, Paradza could not hide his bitterness about the current state of affairs in Zimbabwe under ZANU PF, saying he "did not fight for this madness".
Paradza was the first serving judge in Zimbabwe to be arrested and made to face criminal charges.
In 2003, two years after his appointment, he was accused of trying to influence fellow judges to relax bail conditions for a business partner charged with murder.
Ten fellow judges protested in a statement at the time, saying a tribunal should have been set up to look into the judge's conduct before any arrest could be made.
A tribunal was only convened six months after the Supreme Court had ruled that Paradza's arrest was improper.
After a high profile trial, Paradza was found guilty of corruption in 2006, but he fled before sentence was passed.
Now, Paradza charges that his trial, and a series of recent state attacks against lawyers, are part of a systematic and "broader plan to persecute those who stand for what is right so as to bring the judiciary and the legal system in general under the control of the executive arm of government".
Chinamasa, who has done his best to portray himself as one of President Robert Mugabe's hard men since he was pardoned for his role in the Tsholotsho succession fiasco, was in fact a coward who "cries like a baby" under pressure, Paradza claimed.
Chinamasa could not be contacted for comment at the time of going to print.
"In his own words, Chinamasa described judges as 'the main opposition to the ruling party' and insisted that judges had to be politically correct or else he was going to oversee their exit from the judiciary. What subsequently happened to judges therefore, including my arrest and prosecution, and that of Justice (Fergus) Blackie, in the light of this, becomes easier to understand."
Paradza recalled the invasion of the Supreme Court by a mob led by Chenjerai Hunzvi, the late war veterans' leader, as a major turning point in government's drive to cleanse the judiciary.
Ten judges left the bench during that campaign and were "replaced by judges of questionable experience and suitability".
"Most had not even practiced law in their lives. I imagine what to expect from them in the exercise of their duties. Some judges, however, are trying their best under very difficult circumstances."
The attacks on magistrates, judges and lawyers were likely to affect every court official, he warned. "I have no doubt that if there was a reason to attack court interpreters, the police would not hesitate to do so."
A government that denied its own people their rights must ask itself whether it was still a people's government.
"I did not fight for this kind ofmadness during the armed struggle. I do not believe any one of the ex-combatants would disagree with me. What has gone wrong with what used to be our pride, the people's party?"
Asked whether he had any immediate plans to return home, Paradza said the government had neither the will nor the morality to restore the independence of the judiciary.
"Most of us want to go back home and help restore the rule of law. (But) I have little doubt that we will not want to do so under the auspices of the likes of Chinamasa and (Justice Permanent Secretary David) Mangota, semi-lawyers who behave as if they have no clue of what role the judiciary plays in a democracy."
"Rebuilding the rule of law and judicial independence is a process that requires objectivity, honesty, and unquestionable commitment to the constitution of the land, attributes, which, sadly, cannot be found in the current government after all it has done to judges, prosecutors, magistrates and lawyers."
He said Chinamasa, an experienced lawyer, had allowed himself "to be overwhelmed by the excitement of political intrigue that turns good men and women of honour into political monsters, always pretending to be what they know is not in the interests of their people".
Paradza, who was a commander during the liberation war, said President Robert Mugabe had placed too much trust in people who had made no real contribution to the war.
"I am a victim of a wider conspiracy by people like Chinamasa who played no role in the emancipation of the people of Zimbabwe. They came in late, long after the struggle, and became everyone's nightmare. Instead of being ashamed of their insignificant role, they go after those who put their lives on the line, while busy trying to endear themselves to the Head of State."
Paradza was particularly scathing in his assessment of Chinamasa's alleged role in the Tsholotsho saga.
Chinamasa had "disgraced himself after Tsholotsho," Paradza said, "crying like a baby for forgiveness . . . instead of taking a principled stand like a man".
"Luckily for him, the Head of State seems to prefer such people with zero contribution, at the expense of those who directed the fight for freedom while he (Chinamasa) was busy nursing a runny tummy out of fear, or supping with the enemy."
Paradza said a fellowship at a New Zealand university has allowed him to get his life back.
"My fellowship at Victoria University of Wellington has been the most rewarding experience I could ever imagine in my life. At the conclusion of my trial on January 10, 2006, I was robbed of my soul. My time at Victoria University of Wellington's Institute of Policy Studies has given me a chance to catch up with my soul."
He denied reports he had unsuccessfully sought asylum in Britain.
"I never applied for asylum in Britain. Neither did I ever set foot in Britain. I simply left Zimbabwe, not in a container truck as reported, and went through to New Zealand when the time came. All those media reports were mere fiction, and I was enjoying every bit of it."
He advised judges: "Be assured that when you do justice to mankind according to your oath of office, regardless of who or what they are, and when you passionately strive to uphold the spirit and principles of the constitution, always regarding it as the supreme law, the world will accept you. If you do wrong — and your conscience will always tell you — and commit injustices on people, the world will definitely notice."
National Agenda with Bornwell Chakaodza
Instead of trying to build bridges for Zim’s sake, govt is hell-bent on burning them
RETURNING late last week from vitreo retinal surgery at the Johannesburg Eye Hospital, I was taken aback by the pace, magnitude and far-reaching impact of recent events in Zimbabwe, which understandably have frayed nerves across the length and breadth of the nation.
First, it was the sudden fall of the Zimbabwean dollar on the burgeoning parallel market three weeks ago, which caused a sudden and shocking upsurge in prices of basic commodities, some of them going up by more than 200 percent. Clearly the situation in the country had gone from bad to worse and downhill it continues to slide.
Alarmed by what the sudden upheaval could mean to an economy already reeling under an unprecedented inflation rate thought to be well over 4 500 percent, the government, in its usual knee-jerk reaction, imposed a blanket price control on all basic commodities, ordering retailers to reduce prices by 50 percent or reverting to the pre-June 18 prices.
The intention here was to force supermarkets and other traders to comply with the government directive regardless of the huge implications for their businesses. This is, of course, not to imply that the businesses are paragons of virtue. Far from it. But to simply issue a directive is to oversimplify what to all and intents and purposes is a very complex situation involving an intricate web of a supply chain made of retailers, manufacturers, transporters and other sectors.
To complicate the situation even further, President Mugabe in his usual combative and grandstanding manner, threatened that government would seize and nationalise any companies or manufacturers involved in any 'dirty games' against the government. What exactly was meant by 'dirty games' only he himself knows.
Clearly, the country's growing economic ills for which no answers have been found to date is of no concern to him. This is no way to find a way out of the crisis that has bedeviled this country for the past seven years or so.
To the beleaguered commerce and industry sector, this ominous message from both the President and Vice-President Joseph Msika could only mean one thing — they had to shape up or ship out — there was no room for negotiation. Essentially, we are dealing with a government that is not in the mood to find a sustainable solution to our crisis but interested in just fire-fighting. It is just bravado to no purpose.
Every country in the world has its embarrassing moments and Zimbabwe is going through one at the moment. In the light of what has happened in the last three weeks, every hour, every minute that passes deepens the sense of gloom and pessimism here. The situation that is unfolding on the ground as a result of these government directives is having its own far-reaching implications for the long suffering Zimbabweans.
Supermarket shelves are rapidly emptying as the few fortunate enough to have the financial wherewithal to buy the goods whose prices have suddenly been slashed by half stockpiled on these goods. For the majority of Zimbabweans, it is really suffer continue. Even people who had no plans to engage in any building construction were tempted to stockpile on cement because the price was now down to $150 000 from a staggering $1.5 million the previous week.
What becomes obvious from all this gigantic mess is that in an atmosphere of adversity and confrontation such as that which now prevails between the government on one hand, and commerce and industry on the other, scope for rational thinking and a rational approach to things is severely compromised. The real core of the problem becomes totally lost. Instead of trying to build bridges for the sake of Zimbabwe, it appears that the government is hell-bent on burning them. What a dreadful and terrible situation!
Suggestions in some ZANU PF circles that any company that 'defies' a government directive is against the government and therefore in cahoots with the proponents of the so-called 'regime change' agenda is not helpful at all. It is a mantra and tactic that has lost all meaning. Anyone with half a brain cell will not buy that.
Most Zimbabweans now know that the 'regime change' agenda is a tactic that government is using non-stop to whip those opposed to some of its ruinous economic decisions into line. It just does not wash full stop!
In fact, to listen to speeches by President Mugabe and some of his lieutenants, one would come to the conclusion that the manufacturing industry in Zimbabwe is under the control of foreigners and expatriates hell-bent on destroying the country. The real truth is that mot manufacturing firms in Zimbabwe, although of foreign origin, are now managed and run by indigenous Zimbabweans (black and white) who, of necessity, want to see the country succeed. Even foreigners and expatriates, for that matter, wish us well.
The so-called 'price war' that is raging on is a confrontation that no one can expect to win. The government needs to realise that while enlisting the services of the police to enforce the new price regime may, on the surface appear to achieve the desired results, this is a hollow victory considered side by side with the other effects of such a move. Already in most supermarkets, shelves are empty and massive retrenchments are likely to follow at a time when unemployment is over 80 percent.
Suddenly, we are told the government is in the process of resuscitating the Zimbabwe State Trading Corporation to take over manufacturing companies that government would want to seize. Only the extremely naïve would be taken in by this myopic move as a panacea to the current crisis.
Let us, for argument's sake suppose the Zimbabwe State Trading Corporation came into being, how does it propose to take over companies just like that? Does the government have the capacity to run these companies? In any event, why was this government-owned State Trading Corporation disbanded in the first place? In truth, I did not know whether to laugh or to cry when I heard this.
The brutal truth is that many of the specialised manufacturing companies of foreign origin have actually survived by virtue of their foreign parentage. Without the support of foreign parent companies through the provision of plant, equipment, spares and through various concessionary arrangements, many of these companies would collapse overnight, regardless of whether the State Trading Corporation is involved or not.
Now, more than ever before it is time for a sober reflection on the present crisis and enlist all stakeholders, Zimbabweans with the interest of the country at heart, to put their heads together to seek a lasting solution. What we have in this country are common challenges and problems and we need to work together to meet them.
Statements such as the one by outgoing US Ambassador Christopher Dell predicting that our inflation rate would shoot to 1.5 million percent precipitating the imminent collapse of the government within six months are not helpful to the Zimbabwean cause beyond exacerbating the panic and desperation of those they are targeted at.
The point is that there are so many unknowns in our present predicament.
Kumbirai Mafunda Acting Political Editor
THE opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has stepped up its continental diplomatic offensive by asking the African Union (AU) to deploy election observers to Zimbabwe at least four months before next years' elections.
The MDC says this would enable the observers to adequately assess the situation on the ground to inform their observations after the election.
In a paper submitted to African foreign ministers last Friday, ahead of the AU heads of state summit which ended in the Ghanaian capital on Tuesday, MDC vice-president Thokozani Khupe and deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma urged the AU to send election observers to Zimbabwe well in advance of a series of elections beginning early next year.
The MDC leaders said previous observer teams had failed to get an accurate picture of the electoral process, as they arrived late only to observe the actual day of voting, and solely basing their reports on it.
The opposition officials presented the party's five minimum conditions they said must be met by government before next year's elections to guarantee a fair election.
The MDC reiterates its demands for a new constitution, the right to vote for all, including the Zimbabwean Diaspora, an independent and impartial election management system that includes mandatory international supervision, preferably by the United Nations.
The opposition party also demands the restoration of fundamental freedoms, including the repeal of suppressive legislation such as the Access to Information and the Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), and also the "demilitarisation" of the electoral processes, which the MDC says would entail the removal of military personnel from civilian electoral processes, and the disbanding of the notorious youth militia.
"We impressed upon the AU to ensure the deployment of a credible observer mission, but that it not come in only a day before an election. We want them to see the electoral environment in its proper context. As we speak now, the 2002 and 2005 election disputes are still outstanding, so we also need a speedy and impartial resolution of election disputes," said Mangoma.
Zhean Gwaze Staff Reporter
ZIMBABWE'S grand economic revival project, the National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP) has reportedly been disbanded amid fears the country's economy could run on autopilot ahead of scheduled elections next year.
Authoritative sources indicated that the plan had been ditched, but this had not been officially communicated to various stakeholders.
The development, said sources, reinforced suspicions in the market that the government could be paying lip-service on dialogue, the bedrock of the economic revival plan.
There were indications that the government's belief that the business sector was not sincere during discussions to bring sanity to the chaotic market, had led to its arbitrary crackdown on businesses despite ongoing efforts for a negotiated price stabilisation programme.
The government, through the Zimbabwe National Security Council (ZNSC), chaired by President Robert Mugabe, formulated the NEDPP, which was meant to arrest the burgeoning economic crisis, now in its eighth year and characterised by runaway inflation currently topping 4 500 percent.
The National Economic Recovery Council (NERC), chaired by Vice-President Joice Mujuru, supported the ZNSC. The NERC, with a technical committee chaired by chief secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet and composed of government and private sector representatives was responsible for the implementation of the new economic programme.
The NEDPP, had, unlike previous government projects to turnaround the faltering economy, entwined players in the private and public sectors.
The players in the partnership held meetings fortnightly while the technical wing met quite frequently to address critical sectors of the economy such as setting up the Small to Medium Enterprises Revolving Fund and the Distressed Companies Fund to revive firms that had closed and support troubled companies with cheap loans.
Sources this week said that there had been no communication between the public sector and the private sector over the past week.
The sources said the government suspected that some of the private players in the NEDPP were jeopardising efforts to revive the economy.
Last week the government ordered a price slash of up to 50 percent on all basic commodities alleging that business players and industrialists were sabotaging the economy to effect regime change through rampant price increases.
Acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Economic Development, Desire Sibanda, denied that the NEDPP had been disbanded; saying the pause in the holding of scheduled meetings had been due to busy schedules for the inter-ministerial committee taskforce on pricing.
"It was also delayed because we had met to review whether we had achieved the NEDPP set objectives. I am sure the meetings will resume soon," Sibanda said.
A business player confirmed that there had been no meetings in the past week.
Didymus Mutasa, the Minister of State Security, said when contacted for comment over the alleged collapse of the NEDPP: "It's a matter of national security and I cannot comment."
The NEDPP, initially a six-month rescue plan, was extended to December 31, 2007 to achieve all its objectives.
Since Independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has had no less than 10 economic growth and poverty reduction related programmes.
These include Growth with Equity (1981), the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (1991), Poverty Alleviation Action Programme (1994), and Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social Transformation 1996-2000. Since then, there have been identical economic blueprints such as the Zimbabwe Millennium Economic Recovery Programme (2001), the Ten Points Plan (2002), the National Economic Revival Programme (2003); and Zimbabwe: Towards Sustained Economic Growth — Macro-Economic Policy Framework for 2005-2006.
Kumbirai Mafunda Acting Political Editor
POLICE have arrested the managing director of Saltrama Plastics, a leading packaging manufacturer, as the government summoned manufacturers and retailers twice this week to read them the riot act in a period of fast moving developments.
Industry sources said Edward Madza, head of Saltrama, who was detained by the police last year for flouting price controls, was arrested on Tuesday.
Unconfirmed reports suggested that Madza was caught with a banned substance although his colleagues claimed ZANU PF bigwigs eyeing the country's largest plastic packaging manufacturer might have set him up.
Police spokesperson Oliver Mandipaka confirmed that the police had arrested over 200 defaulting manufacturers, retailers and foreign currency traders.
"People are being arrested and many arrests are coming through of people breaking the law."
Madza was arrested on the same day that ZANU PF political national commissar, Elliot Manyika, who acted as the chairperson of the Cabinet taskforce on price monitoring and stabilisation committee in the absence of Industry and International Trade Minister Obert Mpofu summoned more than 300 manufacturers to his offices to read them the riot act so as to whip them into line.
Hardly a day after Manyika's harangue, Mpofu yesterday summoned the manufacturers once again together with 20 chairpersons of various sub-industrial lobbying bodies. He lashed out at the industrialists, the majority of whom are affiliated to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) and reiterated President Robert Mugabe's charge that they were working in concert with the government's detractors to unseat the ruling ZANU PF from power.
"We were told to produce and revert to prices as of 18 June 2007 or else face the full wrath of the law," said the industrialists who asked not to be named, as they are not authorised to speak on behalf of the CZI.
Also present at the industrialists' meeting with Mpofu were the Minister of State Responsible for State Enterprises, Anti-Corruption and Anti-Monopolies, Samuel Undenge, Economic Development Minister, Sylvester Nguni, Small to Medium Enterprises Development Minister, Sithembiso Nyoni, Local Government and Urban Development Minister, Ignatius Chombo and Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche and Finance Minister, Samuel Mumbengegwi.
CZI President Callisto Jokonya said members had pledged to abide by the government decree although he emphasised the need for constant engagement.
"We are law-abiding citizens but we won't be responsible for the outcome of the order," Jokonya said.
Manufacturers had asked the government to avail foreign currency so as to ensure continued production.
"We also told them that we require foreign currency to restock. If we get foreign currency at the right price we will produce," he said.
Government's threats against industry were made as the crack pricing team raided Irvines Chickens, the country's largest poultry producer where it reportedly seized large quantities of chicken from the company's premises in Waterfalls.
In Gweru, a manager at a Bata Shoe Company was reportedly arrested for allegedly flouting the price freeze.
Police spokesperson Bothwell Mugariri last night told ZBC that police had recovered more than 400 000 litres of cooking oil and 100 tonnes of sugar at a warehouse owned by a consortium of local and foreign business people in the capital.
Mugariri said some of the recovered goods including rice and macaroni, which were stashed in drums and have been hidden at the premises for the past two years, had gone bad.
Rangarirai Mberi News Editor
ZIMBABWE is negotiating a US$2 billion loan with Libya to help stabilise the country's crisis-hit economy, senior government sources revealed this week.
President Robert Mugabe held meetings last month with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during a three-day visit to Tripoli, where, according to senior officials, the loan, whose details remained sketchy at the time of going to print, was discussed.
Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said yesterday he did not have the "full details" of the negotiations, referring questions to Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi.
Mumbengegwi said yesterday he "knew nothing about any such deal" and insisted he would not comment on whatever discussions the two leaders might have had.
Only the signing of a "joint permanent commission" was made public after the visit. It has been reported that a "trade and investment" delegation of Libyan businessman would soon visit Zimbabwe, but there is no indication as to whether the group's visit is linked to the terms of the loan.
But a senior government official said a deal with the Libyan leader was close.
"It's not likely there will be too much publicity around this, but there are talks, and we do anticipate something within a few weeks," the official said, declining to be named.
Officials declined to discuss details on the terms of the deal, but its confirmation will revive debate about what Libya would get in exchange for the loan.
Shunned by major western donors over his policies, particularly his drive to resettle landless black farmers on farmland historically dominated by the white minority, President Mugabe has turned elsewhere for aid and investment.
But he has struggled to secure solid support, hamstrung by Zimbabwe's inability to assure prospective Asian, and now Arab, financiers payment that can match the significant amounts of aid the country needs to stabilise the economy.
The terms of the loan deal with Libya are not yet known, but the North Africans would have negotiated cautiously given past experiences with Zimbabwe.
In 2002, Zimbabwe received oil from Libya under a US$360 million loan facility that was to be repaid partly by the supply of farm produce to Tripoli. But the deal collapsed after Zimbabwe failed to meet its side of the bargain.
The oil deal, which covered 70 percent of Zimbabwe's fuel needs at the time, had run for less than a year at the time it was ended.
Desperate to salvage the facility, in 2003 Zimbabwe attempted but later abandoned a plan to export US$100 million worth of agricultural commodities to Libya.
The deal had involved the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank, the Libyan Arab Investment Company and Libya's state oil company, Tamoil.
Zimbabwe has also previously discussed aid packages with South Africa.
In 2005, South Africa had agreed to negotiate a loan to Zimbabwe, but the deal fell through after Harare reportedly rejected conditions for economic and political reform that had been tied to the bail-out plan.
Reports at the time put the size of the proposed loan at US$1million, but South Africa's central bank governor Tito Mboweni said that figure was "exaggerated".
PLAYERS in the hotel and tourism industry are battling to curtail a shortage-induced crisis following a government directive ordering all local businesses to slash prices by half.
The Financial Gazette understands that industry players have held a series of crisis meetings to determine how they could engage stakeholders in the retail and manufacturing sectors to ensure adequate supplies and limit the impact of the shortages.
“We are already facing shortages of some commodities and that’s why we are having these meetings with the aim of engaging the manufacturers of these goods, which are now in short supply,” said the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chairman, Shingi Munyeza, who is also the chief executive officer of hotel and leisure group, Zimsun.
“We are affected but we are trying to find a solution before this problem heavily impacts on our business, before we get to a point where we say we have no sugar for our hotel guests,” Munyeza said.
He said the tourism sector would comply with the government order and avoid pushing the sector back to the doldrums after turnaround signals in the ailing industry.
Munyeza said: “We can’t shut our businesses willy-nilly. We will engage with the law enforcement agencies, our parent ministry and the cabinet taskforce.”
Economist John Robertson says the order on retailers and manufacturers to reduce prices by half could result in some manufacturers closing shop.
“In my view, the government should have given itself time to work out other alternative means in which it could have countered these shortages without hurting both production and the consumer,” he said.
“It is my respective submission that Zimbabwe’s crisis is one premised on the failure by other players to produce basic commodities for the manufacturing sector,” said Robertson.
The sector has since appointed a committee, chaired by Glenn Stutchbury, to engage the government and manufacturers.
“We appreciate the efforts being made to solve the problems that are facing our industry but we want to see this matter being handled as a internal Zimbabwean issue and make sure that it does not affect the tourists visiting our country,” Munyeza said.
Economist John Robertson says the order compelling retailers and manufacturers to reduce prices by half could result in some manufacturers closing shop.
He said the manufacturers would be unable to replace stock for production because of loses incurred from selling at uneconomic prices.
“I believe that such an order is a recipe for disaster as the same companies that are forced to sell commodities, to both the retailers and wholesalers, at half price might fail to raise the capital for the acquisition of raw materials for restocking,” said Robertson. “This then means that their failure to acquire raw materials will lead to a stoppage in production, and eventually, retailers would have nothing to purchase from the manufacturer. On the other hand, there will be serious job losses as companies will not be able to pay workers when there is no production,” he added.
At least 194 companies and individuals have been nabbed in the countrywide crackdown, with a legislator and high-ranking business figures having been caught up in the blitz.
“In my view, the government should have given itself time to work out other alternative means in which it could have countered these shortages without hurting both production and the consumer.
“It is my respective submission that Zimbabwe’s crisis is one premised on the failure by other players to produce basic commodities for the manufacturing sector. Once these players import their raw materials, they have to put a mark-up on their prices so as to cushion themselves from import costs,” said Robertson.
He said it was inevitable that producers would pass the high cost of production to consumers.
President Mugabe last week said government would not hesitate seizing all foreign companies found to be flouting laid down procedures and pricing modules, saying government had the capacity to seize and localize such companies.
The threat was repeated by Vice President Joseph Msika who said the time for government officials to restrain Mugabe from ordering state apparatus from descending on the “non repentant” manufacturers was long gone, adding that Cabinet would now support the president’s plans on the crackdown.
Clemence Manyukwe Staff Reporter
MYSTERY surrounds what has become of Industry and International Trade Minister, Obert Mpofu’s conviction on a charge of contempt of Parliament, following the expiry of the motion pertaining to his case before the findings of the privileges committee could be adopted.
The Parliamentary Privileges Committee convicted Mpofu in May over his testimony on the Ziscosteel saga. The committee recommended that he be fined $40 000, saying a jail term would be disproportionate to the offence.
Sources said this week that there was heavy lobbying by government ministers to have the conviction quashed, a move attributed to the motion’s lapsing before Parliament could vote to either adopt or reject the recommendation on Mpofu’s conviction.
Sources have however, pointed out a double standard in the reluctance to deal with Mpofu’s case when it is contrasted with the treatment of former Movement for Democratic Change Chimanimani Member of Parliament, Roy Bennett, whose incarceration was fast tracked in 2004. Bennett was found guilty of assaulting Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa during a clash in Parliament.
Bennett’s case was debated and upon his conviction, he was sent to jail just a day after the privileges committee had tabled its report in Parliament.
Bennett now lives in exile in South Africa where he was recently granted asylum.
The chairman of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, Welshman Ncube, confirmed that the motion on Mpofu’s case had lapsed, but said there was still room to revive the issue.
“Technically, all motions pending at the end of a session would lapse. It means that if it should be brought back, the House should grant leave for the reinstatement,” Ncube said.
The second session of the sixth parliament lapsed last month and President Robert Mugabe is scheduled to open the third session on July 24.
The charges against Mpofu were tabled by the portfolio committee on Foreign Affairs, Industry and International Trade, which accused him of giving false testimony under oath.
Government ministers who have clashed with parliamentary committee chairpersons before are reportedly lobbying to have Mpofu let off the hook.
THE High Court has dismissed an application by a Harare resident seeking an order for the immediate holding of mayoral and council elections in the capital on the grounds that the demarcation of new ward boundaries is not yet complete.
Harare resident Roger Deane Stringer had filed the suit, which cited 10 respondents, including Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo and Sekesai Makwavarara, chairperson of the commission running Harare.
In opposing the application, Chombo said he was not against the holding of elections, but the extension of Harare to include other areas that previously fell outside city limits had necessitated the drawing of new boundaries, which is not yet completed, he said.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Tendai Uchena said: “In his opposing affidavit, 10th respondent (Chombo) said new wards had to be created to cover the new areas now under the city of Harare. This also made it necessary to rearrange the boundaries of existing wards.”
The judge said Stringer had not disputed those submissions, but had maintained that they did not constitute a legal basis for not holding an election.
“In my view, the absence of ward and city boundaries in a city for which local authority elections are due to be held would be a good reason for the commission to postpone such elections, and therefore, a reason for this court not to order that they be held in spite of the circumstances described by (Chombo). Holding elections in such circumstances would not be proper and in accordance with the law,” Justice Uchena ruled.
POLICE have defied a court order for a group of alleged coup plotters to undergo a medical examination to verify claims that they were tortured, as a separate court case about an earlier alleged plot against President Robert Mugabe collapsed this week.
A Harare magistrate issued an order last month for a medical doctor to examine Albert Matapo and six others, who are facing treason charges.
But when the group appeared in court again on Monday, it was learnt that the order had been defied. All proceedings pertaining to the case are held in camera.
The seven suspects, who are accused of plotting to depose President Mugabe and replacing him with Rural Housing and Social Amenities Minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa, were remanded to July 16, by which date the presiding magistrate said they should have been examined.
In Mutare, another alleged plot to assassinate the President, which the state claimed was hatched by Peter Hitschmann, crumbled when High Court judge, Justice Alphas Chitakunye, ruled that the charges had no basis.
The judge, however, found Hitschmann guilty of illegal possession of arms and sentenced him to four years in prison, one of which was suspended.
Hitschmann was arrested along with six opposition figures who included opposition legislator Giles Mutsekwa. The Member of Parliament and the others were released in November last year when High Court judge Charles Hungwe ruled that their detention was illegal, in a judgment that exposed how state agents had intimidated prosecutors in a bid to make the charges stick.
Hitschmann's lawyer, Trust Maanda, said he would appeal against both conviction and sentence.
Stanley Kwenda and Clemence Manyukwe Staff Report
Zim’s story on World Water Day
IT is World Water Day today, but many Zimbabweans would have hardly touched any of it this morning.
Take this admission by Harare resident, Wilson Chenga, for instance.
“I last had a bath three days ago,” he says. “My wife has been up and down the suburbs looking for water. For the past two days, she has not managed to get even a drop. Still, I am paying the water bill.”
The United Nations (UN) is moving closer to declaring access to water a basic human right, but for many Zimbabweans, water is increasingly something of a privilege.
Life in the country’s urban areas now resembles that of the rural areas, with scenes of long lines of women carrying buckets every morning now commonplace.
“My wife has to walk a long distance to get water from Glen Norah A, where there’s a borehole. She has to pay $50 000 for a bucket. I now also have to take a 20 litre jerry can to work so I can get some water from my work place,” says Budiriro resident Chenga.
Most urban Zimbabweans either have to go for days without a bath, or they have to improvise.
For the few fortunate ones, for example, the city centre gym has become a necessity; not entirely for exercise, but also for a shower.
This week, parts of Glen View had gone for three weeks without water.
“We are not using the toilets anymore. If I don’t go to the toilet at work, then I will have to rush across into Budiriro to use one. I also have to wait until it’s dark so I can bath outside, since we cannot use the bathrooms anymore,” said Wilson Kwande. “That is what our lives have become.”
A lot of tales are told about how Zimbabweans, renowned for their ability to adapt, are struggling to live with the crisis.
Two weeks ago, Kuwadzana residents went without water for eight straight days. They had to walk to Dzivarasekwa and Tynwald, several kilometres away, to fetch water.
The situation is even worse for the medium-density suburb of Msasa Park.
By daytime, homes are abandoned as whole families go about the critical task of heaving home all sorts of containers across the busy Bulawayo highway.
Not even God’s business has been spared. On a recent Sunday, the local Kuwadzana Salvation Army church had to combine its traditional two services into a single fast tracked ceremony after its taps ran dry and toilets blocked up.
Vandalism is also rising with the desperation.
Government took away the responsibility of water supply from urban councils, handing it to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), amid boisterous promises of efficient service.
But government had, in fact, ignored caution from experts on ZINWA.
Two reports, tabled in Parliament between 2006 and this year by the parliamentary portfolio committee on local government, had warned on ZINWA’s capacity to deliver.
“Although ZINWA reiterates that it has the capacity to take over the entirety of water and sewerage services in the country’s urban areas, local authorities and the public feel that ZINWA is not able to undertake this task,” the committee’s last report said.
“In view of the evidence gathered, the committee recommends that the Cabinet reconsider the directive as the takeover of the services from the City of Harare has proved that ZINWA has no capacity.”
Last year, the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mildred Chiri, also tabled the Value-for-Money Audit on the provision of water to small towns and growth points, which showed that ZINWA had already failed to efficiently provide water, including to essential institutions such as hospitals, prisons, police stations, and military facilities.
The Chiri report said ZINWA was hamstrung by inefficiency, the result of poor planning and record keeping, and a lack of maintenance and training programmes.
Government ignored the reports, but it is the poor who are now taking the punishment.
ZINWA has blamed the water shortages on the aging infrastructure, which has been in use for many decades without replacement, and intermittent power cuts.
Harare’s water treatment plants are constantly breaking down due to the obsolete equipment, which has outlived its life span.
When ZINWA took over the running of Harare’s water last year, it promised to revamp the capital’s main water treatment plant, the Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant among other things.
The huge costs involved have meant that the upgrading of infrastructure remain a pipedream.
According to a UN official, the world body could formally recognise access to water as a human right by 2008.
“Water is not the stuff of business, it is a basic human right,” says Hama Arba Diallo, outgoing executive secretary of the Convention of the United Nations to Combat Desertification, in an article published in a recent UN Journal.
But with ZINWA increasingly unable to perform, Zimbabwe may soon add another rights violation to its long list of abuses.
Charles Rukuni Bureau Chief
BULAWAYO — President Robert Mugabe called it a game. But hardly a week after the government descended on businesses accusing them of unjustified price increases, which it said were meant to effect an illegal regime change, most people are realising that it isn’t a game any more.
If the crackdown was meant to help the poor who are bearing the brunt of ever escalating prices, it has backfired badly. Prices of some goods have gone down indeed. But the goods have disappeared from the shelves. People now have to queue for bread, which at times they may not get. Mealie meal is nowhere to be found. Long queues for fuel are back. And whenever queues start, corruption thrives as some people try to beat the queues.
The government has ordered businesses to revert to prices that prevailed on June 18 saying this is what was agreed when the government, business and labour entered into a social contract aimed at resolving the country’s economic and political crisis.
But while the social contract so far has five protocols, only three have been signed. The government, business and labour signed the Incomes and Pricing Stabilisation Protocol, the Protocol on Restoration of Production Viability and the Protocol on Mobilisation, Pricing and Management of Foreign Currency on June 1.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), one of the key players in the whole scheme, only signed one protocol — that on Incomes and Pricing Stabilisation. Its counterpart, the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions, run largely by war veterans, signed all three.
The other two protocols are to do with the foundation principles and the Kadoma Declaration, which covers a plethora of issues including good governance and restoring confidence in the country.
A labour expert who has been involved in the technical discussions of the protocols said while the three sides are generally agreed on the protocols, there still seems to be a problem with implementation. The social partners were not given enough time to educate their members on what the protocols entailed before they were implemented.
“Business rushed to sign the protocols without briefing its members. The members rushed to increase prices because they thought prices were going to be frozen when the social contract came into effect. So they hiked prices so that they would be high enough when they were frozen,” the expert said.
The ZCTU refused to sign the protocols because it did not want to be pre-empted by the government before the 96th session of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva where the main labour body had a case against the government for violating trade unions rights.
ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo and secretary-general Wellington Chibhebhe have been assaulted by the police on a number of occasions.
“The ZCTU agreed in principle and could have signed all protocols but this would have meant that their case against the government would have been thrown out before the ILO conference,” the expert said.
Government representatives refused to appear before the standards committee of the ILO that heard the ZCTU’s case but the state was chastised at the end of the conference for violating trade union rights.
The labour expert said the measures being taken by the government were outside the social contract that the three partners signed. “They are on a fire-fighting mission,” he said.
“This arm-twisting approach is not what the three parties agreed to. The three parties have not yet agreed on who should be doing what. But already the so-called cabinet committee, the TNF (Tripartite Negotiating Forum) and the National Incomes and Pricing Commission are stepping on each other’s toes.”
Management consultant Luxon Zembe concurred. “It is really a misnomer to say we have signed a social contract because the key players are living worlds apart. Those in the driving seat have access to cheap resources, which they sometimes use for personal benefit. Government buys fuel at $435 a litre, everyone else gets it at the market price, which is over $100 000. The government obtains foreign currency at $250 to the greenback and everyone else gets it at the market price.”
The government ordered garages to reduce the price of fuel to $60 000 a litre but did not explain the basis on which that figure was reached because the price of fuel was already above that price on June 18. Most garages have therefore, stopped selling the product.
Zembe said what was needed was to restore confidence in the business sector not to destroy it. But the government is not listening. It has ordered the business sector to comply with price controls, threatening to take over businesses of those who did not.
The ZCTU held a workshop to brief leaders of its affiliates on the social contract last week.
BULAWAYO — Council is now owed more than $35 billion by its residents but it is still trading in the black, maintaining its reputation as one of the best-run local authorities in the country.
According to its income and expenditure for March, the council had a surplus of $15.7 billion and was expecting to get an additional $4.2 billion because the government had approved its charges and fees. It, however, had some major outstanding payments such as that for electricity.
The council was owed $32.3 billion by residents as of March 31. Water alone, which the government wants to take over, accounted for $20.9 billion.
Government departments owed the council $3.3 billion up to the end of February.
The council said there was an intensive water disconnection, which saw over 8 000 households in the low-density suburbs and nearly 16 000 in the high density being disconnected between December and March.
Just over 6 700 households in the low-density suburbs and nearly 13 000 households in the high-density suburbs had been reconnected.
The council recovered $757 million out of about $966 million in the low-density suburbs and $226 million out of $293 million in the high-density suburbs.
The talks and the urgency of re-thinking the Zim crisis
THE ruling ZANU PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are whispering to each other in the corridors of power. Needless to say, these are South African President Thabo Mbeki’s corridors of power.
But that might be beside the point because at least they are talking purposefully. And whether arguments might have it that President Robert Mugabe’s team has the upper hand or alternatively that the MDC and the political economy of the country are raising the stakes for a workable agreement, the reality is that the two belligerents should have started talking properly years ago, if not for themselves, then at least, for the good of Zimbabwe’s past, present and future.
And talking is good. It means some sort of communication is going on, some cards are being placed on the table and perhaps some deals will be made or unmade between the negotiating teams and outright conflict might be averted.
But it is important to de-politicise these talks between ZANU PF and the two MDC factions. De-politicise them in the sense that the talks are no longer about two political enemies haggling over the spoils of war, as has been the case elsewhere.
This is because political entities may talk themselves into power settlements that are devoid of legitimacy with the people and simultaneously not signify or represent the much-needed social transformation.
The MDC(s) and ZANU PF have agreed on a number of agenda items for their talks. Essentially it means that the two parties are having talks about talks.
And of these agenda items, so the press tells us, issues that relate to elections and repealing of repressive legislation all within the ambit of the need for constitutional reform have been claimed as critical to the success of the negotiation by the opposition.
On the other hand, ZANU PF has claimed that issues concerning the lifting of sanctions, renouncing of the West and embracing of the land reform programme by the opposition are of paramount importance for any success to be registered in this process.
This is all well and good. At least we have a rough idea as to what issues are at stake for either party and that should they agree on anything, it will be with the intended result of the holding of elections (2008/2010) and the much-needed exit of President Mugabe plus possibly some generalised parameters of how a new constitution should be etched.
And this is clearly a recipe for a situation where in the event that agreement is reached; it is to the politicians that all the “spoils” go.
In other words, this is a process that is centred too much on the political power game, to the extent that it dismisses not only any input from the people of Zimbabwe but also the need for a thoroughgoing social transformation of the country.
As a matter of consequence, it is too much about the structures of the state as though the state were a business venture, a silent merger of two companies with shares in an entity that for argument’s sake, I will call Parliament.
The whispers in the corridors of Tshwane assume an outright legitimacy of Zimbabwe as a people-centred state, a polity with everyone waiting for the right sort of power sharing or acquiring agreements in order for the “good life” to become a reality.
I much rather prefer a realistic approach to these whispers. And this approach is one that tackles the critical issues of the number of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, the innumerable numbers that swell the informal sector and the manner in which either of the aforementioned have learnt to live outside of the state, be it within our borders, or avoiding deportation back to the land of their birth. The problem with Zimbabwe is no longer just about state structures or ‘governance’ but about the state itself, its meaning, purpose, revival and performance for the livelihood of the populace.
It is because of this that I propose that those that are negotiating need to re-position their ideas within this context. That it is not in the interests of the masses of the country for them to rush into a political settlement that is solely dependent upon their whims and need for survival.
There is much greater need for introspection in all of their respective movements about the current predicament of the people of Zimbabwe and how the same have not necessarily viewed them as the solution but more as part of the problem, one more than the other.
Simply put, ZANU PF and the MDC have to consult the very same people they claim to lead, and consult them widely on the issues at stake.
If they feel they do not have the time, then they must allow others with time to do so. And these “others” are in the form of organisations outside of the political endgame.
There is a lot of unacknowledged input from community-based organisations, trade unions, human rights bodies, gender activists, journalists and students.
These need to be allowed to come to the fore as non-negotiable principles within the talks. And one can rest assured that the issues and themes that will emerge from the aforementioned clusters will not solely be about constitutional reform but will dwell on economic and social welfare and the need not only for political transformation or transfer of power, but on comprehensive societal reform that repositions the people centred state as the sine qua non of a better life for all.
As a result of the foregoing, some points must be reiterated. It is good that the MDC and ZANU PF are involved in some sort of talks. It is even better that they have come to some agreement on some cross cutting issues.
It is however, inadequate to come to view these talks as a power-sharing or ceasefire settlement between two parties that have been at each other’s throats for some time now. It is more important that these talks be placed within the context of the dire political circumstances that the Zimbabwean state finds itself in visa- a-vis the people that inhabit it.
The negotiators need to go back to their movements, re-consult (if they have not already done so) and propose methods, ways around the issue of re-legitimising a state that its own citizens are trying to flee in so many ways.
And this will have to include organisations that are outside of the political endgame, also known as civil society. And if this is even half-done, there will be no need for Mbeki as mediator in what is evidently a Zimbabwean problem.
Zhangazha is senior programmes officer at MISA Zimbabwe
Christella Langton Staff Reporter
WOMEN constitute 52 percent of Zimbabwe’s population, but are not fully represented in politics. Now a group of female politicians plans to change that.
A 30 percent female representation quota in public institutions has been accepted as the norm, but women say this is not enough because even at that level, they remain underrepresented in policy and decision-making.
“Zimbabwean women fought in the liberation struggle side by side with their male counterparts as equals. Today, however, their contribution to this process is not reflected at the critical decision making levels,” the Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU) says.
The group, which represents the interests of women in politics, is concerned that despite women accounting for the greater proportion of Zimbabwe, they constitute a paltry 22.2 percent in decision and policy-making organisations and institutions.
The women are incensed that they have been generally overlooked in the decision-making process and continue to play the “role of the voter and not the candidate” to be elected into office.
WIPSU statistics show that women constitute 10.6 percent of Cabinet, 16 percent of the House of Assembly, and occupy 20 percent of posts reserved for provincial governors.
Of the 66 senators in the House of Assembly, only 23 are women.
WIPSU launched its “50/50 Campaign” in November last year, with the aim of preparing women for future elections.
The objectives of the launch were to create awareness on the need for equal representation in all decision making processes, to push for legislation on the Conventions and Declarations on the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Southern African Development Community Declaration on 50 percent women representation in all decision-making processes.
A meeting of Commonwealth leaders held in Edinburgh in 1997 set a target to achieve 30 percent representation of women in decision-making positions across the public and private sectors by 2005.
Admitting that this target would not be reached, however, the “Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality 2005-2015” set 2015 as the new deadline by which to fulfil the vision.
However, the 30 percent quota does not seem to be enough for women in Zimbabwe who are lobbying for equal representation.
At a recent meeting for women in politics organised by WIPSU and the Women’s Trust, female politicians said they were confident of achieving the 50/50 margin “as most men are leaving the country in search of greener pastures”.
Women from all political persuasions attended the meeting.
The meeting however, heard that for many women, any mention of the word “politics” equates to violence, while others continue to grapple with memories of violent experiences suffered in the past.
Some have watched their children and husbands die at the hands of suspected ZANU PF militias.
The fear of victimisation for being linked to opposition politics has caused several women to hold back from contesting elections on an opposition ticket.
Economic Viewpoint with Terence Zimwara
DOLLARISATION, as it is widely known throughout the world, occurs when a country with an unstable currency allows foreign currency to not only become legal tender but to also use it achieve to its monetary policy goals.
In the past certain economies resorted to this as a quick fix solution to the crisis of confidence that had besieged their financial systems.
(Dollarisation does not necessarily follow that the currency adopted has to be the US$1. Any other currency, which may be acceptable as a medium of exchange or store of value, can be used.
For instance in Zimbabwe the rand is increasingly becoming an acceptable store of value thus authorities can decide to use this.)
In this country dollarisation has already shown itself to be a viable option in light of the incessant depreciation of the local unit against major currencies.
The fact that some citizens now opt to maintain their money in the form of foreign currency, to protect their assets from the hyperinflationary situation shows that dollarisation is already here, albeit, unofficially.
The hyperinflation, in turn, seems to be driven mainly by the shortage of foreign currency a situation that has subsequently led to the unofficial but popular parallel market where the foreign currency exchange rate is determined by market forces.
The rate determined by these market forces is then passed on to the manufacturer an, ultimately, to the consumer in the form of very high prices.
The continuos depreciation of the local unit against
other currencies has led to most manufacturers and retailers pegging or linking prices of most consumer goods with major currencies leaving the consumer in a worse position.
The price of fuel aptly illustrates this. For instance most private fuel importers are thought to be pegging the price of fuel with the parallel market rate of exchange which currently is at around US$1: 120000, resulting in fuel selling for about the same amount in local dollar terms. (At the start of the month of June fuel was being sold for about Z$50 000 a litre, which therefore meant that the parallel market exchange rate was hovering at around the same rate.)
An increase in the price of fuel, which is a major component of nearly all economic activities, will often lead to an all-round increase in prices with the exception of wages and this has been the routine for sometime now leaving most workers in much worse conditions.
The fact that each time the local currency weakens on the parallel market prices immediately go up suggest that prices are pegged against an equivalent amount in foreign currency.
This pattern confirms that, to some extend, the economy is already dollarised though unofficially and really points towards this as a short-term measure of restoring confidence in the financial system.
Dollarisation takes various forms, namely full dollarisation, unofficial dollarisation and partial dollarisation.
Of these the most popular one appears to be the partial dollarisation because this allows the dollarising country to retain some control over its monetary policy direction and countries like Argentina, Mozambique, Bolivia to mention only a few,have embraced this.
With this kind of dollarisation the local currency will be used alongside foreign currency as legal tender or alternatively citizens may be allowed to maintain foreign currency denominated accounts locally with the local unit remaining legal tender. For Zimbabwe this appears to be the most suitable one essentially because this kind of dollarisation is already in play though financial authorities have outlawed this.
Full dollarisation is known to have occurred in Panama a country of 2.7 million with a GDP of US$8 billion, has had quite modest economic prosperity since it dollarised several decades ago and to date is the most successful story of total dollarisation.
Closer to home developing countries such as Mozambique have dollarised their economies and this has made the task of controlling inflation easier.
(For instance financial authorities in that country had targeted a single digit inflation figure and they have been achieving this in the last two years thanks largely to a stable financial system). Therefore for Zimbabwe, adoption of this system could help to control inflation thus bringing some relief for the consumer who has been the major victim of inflation.
In the past few months the local currency has been very weak on the parallel market and such weakness has manifested itself in the form of rapidly increasing prices as the latest inflation figures will show.
By allowing businesses and individuals to transact in foreign currency, monetary authorities would at least manage to eliminate this one major driver of inflation, the constant depreciation of the local currency against other currencies.
Over the last few years the country's exports have declined tremendously and many exporters argue that present exchange control regulations make it very difficult for most exporters to break even from exporting.
The official rate of exchange and the surrender rules are often cited as major impediments to the exporters’ cause.
By dollarising the economy there is good chance that many would be encouraged to export once more since such conditions would entitle exporters to keep their export proceeds in the form forex.
Therefore dollarising will not only work as a tool to fight inflation but also an instrument to encourage exporters to resume business and this will in the long term increase foreign currency inflows into the country.
Greater flow of foreign into the economy will ultimately lead to strengthening local currency against major currencies thus allowing the economy to eventually revert to its own currency.
Dumisani Ndlela Business Editor
ZIMBABWE’S controversial indigenisation legislation, gazetted late last month, could scuttle prospects for an economic revival and inhibit foreign investment in the country, economists and analysts said this week.
Foreign-owned companies will be compelled to give up at least 51 percent shareholding to local people under the planned law. The Indigenisation and Empowerment Bill, expected to be tabled before parliament when it resumes later this month, has sparked a volley of criticism from the business community and the opposition parties, who argue it could further cripple a struggling economy now in its eighth year of a recession.
“The forced acquisition is tantamount to nationalisation,” said Daniel Ndlela, an economic consultant. “Assuming we have the foreign currency (to buy out foreign-owned assets), this will trigger a massive outflow of cash,” Ndlela said.
Government argues that the Bill creates an environment for greater participation in the country’s economy.
Under the proposed law, a fund will be created to finance the acquisition of shares, working capital and other forms of finance for indigenous people.
The National Investment Trust, which has failed to raise cash for the purchase of a 15 percent stake reserved for locals in platinum miner Zimbabwe Platinum Mines, will be constituted as a special account for the planned empowerment fund.
Market analysts said the Bill would effectively seal Zimbabwe’s fate as a pariah to international capital, described by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono last week as timid. Gono, championing the country’s battle for an economic turnaround whose bedrock he says is the ability of the country to lure foreign direct investment, indicated last week that he would not give his backing to legislated expropriation of foreign-owned assets.
Ndlela said no investor would bring cash into this country if the government was seen as turning away resident foreign capital. “Which investor can put money without exercising control over it?” Ndlela asked, rhetorically.
He said government could be electioneering ahead of scheduled polls next year, but still that strategy would have the effect of damaging the country’s prospects of attracting foreign investment. He said should government go ahead and legislate for a compulsory disposal of 51 percent shareholding by all foreign-owned banking institutions, mining houses and other foreign-owned entities, most of the institutions would withdraw their trade names.
Minister of State for Indigenisation and Empowerment, Paul Mangwana, said last week Zimbabwe would
transfer control of all firms to locals under the empowerment legislation.
He suggested the bill was aimed at foreign-owned banking institutions, which remain the dominant players in a sector that has witnessed robust competition from black-owned financial institutions created after government opened the sector to more participants in the early 1990s.
Foreign-owned banks operating in the country include British banks Standard Chartered and Barclays, Stanbic Bank and MBCA Bank both owned by South African financial institutions Standard Bank and Nedbank, respectively.
Mangwana said the bill would “refer to both public and private companies” and banks and mining companies would be specifically targeted.
“Yes, this includes mining companies and banks, which will be impacted like everyone else,” Mangwana said.
Ndlela said the empowerment thresholds had to be imposed upon companies making fresh investments in the country.
In any case, this had already been the case since all foreign investors were compelled to have local partners before project approvals by the Zimbabwe Investment Centre, now the Zimbabwe Investment Authority.
Gono told economic stakeholders last week that the central bank was in favour of an indigenisation process that added value to existing enterprises and not “create unnecessary burden on (existing) entities”.
“As advisors (to the government) we are not in favour of donations . . . black empowerment is necessary but not through expropriation,” Gono said.
There are fears the programme could even benefit ruling party and government bigwigs and their cronies.
For example, the Minister of Indigenisation and Empowerment will be empowered to review and approve all indigenisation arrangements, and can order a licensing authority of any business to cancel the licence if he is not happy with the empowerment transaction, or the beneficiaries of the transaction.
Africa File with Mavis Makuni
ALL eyes have been on the Ghanaian capital, Accra where the African Union Summit has been under way. There has been heightened interest in the gathering of African heads of state because of the main topic that dominated the deliberations: the establishment of a Union Government or the United States of Africa.
Stakeholders had different expectations from the summit. The leader of the opposition in Botswana, Gilson Saleshando, must have spoken for large numbers of ordinary Africans when he warned against allowing African solidarity to crystallise into “a brotherhood of evil”.
Saleshando, who heads the Botswana Congress Party, said while colonisation had contributed to Africa’s problems, Africans must take their fair share of the blame. “I do not think the looting of African economies by its leaders is a function of occupation by imperialist forces. It is a product of irresponsibility and greed among other things. It is also an outcome of the failure of African institutions like the African Union to act on the delinquency of some of its member states.”
The Botswana politician said one of the reasons that compounded the problem of mal-governance on the continent was the exclusion of the people from the decision-making process.
While Saleshando expressed reservations about the inclusiveness and effectiveness of existing institutions of the African Union, Mozambique’s immediate past president, Joachim Chissano, welcomed the idea of an African Union Government, saying such an institution would help Africans to “proudly identify themselves
so that the problems facing the continent would be things of the past.”
Chissano, who is chairperson of the Forum of Former Heads of State, said an African Union Government was an imperative necessity in the world of globalisation. “We need to move quickly towards the establishment of a continental government as the third step from the OAU (Organisation of African Unity).”
Libyan president Muammar Gadaffi, the most vociferous
proponent of the African Union Government, said: “In Accra,
the voice of the people must be heard. At least this summit will be different from others because the leaders are forced to listen to the masses.”
Gadaffi has called for a single army, a single currency and a single president for Africa. The trouble is that he fancies himself as that president.
But is Gadaffi’s brooding and flamboyant visage the image that would be acceptable to all the people of Africa as a venerated symbol of reliability, consistence, able to offer a dramatic and persuasive means of communication with millions of people over long lines of communication in the same way that for example, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth does for the Commonwealth?
What qualities would the head of an African Union Government need to have to be acceptable as a rallying point to enable the people to deal with abstract and diffuse issues?
Although some foreigners regard Africa as one country, it is in reality, under erstwhile independence leaders-turned-dictators and Life Presidents, now a series of fiefdoms each in the iron grip of an all-powerful lord who regards himself as the centre of the universe.
Selecting one of these to be the king or queen of Africa is likely to be fraught with imponderables and inflated egos.
While the African heads of state gathered in Accra haggled over the issues surrounding the establishment of the African Union Government, a drama unfolded in South Africa involving one of the continent’s heavyweights likely to be secretly harbouring ambitions to rule Africa, Thabo Mbeki.
The Sunday Times announced in a lead story in its latest issue that the South African leader has resolved to ignore the wishes of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to seek a third term as party president.
The paper quoted Mbeki, who was speaking at the end of an ANC policy conference, as telling the South African Broadcasting Corporation: “If the leadership generally said ‘Look, we believe the interests of the ANC and the country would be served if we had somebody else’ that’s fine. But if they said, ‘No, you better stay for whatever good reason,’ that would be fine. You couldn’t act in a way that disrespected such a view.”
The trouble is, the South African leader is insisting on imposing himself as a candidate for the party leadership despite the overwhelming opposition of delegates who attended the conference.
The Sunday Times said: “If he stands, Mbeki will be on a collision course with his own party’s membership, who clearly stated this week they would want the new ANC president to be the country’s next president.” Mbeki is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term as head of state when his current one ends in 2009. Could he be sending a signal that no one is good enough to succeed him? This is not far-fetched.
A number of African heads of state have tried to tamper with their country’s constitutions to extend their tenure at the helm. Some, such as Malawi’s Bakili Muluzi, Sam Nujoma of Namibia and Nigeria’s immediate past president, Olusegun Obasanjo failed. However, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni pulled the trick off and is into his 23rd year as head of state.
The conference in Midrand where ANC delegates clipped Mbeki’s wings by resolving
that he be stripped of “massive powers to appoint premiers and mayors that have been centralised in the ANC presidency, must have been a bruising experience for Nelson Mandela’s hand-picked successor. Mbeki’s decision to openly defy the wishes of delegates is an example of some of the egotism that could bog down the establishment of an African Union Government.
IT will be interesting to see how government apologists will sanitise the trail of destruction being caused by their paymasters, who, wittingly or unwittingly, have gone all out to suffocate the very foundation of business — profit.
Cheap political points are being scored at a huge cost to the nation as it is becoming difficult for the majority poor to source basics, which have disappeared from supermarket shelves only to emerge at a premium on the illegal parallel market.
Save for willing tools — Baffour Ankomah of New African magazine and London-based Nyekorach Matsanga — who are only credible in the eyes of their handlers, no serious marketer would have the temerity to defend the ongoing crackdown on businesses.
The approach, style and form all have the marks of yet another ploy to seize assets from targeted business people under the guise of the Zimbabwe State Trading Corporation. Government's shortcomings in restoring normalcy to Kondozi and other farms wrested from former white commercial farmers make us doubt its sincerity and abilities. With its back against the wall, it has already chewed more than it can swallow, and needs all the support it can muster to wriggle out of this mess, which is of its own making.
We fear that the powers-that-be are digging their own grave. They can brighten their chances for a successful rescue mission, the Southern African Development Community initiative included, by stopping the digging forthwith and cry out for help. But again, expecting a wounded buffalo to act reasonably is an illusion.
The government now has this penchant for kicking itself in the teeth and shifting goalposts to suit its style of play. It has been a comedy of errors for the last eight years with none of its fiscal policy interventions addressing the core of the country's problems. And, as if this is not enough, it has revived threats to seize private assets. Scores of business people have been arrested, according to reports in the state media.
The threats follow a controversial directive ordering a 50 percent reduction in prices, which started with basic commodities but has now been extended to other products. Price inspectors and police details have been unleashed to enforce the order, forcing retailers to sell at a loss. Supermarket shelves have been emptied in a flash as consumers swamped them to grab the special bargains.
Not many retailers will be able to replenish their stocks, raising the spectre of widespread closures and job losses in a country grappling with unemployment in the region of 80 percent.
Nationalisation of assets, for whatever reason, has been on the wane since the 1990s. In other parts of the world, privatisation, on the backburner locally, is the in thing as governments move to reduce the once-strategic economic influence of parastatals. Zimbabwe might join Cuba as the odd ones out. Fidel Castro's administration laid its hands on businesses that had remained in private hands, down to the level of street vendors, after the revolution of 1959. It hurt the Cuban economy badly and Zimbabwe might as well learn something from it.
Vice President Joseph Msika this week warned that there would not be any going back on the price cuts and that those who fail to take heed should either close shop or face the consequences, a euphemism for arrests and expropriation of their assets.
Industry and commerce have been caught between a rock and a hard place. It is either they pander to the whims of politicians, blamed for dragging the country's economy to where it is today, and risk ruining their businesses or defy the order and face the wrath of a desperate regime. As usual, business organisations, which should puff out their chests to shield their members from possible retribution, are playing it safe, reciting their daily mantra of "giving dialogue a chance". What dialogue when industry is grinding to a standstill!
"All rates and price increases effected by some parastatals should be reversed forthwith to those obtaining as of 18 June 2007", Elliot Manyika, the acting chairman of a Cabinet Taskforce on Pricing was quoted saying, giving some useful insights into how far the government is willing to go to prove it just doesn't bark but bites as well.
We wonder what would become of Net*One, TelOne, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, ZESA and Air Zimbabwe should they reverse their rates, as ordered.
The question, which begs an answer is: can government afford large-scale nationalisation given its thinning revenue base and its dismal record in running public enterprises? At the moment, the taxpayer is paying through the nose for shoddy service and for sustaining loss-making utilities that have failed to fulfil their mandates and have become bastions of profligacy, corruption, nepotism and cronyism.
In 1962, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 1803, which states that in the event of nationalisation, the owner "shall be paid appropriate compensation in accordance with the law." We don't see this being possible in this scenario given that former white commercial farmers, whose farms were seized by the state six years ago, are still to get compensation.
Unless of course, government resorts to arm twisting the central bank into running the printing press, which would add fuel to the inflation fires.
Dumisani Ndlela Business Editor
BARCLAYS Bank (Zimbabwe) plunged into crisis on Friday after a system failure that disrupted operations, inconveniencing thousands of clients.
The crisis was the first of its kind to hit the financial institution in its operational history in Zimbabwe and is understood to have overwhelmed management who had least expected a system failure of that magnitude.
Bank staff said the system failure had affected all Barclays’ operations countrywide.
A spokesperson told The Financial Gazette the system failure was triggered by “a technical problem that affected both the live and backup systems”.
“During this time every effort was made to restore the systems as quickly as possible. We also reverted to our Business continuity plan, which allowed us to offer limited services to customers,” the spokesperson said.
Bank clients were seen milling around banking halls after they failed to withdraw cash because “machines were down”.
Those who wanted to make Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) transactions were also turned away and advised they could make the transactions on Monday.
This triggered panic among bank clients who wanted to pay bills before month-end to avoid interest payments for bills spilling over into the next month.
Clients who spoke to The Financial Gazette also indicated that they had to pick huge bills for products they wanted to buy through the RTGS system on Friday after prices went up on Monday.
“I might come back tomorrow (Saturday) for payment of my bills using the card if the system starts functioning, but I have to get a fresh quotation for building materials when using RTGS payments at the hardware because the prices would have gone up,” a dejected client said, indicating that she had been advised prices for the products she wanted would be increased over the week-end.
She had waited for the recovery of the system for at least five hours since banking halls opened to the public in the morning.
RTGS payments through Barclays are only made between 8 o’clock and 11 o’clock in the morning, a bank employee said.
Clients said they had also failed to make payments through point-of-sale terminals during the day.
The Barclays spokesperson said the institution had taken measures to ensure any future problems would easily be dealt with and minimise inconviniencies to clients.
“We have further enhanced our back up systems by ensuring that backup power for live and backup equipment are on disparate power supplies thus ensuring continuity should one power supply fail.”
After Govere’s early exit, govt seen appointing civil servant as chair
THE hunt is on for the chairperson of the National Incomes Pricing Commission (NIPC) chairperson to replace David Govere, who was relieved of his duties last week, barely a week after being appointed to the commission.
Highly placed sources said following its experiences with Govere, the government would want a pliant chairperson and might handpick Govere’s successor from the civil servants than casting its net wide to cover the private sector, which is under a barrage of criticism from politicians.
Government had hoped to earn the NIPC credibility by appointing an influential industrialist to head it.
Its strategy ricocheted, after the NIPC chairman and his team sanctioned new bread and flour prices effective July 1, much to the chagrin of Industry and International Trade Minister, Obert Mpofu. The minister has since ordered retailers to slash prices by half.
Analysts have warned that apart from causing shortages, the price cuts would lead to company closures and dim any prospects of an economic upturn.
“The feeling in government is that there won’t be any industrialist who can appreciate government’s thinking on prices at the moment,” said a source. “The best way to handle it would be to appoint a civil servant to the NIPC chair who will do nothing else except to obey government’s orders,” added the source.
Analysts said disregarding sound economic advice from professionals such as Govere might cost the government dearly.
They said unilateral price controls would hurt the consumer, who is already starting to experience shortages of most controlled products.
As expected, most basic commodities have disappeared from shop shelves.
Government controls the prices of basic goods such as cooking oil, flour, milk, bread, and beef, salt.
The price reductions led to a rush by desperate customers who swept clean all the shelves of the basic commodities and once finished the retailers failed to replace them citing lack of or fewer deliveries from the suppliers.
Some responded by simply removing products from the shelves.
The prices of other goods that are not controlled remained high above the reach of most consumers. Responding to this the government has extended the price controls to cover the property sector and many other commodities. This has exposed some manufacturers who had devised methods to evade price controls.
“If the authorities manage to corner them, some may go out of business as they cannot afford sell below cost prices,” said Kingdom Stockbrokers (KSB) in its weekly commentary. “Widespread shortages will result as the scarce commodities will re-appear at much higher prices on the parallel market,” added KSB.
DAVID Govere is an accomplished industrialist and founder of Harambe Holdings Limited, a group comprising:
- Intertec Foods
- Horeca Industrial
- Vinyl Tile Company
- Household Converters
- Global Marketing and Trading
- Glendale Spring Water.
He is also on the board of a number of private and public sector companies such as;
- National Railways of Zimbabwe (board member)
- National Social Security Authority (board member)
- Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (vice-president)
n African Business Round Table (director)
A new Zim beckons
EDITOR - We are halfway through the year and yet events and processes that
have unravelled in these few months by far exceed many events and processes
of previous years. We have witnessed a systematic and unbridled assault
being unleashed which continues to be rained upon us while comical
allegations are made against MDC leaders since the inception of this brutal
Acts of terrorism and banditry against an innocent and unarmed population
are the order of the day throughout the country. These are barbaric acts
against the masses who seek a specific path that resonates with the desires
of a people seeking total change of past practices. It evokes memories of
the 1980's Matabeleland massacres where over 20 000 perished.
Despite this abrasive use of violence against us, our resolve is not shaken.
We will pursue vigorously the quest for freedom and democratic change in
Zimbabwe. It is our responsibility as Zimbabweans to protect ourselves from
insipient backwardness and political retardation because ZANU PF would like
to pretend that it has the divine right to rule this country. Zimbabwe is
now a sinking titanic and as Zimbabweans, we will defiantly save ourselves
from this titanic.
For the past 27 years, ZANU PF has failed us. The party has forsaken and
abandoned us by extending its feudal system of patronage to a few and
ignoring the real concerns of the people.
We desire a Zimbabwe of equal opportunities, a Zimbabwe with a human face
and a Zimbabwe for all, whose signpost for progress is a tolerant political
Today, we are a desperate nation under siege from a rapacious clique but for
ZANU PF, the status quo must be protected despite glaring inadequacies in
our societies and a fast changing world.
People are always united by their needs and ideas and now we have cast aside
our biological, ethnic and racial differences and are bound together by a
common interest of freeing ourselves from bondage. We celebrate our
differences and our diversity as a source of national identity and national
To us, the MDC has assumed the guardianship of our hopes and aspirations.
All of us see the MDC as a vehicle already in motion and whose driver and
passengers are destined towards a new Zimbabwe come 2008. It is our firm
conviction that we shall realise our goal of national integration and save
Zimbabwe from the rapacious clique that has pushed us to where we are today.
These acts of thuggery against the people are the birth pains of a new
Zimbabwe. We will not allow political morticians to perfume a corpse in an
advanced state of decomposition with the hope that a miracle might happen.
Takeaway outlets the worst culprits
EDITOR - Is it not strange that the "inflation police" so eagerly conducting
the crackdown on price increases are so blind that they will walk into a
supermarket and order the price of mealie-meal and other commodities to be
reduced, yet a much bigger "crime" is taking place right under their noses.
What they don't seem to notice is the price of takeaway food in that very
same supermarket. The ordinary worker in the city centre can no longer
afford a decent lunch because these supermarkets have raised takeaway food
prices to abnormal levels.
A very ordinary plate of sadza and beef stew now costs an average of $200
000 yet the price of a 10kg bag of mealie-meal has been slashed to less than
half that amount. How many plates of sadza will a 10kg bag of mealie-meal
The same goes for the scraps of beef or chicken accompanying the sadza. How
do supermarkets justify their takeaway food prices when one chicken will
probably serve more than 10 customers and just one kilogramme of very
inferior beef will serve the same number?
Food for Thought
EDITOR - No one in ZANU PF is fit to be president. Some people claim the
solution to Zimbabwe's problems is President Mugabe's exit. I do not believe
that. The solution lies in the exit of ZANU PF as a whole.
Government ministers are enriching themselves at the expense of the
majority. So, in essence no one can rule the country as long as he or she
belongs to ZANU PF. ZANU PF is still ruling only because they fought for the
EDITOR - I hope you realise that some of us would like to rely on the
information you publish for business purposes. We get more of political news
than anything and most of the time your stories serve to raise panic and
unnecessarily negatively affect international and local business
transactions and decisions.
In the event that one is financially affected by a claim in your paper that
is proved unjustified at a later date, who bears the burden?
Only Mutambara can win the day for us
EDITOR - The nation has been waiting anxiously for Morgan Tsvangirai's
reaction to the proposal by Arthur Mutambara to set up a united front
against ZANU PF and only a few days ago the Anti-Senate MDC faction leader
cleared the air.
According to a weekly publication, Tsvangirai told a provincial meeting in
Marondera that he is against unity with the Mutambara faction of the MDC.
The man believes he will win the 2008 elections without Professor Mutambara,
Professor Welshman Ncube, Job Sikhala, Gibson Sibanda, Priscilla
Misihairabwi-Mushonga, David Coltart and others.
His sentiments have nothing to do with principles but are a sign of
selfishness and childish behaviour. Tsvangirai has failed to lead the MDC to
victory in three elections, thus we cannot stick to a directionless leader
who takes people to Babylon instead of Zion.
We have had enough of Tsvangirai and we cannot continue looking up to him on
the basis of his treason trial or his brutal attack by police. Come 2008, we
will not vote for Tsvangirai.
The Mutambara faction of the MDC will take ZANU PF head-on in all elections
and we are prepared for a bruising encounter in local government and
national elections in 2008. Losing is not on the agenda even if elections
are to be called today.
We never agreed that Tsvangirai was to be the sole candidate of the united
front as some journalists-cum-activists would want the people to believe.
His supersonic about-turn and subsequent skidding into the wilderness on the
unity talks can only surprise the mafikizolos (Johnny-come-latelies), not
right thinking people.
We want leaders like Mutambara to take us to the Promised Land, not dubious
characters like Tsvangirai.
The death knell
EDITOR - The next elections in Zimbabwe are crucial if the country is to be
rescued from its current quagmire of massive hunger and economic recession.
It is of paramount importance that whoever wins these elections must restore
law and order as a precondition to restoring investor confidence.
The good thing about Zimbabwe is that it has a lot of natural resources,
which can be used to revive the economy.
However, I have serious doubts that ZANU PF can achieve such a feat
considering that the party has completely failed to achieve this in the past
27 years. Reelecting ZANU PF into office for another six years will surely
sound the death knell for our sickly economy.
University of Zimbabwe
Students will not allow this robbery
EDITOR - The University of Zimbabwe administration has ordered students to
pay up to $1 million as top-up fees but we, as a students' union, feel this
is an unjustified and uncalled for move meant to break the students' spirit.
We feel that the administration has breached our initial contract where we
agreed to pay $345 000 for the whole semester. We have made a High Court
application compelling the university to stop taking payments as well as the
eviction of students.
We feel we cannot be held responsible for the administration's incompetence
and failure to end the semester on June 8. Students will not pay this fee.
Let it be put on record that the people that are now running this country
learnt for free and in very comfortable conditions during the colonial era
yet they have decided to renege on their social and parental
responsibilities of looking after students.
We condemn the mediocricy exhibited by the university administration and
urge the Chancellor to intervene.
We demand the reversal of this top-up fee and compensation for the
inconvenience that we suffered due to the extension of the semester.
We shall not be moved by such cheap and shallow tactics to thwart the robust
and vibrant students' movement.
Oh, for the good old banking days
EDITOR - Banking is now a real farce. A private individual can get enough
money from the bank to buy 10.7 litres of petrol (at time of writing). It
will cost the average person about two litres to get that, leaving eight
litres, which will last just over two days to get to work from Mandara to
town. If you work in the industrial sites, it will last one-and-a-half days.
Putting it another way, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) allows us to
withdraw a maximum of the equivalent of US$10 or UK five pounds a day. A
professional earning a salary of the equivalent of US$5 000 (low in the
diaspora) would have to go to the bank 500 days a month to access his wages
If you run a business you have to apply to the RBZ to withdraw any
meaningful amount of money to buy fuel or pay wages. This can take a couple
of days if you need more than 20 litres of fuel to keep your vehicles on the
road or employ more than three people. Naturally, this requires a minimum of
two trips to the bank, first to apply and then to get the money if approval
has come through. The prudent businessperson will phone through first until
that approval has been received by the bank - a waste of his and the bank's
time and fuel going to collect the money.
In the olden days, one could be paid by cheque and access the money as soon
as the cheque was cleared. You could even get same day clearance if you
needed the money urgently. Now payment by cheque needs a week's clearance,
which is a long time if you need to access the funds to pay a third party,
and the third party then needs another five days clearance, etc, etc.
So cheques are now useless and the best is cash - but we cannot draw enough
cash to buy a few groceries. The banks have come up with a plan to get
around this - RTGS! Instead of one, it is currently taking two days to
process an RTGS and this will soon be 10 days as the RBZ staff battle to
keep up with the growing demand - presumably the RBZ has employed a small
army of people to vet all these additional requirements so people can get
what is theirs - their money. Again, a waste of time and money as one has to
constantly phone through to check on what payments have been made.
Maybe the powers-that-be do now know what hardships they are putting us
through. One can bet their wives do not have to stand in queues to draw a
measly $1.5 million or pay for 10 litres of petrol a day, so they will be
completely unaware of what is going on in the economy.
Why can't we go back to cheques and drawing what cash we needed to perform
our daily chores without the RBZ needing to see everything first? Oh, for
the good old days.