|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From The Sunday Times (SA), 24 June
Fuel crisis hits region
Zimbabwe's woes set to worsen as South Africa slashes supplies
Harare - No food, no fuel. That's the prospect facing Zimbabwe today after South Africa's decision to cut fuel supplies to neighbouring countries by half. This follows a fire at a key refinery, Sasolburg's Natref plant, this month, raising the prospect of a regional energy crisis. The fire and a routine maintenance shutdown at Durban's Engen plant, compounded by an unexpected three-week strike, has resulted in a severe shortage in aviation fuel and diesel. Countries affected by the 50% cutback are Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho and Namibia.
The reductions are likely to be hardest felt in Zimbabwe, which this week increased its fuel price by 70%. Faced with food shortages, Zimbabwe also expects to have to import 579 000 tons of maize and wheat, which will be more difficult with the fuel crisis and a foreign exchange shortage. Police have clashed with residents of Harare protesting at the fuel hikes, which have been blamed for pushing up the price of basic foods and services by up to 40%.
In South Africa, a possible shortage of diesel has come at a critical time for farmers who are busy harvesting their summer crops and preparing the land for winter ones. "It is a terrible time for this to happen," said Fanie Brink, an economist at Grain South Africa, the umbrella body for grain farmers. Meanwhile, the Association of South African Travel Agents has warned travellers that the aviation fuel shortage could lead to problems with travel in Southern Africa. The Association said normal overbooking policies and rescheduling of flights out of Johannesburg International Airport could result in passengers being thrown off flights.
As the drama developed, emergency plans to keep the region in fuel unfolded. The shortages of diesel and aviation fuel are most acute inland, but about 70 million litres of precious emergency fuel has to be offloaded in Durban before a single drop can reach the interior because the pipeline first has to be filled up. Ocean-going tankers are now heading for Durban. Fuel supplies inland were already low when the Engen refinery in Durban shut down for its annual maintenance, said Colin McClelland, director of the South African Petroleum Industries Association. "Then we had labour problems there and a three-week strike. On top of this came the fire at Natref in Sasolburg." As emergency measures swung into operation, extra tankers were ordered. "We have 13 ships arriving here between now and the end of July," he continued. Some of these tankers were already at sea, bound for other destinations, and were re-routed to Durban. "Obviously, that fuel will have to be replaced in due course," McClelland said.
The effects of the government-ordered cutbacks are likely to vary from country to country. "Namibia, for example, could draw on Cape Town's supplies. Cape Town is oversupplied at the moment." McClelland would not comment on the effects the cutbacks could have on Zimbabwe. Adding to SA farmers' problems was the diesel rebate - 42.1 cents a litre - for the agricultural sector which comes into effect on July 4. In anticipation of this, farmers had held back on buying diesel to take advantage of the rebate. South African refineries - the most sophisticated on the subcontinent - produce 9.2 billion litres of diesel a year. Domestic consumption runs to about 7 billion litres, and the rest is exported.
Chief economist at the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries Farai Zizhou said Zimbabwe gets its fuel from various sources, of which South Africa is just one. Zizhou said he was not sure Zimbabwe would be seriously affected. Zimbabwe's government could respond to the cut by increasing imports from other sources, like the Independent Petroleum Group of Kuwait. "We understand that the fuel cuts for export by South Africa will only be in diesel and jet fuel. "The cut in diesel would affect the private sector, especially the importers," said Zizhou. He said fuel importation was recently opened up to the private sector. Most private operators were importing from South Africa, but with the South African fuel crisis they might be forced out of business.
From The Independent (UK), 24 June
Suspicions remain despite Mugabe change to resolve Zimbabwe
Harare - Zimbabweans fear that Robert Mugabe's hints that he wants to end the country's land crisis are a ploy to regain credibility ahead of presidential elections expected next year. Diplomats in the capital Harare said the issues of human rights and the restoration of the rule of law still were at the top of their agenda. "We are dealing with a proud man, who is perhaps a little senile," one diplomat said. "It is clear that to get to a position of constructive negotiation, we will have to allow Mugabe to appear to have initiated a so-called African solution. Mugabe is less likely to double-cross his own peers than countries which have a record as former colonial powers."
Diplomats said they were encouraged by President Mugabe's decision last week to travel to Kenya - historically a beneficiary of land-reform aid from Britain - to signal his readiness to co-operate with a Commonwealth initiative to solve the land question. Mr Mugabe, 77, who has led the former Rhodesia since the end of white rule in 1980, used the Kenya trip to state that Zimbabwe is ready to talk, though he added that he did "not want to see a fixation on peripheral matters such as the rule of law, democracy, good governance and political violence".
In the next few weeks, a Commonwealth foreign ministers' group is expected to meet in South Africa to discuss ending Zimbabwe's isolation. The issue will also be discussed in the Zambian capital Lusaka, which is hosting an Organisation of African Unity (OAU) meeting in early July. The diplomatic manoeuvres to ease Mr Mugabe to the negotiating table have been led by Nigeria and South Africa. An important role has also been played by Australia, the next host of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm). "We have to allow Mugabe to present the initiative as one he has brokered with President Olusegun Obasanjo [of Nigeria] after convincing the international community to see the land question his way. The reality is quite different - there has been donor money available all along, on condition that it is properly used - but at the moment our only objective is to get Mugabe to the table," said an African diplomat close to the process.
It is unclear what brought about Mr Mugabe's change of heart. It could be Zimbabwe's deteriorating economy. Some observers say he has been shaken by the recent deaths of three close aides. His rhetoric has been noticeably different since the British general election. A government which he previously referred to as "gay gangsters" was congratulated by him on its election victory. A high-ranking official of the Movement for Democratic Change welcomed the progress towards ending Zimbabwe's isolation but insisted that the opposition party - seen by many as a government-in-waiting - should be consulted. "We have 47 per cent of the electorate so we are a major stakeholder. Any agreement that excludes us becomes illegitimate," the official said.
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From ZWNEWS, 24 June
Macheke farm under siege
Another farm, Murrayfields in the Macheke area of northern Zimbabwe, has been put under siege. The farm is about five kilometres from the local police station, but the police took over two hours to react after the invaders turned at about 8pm Friday night. The police have promised an armed guard, but no one has turned up for this duty yet. The invaders are demanding the keys to a house on Murrayfields farm which is used as an office. The invaders are extremely noisy. A telephone interview with Mrs Trish Meikle on Murrayfields took place against the background of incessant drumming and chanting. A task force of local farmers is standing by, but all roads to the farm have been blocked. Requests to have friends come and stay have been denied. Murrayfields was designated for compulsory acquisition two weeks ago. There are 33 farms in the district on which work has been stopped, except for grading of the tobacco crop. The Meikle family have another small farm nearby which was invaded some time ago, and the cottage on that farm has also been occupied.
From the Zimbabwe Standard, 24 June
Bindura turned into war zone
Bindura – Zanu PF has turned Bindura into a virtual war zone ahead of the parliamentary by-election next month. The MDC candidate for the constituency, Elliot Pfebve, will be up against Elliot Manyika of Zanu PF in the 28-29 July by-election. "(The late) Border Gezi was responsible for turning Bindura into a graveyard, and now no-one wants to invest in the constituency. Instead of looking for investors, Zanu PF has been busy killing people to get votes," said Pfebve in an interview with The Standard.
The Bindura seat fell vacant after the death of Border Gezi in April this year. But even before Gezi’s death, Pfebve who lost last year’s parliamentary poll to Gezi by approximately 2 000 votes, was challenging the election result in the High Court citing violence and intimidation. "Bindura has been neglected for so long. There is no infrastructure, no real industrial site, and the road network is appalling. Bindura is only there because of Ashanti Gold Mine and Trojan Nickel, otherwise it is a dead constituency. This is what we want to change. We want to change the face of Bindura. There is a lot of potential, especially in the services industry."
Mashonaland Central, under which Bindura falls, was subjected to serious political violence during the run-up to the election. Pfebve’s young brother, Matthew, was murdered by people who mistook him for Elliot. Pfebve said rather than be vindictive, he would preach the message of peace to his supporters. "Gezi did not win that election. He rigged it. He used violence in Bindura before taking it across the country. Manyika is now doing the same but this time it will not work. People have changed their attitudes and are no longer afraid. We have told them that their vote is their secret, and if Manyika thinks violence will win him the day then he is in for a rude awakening."
"Manyika has no political base in Mashonaland Central. In fact, our own investigations show that he is not Zanu PF’s favourite candidate," said the 32-year-old businessman. He said while it had been easy for the opposition to campaign in the rural areas of Musana and Masembura and in urban Bindura, it had been difficult to penetrate the farming areas where war veterans have camped and are terrorising farmers and their workers. "This is where the problem lies. We should reorganise our farmers so that we get ticking again. Now a bunch of hooligans are killing a whole industry just to prevent the MDC from campaigning." Efforts throughout the week to speak to Governor Elliot Manyika were unsuccessful.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 24 June
Labour dispute ends as Chino’s relatives get jobs
Joseph Chinotimba, vice president of the so-called Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU), recently presided over a labour dispute at Gold Print (Pvt) Ltd and ended up securing employment at the company for three of his relatives, The Standard has established. Workers at Gold Print who were having problems with their managing director, McDonald Ramsey, had sought Chinotimba’s intervention. The workers told The Standard this week that they were bitter that all Chinotimba had succeeded in doing was to replace the three dismissed workers with his relatives. Chinotimba’s nieces, Shamiso Diti and Angeline Ngorima, and a nephew identified only as Mombe, are now employed by Gold Print, with Diti based at Sam Levy’s village, Angeline at Westgate, and Mombe at the company’s George Silundika branch.
When contacted for comment, Diti confirmed that she was indeed related to Chinotimba, and was actually residing with the war veteran at his Marlborough safe house. Ramsey confirmed to The Standard that the three had been employed as undercover security details, but said he was not aware of their relationship with Chinotimba. "I did not know that they were related to him. But all the same, they have done a wonderful job. I employed them as undercover security personnel as we were experiencing a lot of thefts. Chinotimba did not really help me employ them. Whatever their relationship with Chinotimba, the point is that they have been doing a good job," said Ramsey. The three workers who were replaced by Chinotimba’s relatives are Bernard Ruzvidzo, Takura Mariwa and Sylvester Chitete. They said efforts to get their jobs back had been unsuccessful.