|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From The Guardian (UK), 29 June
Milosevic flown out to face war crimes trial
Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav dictator who set the Balkans ablaze and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, was in detention in the Hague last night after being flown out to face the UN war crimes tribunal there. Crowds began to gather outside the prison in the Dutch coastal town of Scheveningen minutes after a terse announcement from Belgrade that he had finally been surrendered to face justice. He is the first former head of state to be extradicted to a war crimes tribunal. "The former president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has been handed over to the Hague authorities," said a spokesman for the Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic.
The dramatic news was confirmed later by the tribunal as it prepared to receive its first indicted former head of state: "This marks a very important moment in the life of this institution," said spokesman Jim Landale. Mr Landale said Mr Milosevic would appear in court early next week, probably on Monday. He is expected to undergo medical checks before being allotted a cell in the UN-controlled remand centre of the Dutch prison.
The move came as international donors prepared to convene to pledge up to $1.3bn of aid to reconstruct Yugoslavia's economy. The US had threatened to block aid unless he was handed over. In a statement last night, the White House said the transfer "signals the commitment of the new leadership in Belgrade to turn Yugoslavia away from its tragic past and toward a brighter future as a full member of the community of European democracies. The US stands ready to assist the people of Yugoslavia."
Mr Milosevic was taken from Belgrade's central prison and flown by helicopter to a US-run airbase in Tuzla, Bosnia, where an RAF plane flew him to the Netherlands. The handover of the man most closely associated with Balkan atrocities and ethnic cleansing represents a giant step forward for international justice, which failed to secure a trial for the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The Hague court had long been criticised for failing to bring high-ranking suspects to justice. Over its seven years it has concluded 12 cases and has 38 suspects in custody, but the leaders charged with ordering the worst atrocities of the Balkan wars had until yesterday escaped its net.
Western governments were caught off guard by the suddenness of the move after an earlier announcement of new delays when Yugoslavia's constitutional court, packed with Milosevic loyalists, ordered a freeze on proceedings. But there was immediate delight. President George Bush hailed the news as "an unequivocal message to those persons who brought such tragedy and brutality to the Balkans that they will be held accountable for their crimes". Jacques Chirac, the French president, called it an "act of justice." Tony Blair, Nato's leading hawk on Kosovo, called it good news, while the German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, hailed a "triumph" and praised the Yugoslav government for a difficult, but vital, decision.
But in Belgrade a furious row erupted, with President Vladimir Kostunica insisting that he had not been informed as the government met in emergency session to swiftly extradite the former leader. Zarko Kosac, the Serbian deputy prime minister, said the decision to hand over Mr Milosevic was "entirely legal and constitutional" under Serbian law. "It was a decision of the Serbian government. An absolute majority of the cabinet and the ministers voted for it." Mr Kosac said: "Politicians sometimes have to lead their nation. I am not afraid of the reaction of my people. It is in the interests of democracy." About 3,000 pro-Milosevic supporters gathered in protest in the centre of Belgrade last night, chanting "Uprising, uprising".
Mr Milosevic, 59, was indicted in May 1999 at the height of Nato's bombing campaign to force his army out of Kosovo. He is accused of responsibility for the mass killings and expulsions of ethnic Albanians. Prosecutors have said they also plan to charge him for war crimes committed in Bosnia and Croatia, when Yugoslavia began to disintegrate in the early 1990s as he openly encouraged Serb nationalism to fan hatred in the then multi-ethnic country. "This is where we have always said he belongs," said a Nato spokesman in Brussels. "The EU called it a "courageous" move.
Mr Milosevic's lawyers had argued that a government decree on cooperation with the tribunal, pushed through by reformist ministers at the weekend, violated a constitutional ban on the extradition of Yugoslav citizens. Branimir Gugl accused the authorities of kidnapping his client. The former Yugoslav president had been in prison since April 1 while allegations of abuse of power and corruption were being investigated.
From News24 (SA), 29 June
Unions mull strike over fuel price hikes
Harare - Zimbabwe's main labour movement said on Thursday it was considering calling a strike next week to protest against drastic fuel price hikes which President Robert Mugabe's government has refused to reverse. Nomore Sibanda, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), said Monday and Tuesday were likely dates for a strike. "The official position is that we don't have a date yet. The ZCTU general council...will sit down on Saturday to consider the feed-back and to announce the details," he told Reuters. "A consensus may be emerging...for national protest to take place on Monday and Tuesday," he said.
Political analysts warn that a big national strike or streets protests could raise the political temperature close to boiling point. Political tensions have barely abated since early last year when a violent campaign blamed largely on supporters of Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party left at least 31 people dead before last June's general election. The ZCTU gave the government 14 days to scrap the 70 percent fuel price rise the state oil importer National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM) imposed on June 12 due to higher import prices and acute fuel shortages.
The government has urged unions to demand higher pay from employers to meet the rising cost of living. It says a strike would hurt an economy in its third year of recession with unemployment at about 60 percent. But the ZCTU, which has the support of most of Zimbabwe's 1.2 million workers, says the government is asking workers to bail out a state oil company "notorious for corruption" and inefficiency. The southern African country has suffered erratic fuel supplies since December 1999 after NOCZIM'S credit lines were cut over a Z$9 billion debt. The business community says the fuel rises will drive up costs and force the closure of companies hit by the worst economic crisis since independence from Britain 21 years ago. Production at commercial farms is also expected to fall sharply this year due to a government programme of land seizures that have severely hampered agricultural operations.
From News24 (SA), 28 June
Zim urged not to expel reporter
London - British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw urged Zimbabwe on Thursday to reconsider its expulsion of a British journalist, warning of disapproval from the international community. The Daily Telegraph's Harare-based correspondent, David Blair, said he was called before Zimbabwe's Information Minister Jonathan Moyo and ordered to leave the country when his current work permit expires in three weeks. "The international community will not be impressed by any actions of the government of Zimbabwe which make it more difficult for the international media to report what is happening there," Straw said in a statement. Straw said he was concerned by the move and urged the Zimbabwean government to reconsider.
Blair said his meeting with Moyo was underpinned by a feeling of menace and the message that he was being closely watched. "He would not reveal why he had rejected my application. I repeatedly asked for a reason and was repeatedly rebuffed with the mantra that it was an administrative decision," Blair wrote in the paper. "Before I had even sat down, Moyo casually let slip a detail about my future plans that he could only have learnt from a tapped telephone conversation, intercepted e-mail or an informant." Blair said Moyo ordered him to leave Zimbabwe on July 16 when his current work permit expired but he planned to leave sooner.
Political analysts have said President Robert Mugabe - in power since the former Rhodesia gained independence from Britain in 1980 - has launched a campaign against the media, the judiciary and the opposition ahead of presidential elections due early next year. In February, BBC correspondent Joseph Winter was ordered to leave the country. Winter said that shortly after the expulsion order a gang of security agents attacked his home, forcing him and his young family to take refuge in the British High Commission. Uruguayan journalist Mercedes Sayagues, a correspondent for South Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper, was expelled from Zimbabwe in February. After those expulsions, Moyo denied there was an active campaign against the media, telling Reuters Television that the government was simply applying the law.
From The Daily News (SA), 28 June
Zim spares Oppenheimer farms
Harare - The Zimbabwean government has dropped nine farms owned by the South African Oppenheimer mining dynasty from a list of white-owned farms to be seized for land redistribution. "Some 180 farms, among them six owned by foreign nationals and nine belonging to the Oppenheimer family, have been spared from acquisition," the government-owned Herald newspaper reported. "The de-listing comes in the wake of representations by diplomatic missions lodged with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have them spared." Last month, South African newspapers said Nicky Oppenheimer, non-executive deputy chairman of mining giant Anglo American, was under pressure to give up farms for a land reform programme after senior government officials descended on his vast Debshan farm. The government says the Oppenheimers own a total of 960 000 hectares of land - the size of Belgium- in Zimbabwe.
From The Daily News, 28 June
MDC blasts Mudede over Chegutu election
The MDC on Tuesday accused the Registrar-General of deliberately delaying the Chegutu mayoral election for fear the opposition party would win. Learnmore Jongwe, the party’s spokesman said in an interview the Registrar-General, Tobaiwa Mudede should call for fresh nominations for interested candidates. In April, High Court judge Justice Moses Chinhengo ordered the Registrar-General to stop the election following an MDC petition imploring the court to stop the polls, arguing that under the published notice, they were not eligible to contest the election.
Jongwe said: "The delay in conducting elections, when viewed in light of the court order, borders on contempt of court. What is puzzling is that the Registrar-General was once enthusiastic to hold the polls with only two candidates, but as soon as the High Court opened the polls to more competition, Mudede’s enthusiasm suddenly fizzled out." On Tuesday Tobaiwa Mudede, the Registrar-General, through his secretary, said he was busy and could not respond to questions on the delays in the Chegutu mayoral poll.
In April, Mudede published a notice in the government-controlled media in which he said the mayoral election for Chegutu municipality would be held on 28 and 29 April, 2001. The notice said only Stanley Majiri of Zanu PF and Charles Madzudzo Chiviru, an independent candidate, were eligible to contest the poll. Mudede said the two were duly nominated candidates when the nomination court sat on 18 October, 1999 at the Chegutu municipal chambers. Chinhengo ordered that Mudede’s notice, which excluded the MDC as it had not yet been formed when the nomination court sat, was invalid and should be set aside. Jongwe said: "We have witnessed this circus before. The unholy alliance between the Registrar-General’s office and Zanu PF has played the same games in Bulawayo and Harare to the detriment and frustration of the ratepayers who expect an accountable leadership."
From Business Day (SA), 28 June
Zimbabwean healers at fore of AIDS fight
Harare - Zimbabwe's traditional healers have become the first and sometimes only source of comfort for many of the country's ever-growing number of AIDS sufferers. While the world's political elite wound up an unprecedented United Nations (UN) summit on the AIDS pandemic yesterday, desperate Zimbabweans have turned to medicine men to fill the gap left by a public health system on the verge of collapse. "We have members who are experts in treating things like chronic diarrhoea, some strains of venereal diseases, shingles, whooping cough or even tuberculosis," Peter Sibanda, secretary of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers' Association (Zinatha), said. "Without treating these (opportunistic) diseases that come with AIDS and HIV infections, many people would die earlier, and suffer more," said Sibanda.
But the healers have their critics, some of whom charge them with deliberately cashing in on people's misery while having no internationally recognised medical training. Zimbabwean Health Minister Timothy Stamps has acknowledged that abuses occur. "Some (traditional healers) are really keen to serve the public, but there are others, especially those who claim they have a cure (for AIDS), who are just out to cheat," Stamps said earlier this year.
Zimbabwe is one of the countries worst affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Of the more than 33-million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, an estimated 25-million are living in the world's poorest continent, according to the UN. Health experts say that one in five Zimbabweans is living with the HI virus and the government estimates that at least 2000 people die of AIDS each week. The UN's children's fund, Unicef, estimates the country's life expectancy will fall to 27 years from 44 in the next 10 years and health experts say the country will record 0% population growth this year because of the disease.
The government cannot afford to distribute key antiretroviral drugs on a national scale and its health system has been dogged by a shortage of trained doctors and health workers as well as vital drugs. Against this background, traditional healers, some of whose plants and herbs have attracted interest from western drug firms, have been able to thrive in a population increasingly looking for relief from their condition. Many Zinatha herbalists are working with scientists at the University of Zimbabwe and two research institutes in testing some AIDS cures, Sibanda said. "In Zimbabwe, we are at a stage where we are the first port of call, not the last especially in the rural areas where the majority of people live,' he said.
From The Spectator (UK), 29 June
Letter from Zimbabwe
Twenty-two years after he was gunned down, an English eccentric is being seriously considered for canonisation. South African journalist Kerry Swift suspends disbelief and traces the story to its source - a leper colony in rural Zimbabwe
Even in its semi-completed state Harare's new International Airport - centrepiece of Robert Mugabe's much-vaunted Tourism Recovery Plan - is a handsome building. It is a fitting monument to the president, whose portrait gazes down benignly as you enter the airport and, of course, to the favoured nephew who won the tender to build it. The irony of Harare's new airport is that most airlines no longer fly there. Tourism has virtually collapsed thanks to Mugabe's 'fast-track' land reform policy and the self-styled war veterans who are implementing it by force or intimidation. Hotel occupancies, which last year ran at 66%, are running at barely 20% this year and travelling around Zimbabwe has become difficult due to fuel shortages, as evidenced by long queues of vehicles at every petrol station.
Last week I braved a visit to Zimbabwe but my focus was not on land invasions, government ministers dying in freak road accidents, rumours of economic collapse, a pending coup or looming famine. My purpose was to visit a leper colony at a place called Mutemwa - 'you are cut off' in the local Shona dialect--in the Mutoko District, some 100 miles north east of Harare. I travelled to Mutemwa to explore first hand the story of John Bradburne, the English poet and mystic, and the lepers he befriended and served until his violent death in September 1979.
Mutemwa has become a favoured destination for pilgrims, with increasing numbers of cures being attributed to John Bradburne, whose cause for canonisation by the Catholic Church is soon to be officially launched. In the next couple of weeks a petition will be presented to the archbishop of Harare to initiate an inquiry into Bradburne's canonisation. As with all such inquiries, the Church is taking a cautious view, but for those who knew him well sainthood is a fait accompli. Paschal Slevin, the Franciscan priest promoting Bradburne's cause puts it thus: "I have no doubt that John died a martyr in his determination to serve his friends, the lepers. If his martyrdom is accepted, his cause for sainthood could go quite quickly".
So, who was this enigmatic Englishman? John Randal Bradburne was born in Cumbria, the son of a high Anglican clergyman. Educated at Greshams and commissioned into the Indian Army in 1941, he had a distinguished war record, serving first with the Gurkhas in Malaya and then with the Chindits in Burma. When hostilities ended Bradburne converted to Catholicism and gave up secular life to become a pilgrim, attaching himself to various monastic orders in Britain, Europe and the Holy Land before travelling to Rhodesia as a missionary helper. Jesuit missionaries introduced him to Mutemwa, which housed a large community of lepers, who at the time were living in appalling conditions of sickness, poverty and isolation.
From the moment John Bradburne first visited Mutemwa in 1969 it was clear his odyssey was over. Mutemwa became home and the lepers his family. He lived among them, attending to their medical, material and spiritual needs, all the while battling officialdom for a better deal for his severely disabled and disadvantaged charges. Slowly but surely conditions improved at the leper colony but by the late seventies, war had come to Rhodesia and the Mutoko district, with its rugged mountainous terrain and hidden caves, became a hot spot for guerrilla activity. The war crept ever closer. On the night of February 6, 1977 three Jesuits and four Dominican nuns were gunned down at St Paul's Mission, Musami, some 30 miles from Mutemwa. Responsibility for the massacre remains unclear but there remains strong speculation that it was part of security force 'black ops' to discredit the guerrillas in the eyes of the Church and the wider world. By mid-1979 the Mutoko district had become a total no-go area and the war had made it impossible to be neutral and survive. In July Luisa Guidotti, an Italian doctor who regularly visited the Mutemwa leper colony from her base at the nearby All Souls Mission, was shot and killed at a security force road block. She was travelling in a clearly marked ambulance. Earlier she had been arrested under suspicion of aiding a wounded guerrilla soldier.
Bradburne's friends urged him to leave Mutemwa, which was now in the heart of the conflict zone. He refused, insisting he stay with his 'family', the lepers. Then on the night of September 7, 1979 a group of 'mujibhas' - local boys who acted as the guerrillas' eyes and ears in the local community - abducted him from his hut and marched him off into the night. Two days after his abduction, during which the mujibhas mocked him and tried to force him to have sex with a camp follower, Bradburne was taken before the local guerrilla commander stationed in a cave in the nearby Inyanga Mountains. He was accused of being an informer, but the guerrilla commander knew of Bradburne's work with the lepers and issued instructions for his release. Bradburne began the journey back to Mutemwa at night accompanied by a group of local villagers, but he was not to make it home. The security officer for the guerrillas in the area believed he had seen too much and was now a serious security risk. He offered Bradburne the option of going to Mozambique. Bradburne's refusal, on the grounds that the lepers needed him, was a death sentence and he was shot dead beside the main road leading back to Mutemwa.
Villagers who witnessed the killing that night reported strange things afterwards. They reported hearing unrecognisable singing and claimed that a large bird hovered over the body. There was also testimony of a shaft of light that split into three when it touched the body. At Bradburne's funeral service in Salisbury (Harare) Cathedral, three drops of blood were reported to appear below the coffin which then became one. The undertaker was so concerned that he had the body checked before clerical witnesses after the service. There was no sign of blood inside or outside the coffin and Bradburne's wounds were dry. This incident has been verified by numerous sources. Soon after the death, two Bateleur eagles were reported by a Jesuit priest to have landed on the grass outside the room where John Bradburne lived before moving to Mutemwa. They stayed for three quarters of an hour. Bateleurs are particularly shy raptors and the Shona consider them to be messengers of God.
Now, at any time, summer or winter, local and foreign pilgrims are to be found on the granite slopes of Mount Chigona, which soars high above Mutemwa leper station like an African Ayers Rock. They come to pray and seek spiritual favours from the highborn Englishman who lived and died for the lepers who still live in the shadow of what has come to be called the 'Holy Place' - Bradburne's Mountain.
Zimbabwe Targets White-Owned Farms
The government said last July it planned to nationalize 3,000 of about 5,000 white farms in order to hand them over to landless blacks. A new list of 2,030 properties published Friday brought the number to about 4,500, the Commercial Farmers Union said.
The list in the state-run Herald newspaper contained some duplications.
Farmers' union spokesman Jerry Grant said farms owned by 95 percent of the group's 4,000 members are now listed for confiscation without compensation.
The new listings came ahead of a July 1 deadline set by the Supreme Court for the government to restore law and order on farms occupied by ruling party militants.
The court said the government's farm seizure plan was illegal under its own land reform laws and called on officials to come up with "a workable program of land reform."
Last month, ruling party legislators passed a law forbidding the forcible removal of ruling-party militants and squatters from more than 1,700 white-owned farms they have occupied for the past year.
The law allowed occupiers to remain on land they seized until they are allocated plots on nationalized farms.
In a sweeping ruling against President Robert Mugabe's land seizure program, the Supreme Court said in December that the government had persistently abused constitutional rights and broken the law in farming districts. It said farmers and their workers had been denied protection from violence and intimidation.
The court acknowledged the need for land reform in a nation where 4,000 whites, mostly the descendants of colonial-era British and South Africa settlers, own one-third to the productive land. But it said land redistribution must done legally.
Six court rulings against the government on land have been ignored, the chief justice was forced to take early retirement, effective July 1, and two other judges have resigned.
Mugabe says the occupations are a justified protest against unfair white land ownership. He insists Britain, the former colonial power, and foreign donors must provide any compensation to farmers for land he says colonial settlers stole from blacks.
The Vienna-based International Press Institute sent a strongly worded letter of protest to the office of President Robert Mugabe inviting him to intervene personally to extend the permit. It said the refusal was part of a long series of encroachments on journalists' rights.
The letter came as a pro-government newspaper, The Herald, published a cartoon depicting The Telegraph threatening to "bomb" the Mugabe regime with adverse publicity.
Johann Fritz, IPI's director, wrote to Mr Mugabe: "IPI would ask Your Excellency to remove the restrictive measures that impede the work of foreign journalists.
"By doing so, you will be ensuring that foreign journalists are no longer prevented from entering Zimbabwe and upholding the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 19, which states 'everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information'."
In a positive development, 180 farms scheduled by the Zimbabwean government for forcible reallocation to landless peasants were dropped from the list.
It is understood that the government had been subjected to heavy lobbying by the owners. Nine of the farms are owned by Nicky Oppenheimer, deputy chairman of Anglo American, the industrial conglomerate.
|29/06/2001 13:54 - (SA)|
Walter Kansteiner, who heads the State Department's Africa bureau, said the United States cannot have normal relations with Zimbabwe "until the violence and intimidation are ended."
Kansteiner's remarks were prepared for delivery to a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on African affairs.
He accused Zimbabwe's ruling party and its supporters of putting significant pressure on the independent media, the judiciary, elements of civil society and the political opposition "to counter any activities" that threaten its grip on power.
Kansteiner said the real test of Zimbabwe's commitment to political openness "will come in the months ahead, as Zimbabwe prepares for elections in 2002."
|29/06/2001 00:05 - (SA)|
"Our balance of payments position is precarious. We have practically run out of foreign currency reserves and we are turning every (US) dollar that comes in back out to effect a certain payment," Makoni told business leaders and officials at a meeting of the National Economic Consultative Forum.
Makoni revised the country's capital account deficit for 2000 to US$336m from the $401m he projected in his budget last November. The Reserve Bank has not published Zimbabwe's capital account figures for 1998 and 1999 but Makoni said a $102m surplus was recorded in 1997.
He admitted that the government had not followed through on a policy unveiled last August to routinely adjust the Zimbabwe dollar to reflect the country's inflation differentials with its main trading partners.
But he added that another devaluation on its own would not be the answer to the country's deepening economic crisis.
"The debate in my view should really not excite us so much about whether we devalue or not. The debate should focus on how can we stimulate more activity to generate more foreign currency," he said.
Despite repeated calls for a devaluation, the government has kept the Zimbabwe dollar at 55 to the greenback for the past seven months after allowing it to officially depreciate by 31% between August and November 2000.
The currency is trading at 150 to the dollar on an unofficial parallel market.
"Previous devaluations have not yielded results because we haven't been consistent, we haven't been regular," Makoni added.
He said the government would work with industry to revive the ailing tourism, mining, agriculture and manufacturing sectors and boost foreign currency earnings.
The government would also halve the annual holiday allowance for individuals to $2500 to help preserve foreign exchange.
Last week Makoni admitted at a tobacco farmers' conference the local currency was overvalued against the US dollar, but said the government had not reached consensus on a devaluation.
On Thursday he said the government was also considering allowing direct trading in foreign currency on tobacco auction floors and letting growers retain a proportion of the earnings.
Producers say while they are required to sell their tobacco crop at an official rate of Z$55 per US unit, they have to buy foreign currency for imported inputs at more than double that rate from the parallel market.
Analysts say President Robert Mugabe's government, struggling with an economic recession and an acute foreign currency shortage, is now wary of stoking inflation with a devaluation.
"IT'S war. Messy, brutal and fought to win." "What should our response be? To fight, to fight and to fight again." These aren't quotes from anywhere near Zimbabwe. They're quotes, several months old, from a leader article in the UK Farmers' Weekly, because British farmers are doing battle, in a very different way, with a recalcitrant government. True, the British farming crisis is largely unlike the crisis in Zimbabwe. Britain may have a government contemptuous of rural communities in general and farmers in particular, but it hasn't stooped to killing people.
Still, it's interesting that Britain's farmers fight back through protest and public relations. It's also obvious that they're united.
The situation in Zimbabwe is very different, but there are lessons to be learnt. It would be a supreme arrogance (and extraordinarily stupid) to say that Zimbabweans have nothing to learn from disputes afflicting agricultural communities elsewhere in the world. Of course, if Zimbabwe were France, Harare's streets would be suffering a surfeit of dumped produce and endless traffic jams caused by herds of livestock invading the city streets.
That may not be the solution. However, it's equally obvious that no homegrown solution has been found in Zimbabwe. Farmers have grown tired of constant promises, of hearing that a solution is "just around the corner". True, no such promises have been made by organisations that represent farmers, at least not publicly. But people on the sidelines have been making them, and making them for over a year. There has been no evidence, not a scintilla of movement, to suggest that the self-appointed movers and shakers in the agricultural industry are taking us forward. We have been hearing that "things are happening behind the scenes" for too long, especially as closer inspection reveals that there is nothing happening behind the scenes - or nothing promising.
At some point in any negotiation process, good faith or trust has to come into play, but Zimbabwe is sadly lacking in either of these qualities. Instead, farmers have been pinning their hopes on people who know people. That's all very well, but the people in positions of power in turn work for other people, or report directly to the president himself, and no amount of good will on the shop floor of government will sway Mr Mugabe's opinions - and in today's Zimbabwe, all government is the shop floor.
Still, there's lots of good news too. From the very outset of the Zimbabwean crisis, this paper has said that nothing can be viewed in isolation. This is not a farmer's problem, it's no longer even a national one. There are some, motivated by greed, arrogance or ignorance, who believe that organised agriculture can solve its own problems, and that the problems facing other communities are for those communities to sort out. To use a good old Zimbabweanism, "Sorry for that." There are some problems that you can neither talk nor buy your way out of - and this is one of them.
What may have started, superficially at least (for this was never about land) as a farmers' problem, rapidly became a national problem, then a regional one and finally a cause for some very serious international concern. There may be enough money outside Zimbabwe to resolve the crisis on farms, enough to compensate farmers who have lost their land, but that money will remain outside Zimbabwe until all of Zimbabwe's problems are resolved. Anyone who truly believes he will be compensated for land lost while people are being beaten in the townships is deluded.
Sometimes one has to wonder whom to believe. The people who promise money that can be found, or the diplomats and bureaucrats, from whose coffers the money will come, who're saying there won't be one cent until the rule of law is re-established. It is important to understand that they say Zimbabwe, not Zimbabwe's farms. Consider how very unlikely it is that these important people would publicly refuse to provide finance while doing secret deals with a pariah regime. The only allies Zimbabwe has left are impoverished and discredited totalitarian regimes, big on promises but small on delivery. That leaves the western democracies and, of course, the Bretton Woods organisations. They've promised to deliver - just as soon as democracy is restored, anarchy brought to an end and good governance implemented in Zimbabwe.
So… that's the good news - though it will get worse before it gets better. How farmers chose to express their displeasure is their business, just as it's their business to choose how to deal with the lawlessness affecting their businesses. Whom they pin their hopes on is also their business, but the one thing no one in Zimbabwe can do is believe that he can eradicate problems on an individual by individual basis. To do so is doubly foolish because not only is it immoral, it is also destined to spectacular failure. And while at the beginning of this crisis last year it was important for farmers to have unity of purpose, now that has expanded: it is the entire country that requires a united approach to ending the madness. To a large extent that has already happened. Strangely, outside the dwindling ranks of hard line ZANU - PF politics, about the only people who aren't united are to be found in the hidebound environs of business - some of it agricultural. Quite why is a mystery, unless as the opposition suggests, they too are on the gravy train and dependent on political patronage for their continued success. Whatever the case, they are doing their country a disservice and should consider moving themselves into line with current opinion.
Editor- The Farmer
Tobacco industry faces slump
While government dithers on policy
THE tobacco industry is caught up in a spiral of economic and political problems outside its control, which are threatening its survival, and early indications are that this could result in 20% slump in production. At the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association annual congress this week, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Dr Simba Makoni, further dampened the spirits of tobacco growers when he admitted he does not have answers to many of the problems confronting farmers.
What concerned most farmers was government's apparent failure to implement many of the well-meaning policies on the ground that would facilitate the growth, not only of the tobacco industry, but of agriculture as a whole.
Consensus among the 200 delegates to the ZTA congress was that government had in place policies that could facilitate growth of the tobacco industry and a transparent land reform. However, many wondered why government was ignoring the policies, which it formulated. The main threat to viability of farmers was the violent and chaotic land reform, coal shortages, fuel shortages, lack of bank finance and exchange rate.
In the coming season, Zimbabwe has the capacity to produce as much 220mkg and maintain its market share against heavy competition from Brazil. However, in view of the problems currently bedevilling agriculture in Zimbabwe, Brazil was said to be looking at ways of capitalising of these.
ZTA President Mr Kobus Joubert told delegates more than 80 farms had been stopped from preparing their lands for tobacco and in some instances seedbeds have been destroyed.
James Colborne of Banket/Ayrshre district said Zimbabwe's potential of maintaining its world market share was in jeopardy following the listing of 715 tobacco producing farms, with a combined hectarage of 31 675, for compulsory acquisition by the government. This, he warned, could prejudice the country of potential foreign exchange earnings to the tune of US$161 million.
"The potential loss of production will have serious consequences for our market share and for the desperately needed foreign currency and will leave a pool of disaffected, unemployed labourers. We will lose a market share that we may never recover." said Colborne.
Tobacco Trade Association president, Mr Jim van Heerden, said the next season's crop should not be smaller than last season's if Zimbabwe still wanted to maintain its market share on the international market.
Jourbet said farmers needed clarity on the land acquisition, macro-economic policies and labour. He said the aim was to plant at least 72 000 ha but this would require government assistance in creating the enabling environment of viability and confidence that the farmers disparately need." With mining and tourism depressed our country needs tobacco's foreign exchange earnings all the more," he said.
CFU director, David Hasluck asked Dr Makoni why the government was not implementing its very clear policy on the exchange rate agreed to last year, and policies on land and social development. In response, Dr Makoni only said, "I do not have the answers to all those questions. We are in a crisis and I accept we have a job to do. I accept my part to do that job. This crisis is not economic but it is a political crisis. I don't have an answer 10 months in office as to why we are unable to implement those polices."
He said there had been crisis before but people and their leaders had come together to resolve those crisis. He said the current situation required the same unity and commitment of the people and their leaders to rally together.
"The situation is a crisis but can be solved. Land has become a symbol of the crisis. Government and all other stakeholders in the economy should come together to solve the issue," he said adding that now was not the time of apportioning of blame but of shared responsibility and patriotism.
TIMB board divided over 'dubious decision'
AT the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) congress, it emerged that the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) is divided over its decision to allocate two sales teams per floor. Despite a belated decision to allocate the seventh sales team to the largest player on the market, the Tobacco Sales Floor, the earlier decision had already caused a lot of harm, industry sources said.
Farmers who were not happy by TIMB's move which they said amounted to "over regulating" the selling system decided to lobby government to ensure that the membership of the TIMB reflected the value to the nation of the output of its members. Some of the board members came out in the open and said that the decision was carried out against their wish and they further appealed to have the board overhauled to reflect the composition of the industry's stakeholders'.
Dave Sandeman, ZTA president and board member stressed that membership of the TIMB must understand the tobacco industry and any decisions the board makes must be responsible, rational and accountable.
He said if the board failed in its responsibilities, it must be removed and there should be a mechanism to remove it but, unfortunately, this remained a prerogative of the minister of agriculture who appoints the board. Mr Jim Van Heerden, also a TIMB board member, agreed with Mr Sandeman.
However, Zimbabwe Farmers' Union vice president, Mr Bvukumbwe Mashingaidze, defended the TIMB decision. He told The Farmer that he would stand up for the decision as it was to protect the minority players in the industry and facilitate equal distribution of the proceeds of the industry.
He said ZTA was opposed to the decision by the TIMB because it has a stake in TSF, which was prejudiced by this decision.
Farmers said the TIMB had gone out of its mandate, which is to maintain an orderly marketing of tobacco and provide prompt, efficient and high quality service to growers and auction floors.
While the coming of a new auction floor, the Zimbabwe Tobacco Auction Centre, was a welcome development, many felt it had to fight for a position on the market.
"Growers are being subjected to the dubious decision of the TIMB to interfere in the process of orderly marketing, by imposing an indefensible quota system. This has resulted in lost production time for the tobacco processors and delayed employment for the casual labour," said a farmer Mr James Colborne.
He said the floor most affected by the forced cut in its market share was now faced with increased costs, which would inevitably result in job losses for skilled and experienced workers.
The delayed rate of sale of tobacco as a result of the TIMB decision has disrupted the production schedules in the factories and on the farms and has increased interest costs to the growers and government.
"If the TIMB was paying the salaries of the buyers, that would be morally defensible but as they do not, it is a clear case of interference in a market and taking the role of economic arbiter which is clearly out of their intended role." said Colborne.
Tobacco farmers want direct US dollar payment
TOBACCO farmers in Zimbabwe have said that they want to be paid directly in US dollars, as this will benefit both the government and the farmers. Farmers from Bindura/Shamva district urged the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association to further intensify efforts to obtain payment for tobacco in US dollars.
The farmers said if they were paid in US dollars, this would lead to improved viability and boost confidence. Tobacco growers would not hold on to their tobacco in anticipation of devaluation, they said, while forex inflows would be faster, with an alternative to offshore finance and lower interest rates.
Farmers complain that inputs are paid for on the black market rate while sales are conducted at the official, but seriously over-valued, leading to major viability problems.
Tobacco growers have for months been calling for a devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar, though the government has refused to let the currency slide.
"The Zimbabwe dollar distorts the economics of growing next year's crop and ignores the reality of the parallel market exchange rate which has now reached Z$150:US$1.The only way to increase economic viability for the grower is to decrease the value of the Zimbabwe dollar, either through official devaluation or through growers being allowed Foreign Currency Accounts," said farmers' representative James Colborne.
He said that the argument that devaluation would not increase the inflow of US dollars for this season was correct, but the lack of devaluation would seriously impact on the ability of tobacco farmers to go ahead and produce the same or bigger crop next year.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Dr Simba Makoni said government was aware of the concerns of security and viability that growers were facing. He said, "We all accept viability of agriculture needs to be assured. The exchange rate is an important factor and should have been addressed two months before sales started."
He said in the last six months there have been extensive consultations with stakeholders on the way forward with the exchange rate. "I still believe in the exchange rate policy announced last year and the other economic ministers are with me. It is clearly discriminatory with a few people trading at Z$55. I assure you we continue to strive for consensus on the exchange rate," said Dr Makoni.
Dr Makoni made it clear that there was no consensus on the proposals to devalue. His attempts to have cabinet approve the devaluation were thwarted.
The government have in place the 20% forex retention scheme for inputs procurement by tobacco farmers. Dr Makoni said he was examining the proposal to enable growers receive forex directly form the tobacco sales.
Currently tobacco prices are quoted in US dollars but this is converted into Zimbabwe dollars using artificial and prejudicial exchange rate.
Tobacco farmers said they were direct exporters just like other exporters of other agricultural commodities but the government did not view them as such.
They also called on the government to scrap the tobacco levy as they felt they were being taxed for producing the crop. Instead they called on the government to put more incentives to encourage increased production rather than taxing them.
Lime plant back on stream
ZIMBABWEAN cement producer, Circle Cement, has re-commissioned its agricultural lime plant, shut down two years ago after residents of neighbouring Mabvuku/Tafara suburb complained of excessive dust emissions into the environment.
Circle managing director, Mr Jabulani Mavimba, told guests at a ceremony to re-commission the plant that a shortage of agricultural lime on the market had prompted the company to refurbish and re-commission the plant. The plant has a capacity to produce 4 000 tonnes of lime per month.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Mr Ngoni Masoka, who represented Minister Joseph Made at the ceremony, urged the company to become involved in training small holder farmers currently being resettled under the fast track resettlement programme proper use of chemicals such as agricultural lime.
"There is need for training farmers on the importance of proper application of lime. It is my hope that Circle Cement will complement the efforts of my Ministry's extension agents in publicizing to small holder farmers the usefulness of lime application in the fields," he said.
So far, according to Mr Masoka, government had resettled 109 372 families on 3.5 million hectares of land as at 15 June, and many more would be resettled by the end of the year.
Agricultural lime is suited to all crops planted on heavy and sandy soils in the medium rainfall zones and all soils in high rainfall zones. The crops, which require agricultural lime, include cotton, maize, coffee, soya beans, groundnuts and tobacco.
However, experts say because the amount of lime required to neutralize soil acidity varies with soil texture, agricultural lime should only be applied when recommended, on the basis of an analysis of a truly representative soil sample.
Ploughing contestants persevere
Continuing disruptions of farming activities by war veterans and other invaders on commercial farms and the government's discredited fast track resettlement programme have, once again, played havoc with the National Ploughing Championships, organizers said.
A traditional host of the contest, Barwick, one of the oldest Intensive Conservation Areas (ICA) decided not to host the competition. The National Ploughing Championships were held by the Wenimbi ICA where they were hosted by Ox and Les Hacking at their Arcadia Farm.
"Due to the various problems facing farming currently, the participation in the local matches were lower than normal," the organizers said in a statement. "However, four areas persevered and held very successful matches."
The national contest had 11 finalists competing. Two of these will be competing in Denmark in September while another two are slated to travel to Switzerland next year.
The placings were as follows:
1st. Mouldboard - Peter
2nd Mouldboard - Mark Fuller
3rd Mouldboard - Ross Fuller
4th Mouldboard - Bruce Flanagan
5th Mouldboard - Danie Oosthuizen
1st Reversible disc - Danie Oosthuizen
2nd Reversible disc - David England
3rd Reversible disc - Mark Fuller
4th Reversible disc - Ross Fuller
5th Reversible disc - Sebastian
Teams to plough overseas:
1st Mouldboard - Peter Bibby
1st Overall - Danie Oosthuizen
2nd Mouldboard - Mark Fuller
3rd Mouldboard - Ross Fuller