|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
In what could only be described as
a series of startling events in the bizarre goings-on in the scandal-prone
mining industry, two haulage trucks carrying the commodity were simultaneously
hijacked in South Africa in circumstances similar to those surrounding the
recent disappearance in that country of a multi-billion dollar platinum
consignment belonging to Zimbabwe Platinum Mines.
Officials at the leading nickel producer BNC and the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ), which is responsible for the marketing of most minerals, confirmed that nickel worth US$600 000 vanished without trace early this month.
They could however only give scant information on the mystery, which police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said he was not aware of.
This, one of the biggest heists in the mining industry, which makes one of the single largest sectoral contributions to the country's foreign currency earnings, is the second robbery of Zimbabwean mineral exports to South Africa inside five months.
A similar case involving the hijacking of Makwiro Platinum Mines' 56 tonnes of platinum converter matte happened in Rustenburg, South Africa, on October 15 2003. The platinum matte was en route to Impala Platinum Holdings' refining facilities.
BNC chief executive officer Leonard Chimimba told The Financial Gazette yesterday that two containers, each carrying 20 tonnes of the metal, were hijacked in South Africa last week.
He, however, refused to comment further on the likely implications of this loss on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-quoted mining concern and instead referred all questions to Onesimo Moyo, general manager and chief executive officer of the MMCZ.
"All I can say to you is that I have heard the reports, but I am waiting for a report from the producer (BNC). The corporation only negotiates for the contracts and the producer organises the transportation to the buyers, so I cannot say much before I get a detailed report," Moyo said.
Impeccable sources said one of the companies contracted to transport the nickel was Chris Freight and sources at the company also confirmed the development, but company officials remained tight-lipped on the issue.
It could not be established if the cargo was insured by the time of going to press. It had been however suggested by industry sources but not denied by both BNC and MMCZ, who did not seem to want to take responsibility for the missing nickel, that the consignment was at worst uninsured and at best under-insured.
The Financial Gazette also understands that two truck drivers whose names could not be established at the time of going to print were initially believed to be held at Alberton Police Station in Durban, South Africa. The South Africa Police however asked for the identity of the individuals before they could confirm whether they were in custody.
BNC was previously owned by global resource giant Anglo American Corporation (AAC) before it was sold off to Mwana Africa, a consortium of African businessmen that took Anglo's 53 percent interest in a US$8 million deal in 2002.
The nickel miner operates three mines, a smelter and refinery facilities. The Trojan mine in Bindura has an expected life of 14 years, while the Shangani and Madziwa mines have lives of five years and two years respectively. The fourth mine, Epoch, closed down in 1998.
Meanwhile, the latest development has brought to the fore questions over the MMCZ's capacity to handle the marketing of most precious minerals in the country as it emerged that some companies' rights to market their own minerals have been revoked and given up to MMCZ.
It is understood that the country's leading asbestos mining house, Shabanie Mashava Mines was advised by the MMCZ that the corporation would be resuming marketing asbestos.
SMM was given the exception to market its own asbestos in 1998 but former Mines and Minerals Development Minister Edward Chindori-Chininga is reported to have written to the mining company in January announcing that the waiver would be removed with effect from April 1 2004.
Questions have been raised over the capacity of MMCZ to market asbestos, which has been the subject of a concerted hostile lobby in South Africa and Australia, to up to 55 countries worldwide.
Municipal officials told this
newspaper this week that both the President's Office and the Ministry of Local
Government, Public Works and National Housing were yet to issue a communiqué on
the role of Mathema, the former Zimbabwean ambassador to Zambia.
Those privy to the goings-on at City Hall said Mathema paid a courtesy call at the council offices last week but never stated his full role as the first ever governor for Bulawayo since independence in 1980, except to say: "I was appointed by the President."
Ndabeni-Ncube, confirming that his office had not received a directive from the government on the role and operations of Mathema, told The Financial Gazette in an interview yesterday that clashes were imminent if the governor strayed into the civic operations of the office of the executive mayor.
"I welcome his appointment if it is to add value to the citizenry of Bulawayo and as long as he sticks to state provincial issues such as the problems being experienced by people in trying to acquire birth certificates, passports and other government documents," said Ndabeni-Ncube.
"My role is clearly stated in the Urban Councils Act - to deal with civic issues of the city. I am not aware of the role of the new governor, but I will be happy as the elected executive mayor of the city of Bulawayo if he is going to ensure that the government pays us the nearly $3 billion owed to us by various government departments," he said. "It is my hope and belief that his terms of reference will not interfere with my civic references."
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and political analysts view the arrival of Mathema, who is housed at Mhlahlandlela Government Complex together with Matabeleland North Governor Obert Mpofu, as a "desperate" political gimmick by President Robert Mugabe to revive his party's political fortunes in the city. Since 2000, the ruling ZANU PF has fared dismally in polls against the MDC.
In the mayoral elections in September 2001, Ndabeni-Ncube polled over 60 000 votes on an MDC ticket against 4 000 by George Mlilo of ZANU PF.
The same trend emerged in the disputed presidential elections in March 2002.
Mathema was unreachable on his mobile phone. His secretary said he was visiting Umguza district to attend meetings.
MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai
said his party would not participate in any future elections unless the ruling
ZANU PF made genuine efforts to ensure that the polls meet internationally
"The MDC, through its national executive, has resolved to reserve the party's right to take part in the 2005 parliamentary election unless there is genuine commitment from the Mugabe regime to run the polls in accordance with universally accepted norms and standards," Tsvangirai said this week.
The party's national executive met on Monday, when it set 15 conditions which it says the government has to fulfil before the opposition party can reconsider its decision to boycott future polls.
Demands from the MDC include the setting up of an independent electoral body, the supply of electronic copies of the voters' roll to all interested parties, the repeal of draconian laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Public Order and Security Act as well as the disbanding of the youth militia.
The party is also demanding that voting should take place in one day, that counting should take place at polling stations and that transparent ballot boxes and visible, indelible ink should be used in all polls.
In addition, the MDC wants an amendment of the Electoral Act to conform with the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum's electoral standards and norms as well as the re-opening of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai said the decision to boycott future elections coincided with his party's plans, together with a number of civic groups, to roll out massive mass action to force the government to accept its demands.
"A broad-based alliance of democratic forces is putting final touches to a comprehensive programme of rolling mass action designed to push the regime to the long-awaited negotiated settlement . . . details of the intensive programme of democratic activity will be made public in due course," the MDC leader said.
The decision by the opposition party to set conditions for its future participation in elections is a culmination of years of accusations that the country's electoral process was designed to ensure a ruling party victory in almost every election.
The MDC is currently challenging President Robert Mugabe's re-election in the 2002 presidential election, which it says was rigged and marred with untold violence.
It is also contesting the results of the 2000 parliamentary poll in more than a dozen constituencies.
The Member of Parliament for
Bulilimamangwe North and the opposition party's shadow minister for foreign
affairs, Moses Mzila-Ndlovu and Sekai Holland, were dismissed from the portfolio
of international relations following reports of an attack on MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai's confidante Eliphas Mukonoweshuro.
The incident reportedly took place at the party's headquarters in Harare during an international relations committee meeting chaired by Holland.
Last month, the media reported that Mzila-Ndlovu charged at and fought Mukonoweshuro, a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, for allegedly interfering with his portfolio after the latter advised on how the opposition party could spruce up its foreign affairs front. However, Holland immediately scoffed at press inquiries when news of the scuffle broke out and blatantly denied it ever occurred.
MDC national spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi told The Financial Gazette that Holland and Mzila-Ndlovu had to be reassigned in order to strengthen the international relations desk.
"At this juncture, because of the importance of the portfolio, we need to upgrade the level of control of that portfolio," Nyathi said.
"We are still looking where we can accommodate them since there is so much work to be done in the MDC. This is part of our party building which requires us to shift people around. Their skills are being deployed to better use elsewhere in the party," he said.
But Sibanda seemed taken aback by the decision and professed ignorance of the said development.
"I don't know anything about that," Sibanda, chairman of the party's disciplinary committee, said. "I am not aware. Ask Nyathi."
Contacted for comment on the latest development, Mukonoweshuro only said: "I don't want to talk about that. I am in a meeting at the UZ."
Efforts to get comments from Holland and Mzila-Ndlovu proved fruitless at the time of going print.
Analysts said the same old
strategies regurgitated by opposition movements in Zimbabwe had lost direction,
and were now taking off pressure from ZANU PF, which has clung on to power for
the past 24 years despite simmering divisions within its ranks.
Since last June, when the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) organised the failed "final push" mass action to oust President Robert Mugabe from power, there has been no serious challenge to the ruling ZANU PF party. The mass action garnered very little support from the magnitudes of opposition urban supporters, who are now slowly getting disillusioned that their efforts are yielding no results.
Two weeks ago, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) called for a job stayaway to force the government to act on alleged mismanagement and corruption at the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), but the action flopped after workers ignored it.
For more than five years, opposition groups in Zimbabwe have used mass actions and job stay-aways as effective tools to scare the government into giving in to some of their demands.
These strategies are no longer effective as the government has developed effective methods of countering them.
Analysts said following recent events in which the MDC and several other opposition groups have failed to maintain pressure on the government, it was urgently necessary for the groups to find new and effective ways of re-building pressure on ZANU PF.
Since last year, one year after the controversial Presidential election, the only serious pressure on President Mugabe's government has been coming from the international community, with very little, if anything coming from opposition parties and civic groups in the country.
"For the opposition groups, I think it is time for soul-searching," said political analyst Heneri Dzinotyiwei. "I think they (opposition movement) have relied more on protests against ZANU PF for support than on the principles they stand for . . . what is their vision, their immediate goals and what is of national interest that they have for the people?"
Political commentator Alois Masepe said the main opposition party, the MDC, came on the platform of change, but that change has not been forthcoming, hence the disillusionment among the urban electorate.
Masepe said the frustration, which was now working in favour of the ruling party, was mainly because people were urged to join mass action after mass action so that there could be change, but no change came. They were even promised that if they went and voted, there could be change, but after voting, still no change came.
"The truth is that under the present electoral system, voting alone cannot bring about change, so the promise of change is now turning out to be a lie, which is beginning to haunt the opposition . . . people are feeling politically short-changed."
Dzinotyiwei said the other weakness in the opposition movements in Zimbabwe was that the idea of serious opposition was still new so most of the people involved tended to focus more on power games than working to endear themselves to the people through contributions of national significance.
"Any organisation should think in terms of national contributions in order to remain relevant to the people," Dzinotyiwei said.
He said the reason why the recent ZCTU job stay-away had no effect at all was that workers had no appreciation of what the labour body wanted to achieve.
"There are more pressing issues to worry about yet the ZCTU calls for workers to go on a job stayaway just because they are not happy with what is happening at NSSA. Do they think the ordinary person on the street will understand them?" Dzinotyiwei asked.
Lovemore Madhuku, the chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), one of the organisations that have been at the forefront of fighting for a new constitution in Zimbabwe, however denied that pressure on the government was relenting. "The pressure is still the same (as before) only that we are changing tactics," Madhuku said. "We are trying to strengthen our capacity to improve our ability to bring thousands of people to the streets."
Madhuku said it was important for all opposition groups to join forces in confronting President Mugabe's regime - which is widely blamed to running down the country - than for them to do it individually as this would allow the regime to crush the protests easily.
He said by mid-year, such a force should be there to put enough pressure on the ZANU PF government to agree to constitutional reforms, without which no elections could bring any meaningful change.
Although leading hawks in the
increasingly ostracised government have steadfastly maintained that Zimbabwe
does not need any support from the IMF and its sister Bretton Woods institution,
the World Bank, analysts have dismissed this as unrealistic political posturing.
"We need them as international development partners," trade consultant and economic commentator Samuel Undenge said of the IMF, attacked the world over for more-often-than-not taking a firm but wrong headed stance on fiscal issues.
"I regard it as a very timely visit. They will be able to see, first hand, the result of our own monetary policy.
"It is a home-grown economic policy which we crafted ourselves, so they will be able to appreciate that locally devised programmes work and give us support," Undenge said.
Economic analyst Jonathan Kadzura concurred.
"The bottom line is we need each other. They are not an island and we are not either.
"The point is they can see changes, even from afar, in terms of the seriousness and purpose as demonstrated by the implementation of the new monetary policy," Kadzura said.
However, Tony Hawkins of the University of Zimbabwe Graduate School of Management, averred that the visit by the IMF, condemned in some quarters for its missionary zeal for fiscal rectitude, was not likely to yield anything unless there was a change in government policy.
"It is an annual Article IV consultation . . . nothing special, although I cannot really say, but I would be surprised if anything came out of it," Hawkins said.
He said there was no way Zimbabwe could avoid engaging the IMF.
"We owe them money and clearly we have to talk to them. At some stage we ought to have a reconciliation, debts would have to be rescheduled and we need to have an agreement with them but this would require government coming up with economic policies that are not contradictory and address issues of human rights and the rule of law," Hawkins said.
However, doubts remain about both sides' commitment to the desired rapprochement.
The government's position, repeated many times by President Robert Mugabe and some of his ministers, was that Zimbabwe can totally eschew the Bretton Woods institutions and "look East", in reference to the Asian markets and the country's emerging economic partners in the form of China, Malaysia, Indonesia and other such states.
The IMF, on the other hand, is not likely to budge on matters they would want to see addressed as a precondition for the resumption of support for Harare.
The institution suspended Harare's voting rights last September and initiated the process of terminating the Southern African country's membership of the multilateral body over non-payment of arrears, reported to be around US$270 million.
These entrenched positions are likely to scupper all efforts at re-engagement, the analysts noted.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono has, however, made it clear that the central bank would be actively engaging multilateral institutions, of which the IMF and World Bank are key.
"The IMF will come here and do a report, it will then be up to the government to do something about it or just ignore it like they did last year, the year before and the one before that," Hawkins said.
Undenge said he hoped the IMF would change its approach of imposing conditionalities before the resumption of balance-of-payments support.
"They should give us support, but they should not further impose conditions. We are in this situation, not through our own doing, but through their wrong advice during ESAP (the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme) launched in 1990 at the behest of the Bretton Woods institutions. They should not further make the mistake of imposing payment arrangements which may forestall our economic programmes," Undenge said.
Zimbabwe suffers from a chronic balance-of-payments deficit position as a result of plummeting exports and a rapidly contracting economy, a situation analysts said clearly requires external support.
A senior official from the AG's
Office told The Financial Gazette this week that there had indeed been a high
staff turnover in the department over the past few months. He attributed the
high staff mobility to poor conditions of service.
The director for public prosecution, Joseph Musakwa, said the situation was straining the department, which he said had accumulated a huge backlog in criminal and civil cases.
"At the moment there are 34 vacancies in my department," Musakwa said. "We are strained. It puts us in a very difficult position especially now when we have a very high number of new cases coming up. There is no personnel to attend to matters
that need perusal or serious attention. It's quite hectic."
"People are continuously leaving," he said. "Inevitably, we have a huge backlog. The situation has scattered all our plans."
Asked about the reason for the mass exodus of judicial officers, Musakwa retorted:
"People will always seek greener pastures."
Musakwa, one of the senior prosecutors involved in efforts to put the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, behind bars for allegedly plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe, said he was unable to give the exact number of cases currently on the waiting list, but about two years ago the figure stood at 24 003.
Some legal practitioners have bitterly complained about the continuous incarceration of their clients arguing that it was unjust as they were being detained for up to four years without trial.
Sources in the judicial system said the movement out of the system was not only as a result of poor working conditions, but the purge in the civil service declared by the government in 2002 soon after President Mugabe controversially won the presidential poll.
"Those perceived to hold divergent views from that of the system are being harassed," the source said. "Prosecutors and magistrates are being prosecuted for the professional manner in which they handle cases. It's unfortunate that when one tries to be impartial, they are deemed to be working against the goals of the system."
Many prosecutors at Harare's Magistrates' Court have either fled or resigned after being attacked by war veterans or the government especially the police who accused the AG's office of being lenient on suspects.
At one time the police and the AG's office clashed over the manner in which the courts and prosecutors were handling matters.
Some analysts contend that
Zimbabwe's economy, which is in its fifth year of recession typified by one of
the world's fastest shrinking economies and runaway inflation, has made it
imperative for businesses to innovate and stay afloat.
Of the embattled business executives, the majority of them are in the financial sector, which, until late last year, had appeared to buck the downward economic trend.
Small wonder then that financial sector executives have borne much of the brunt of the sweeping changes in the economy - triggered by greater emphasis on sound corporate governance, a tighter monetary policy and the attendant changes in market conditions as well as, at least for now, apparent efforts by the government to fight graft.
Nyasha Watyoka and Gilbert Muponda, founders and executive directors of the wound-up ENG Asset Management, were the first high profile casualties of the purge when they were arrested at the end of 2003 on fraud charges involving some $61 billion in investor funds.
The ENG debacle, which was to suck in prominent businessman and legislator Philip Chiyangwa, also resulted in the arrest of three executives from First Mutual Asset Management (FMAM), including the managing director Godfrey Jowah, for alleged underhand and fraudulent dealings with ENG.
The latest twist to the unfolding drama saw four executive directors at NMB Bank, one of the country's foremost locally owned banks, taking flight leaving the police, keen to press foreign currency externa-lisation charges, hot on their trail.
The pioneering banking executives - Julius Makoni, James Mushore, Otto Chekeche and Francis Zimuto - are all now believed to be in the United Kingdom.
Nicholas Vingirai, controlling shareholder and former chief executive officer of the Intermarket group, has also been reported to have taken flight as it increasingly became clear that problems at the diversified financial institution would now attract the attention of regulatory authorities.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that Vingirai was the recipient of a whopping $90 billion insider loan from Intermarket.
Foreign currency externalisation charges have also been preferred against Telecel chairman and prominent businessman James Makamba, while Jane Mutasa of the ZANU PF-aligned Indigenous Businesswomen's Organisation (IBWO) has been convicted on the same charges.
Only last week, Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) chief executive officer Bright Matonga had a case before the courts arising from what the police say were irregularities surrounding payment for 48 buses purchased from Scania South Africa.
With every indication pointing to this list growing longer, it is inevitable, in polarised Zimbabwe, for political connotations to arise from the developments.
Indeed whispers of alleged victimisation have been heard in connection with virtually every arrest or investigation that has been made in the anti-graft crusade.
Questions have been raised, particularly over the emerging trend where founders of locally-owned banks which took off when the financial sector was liberalised in the early 1990s, have either been forced out of the institutions they founded, are under police scrutiny - or both.
Economic commentator Samuel Undenge disputes this claim, saying the issue was largely over sound corporate governance ethics, a standard which most institutions had failed to meet.
"Our banks were let loose and issues of corporate governance had been thrown out of the window.
"You will find, though, that corporate governance has emerged as a big issue, even in the United Kingdom after the Cadbury Report of 1992 and in South Africa, where the King Reports are the guidelines.
"Some banks had become general traders. What we need to foster is good corporate governance and ethical practices through tight regulation.
"Tight regulation does not stifle market forces but we made the mistake that we thought liberalisation meant minimal regulation.
"I think our financial sector is going to emerge stronger and healthier after this clean-up," Undenge said.
However, other analysts contend that while there has been abuse, the financial sector executives had become hapless fall guys in the face of changes in the economic landscape.
"It is difficult to find anyone, for instance, who has not dealt in the foreign currency parallel market and as far as these banks are concerned, they were responsible for energy procurement at a time when the official reserves were virtually empty.
"I find it strange that not too long ago banks, which were being held up as examples of innovation in the face of adversity, have turned into villains overnight.
"I also wonder where it is all going to end - I think a more realistic way of dealing with this would be to give those found on the wrong side the opportunity and time to right their wrongs . . . an amnesty of some sort," an industry player said.
Less charitable observers maintain that what was happening now was the unearthing of the terrible unethical conduct employed to make super profits, which had been concealed under a veneer of innovation.
In that regard, normalcy and stability can only return to the sector after a near surgical removal of the cancerous parts.
That is now the question given the
goings-on at the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-quoted Zimpapers stable, where the axe
has fallen on a number of scribes over the past couple of weeks.
A meeting was recently held at a Harare hotel between editors from the stable, in which the government has a controlling 51 percent stake, and the Department of Information and Publicity in the President's Office.
The department is said to have indicated that the new thrust in the war against government detractors led by the United Kingdom, the former colonial master who the government claims has refused to atone for colonial sins, was, according to one of the editors who attended the meeting, to "deal with the enemy in the media, the Justice Gubbay factor in the judiciary and the internal economic enemy".
And the ongoing crackdown at Zimpapers, the biggest newspaper company in the country where heads have started rolling, dovetails with that new thrust.
While media observers were unanimous that the move at Zimpapers could be a veiled attempt to cow media practitioners and force journalists to toe a certain political line ahead of the watershed 2005 parliamentary election, the government is adamant that the concerned journalists' conduct was inconsistent with the terms of their contracts.
First to be shown the door were Herald sports editor Robson Sharuko, Tendai Ndemera and Rex Mphisa. They were fired mid last month for filing stories for the Voice of America (VOA).
The American broadcaster is accused of peddling lies about Zimbabwe as part of a plot by the United States government to effect regime change.
The Media and Information Commission (MIC) defended the sacking of the journalists on the grounds that their behaviour posed a threat to national security.
"The other serious problem is that of national interest and national security. The VOA is an arm of the US State Department, which is on record as seeking to overthrow the government of Zimbabwe through unconstitutional means and (that are also) illegal under the United Nations Charter," the MIC, headed by former journalism trainer Tafataona Mahoso, said.
Next to face the dreaded axe was the acting news editor of The Sunday Mail and president of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), Matthew Takaona, who was allegedly fired last week for addressing journalists facing retrenchment at the troubled Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ).
In both cases, well-placed sources said this week, the journalists were not given an opportunity to respond to the charges, raising fears that a political hand could be meddling in the affairs of Zimpapers, the Zimbabwe Newspapers Group (1980) Limited which owns The Herald, The Sunday Mail, The Chronicle, The Manica Post, The Sunday News and a commercial printing division.
These developments come at the worst possible time when over 250 workers at the ANZ, which owns The Daily News and The Daily News on Sunday, face retrenchment after the MIC, which is appointed by the Minister of Information and Publicity in the President's Office, Jonathan Moyo, refused to register the two titles.
The ANZ has been fighting the MIC and the government ever since the Supreme Court issued a ruling compelling it to register with the commission last year. The ANZ had initially refused to register and instead chosen to challenge the constitutionality of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act that makes it mandatory for media houses to register with the MIC.
Mahoso this week said Takaona was known to be the president of the union and had been addressing meetings without any problems from his employers.
He said Takaona was the only one who knew the other reasons why he had been fired by his employers.
"There is more to the story than is being published in the media. We can only get the truth from an affidavit he has written challenging his dismissal because he was under oath."
Funny Mushava, the editor of The Tribune, said: "We are now beginning to see that there is more to the dismissal of journalists than meets the eye.
"I have walked down that path and I know how it feels. Whoever made the decision to fire Takaona must remember that ZUJ stands for all journalists regardless of which media organisation one works for."
Mushava, who once worked with Takaona at The Sunday Mail, where he had a brief stint as editor, has been a victim of the editorial reshuffle at Zimpapers. He was elbowed out at The Sunday Mail before finding a new lease of life at The Tribune.
"Takaona was merely doing his job. When I started journalism about 20 years ago, I could speak to any other journalist regardless of which paper he or she worked for.
"But now the situation has changed. Journalists fear being victimised if they are seen talking to their colleagues," said Mushava.
"You see reports personalising issues and disregarding the facts. Journalists should not be used by politicians or businessmen.
"Let this be a lesson to all practising journalists who applaud the dismissal of their colleagues that today it will be me, tomorrow it may be you."
Political commentator Lovemore Madhuku said the manoeuvres were part of a political process being orchestrated by the government against the media, which is an important component in a democratic society.
"The media can influence public thinking so those who are against democracy will obviously want to destroy it," Madhuku said. "The government believes anything divergent to them should be thoroughly punished and that is what is happening. The media is an avenue to divergent views and by allowing them to let the people speak and be heard, it creates big problems for them."
Heneri Dzinotyiwei, another political analyst, said of the current state of the media: "There is an unhealthy atmosphere of job insecurity. It's totally unnecessary. You can't prevent people from associating and talking to each other.
"What is happening in the media is a purge and is really unnecessary. Journalists should get together and chart a way forward. The profession must be respected."
The acting editor of The Zimbabwe Independent, Joram Nyathi, said the situation was sad and regrettable.
"What harm are the journalists causing really when addressing union business?" Nyathi said. "This situation has been going on for some time and it's unhealthy. The industry is so thin that it is easy to victimise people. Those responsible are creating artificial acrimony among journalists to divide the media."
The central bank moved in the nick
of time. It goes without saying that rampant corruption in the financial sector
had produced poison-tipped arrows aimed right at the heart of the economy.
Although creditors had not started scrambling for their assets, some of these
banks faced imminent bankruptcy. Zimbabwe was threatened with probably its
biggest banking failure in living memory. Someone had to put paid to the rot and
madness where banks were speculating even in empty bottles! Otherwise posterity
would spit on our graves not only for nurturing but bequeathing to them the
Mafia-style business culture.
Lest we are misunderstood, it is important to stress that we are not for a moment suggesting that the monetary policy, which has opened up the proverbial Pandora’s box in the financial sector, is the panacea to the country’s economic ills. Admittedly, the monetary policy is not the best thing since sliced bread but it will however form an integral part of that all-elusive well-filled pot of ingredients to be stirred in order to revive the stricken economy.
The move, mainly on banks whose liquidity has been brought under heavy pressure by imprudent financial deals, although currently localised within the financial sector, also offers prospects for a major breakthrough in the broader war against deep-seated corruption in the wide cross-section of the economy, which in the past has provoked heated but sterile debate, centred mainly on the government’s sincerity and commitment to deal with graft.
That is why we are outraged though not surprised — since we knew that the current anti-graft crusade would lead to crossed lines — that certain politicians want the central bank stopped dead in its tracks. Instead of provoking a collective sigh of relief among all and sundry and invoking the rationale that this is a God-sent opportunity to usher in a new and acceptable corporate culture, restore the ever-shrinking corporate integrity, accountability and transparency, the anti-graft crusade in the financial sector has had influential and powerful politicians’ knickers in a twist. This is mainly so with a coterie of corrupt politicians bent on protecting their business and financial interests — which businesses were born of sickening political patronage and corruption.
The politicians, who say one thing in private and the very opposite in public, want the governor’s head on a stick. They loathe and resent what has turned out to be the double-edged sword of Gideon. They started off by circulating what they think could be highly damaging and incriminating documents on the governor as soon as they felt that their trail was being hounded under the corruption blitz. Of late there has been threats and intimidation against the central bank governor by the politicians. This is not an isolated case because we have for years had systematic bullying perpetrated against media houses to force them to tone down on official corruption exposes. And to imagine that these are the same politicians who reportedly threw their weight behind the central bank’s new monetary policy when Governor Gideon Gono met ZANU PF officials at a Parliamentary caucus recently.
The nauseating attitude and arrogance by the politicians, whose whole life though based on feigning altruism is about self-aggrandisement, shows us that sometimes we learn more from watching politicians than listening to them. As it turns out, they claimed that they supported Gono in his endeavours to clean up the banking sector only as a window-dressing gimmick for the public’s benefit. But it would however require an incredible leap of faith to believe that Zimbabwe’s corrupt politicians and their henchmen would support such a noble cause. Havangafarire n’anga inobata mai.
This sad reflection on the politicians raises a lot of questions. First, the extent to which Zimbabwean politics meshes with business where, for instance, political interference in some banks has led to less-than-wise lending etc. Secondly, we are currently fighting for a new political dispensation characterised by transparency and democracy. The question obviously is, shouldn’t economic institutions such a banks which sit at the centre of the economy and have spawned stinking affluence among a chosen few, in stark contrast to a sea of social deprivation, stagnation and misery among the generality of the people, be measured by the same gauge of transparency and democracy as political institutions? Or are these politicians saying that the law should be applied like a spider’s web, which catches only the smallest of the small insects, leaving the larger ones to filter through? This is unacceptable.
These people are not above the law and should face the music. If they did not want to go through all this "hell" they should have listened, not only to the voice of reason — conscience if they have any — but that of consequence too! The central bank governor should not be intimidated by the political backlash against the anti-graft crusade because failure is not an option. Instead, he should be more assertive and overcome the adversity at all costs because, as we have said before, Zimbabwe’s interests take precedence above everything else.
This is not about ZANU PF, the Movement for Democratic Change, or any other political grouping for that matter. Zimbabwe needs to be rid of the all-pervading corruption. If this is what is going to split ZANU PF or any other interest group, then so be it. Indeed it would be a tragedy if the twisty anti-corruption blitz fails to reach its full expression. Or if Gono will be crucified for implementing a national policy because while he is credited for knitting it together, the monetary policy was a result of broad-based consultations.
A few weeks ago, after reports of a
grisly gang-rape case, the police and the Harare City Council made a show of
attending to the growing street kid menace by rounding up dozens of them and
dumping them at some farm in Shamva but before residents had noticed any change,
the urchins were back!
Since then, life has been as "normal" as before. They continue doing whatever they feel like: from robbing people of their food, money and other valuables, sniffing glue in broad daylight, defecating on clean pavements and indulging in group sex in sanitary lanes! No one seems to care any more . . . at least until another woman gets gang-raped by these misfits!
If the police and the City of Harare can mobilise a whole battalion of "Blue Bombers" daily to raid vendors trying to eke out an honest living in these trying times, surely they can not fail to mobilise the same thugs to sweep clean the city of these children. We mean clearing the streets for good!
LAST week the Great Uncle bade farewell to more than 200 Zimbos who are this year’s beneficiaries of his generous scholarship programme.
These students, whom we are made to believe come from very poor backgrounds and include one or two war veterans, will pursue Catholic degree programmes at South Africa’s Fort Hare University. We wish them all the best . . . considering their backgrounds!
When the chairman of the scholarship fund, Minister Chris Mushowe, was asked why the fund continues to send students abroad when Zimbabwe has so many universities, he had to say the truth: The entry requirements for most universities are just too high! In fact, he said, these universities require much higher points at "A" level.
So in short, beneficiaries of the scholarship programme come from a poor and dunderhead background!
IT was quite interesting to see the Professor making a donation of satellite equipment to a school in Goromonzi.
But CZ feels the Professor would have done the nation a great service had he converted the $8 million equipment into hundreds of small radios and donated them to various schools, mainly in Tsholotsho, because Zimbabweans do not necessarily have to be exposed to the corrupting effects of viewing and listening to junk TV and radio programmes from abroad. They get all they need from a regular dose of Sendekera, Rambai Makashinga and Hondo Yeminda! And this is precisely why they will not get alternative TV and radio stations!
IT is quite interesting to know that after spending a few days at Harare Remand Prison, Cde Phillip is now reportedly a born-anew Christian. Has he, by any chance, realised that he is a sinner? We wonder.
Someone is suggesting that God should set up a panel of senior angels to investigate the conduct of gospel singer and ZBC’s gospel show host Amos Mahendere. There are serious allegations of conflict of interest, favouritism and kickbacks. We hope the panel will be appointed this week and the young man will be found clean . . . ask pastors Remmi-ngton Mbeya, Lawrence Haisa and Admire Kasi!
It is also good to know that Sister Fungisai Zvakavapano is now the official State House singer, thanks to the First Lady’s talent spotting gift!
This is a fact and a principle of human and organisational dynamics.
In my last contribution a few weeks ago I promised to interpret the alleged attempt on Lovemore Madhuku’s life from a historical perspective. In the past few days I have been inundated with calls from many of my readers who could not wait for the article.
But the unfortunate thing is that I lost my young brother Garikai (may his soul rest in peace) on February 16 and so I have been spending most of my time at my rural home in Birchenough Bridge.
In this rather lengthy contribution (my contributions are always lengthy anyway) I wish to draw parallels between our contemporary political situation in Zimbabwe and the situation that obtained during the liberation struggle from round about 1974.
The intention is to highlight the dynamics that were at play and try to draw lessons therefrom so that, as we wage our contemporary struggles, we don’t repeat our past mistakes as a people.
Instead, we should draw greater inspiration, courage and strength to do good from our past mistakes and achievements. Our history should be our mwalimu.
By the middle of 1974, it had become clear that nationalist guerrilla pressure against the Ian Smith regime could neither be contained nor wished away indefinitely.
Further, the sudden collapse of the Portuguese empire in Africa came as a nightmare to the Smith and John Vorster regimes, for the Mozambique border with Rhodesia and Angola’s border with Namibia were now open to nationalist guerrillas. The balance of power was changing at a very fast pace.
Smith and Vorster realised that, under these changed political paradigms, it would enhance their fortune if they devised a formula that would yield a ceasefire.
So it was that Vorster set in motion a policy of détente, aimed at good neighbourliness with some independent African states to the north.
The intention was to arrest the revolution, " . . . at best, to silence guerrilla guns in Zimbabwe without Smith’s yielding much to African demands . . . A major objective would be to forestall the possible use of Zimbabwe as a near base for liberation movements in Azania (South Africa)" [Rukudzo Murapa, The leadership struggle in Zimbabwe; background in first world, Jan/ Feb, 1977,pg 12]
It may enhance your understanding of this article if you take President Robert Mugabe to represent Smith, President Thabo Mbeki to represent Vorster and Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy to represent Vorster’s version of détente.
You may go further to equate the opposition and civil society to the nationalists in the period in question (that is if you are not charged with heresy by the minister of information) and the contemporary international community to the frontline states then.
Détente is a French word which means "relaxation of strained relations". In the southern African context it meant the relaxation of strained relations between white minority regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa and their African neighbours which came to be known as the frontline states because they were the ones closest to the spot of conflict.
These were countries which, because of geographical proximity, and for psychological and political reasons, were involved in efforts — diplomatic and / or military — to achieve majority rule in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.
After the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)’s "final push", some of us argued that it demonstrated that there is now a condominium or dual authority/ presidency in this country, one wielding the power of coercion, while the other wields the power of moral and popular support. It was clear by June last year that the MDC could neither be contained nor wished away indefinitely.
It was at this time that we began to see the Mbeki taking serious steps to ensure that there was a negotiated settlement to the Zimbabwe crisis along the lines of his promise of quiet diplomacy which I have already said resembles Vorster’s détente.
Kenneth Kaunda, then president of Zambia, responded positively to Vorster’s feelers on détente. On October 26 1974, in a veiled invitation to Vorster, Kaunda offered his "good offices to anyone who wished to use them to pursue peaceful change in southern Africa".
This was a very dangerous time for Zimbabwean nationalists because a lot of hypocrisy and double-dealing characterised the whole détente policy, just like the Mbeki-style quiet diplomacy.
It was a time when the Zimbabwe liberation movements were divided and there was inter-party and intra- party rivalry. Efforts at unity were also underway.
Ken Flower, the director of the Rhodesian spy organisation, in his book Serving Secretly, notes that Kaunda was not sincere to the détente policy, just as he was to his philosophy of humanism.
You may want to say Mbeki is not sincere to his policy of quiet diplomacy as he is to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the African Renaissance.
President Mugabe, in a digression from his written speech at the burial of Vice President Simon Muzenda late last year, described the détente policy as "a dangerous and treacherous scheme. At least we read it as such because we knew that what was meant to be détente was not believed to be such by the regime here . . . which continued to be oppressive, repressive and suppressive . . . detaining people, kidnapping them, some of whom we are still looking for to this day".
What is ironic is that, in spite of all domestic and international efforts to forge a negotiated settlement, ZANU PF, like the Rhodesian Front at that time, has shown itself to be averse to any such suggestions. The preconditions the party attaches for the resumption of dialogue amounts to a refusal, and if Mbeki’s version of quite diplomacy seeks to bring the two parties to the table with the political legal and constitutional framework unchanged then it is not different in focus from Vorster’s version of détente and we necessarily reject it. While I personally believe that the international community should now pursue quite diplomacy. I am not referring to president Mbeki’s version of it because it lacks the basic and elementary tenets of natural justice.
There are a lot of dirty things that happened in our struggle for independence especially between 1974 and 1977. The struggle had reached its height and it was clear to both the nationalists and the Rhodesian Front that majority rule was imminent. It was a time when the Rhodesian Front was becoming progressively brutal using murderous tactic against political opponents, especially those nationalist leaders who were perceived as militant, obstructive, radical and/ or ‘troublesome’ and therefore an obstacle to the policy of détente.
At the same time nationalist leaders were also positioning themselves for positions in the post-independence Zimbabwe and as such there were also struggles among themselves which the enemy exploited along tribal and regional lines and every ideological and personal lines. There was also a temptation to nationalists to real clandestine political deals amongst themselves and with the enemy and thus endangering the life of and sometimes eliminating those who disagreed. This was a war and killing wasn’t that much of a feat. President Mugabe, in the speech quoted above added that, ‘the trajectory of our guns was political. We would not just shoot in vain, we would shoot to kill in order to achieve that objective and whoever stood in the way had to go.
So as it were the dynamics that were at play made life very dangerous for many nationalists such that when one ‘went’ you would never know precisely whether he was a victim of the struggle - within the struggle. The détente policy crystallised the situation and made it more complex. This the time when the code ‘Sinjonjo tamba wakachenjera’ became popular in ZANU.
It was a period so fraught dangers and contradictions. With president Mbeki and ZANU PF insisting that there are informal talks between the latter and the opposition, and the opposition itself denying it, there are various inferences is that there could be some leaders within the opposition who are making clandestine groupies/ factions and engaging in clandestine negotiations with ZANU PF. Those who are being sidelined because of their known view and convictions and by virtue of their marginalization from these deals they are left exposed to attacks from any angle, that is, they can be a victim of the struggle or of the struggle within the struggle( internal contraditions0.
This must be looked at in the context that ZANUPY is becoming more oppressive, repressive and suppressive and it is targeting all those who are likely to obstruct an easy settlement with the opposition. It is against this background that the alleged attempt at DR Lovemore Madhuku’s life should be understood. In 1975 the Rhodesian front was moving swiftly against those militant nationalists in the Zimbabwe liberation movements at a time when there was supposed to be détente and that is what made the situation dangerous.
Likewise a time when everyone is focusing on promoting talks, the Zimbabwean government is moving swiftly against political opponents perceived to be militant and therefore, obstacles, like Lovemore Madhuku and also in the manner that they are judiciary harassing Morgan Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai’s position is made even ore precarious and dangerous by internal contradictions within his party. He may be convicted for high treason and some of his colleagues may call it ‘good riddance’. But then is this how we hope to achieve the objectives of the struggle? What with ‘Nyarota’ beans’ reported on the front page of this paper’s edition of January 29- February 2004, if its anything to go by ? And the acquittal of Tsvangirai’s co-accused?
On 18th march 1975, Herbert Wiltshire Hamandishe Chicopee, the revolutionary chairperson of Dare reChimurenga, the ZANU ‘politburo’ at the time, was assassinated in Lusaka, Zambia and there are various theories explaining his death. He was in a situation in which Tsvangirai finds himself at the moment, that is, when the colonial regime had targeted him as a militant in order to pave the way for détente and at the same time some of his colleagues in the High command and dare wanted his head on a platter over the controversial surroundings the Nhari rebellion.
According to Ken Flower, in is book referred to above, a few days after Chitepo’s death my uncle, Dr Edison Furatidzayi Chisingaitwi Sithole, a ZANU central committee member but then working as the information and publicity secretary for the enlarged ANC, and as legal and constitutional adviser for the then ANC President, Bishop Abel Muzorewa during the Smith- Muzorewa talks, declared in Salisbury that Chitepo’s assassination had shattered all hopes of a negotiated settlement.
Ken flower specifically states that the Rhodesian Front did not like and was be coming impatient with Dr Sithole’s militant and obstructive tactics and his general veteran leadership, which qualities particularly manifested themselves during the NO vote campaign against the constitutional proposals on the Pearce Commission in 1972. Inside the struggle he also hold his enemies. Finally on 15 |October 1975, in a more similar to what happened to Dr Madhuku, Dr Edison Sithole was abducted and bundled up into vehicle. That was the last that was seen of him and up to now his fate is still a mystery, perhaps the biggest political mystery in Zimbabwe in the past thirty years.
What is worrisome to us a s a family is that it took his colleagues in government fourteen years after independence to declare him a national hero, and further six years to install a representative grave at the national shrine. What is even more worrisome is that there are some among his colleagues who have decided to embark on a deliberate and systematic operation to suppress his achievements and what he stood for, but for us the bones that legacy and heritage continue.
I shall not dwell on the ascendancy of Robert Mugabe to the presidency of ZANU in 1975 in succession to Nbabaningi Sithole except that it was part of the struggle within the struggle, without of course being blind to the merits and demerits of both men. What is of interest to me for present purposes is the information of the Patriotic Front by the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo’s ZANU and the President Mugabe led faction of ZANU in 1976.
In his book, ‘Struggles- within- the Struggle’ the late brilliant professor Masipula Sithole notes that after 1974 ZAPU was clearly divided ideologically between militants’ and ‘centrists’ or moderates as they were called. (could this be the situation in the MDC at the moment?). The militant wing consisted of those who had led ZAPU in exile like Jason Ziyapapa Moyo, Edward Ndlovu and George T. Silundika. The centrists were mainly those ZAPU leaders who had been restricted at Gonakudzingwa like Josiah Chinamano, Joseph Msika, Willie Musarurwa and Mr Joshua Nkomo himself.
The former group was largely responsible for building up ZIPRA, the military wing of ZAPU and giving it a soviet orientation under the direction and leadership of Mr Jason Moyo. This group was well known for its persistent resistance to a united front with ZANU. For that reason they had formed a very troublesome group within ZAPU called Dengezi- the clay that fights unity’.
The later group was largely responsible for maintaining PCC/ ZAPU structures within Zimbabwe and it is this wing that was involved in the aborted controversial Smith- Nkomo talks 1976 against protestations from the ZAPU external wine which felt that unlimited talks with Smith were ill-advised and would further compromise the party’s precarious image within the African population, which was responding more and more to militant political symbols.
After failure of the smith- Nkomo the external wing of ZAPU gained more relevance, while the internal wing become irrelevant because its mass support had dwindled. Mr Joshua Nkomo then left the country assume ZAPU leadership in exile from Jason Moyo. In light of the October – December 1976 Geneva Conference on Rhodesia Mugabe of ZANU formed what became known as the Zimbabwe patriotic Front. About a month after adjournment of the Geneva conference, Mr Jason Moyo was assassinated when a latter bomb exploded in his Lusaka office while Nkomo was away accompanying President Kaunda on a trip to West Africa.
Jason Mayo’s death was attributed to what was described by both ZAPU and Patriotic Front as, ‘enemy agents’. And in 1978 Mr Alfred Nikita Mangena, the ZAPU veteran Commander believed to have been very close to Mr JZ Moyo was killed in a landmine outside Lusaka. For both Moyo and Mangena some put it on struggles within the struggle (internal contradictions). You are free to arrive at your own informed conclusions.
In like manner, in contemporary Zimbabwean politics some of us are advocating for a popular front of the opposition civil society and other progressive elements in order to exert collaborative effort to pressure the ruling party and government to come to negotiating table.
This is a process and the temptation is to coerce those who resist without understanding why they have reservations and where possible addressing their pertinent concerns.
About a month ago, in a very commendable move, Mr Tsvangirai announced that his party had now forged an alliance with the NCA and the ZCTU and that future political action would not be carried out under single organisations. What is puzzling is that within a month of Mr Tsvangirai’s announcement both the NCA and the ZCTU embarked on separate political actions as separate organisations. What is going on here? This seperatic and Fragmented approach has proved to be futile and it is entrenching unnecessary struggles- within –the- struggle, not to mention the wastage of resources. We must avoid a situation where we will end up fighting amongst ourselves, as if that is the struggle.
The reality is that as the formation of a popular front against the establishment becomes increasingly inevitable, opposition and civic leaders and positioning themselves strategically for a higher bargain in the united front- the who is calling the shots thing. And that this time when the regime is using heavy- handed tactics against political opponents, one can be either a victim of the struggle or of the struggles within the struggle. Alternatively one can be a victim of the struggle and have no sympathy whatsoever from fellow comrades. These are things that we must avoid as a lesson drawn from inspirational history.
We have seen it before during our struggle for independence and if we have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing from our past mistakes then we will only have ourselves to blame for our ignorance. We must learn to persuade and not to coerce and even physically eliminate those who may hold opinions that differ from our own. Everything in the national interest must be done with a consensus – seeking spirit and we must avoid sealing clandestine political deals that will unnecessarily endanger the lives of fellow activists and analysts alike. There are a lot of sinister things that happened in the struggle between 1974 and 9177, which we must avoid at all costs in our contemporary struggles. Our history should be our rabbi.
Tanganda, which is one of the few
remaining blue-chip counters on the depressed Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, is
reported to have completed feasibility studies on the sites of the tea
plantations in Espungabeira, Mozambique as it moves to spread the risk and earn
the elusive foreign currency.
Mills said Tanganda would also expand the out-grower scheme this year to consolidate its external market share.
Under the scheme, Tanganda provided technical and material support to over 600 small-sale tea growers.
Financial results for the year ending October 31, 2003 indicate that exports increased by 485 percent to $22 billion. Labour shortages caused production of tea to fall by three percent to 10.700 tonnes.
Mozambicans, who provided labour to the estates, left Zimbabwe when the political situation improved in their home country.
The group said the area of land under tea continues to expand. Management decided to replant marginal coffee areas to macadamias although the crop contributed positively to the group profit.
The beverage division experienced difficult trading conditions with the imposition of price controls.
International tea prices are expected to remain relatively stable over the course of the year. Tanganda has resumed exporting to Zambia after a trade war with that country was resolved in September last year. The group is eyeing markets in Angola and other regional markets.
Most of the tea produced in the country is exported to Europe, North Africa, Middle East and South Africa.
The area planted to major cereal
crops (maize, sorghum, and millet) is estimated to be around 10 to 20 percent
higher than that of last year. The increase is also more than six percent above
the 1990s average area of 1.697 million hectares.
But despite this increase, the dry spell experienced in November last year destroyed much of the cereal crop in the southern part of Zimbabwe.
The total area under cultivation had taken a dip following the chaotic land reform instituted by the government in 2000.
"While the area planted to maize is now expected to approximate that of the 2002/03 and the 1990s’ average of 1.318 million hectares, the area planted to sorghum is estimated to reach more than double that of last year and more than 70 percent of the 1990s’ average of 146 000 hectares," said FEWSNET.
"The area planted to finger millet in the current season is also expected to surpass that of last season and the 1990s’ average of 76 500 hectares. Pearl millet is expected to cover an area around 60 percent higher than that planted to this crop in 2002/03 agricultural season."
The government will, however, need to step up efforts to increase foreign currency earnings to finance maize imports in the 2004/05 marketing year that begins in April and improve consumer access to food, according to the agency.
This can be done through policies that stabilise food prices, support revival of livelihoods in rural areas and create employment opportunities in urban areas.
"Ensuring adequate food supplies to urban areas presents a considerable challenge because the majority of rural farmers will be reticent to sell their stocks given recent memories of three consecutive poor seasons; thus, grain deliveries to the GMB are likely to be low," FEWSNET warned.
The condition of the major cash crops is also reported to be fair, while livestock are in a fair to good condition due to readily available grazing and water supplies.
Freud, who was born in
Czechoslovakia, moved to Austria with his parents at the age of four years.
After graduating from the University of Vienna Freud founded the branch of
abnormal psychology known as psychoanalysis.
Psychoanalysis is defined as "a method of studying the mind and treating mental and emotional disorders based on revealing and investigating the role of the unconscious mind".
Freud would be particularly well placed to diagnose what afflicts the Harare government because he had close encounters with the aberrations of another paranoid regime in Europe 70 years ago.
Despite the fact that by this time, Freud had achieved international status, when the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, they burned all his books, along with those of other "enemies of the state".
Seeing imagined enemies where none exist is something our government definitely shares with Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
We are all familiar with the delusions of persecution that have characterised the endless conspiracy theories our government has come up with in reaction to perfectly normal phenomena.
One of the regime’s most outlandish claims is that some western powers planning to remove it from power have conspired to "mislead" the people of Zimbabwe into knowing that they are tired of a quarter of a century of ZANU PF tyranny and corruption and want change.
After reading 20th century clinical psychiatrist, A. Krae-pelin’s definition of paranoid schizophrenia, one would be excused for thinking he was describing our rulers. Kraepelin said: "In terms of continuity, the delusions of the paranoid schizophrenic can range from a jumble of vague and contradictory suspicions to an exquisitely worked out system of imagined conspiracies."
Such aberrations were displayed last week when a story that should have induced no more than a good chuckle provoked the government into making the most extraordinary allegations against the United States, namely that the American government was trying to achieve regime change in Zimbabwe through the use of condoms! How ridiculous!
The US, as the only superpower on the globe, can surely think of better modalities if it decides to deal with Zimbabwe in that sense.
It is laughable that the government chose to react in this disproportionate and outrageous manner to a story that gave state television viewers and radio listeners a rare light moment and a welcome break from the monotony of repetitive and agitative party dogma and propaganda that masquerades as news most of the time.
The story was that the evidently clever, innovative and creative activist group, Zvakwana/Sokwa-nele, had attached its logo and the slogan "Get up, Stand up" (the pun is hilarious) to about 700 000 condoms before distributing them.
Instead of frothing at the mouth as the government’ s propagandists did, they should have enjoyed a good laugh, as many weary Zimbabweans must have done.
Two years ago, I reacted with rib-cracking laughter when I read a similar story in an international magazine. That particular story was to the effect that some Moslem women, at their wits’ end over how to make their calls for peace heard during Sudan’s civil war, resorted to denying their husbands their conjugal rights as a campaign strategy.
I have no idea how successful these women were in driving their point home and neither do I know what impact Zvakwana/Sokwa-nele’s "talking" condoms have had.
But I am certain of one thing. After doing everything in its power to deny Zimbabweans their civil liberties, the government should not cry foul when imaginative citizens try to find loopholes in its draconian laws.
Over the last few years, the state has made sustained and frenzied efforts to curtail and abridge the freedoms of speech, the press, assembly, association and the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances.
After the misnamed Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the apartheid-era style Public Order and Security Act (POSA) have closed all avenues of communication and peaceful protest, the state should in fact, be ashamed that the people now have to resort to sharing ideas via condoms. It should not blame non-existent conspirators for a development that underscores its abusive and iron-fisted misrule.
Moreover, the powers-that-be should ask themselves why they alone in the whole wide world should have so many enemies supposedly plotting against them all the time.
This siege mentality and the consistently unconventional reasoning patterns characterising it point to the fact that, to paraphrase Freud in layman’s language, someone with an oversized ego is holding the people of this country to ransom.
As Kraepelin, quoted above, has said about the delusions of persecution of paranoid characters: "Furthermore, they often involve a grandiose expansiveness of personal worth and position. In order to have so many and such relentless enemies, one must, after all, be someone very important."
According to Statutory Instrument
235A of 2001 published in the Extraordinary Government Gazette on 16 July 2001,
maize, maize-meal, wheat and wheat-flour became controlled products.
This means that these commodities are classified as strategic reserves and only the GMB may buy them from commercial and communal farmers who hold them either in storage or in the fields. This move closed down the operations of the Zimbabwe Agriculture Commodity Exchange (ZIMACE), an alternative market for crops, which offered higher prices, as maize and wheat were the two major crops that were dominating trade on the exchange.
It should be noted that this move by government was an emergency measure meant to minimise the impending food crisis in that year on the back of drought and the effects of the initial stages of the land reform and resettlement exercise.
However, as normality has been restored on the farms with the finalisation of the land reform exercise and the carrying out of post-resettlement audits so as to fine-tune the programme, the control of the two cereals prices and marketing should also go. This is because the current price controls on maize and wheat has long-run negative effects on the welfare of the producers, resource allocation decisions by the farmers and production of the crop.
The system of compulsory grain delivery is akin to the one that existed in Ethiopia in the 1980s. Under this system, households were required to sell a portion of their output to the government at fixed prices. After meeting this obligation (commonly referred to as the quota), these producers were allowed to buy and sell farm output on the local open or free market.
Studies on the compulsory grain delivery (CGD) system show that it caused a reduction in the long-run acreage share (and the long-run supply) of the crops that were in the CGD system.
This is likely to have happened directly and indirectly (through lower market prices) reducing farm household’s returns from these crops. The CGD system also affected crop supply in ways other than acreage reallocations.
For instance, the lower crop profitability induced by CGD adversely affected the farm households’ efforts towards raising farm productivity, such as adoption of new cultivation practices and crop varieties. Or it may even have forced some of these households to reduce their dependence on crop cultivation and seek alternative income sources, such as animal husbandry.
The foregoing shows that controlling the marketing of agricultural commodities like maize and wheat does not increase the supply or availability of the commodities in the country in the long-run but results in a decline in the production of the crop as farmers shift to uncontrolled products.
However, given that agriculture is a very important sector in the political economy of Zimbabwe, just like any other developing country, there is need for an efficient state intervention.
This means that agriculture should be "public" in terms of policy and programme needs, but "private" in terms of production, marketing and consumption decisions. Macro level interventions to address economic distortions should not put undue pressure on micro level decisions but rather canvass them for broader policy goals.
Governments should regulate and facilitate agricultural marketing to ensure fair trade and protection of public interest, for example, by providing market information and improving market infrastructure and standardisation.
They should not monopolise in input supply, production, marketing, transportation, storage, processing or trading. This is because public enterprises pursue social objectives, which the free market would ignore. They suffer from political pressures, bureaucratic failure and lack of financial discipline, all of which result in poor performance in terms of output and financial outlay.
On the other hand, privatisation tends to be more conducive to competition and financial discipline, both leading to economic efficiency.
A case in point is the adjustment of the cereal prices by GMB, which greatly lags behind the changes in input costs.
An important way of bringing in the private sector is through encouraging contract farming whereby farmers would be given loans and inputs on the understanding that they would sell their produce directly to the input financier to facilitate recovery of outstanding debt and reliable supply of the crop. These developments should in the long-run cause farmers to move away from maize production to cash crops like tobacco and soya beans.
As a way of encouraging the farmers through competitive prices, Government should look at other non-price factors like education and credit facilities.
Education may have both cognitive and non-cognitive effects upon labour productivity and therefore agriculture production.
Cognitive outputs of schooling include the transmission of specific information as well as the formation of general skills and proficiencies.
Education also produces non-cognitive changes in attitudes, beliefs and habits. Increasing literacy and numeracy may help farmers to acquire and understand information and to calculate appropriate input quantities in a modernising or rapidly changing environment.
Improved attitudes, beliefs and habits may lead to greater willingness to accept risk, adopt innovations, save for investment and generally to embrace productive practices.
Education may either increase prior access to external sources of information or enhance the ability to acquire information through experience with new technology.
That is, it may be a substitute for or a complement to farm experience in agriculture production. Schooling enables farmers to learn on the job more efficiently.
Meanwhile, government should continue with directed credit programmes that give loans on preferential terms and conditions to the productive and export sectors, as it is an important tool of development policy.
This did wonders in the Asian Tigers in the 1960s and 1970s but the realisation that most of these programmes had created distorted economic incentives among both lenders and borrowers led to a reconsideration of their rationale and effectiveness during the 1980s.
Among other factors, countries around the world found that the programmes had provoked a decline in financial discipline that led to low repayment rates and a swelling of budget deficits. Moreover, once introduced, policy-based credit programmes proved difficult to eliminate.
Mercenaries in Africa's conflicts
Since the start of the era of independence in the 1960s, former soldiers have been hired by foreign governments, rebel movements or even commercial companies to carry out operations that no-one else is capable of performing.
Despite efforts by African governments to stamp out the practice, there seems to be no shortage of men prepared to use their training on behalf of anyone willing to pay the right price.
South African role
The end of apartheid 10 years ago meant a large number of well trained personnel were suddenly on the market, as many whites left the South African army.
Many belonged to the "32 battalion" - as they were known.
Two years ago South Africa was investigating the use of its citizens in Sudan. Then there were reports of South Africans fighting for diamond companies in Sierra Leone.
And then they were flying helicopters in Ivory Coast.
The South African government has expressed its embarrassment over reports that South African mercenaries had been arrested in Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe.
Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told reporters it was disturbing to hear that "every time" the world dealt with mercenaries, in Africa in particular, South Africans were among them.
"We definitely do not like the idea that South Africa is a pool for mercenaries," she said.
But South Africa is by no means the only source for mercenaries. Others have come from European or US specialist units.
In recent years the major development in freelance fighting for profit has been the appearance of private military companies which offer their services to governments and to commercial companies.
The best known of these was Executive Outcomes (EO) - initially based in South Africa and involved in Angola and Sierra Leone.
It is estimated that EO was paid $40m for its services.
The same company was later involved in supporting the Sierra Leone Government in its attempts to defeat rebels.
The British-based company Sandline also helped Sierra Leone fight the Revolutionary United Front rebels.
Michael Grunberg, a commercial adviser for Sandline, told BBC News Online that private military companies like Sandline see themselves as different from the old image of mercenaries.
"We are established entities, have established sets of principles and employ professional people."
He said Sandline operated as a commercial company and wanted to have a reputation that would enhance its business position.
He emphasised that it would not accept contracts from groups or governments that would risk damaging its commercial reputation.
The old guard
But despite this new image, old-style mercenaries have not disappeared and the depressing cycle of wars in the continent means that there are plenty of places for them to fight and new wars that produce new generations of hired guns.
One military source who wanted to remain anonymous, told BBC News Online that mercenaries were still very active and could command $10-20,000 a month for their services.
In April 2003, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned a UK company against recruiting mercenaries to work in Ivory Coast.
He said he was gravely concerned at reports that Northbridge Services Group - a security company - was recruiting ex-servicemen from Britain, South Africa and France.
The company denied that it was involved in such activities.
The BBC's Martin Plaut and Keith Somerville contributed to this report.