|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
The title of worst government on earth — the most brutal, destructive, lawless — can probably be claimed today by Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe. Mr. Mugabe has turned a prosperous country into a land of chaos and desperation.
Example: Last week a gang of the thugs whom Mr. Mugabe calls "war veterans" invaded a grain storage depot holding grain donated by the European Union to the people of Zimbabwe. Over two days, with policemen watching, they stole 14 tons.
These so-called war veterans are Mr. Mugabe's instrument of terror. They began by invading white-owned farms, and they still remain on many — camping on the land, obstructing farm operations, demanding food by threat. Now they have begun extorting money from businesses. In recent days they have invaded leading hotels, department stores and even a private hospital, demanding payments to leave.
Mr. Mugabe's purpose is to hold on to political power. He has ruled Zimbabwe since it became independent in 1980. There must be a presidential election by next March, and he is using violence to be sure he wins. Leaders of the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, have been kidnapped and killed.
Two of the opposition members of Parliament, Paul Nyathi and David Coltart, were in Washington this week, and I spoke to them by telephone. I asked Mr. Nyathi if he was afraid.
"No more than the average Zimbabwean," he said, "who faces beating on a daily basis. The whole of the country is under threat."
Before the parliamentary election last year, Mr. Coltart's polling agent was abducted; he has not been seen since. During the 1990 election there was an assassination attempt on an opposition leader. It failed, and the attackers were prosecuted and convicted. Mr. Mugabe pardoned them.
What then, I asked, can the United States and the international community do? Mr. Coltart replied: "End the culture of impunity."
"Mugabe and his people have used violence for political objectives again and again in the last 20 years," Mr. Coltart continued. "The international community objected last year, but there were no sanctions. So they think that if they bludgeon their way to winning again now, the international community will forgive them and life will go on."
The two M.P.'s said they were not in favor of general trade sanctions, which would further hurt impoverished Zimbabweans. Instead they called for personal sanctions targeting Mr. Mugabe and his top aides: their travel banned, financial assets identified and so on.
"Robert Mugabe and his henchmen have not been personally affected by what they have done to the country," Mr. Coltart said. "Targeted personal sanctions would break their culture of impunity."
Why should U.S. policy makers care about Zimbabwe, a medium- sized country in the middle of south- central Africa? The answer, I believe, is that what happens in Zimbabwe is a key to stability in the whole region.
Zambia, next door, has been in turmoil over President Frederick Chiluba's attempt, just abandoned, to change the Constitution to stay in office. In Mozambique there are dangerous tensions. In Angola the civil war continues. And South Africa, the giant of the region, is in a time of political strain. By making clear that there can be no impunity for violence and a stolen election in Zimbabwe, the United States and others can raise hope of making it a model for southern Africa.
The role of South Africa in the Zimbabwe situation has been a puzzle. President Thabo Mbeki said nothing as Mr. Mugabe's depredations mounted. His justice minister, Penuell Maduna, went to Zimbabwe and announced that, despite physical threats to judges, talk of intimidation was "pure fabrication."
South Africa has a self-interested reason to worry about Mr. Mugabe's campaign of terror. To outsiders, investors and tourists, chaos in Zimbabwe is a reason to stay away from the whole area.
Last week the South African government did condemn violence by the "war veterans." Mr. Nyathi said South Africa had "taken rather long, but they are getting the message now. If they had taken a robust attitude from the beginning, it might have reduced the destruction. But better late than never."
"We do remain concerned about what appears to be a deteriorating situation," McKinnon told reporters in London.
Self-styled Zimbabwe war veterans who led the seizure of white-owned farms ahead of last year’s parliamentary elections have recently turned their fire on private businesses.
Their action is part of a strategy to win workers’ support for President Robert Mugabe — seeking re-election next year — and outflank labour unions linked to his political opponents.
"We are concerned about issues like the attacks on businesses and threats against the embassies," McKinnon added.
He said he was still waiting for a reply from Mugabe over plans by the 54-nation Commonwealth, made up mainly of former British colonies, to send an urgent ministerial mission to Zimbabwe in response to a campaign of intimidation against the country’s media and judiciary. —Reuter
Not even the presence of a wellknown war veteran-turned-spy for the government and dozens of plainclothes state security agents could thwart them from turning out to witness Tsvangirai’s first visit to this hot and poverty-stricken border town, one of only two areas that the MDC failed to win in Matabe-leland in last year’s general elections.
As Tsvangirai’s entourage of a grey salon car and five four-by-four double-cab trucks swept into Tongwe Business Centre, the first venue of the two meetings held here, the expectant villagers, mostly elderly people, erupted into song and dance.
They came on foot, bicycles and donkey-drawn scotchcarts to see for themselves the man who they said praised for challenging President Robert Mugabe, remembered here for unleashing the army’s dreaded Fifth Brigade on them in the 1980s and war veterans in the run-up to last June’s parliamentary poll.
The crowd shouted MDC slogans and waved open palms, the party’s symbol. They chanted "Tshintsha Zwiito", Venda for change, much to the surprise of Tsvangirai whose party’s candidate performed dismally here against Kembo Mohadi of ZANU PF in the June ballot.
Youths energetically ran around talking fearful villagers into coming forward to see the MDC leadership that included several members of the MDC national executive.
"There is no one who can stop me from listening to what Tsvangirai has to say," said Roderick Muleya, watching a group of youths dance around the MDC leader’s motorcade as it drove into the business centre, a stone’s throw from a police station.
"We have waited a long time for them (MDC) to come here and see us. This is the only time we can have issues clarified, especially the party’s policy on land," he said.
Muleya went on: "You see, my son, people are very fearful here," he told me. "War veterans are having a field day because we are closed off from the rest of the community. Just yesterday, they went around the business centre and surrounding villages warning people not to attend today’s meeting."
He said some of his neighbours, who had initially intended to attend the rally, had stayed home for fear of retribution from the veterans, whose violent campaign against MDC supporters last year and again this year is now well documented.
Asked if he was not afraid of reprisals himself, a hardened Muleya quipped: "I survived the Gukurahundi and the drought."
At the business centre, Tsvangirai — whose entourage included MDC vice president Gibson Sibanda, national chairman Isaac Matongo, secretary-general Welshman Ncube, national treasurer Fletcher Dulini and secretary for women’s affairs Thoko Khuphe — told villagers that they should not be afraid of the police and intelligence officers observing the meeting.
"Don’t be afraid of the police, the army and the Central Intelligence Orga-nisation (CIO) because they belong to us," he said to the delight of the crowd, which kept on glancing at the armed police and CIO operatives. The latter were frantically taking notes.
"We know you suffered a lot during the war of liberation as well as soon after independence. Don’t be threatened by people who say the government will unleash the Gukurahundi again if you vote Tsvangirai. The country has gone to the dogs and we are here to ask you to help us vote Robert Mugabe’s government out," Tsvangirai said.
Sibanda, the party’s vice president, told the villagers that the MDC was not a violent party as portrayed by the government in the partisan state-owned media.
"We are not here to blame you for voting ZANU PF in the June elections," he said, toying with a cowboy hat he used to shield himself from the scorching sun.
"We know people were threatened and beaten into submission by a desperate ZANU PF party. We say no to violence. That’s why we did not force people to attend today’s rally, the first of several to follow here."
Beitbridge residents also took the opportunity to air their views and express some of their fears and concerns.
A male villager, who only identified himself as a war veteran, told the gathering that his colleagues were spreading the rumour that the MDC would discontinue pension payouts of former freedom fighters once it came to power in next year’s presidential ballot.
He also asked Tsva-ngirai to clarify his party’s position on the emotive land issue and answer charges that the MDC is a "white party" formed by the British.
"These views are being promoted by ZANU PF," Tsvangirai said. "ZANU PF leaders know that they are on their way out and are now using all sorts of propaganda to prevent people from making change.
"We won’t cancel the pensions. The war veterans deserve them because they gallantly fought for our independence.
"In fact, when the MDC comes to power, we will increase the pensions maybe two or threefold depending on the state of the economy. But it is fair to tell the war veterans that we as MDC disagree when they are being used by a desperate Mugabe to perpetuate violence and lawlessness."
On the land issue, he said the MDC believed that land was a very important natural resource that should be allocated to the landless, but in an orderly and transparent manner.
"What is happening with the present so-called fast-track land exercise is that those who don’t need the land are being given land," the MDC leader pointed out.
"ZANU PF is settling people in the bush and other areas that don’t have basic infrastructure such as roads, dams and schools."
Responding to charges that the MDC is British- driven, he asked: "Do you really believe that black people need to be told by whites or the British that they are suffering?"
The huge crowd erupted into defeaning cheers and chants of approval.
After the rally at Tongwe, the MDC entourage drove to Dulibadzimu Stadium, located in the dirt-poor Dulibadzimu high-density suburb here, where a large crowd of mostly youths had gathered to hear Tsvangirai speak.
"Muvhuso Wambava awutuwe (The government of thieves must go)," said Siyoka Ndou, an unemployed youth.
"We need jobs. How long shall we continue evading crocodiles to cross the Limpopo?" he asked, referring to the method used by many youths to enter South Africa, less than two kilometres from here, and work as illegal immigrants.
Although the MDC estimates that 15 000 people attended the rally the figure was downgraded by independent analysts to 10 000. The labour-backed party said it was pleased with the rousing welcome it received on its maiden trip to the border town.
Robson Tlou, MDC chairman for Matabeleland South, said: "We as the provincial leadership are impressed. We will build on the success of this visit.
"We were not able to win in June because of the harassment and beatings of villagers by the war veterans, but people now know what the MDC is about — even in the remotest parts such as Beitbridge."
By ANGUS SHAW, Associated Press Writer
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - Ruling party-backed militants stormed the offices of aid agency CARE International and abducted its Canadian director for several hours.
Dennis O'Brien said Saturday he had been released unharmed, but refused to give further information about his abduction the day before. Witnesses said that police called in by Canadian officials did nothing as O'Brien was forced into a car.
Zimbabwe has been plagued by violence triggered by the illegal seizure of hundreds of white-owned farms across the country by ruling-party militants. President Robert Mugabe has described the occupations as a justified protest against unfair land ownership by the descendants of colonial-era British settlers.
Over the past month, militant veterans of the bush war that led to independence have begun targeting aid agencies and businesses. They have stormed at least 20 mostly white-run companies, claiming to be mediating in labor disputes.
Mugabe's ruling party has given its backing to the militants, and police have not prevented the attacks or arrested militants who have forced money from businessmen.
A week ago, the head of a German aid agency was held hostage by militants demanding compensation for fired employees. After that attack, the government said it could not protect foreign embassies or agencies that supported its political opponents.
CARE is one of the largest aid agencies in Zimbabwe, with a mostly Zimbabwean staff of about 120 working on poverty alleviation, health, nutrition, emergency relief programs.
Zimbabwe Tops Log in Media Violations
Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg)
May 4, 2001
Posted to the web May 3, 2001
South Africa fared very well in a report on the state of media freedom in Southern Africa, where Zimbabwe led the charts with the highest number of violations.
Thursday was World Press Freedom Day, and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) released its report on the Southern African region titled So This Is Democracy.
The report said media freedom in the region was dealt a massive blow with the death of editor Carlos Cardoso in Mozambique.
There was an increase in violations against the media in the past 12 months, with 46 of the 182 incidents recorded by Misa occuring in Zimbabwe. This was followed by Zambia with 31 incidents, Angola 24, Swaziland and Namibia 18 and Malawi with 16.
The lowest number of media violations in Southern Africa occurred in Lesotho with only two incidents.
In the past year, compared to 1999, more journalists were assaulted.
Zimbabwe once again had the highest number of assaults with six in the past year, Zambia two and Angola one.
Media institutions were bombed in Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Misa recorded 26 detentions of journalists, with nine in Zimbabwe, four in Tanzania, four in Botswana, three in Angola, two in Malawi, two in Zambia and two in Swaziland.
"What put the media in Zimbabwe under siege and what pushed the country to the top of the charts for media freedom violations was the violent parliamentary election held in June 2000," the Misa report says.
"The political and economic turmoil in the country sparked so much tension that it spread to the media. This resulted in the government shifting the blame from themselves to the media by accusing the media of working against the government and the good of the country and reversing the gains of independence."
The suing of media institutions by politicians appears to be on the increase in the region, Misa said.
President Bakili Muluzi of Malawi is suing a newspaper for publishing a story that claims he masterminded a government corruption scheme and President Sam Nujoma of Namibia is threatening to sue a newspaper for reporting that he owns a diamond mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In Tanzania, a parliamentary candidate filed a suit against a newspaper for publishing allegations that he moved an election campaign into mosques.
In Zimbabwe criminal defamation has been brought against a newspaper and journalists for publishing a story linking President Robert Mugabe to what the newspaper described as unauthorised payments allegedly made by Air Harbour Technologies in connection with the controversial $5-billion new Harare International airport.
In Angola three journalists were found guilty of defaming President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and government officials.
"The state of media freedom in the region is still fragile and far from normalising," Misa concluded.
Germany has become the latest
Western nation to urge Zimbabwe's government to uphold the rule of law and
protect foreign nationals and organizations. Zimbabwe's state news service,
ZIANA, reports Germany's foreign minister sent a protest letter Saturday after a
German aid group was attacked and pillaged by militant civil war veterans
earlier in the week. The United States and Britain had earlier protested a
string of similar attacks and threats.
In a separate incident, a group of veterans stormed the Harare offices of the
aid agency CARE International Friday and forced the local director to go to the
headquarters of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF. A CARE spokeswoman
told VOA the militants wanted to renegotiate a former employee's terms of
In recent weeks, the war veterans have attacked a number of foreign
businesses and agencies, demanding that they reinstate or pay compensation to
The CARE spokeswoman says the official was released Saturday, but she refused
to comment on whether the organization paid the attackers or reinstated the
Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AFP and
In a separate incident, a group of veterans stormed the Harare offices of the aid agency CARE International Friday and forced the local director to go to the headquarters of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF. A CARE spokeswoman told VOA the militants wanted to renegotiate a former employee's terms of dismissal.
In recent weeks, the war veterans have attacked a number of foreign businesses and agencies, demanding that they reinstate or pay compensation to fired workers.
The CARE spokeswoman says the official was released Saturday, but she refused to comment on whether the organization paid the attackers or reinstated the employee.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.
Harare — Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai appears before the country's High Court on Monday to face terrorism and sabotage charges filed by the government of President Robert Mugabe.
Mr. Tsvangirai's trial will be critical to whether the former trade unionist, who has emerged as the biggest political threat to Mr. Mugabe in his 21 years in power, will be able to run against the Zimbabwean leader in presidential polls early next year.
The state will argue in court that Mr. Tsvangirai contravened the terrorist provisions of the country's Law and Order Maintenance Act — devised by former Rhodesia's white minority rulers to suppress black opposition.
The government has charged Mr. Tsvangirai with attempting to overthrow a legitimately elected government when he used a gathering of supporters of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to call on Mr. Mugabe to resign or face being ousted by force.
Mr. Tsvangirai told Reuters Saturday that the charges were politically inspired to prevent him from challenging Mr. Mugabe at the polls and that the government would do anything to win the election.
"By fraud they would like to prevent me from contesting and for being the main competitor and main challenger to Mr. Mugabe. They realize I have built a credible base in the country and he stands no chance in a free and fair poll," Mr. Tsvangirai said.
"I don't believe that I was engaged in any sabotage or unpatriotic actions," he said.
Mr. Tsvangirai technically faces a life sentence but any prison term of more than six months will make him ineligible to run as a presidential candidate under Zimbabwean law.
The MDC president said he would appeal to the country's Supreme Court if he loses the High Court hearing on the grounds that the constitution guaranteed him freedom of expression.
Other MDC leaders are scheduled to appear in court over the coming weeks to answer charges of breaking the law in their activities against the ruling ZANU-PF ruling party.
Mr. Tsvangirai led the MDC in tightly contested parliamentary elections last year which were marred by the death of at 31 people, mainly MDC supporters, and the violent seizure of white-owned farm land by self-styled war veterans.
From The Sunday Times (UK), 6 May
Mugabe minister deserts
Johannesburg - The first serious crack in the government of Robert Mugabe, the embattled Zimbabwean president, appeared yesterday with the resignation of one of the most respected members of his cabinet. Nkosana Moyo, the minister for industry and international trade, said he was stepping down out of exasperation at growing lawlessness and attacks on business by supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party. Moyo, a former banker appointed after Mugabe won a narrow majority in parliamentary elections last June, announced his decision to quit during a family visit to South Africa. It was not clear if he planned to return to Zimbabwe.
"The key thing to note is that Moyo didn't do this until he got himself and his family safely out to South Africa," said Isaac Maposa, chief executive of the opposition MDC. "That means he wasn't sacked by Mugabe but baled out of his own accord. And people who leave the sinking ship now are liable to be regarded as rats by Mugabe. Moyo was clearly frightened of government reprisals against his family, which was why he got them out first." Mugabe's office issued a formal acceptance of Moyo's resignation and "wished him well in whatever career he embarks upon in the future". Analysts warned, however, that the president was likely to see Moyo's move as an act of public disloyalty - a highly dangerous form of behaviour in today's Zimbabwe.
The appointment of Moyo, who is in his fifties, had been seen as a pragmatic step by Mugabe to bring technocrats into his 19-member cabinet to tackle the worst economic crisis since independence from British rule in 1980. Moyo had repeatedly urged cabinet colleagues to act against Zanu-PF militants who have stormed factories and companies, claiming to be mediating in labour disputes between owners and workers. Mugabe has instead given his backing to the war veterans. Moyo expressed horror at the way some businessmen were dragged to the Zanu-PF headquarters in Harare and forced to submit to war veterans' kangaroo courts, where they were found guilty of mistreating their workers and fined large amounts. After representing Mugabe at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year, Moyo warned that political violence was eroding Zimbabwe's hopes of winning back the foreign aid and investment vital for the recovery of its agriculture-based economy. Moyo also believed Zanu-PF could no longer govern Zimbabwe alone and that a government of national unity was the only way out. Such a government would mean embracing the MDC, which Mugabe has said he will "never, ever allow to rule Zimbabwe".
There is no doubt that other Zanu-PF MPs share Moyo's reservations, and that more and more are wondering whether to jump ship. "The trouble is, they're all scared to death of Mugabe," said Paul Themba Nyathi, an MDC MP. "They vote dreadful, unconstitutional laws through day after day, literally because they see people being beaten up, tortured or killed, and they fear this could be their fate if they are seen to waver." Moyo's resignation came as Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, prepared to go on trial in the High Court tomorrow accused of acts of terrorism and sabotage under a notorious law dating back to the era of white-ruled Rhodesia. The charges relate to a speech the former trade union leader made at a rally last year at which the government claims he urged fellow Zimbabweans to overthrow Mugabe's regime. Tsvangirai, who faces life imprisonment if convicted, has rejected the charges as an attempt to stop him challenging Mugabe in elections expected early next year. Under Zimbabwean law, anyone sentenced to more than a six-month term is barred from standing for the presidency.
From News24 (SA), 5 May
Zim war vets raid aid agency
Harare - Ruling party-backed militants stormed the offices of aid agency CARE International and abducted its Canadian director for several hours. Dennis O'Brien said Saturday he had been released unharmed, but refused to give further information about his abduction the day before. Witnesses said that police called in by Canadian officials did nothing as O'Brien was forced into a car. Zimbabwe has been plagued by violence triggered by the illegal seizure of hundreds of white-owned farms across the country by ruling-party militants. President Robert Mugabe has described the occupations as a justified protest against unfair land ownership by the descendants of colonial-era British settlers. Over the past month, militant veterans of the bush war that led to independence have begun targeting aid agencies and businesses. They have stormed at least 20 mostly white-run companies, claiming to be mediating in labor disputes. Mugabe's ruling party has given its backing to the militants, and police have not prevented the attacks or arrested militants who have forced money from businessmen. A week ago, the head of a German aid agency was held hostage by militants demanding compensation for fired employees. After that attack, the government said it could not protect foreign embassies or agencies that supported its political opponents. CARE is one of the largest aid agencies in Zimbabwe, with a mostly Zimbabwean staff of about 120 working on poverty alleviation, health, nutrition, emergency relief programmes.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 6 May
Tsvangirai defiant ahead of hearing
MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai has dismissed his terrorism court hearing tomorrow as a mere attempt by Zanu PF to harass opposition leaders ahead of next year’s presidential election. He told journalists at his Strathaven home yesterday that his defence team would raise a constitutional case in the High Court tomorrow and seek an adjournment so that the case is heard by the Supreme Court. His team will seek to have sections of the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act declared ultra vires the constitution of Zimbabwe. In the last few years, the act has had several of its sections struck off on the same basis. "This is just a question of harassment of MDC leadership. Zanu PF thugs are going round the country beating up...killing people and nothing happens to them. Here is a clear case of the law being applied selectively," said Tsvangirai.
The MDC president is appearing in the High Court tomorrow on charges of terrorism or sabotage over utterances he made last year suggesting that President Mugabe should resign or risk being removed violently. The MDC leader is being charged for contravening Section 51 of the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act and if convicted Tsvangirai faces a life sentence. He said he was confident the court would come out with a fair verdict when the case is closed. "There was an attempt to subvert the independence of the judiciary but this failed and the independence of the judiciary was maintained, so I am convinced that the court will deliver a fair verdict," said Tsvangirai. On how his presidential campaign was going, Tsvangirai said the atmosphere in Zimbabwe was not conducive for a free and fair election but said he was poised to win the presidency. "Zanu PF continues with its trail of violence but against all odds the will of the people is going to prevail and the MDC will win."
Meanwhile, international journalists who arrived in Zimbabwe at the weekend to cover Tsvangirai were denied accreditation by the department of information and publicity as the government’s attempts to keep a stranglehold on the media reached new proportions. Journalists from the BBC, the Associated Press among other organisations, told The Standard the department had flatly refused to accredit them, forcing many of them to fly out of Zimbabwe within 48 hours. Visas and other documents of entry make it mandatory for the journalists to obtain accreditation or leave the country within 48 hours.
Those who spoke to The Standard said the reasons given for them to be denied accreditation ranged from "your organisation already has a person accredited here and we won’t accredit any more", to, "you should have given us written notice well in advance". One journalist described as outrageous the limitations being put to determine how large crews for each organisation should be. "In all fairness I don’t think it should be up to the ministry to tell us how many crews we should have as news organisations and deny us further additions to our teams on that basis. This is clearly an infringement of our rights," said the journalist. The Zimbabwean government has long blamed journalists for the bad publicity it has been getting internationally.
Law and Order Maintenance Act
Section 51: Acts of terrorism or sabotage
"act of terrorism or sabotage" means an act which has or is likely to have any of the following results -
From Business Day, 4 May
Starvation looming for cash-strapped Zimbabwe
Expected crop shortage means the country will have to import grain
Harare - Zimbabwe, which is reeling from a foreign currency crisis, needs to raise Z$8,5bn for grain imports to avert an expected grain shortfall of up to 800000 tons and looming starvation. Government sources and economists have warned of food shortages by the last quarter of the year if no action is taken immediately. Zimbabwe needs to import 700000 tons of maize and 100000 tons of wheat at a cost of $96m and $24m respectively. Transport and logistics for the imports will cost $28m but the cost will rise if the imports are from outside the SADC region. The SADC's early warning unit has also warned of starvation in Zimbabwe. It said yields have been reduced by the late rains and a devastating dry spell in January. Subsequent excessive rains and floods in late February and March also led to vast crop failures. The situation has been worsened by the sustained assault on commercial agriculture following farm invasions which started last year.
Although government insists there are enough maize and wheat stocks, it banned exports of those two weeks ago apparently to forestall shortages. The opposition MDC has repeatedly urged government to import the gains immediately before shortages hit the country. Maize and wheat form the staple diet of most Zimbabweans. "There is no way out. We have to import the grain," said Renson Gasela, the MDC's shadow minister of agriculture. If southern African countries did not have the maize, Zimbabwe would be forced to import yellow maize from Kenya or South America. Gasela said the country was already running out of stocks before farmers plant for next season. Wheat planting is expected to start in earnest this month.
However, Zimbabwe will find it difficult to import maize and wheat due to foreign currency shortages. It is struggling to import fuel and power. Sources said the debt-ridden Grain Marketing Board (GMB), the state enterprise responsible for grain management, would be forced to borrow to meet letters of credit for the required Z8,5bn. It could also try to raise foreign currency on its own in the parallel market or from government's meagre resources. John Robertson, an independent economist, said the only way out was for the government to immediately import maize from SA before it (SA) starts assessing its domestic requirements. "Government is squarely to blame for pursuing expensive choices of policies. There is going to be starvation as long as government fails to come up with clear and sound economic policies." Robertson said the looming shortage was partly due to the havoc wreaked on commercial farms.
The Jewel Bank and Trust Bank, in the market to raise about Z$250m for the government-guaranteed GMB grain bills, are likely to be approached to raise money for imports. Another bank, First Banking Corporation has also secured a Z$4,5bn GMB tender to provide for the board's purchase of grain from farmers. Statistics released by the crop forecasting committee recommend a total production of 1,4-million tons of maize should be harvested with 732270 tons being delivered to the GMB. Government has indicated that GMB, sitting on a Z$10bn debt, has about 400 000 tons of maize in reserves.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 6 May
Local bank closes Mugabe’s account
Government threatens to withdraw licence
Barclays Bank Zimbabwe, one of the country’s leading commercial banks, last month closed down President Mugabe’s personal account due to under-utilisation. The account was only reactivated after the intervention of the president’s office. Sources within the bank told The Standard last week that Mugabe’s account was caught up in a blitz by the bank which was closing down dormant accounts. These are accounts that would have been inactive for more than two years. The sources say the account was reactivated after the president’s office intervened and threatened to withdraw the bank’s licence. This resulted in a meeting between the president and Barclays Bank Zimbabwe managing director, Alex Jongwe, in which the bank agreed to reactivate the account. Sources said another financial house which has for long been clamouring for a banking licence was already in the wings waiting for the licence.
Jongwe on Friday confirmed to The Standard that the bank had closed Mugabe’s account but said the closure was a genuine error. He also confirmed that he had a meeting with Mugabe where they discussed the issue of the president’s closed account "in passing". He said the bank was carrying out a programme where dormant accounts would be automatically closed. Mugabe’s account, said Jongwe, was erroneously caught up in this exercise. "We have a project we are carrying out. If an account is dormant for a long time we automatically close it and the president’s account was caught up in this exercise, but it was a genuine error. We explained this to the president and he understood.
"We apologised and reinstated the account. It was not only the president’s account that was affected. A number of accounts were also affected. We were not threatened with any withdrawal of our licence. People are just exaggerating things. I don’t think they know the man (Mugabe) well," said Jongwe. "It was just a meeting to introduce me as the new managing director of Barclays since Isaac Takawira left. We discussed a lot of things that had nothing to do with his account. We only discussed about the closure of the account in passing. It was normal business. He (Mugabe) was very understanding and there was nothing hostile or political about the meeting. No questions were asked," he said.
However, reliable sources insisted that the president’s office had viewed the closure of the president’s account as part of a wider plot by the international community hostile to Mugabe to embarrass the head of state. Barclays is an international bank and is headquartered in Britain, perceived by the Mugabe regime as a bitter foe. The sources said one senior executive (name supplied) had resigned as a result of the closure of the account. The Standard was unable to get comment from the executive at the time of going to press.