Schools take govt to court Munyaradzi Wasosa/Eric
Chiriga/Loughty Dube THE government's decision to close down private schools
for allegedly charging exorbitant fees suffered a serious setback when the
High Court yesterday ordered the reopening of Hartmann House Preparatory
School in Harare.
However, police yesterday arrested three school
heads for defying a government directive to slash fees.
Primary School headmistress Gill Martin, Ruzawi Primary School headmaster
Erith Harris and John Calderwood of Peterhouse Boys and Girls High schools,
were arrested at their schools yesterday. They were bundled into police
vehicles in full view of school children before being whisked away to
Marondera Police Station.
Justice Susan Mavangira ordered Hartmann
House reopened following an urgent application by lawyers for the parents and
teachers of the Catholic-run institution.
"By consent an order is
granted by the terms sought," said Mavangira. The state, which was
represented by Farai Ruzive, did not oppose
Yesterday private schools from Bulawayo and
Masvingo also filed an urgent application at the High Court in Bulawayo
seeking an order to nullify government's directive to shut down the
The case has been set down for a hearing at the Bulawayo
High Court today.
Cited as respondents are Education minister Aeneas
Chigwedere, his permanent secretary Stephen Mahere and police commissioner
The lawyer representing the schools, Richard
Majwabu-Moyo of James, Majwabu-Moyo and Partners, said according to the
Education Act it was illegal for government to close down schools on a matter
that could be resolved through other means.
"There is no provision
in the Education Act that gives the Minister of Education powers to shut down
schools for raising fees and what he has done is illegal," Majwabu-Moyo
"The schools I represent have over the last two years made
applications to the ministry seeking approval for fee increments but they
have received no response from government, whether approving or disapproving
or even acknowledging receipt of the applications but the schools have to
move on," Majwabu-Moyo said.
The Zimbabwe Independent has
established that the Education ministry is imploring schools to sign an
agreement not to increase fees without approval.
In an interview
with the Independent, Chigwedere said government was considering
nationalising all private schools, calling them
"These racist schools are operating like private
business empires and government is not ruling out nationalisation," he
Retired army General Vitalis Zvinavashe owns Tynwald Primary
and High schools which are among the 45 that have been closed on racist
allegations and charging high fees.
Chigwedere cited Lomagundi and
Watershed as white racist schools that were attempting to exclude black
"The major element is that white schools like Watershed and
Lomagundi are racist," he said. "They are conspiring to throw out black
pupils by charging exorbitant fees well beyond the reach of many black
Chigwedere said Lomagundi was proposing an "incredible"
$8,8 million per term, while Peterhouse in Marondera was currently charging
$9,9 million per term.
Quizzed on the impact of the closure on
students writing June and November examinations, Chigwedere said they would
not be affected.
"If June students had not made thorough preparations
for their exams, then it is not my ministry's fault," he
Chigwedere said the ministry would cut the August holiday by a
week to compensate students for the time lost during
Police have since been deployed to all the schools that have
been closed to ensure that no lessons are conducted.
justified the involvement of the police saying some of the headmasters were
resisting his ministry's directives.
Meanwhile the Parliamentary
Portfolio Committee on Education has criticised government's move to close
The Independent spoke to committee chairman Fidelis
Mhashu, who accused Chigwedere of taking a "militant" decision on the
"When things go wrong, they must be corrected in a fair
manner," he said. "The militant decision taken by the minister is definitely
Mhashu said the Education Act gives the minister and
permanent secretary too much power.
"The Act gives Chigwedere too
much arbitrary power and definitely needs to be amended," he
Father Fidelis Mukonori, the provincial board chairman for both
Hartmann House and St George's College, declined to comment on the
"I cannot comment on that issue," he said.
"We are dealing with the problem, and I am made to understand that Hartmann
will be opening tomorrow (today)."
More than 30 000 pupils have been
affected by the closure of private schools. Chigwedere said his ministry's
offices had been besieged by scores of disgruntled parents who were demanding
answers from the government.
In a snap survey conducted by the
Independent this week, the general feeling was that while it was necessary to
review the fee hikes, government was not justified "to resort to such drastic
Former Zesa boss Simbarashe Mangwengwende said: "As a
parent I think this is not the right way of dealing with problems. The
government is holding children hostage and this will definitely affect their
Triangle next - Mnangagwa Staff writers GOVERNMENT
has, through the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda), set its
sights on the highly productive Triangle Sugar Estates as it moves to
expropriate virtually all private farmland, the Zimbabwe Independent heard
This became clear after Speaker of Parliament Emmerson
Mnangagwa last weekend announced government plans to acquire Triangle Sugar
Estates in Chiredzi.
Mnangagwa made the revelation when he
addressed about 8 000 employees at a Workers Day rally organised by the
Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions in Gibbo Stadium on Saturday in the
Our reporter who attended the rally said Mnangagwa
was constantly heckled and jeered by the crowd - mainly plantation workers -
who disapproved of government's intention to take over the
The Independent understands that Triangle Ltd and Hippo
Valley Estates have been designated for compulsory acquisition. Anglo
American Corporation and Tongaat Hullet, who own the two estates, have lodged
objections with John Nkomo, the Minister of Special Affairs responsible for
Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement.
"We have engaged the land
committee there to find ways of resolving this issue amicably," an Anglo
American spokeswoman told the Independent from Johannesburg, on condition of
"You should understand that Triangle and Hippo Valley are
large industrial developments. As for the workers' reaction, you may
attribute that to a host of welfare programmes we introduced recently,
including the provision of free ARVs (antiretroviral drugs)," she
Mnangagwa brushed aside the workers' muted protests, telling
them government had put in place legislation to acquire the huge
"This (the land seizures) has started and it is going to
continue," said Mnangagwa amid jeers from shocked employees of the two
The government has already repealed the Hippo Valley Act to
enable it to acquire Hippo Valley Estate, also in the southeast Lowveld. The
acquisition of the properties threatens the local sugar industry built around
the estates, which have very advanced irrigation systems in the very
hot low-rainfall region.
Last month government forcibly ejected
the owners of Kondozi Farm in Odzi, Manicaland from their farm and installed
Arda to run the horticultural concern. Prior to the Arda invasion, Kondozi
Farm earned about US$15 million annually in horticultural exports. Arda and
the Zimbabwe National Army have also moved into Charleswood Estate in
Chimanimani, legally owned by MDC MP for the area, Roy
The Independent has also established that Arda will soon be
taking over Surrey Estate in Bromely, along the Harare-Marondera highway. The
farm is registered as Le Sur Dale Farms (Pvt) Ltd.
The estate runs
arguably the country's biggest abattoir, Surrey Abattoir, which government
wants to take over.
Arda is also moving into Foyle Farm, which has
state-of-the-art dairy production facilities and irrigation equipment in the
In stark contrast to the efficiently run firms it is
acquiring, Arda's debt runs into billions of dollars due to inefficiency and
Polls could be moved forward Itai Dzamara PRESIDENT
Robert Mugabe could bring forward the parliamentary election to October this
year after the Zanu PF politburo recently concluded the party was ready to
beat the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Officials from the
Registrar General (RG)'s office have already been deployed around the country
for an intensive voter registration exercise.
Sources from the RG's
office said this week registrar-general, Tobaiwa Mudede, had announced that
the voter registration exercise had to be completed by the end of July
because "elections could be held any time
Constitutional law expert, Lovemore Madhuku, said this
week that Mugabe was allowed by the constitution to bring the general
election forward to this year.
"Under the constitution it is
possible. All he has to do is dissolve parliament," said Madhuku. "Under
Section 63 of the constitution Mugabe can dissolve parliament at any time and
order an election within four months. The rest of the proceedings will be
governed by the electoral system and again he has the power to manipulate it.
His only concern would be political challenges and not legal
Zanu PF's political commissar, Elliot Manyika, said the
party was confident of victory any time and would welcome an early
"Our recent victories obviously give us confidence and we
are ready for the general election any time," said Manyika. "We will be happy
to have the general election brought forward."
Zanu PF sources
said recent politburo discussions attributed the March Zengeza by-election
victory to the "momentum currently enjoyed by the ruling party, which will
secure it Lupane as well".
The Lupane by-election will be held next
weekend and the ruling party has already deployed a "high-powered team" to
campaign in the constituency.
Government sources said Mugabe had
indicated that the Delimitation Commission should start preparing for the
general election next month and complete the exercise in three
The ruling party is on the prowl using an anti-corruption
blitz to remedy its image ahead of the crucial general
Mugabe himself has said "the MDC is ready for burial" and
that the ruling party should leave no stone unturned in its quest for
The MDC shocked Zanu PF in 2000, barely a year after its
formation, by winning almost half of the contested seats.
Political tension builds up ahead of polls Staff
writer FIVE opposition supporters were abducted and severely assaulted on
Monday by supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF, an
opposition party official said yesterday.
As the two parties intensify
their campaign ahead of the general election next year, violence is likely to
"Following the successful MDC (Movement for Democratic
Change) rally addressed by President Morgan Tsvangirai at Chendambuya on
Sunday, Zanu PF has unleashed violence on the people of the area to frustrate
and intimidate them ahead of the 2005 parliamentary election," said MDC
spokesperson, Paul Themba Nyathi.
"MDC supporters, Douglas
Chipinduka and his wife, Joyce Katunga, Judith Chikadiwa, Barbara Munyaradzi
and Marshal Muchipi, were abducted by a group of about 20 Zanu PF
supporters," he said.
"They were abducted from their homes at around
2 am on Monday and taken to Makombe Business Centre where they were severely
assaulted," said Nyathi.
Chendambuya Growth Point is in Makoni North
constituency, northeast of Harare.
Nyathi said the case was
reported at the local police station but no arrests had been made by
yesterday although the party identified Moses Sithole and one Khumalo, who is
believed to be a Zanu PF youth chairman in the province, as the ring
Tsvangirai, in a statement this week, said the people of
Chendambuya turned up for the rally in large numbers despite Zanu PF
"The people resisted the threats from Zanu PF youths
and war veterans and assembled at the business centre for the two-hour
meeting," he said.
Police yesterday confirmed the incident and said they
had arrested one person in connection with the assault.
arrested one person involved in that case and police are still looking for
two more people," police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Wayne
Bvudzijena, said yesterday.
The abduction and assault come against a
backdrop of increased political tension between the two rival parties. Most
violence has been directed at supporters of Tsvangirai's MDC, which has so
far resulted in three deaths since February.
On Wednesday MDC
vice-president Gibson Sibanda addressed a rally in Lupane where he introduced
the party's candidate for the by-election scheduled for next weekend,
Tough time for Nhema over hunting concessions Staff
Writer A SAFARI operator has threatened to drag to court Environment and
Tourism minister Francis Nhema for granting a lucrative hunting and
photographic concession to a fellow Zanu PF official without going to
Bagman Sibanda of Striped Safaris (Pvt) Ltd, through his
legal representatives Coghlan and Welsh, wrote to Nhema last week raising
issue with a hunting concession granted by the Parks and Wildlife Authority
to Zanu PF Matabeleland North chairman, Jacob Mudenda. Nhema allegedly
approved the deal.
"We are instructed that Treasury Regulations
were flouted when Mudenda was granted the concession as it was never put to
tender," reads a letter sent to Nhema from Striped Safaris legal counsel,
Coghlan and Welsh, last week.
"In the circumstances, our client
challenges the validity of the contract and should you be unable to agree
with us on that point, we have instructions to bring an application to
The Zimbabwe Independent understands that the concession,
Matetsi Unit 6, which was not put to tender was issued to Mudenda
inappropriately. Several other concessions are believed to have been
allocated to top Zanu PF officials in an unprocedural
Information at hand indicates that the Parks and Wildlife
Authority entered an agreement with Mudenda on June 18 last year where the
hunting rights over the safari area were granted to the ruling party
official. Nhema duly approved the agreement on June 26.
to Section 37 of the Parks and Wildlife Act Chapter 20:14, the wildlife
management authority, subject to Environment and Tourism minister's approval,
has the power to grant hunting rights but such rights should be put to tender
to afford other competitors a fair chance to participate and to also allow
the authority an opportunity to make an award to the most attractive
The Independent was told that Striped Safaris has pursued
hunting rights for Matetsi Unit 6 for several years and has submitted a
number of project proposals and applications to the relevant authorities but
it has been repeatedly turned down. Each time the safari operator applied, it
was advised that the concession was being leased to an indigenous
safari operator when evidence on the ground was to the
Quoting Section 6 of the State Liabilities Act, the letter
from the company's lawyers gives Nhema notice of Striped Safaris' intention
to bring an application to the High Court for an order nullifying the award
of Matetsi Unit 6 concession to Mudenda without following tender
procedure. Reached for comment, Nhema said: "I will send you a full list of
who was allocated what, including Striped Safaris. In fact, I have tasked
the National Parks to look into that issue. But everything was done
The Independent understands that several aggrieved
businesspersons and safari operators who had hoped to get concessions in the
parks and wildlife areas in Matabeleland North are also instituting legal
proceedings against Nhema over the allocation of concessions to government
Two months ago, another safari operator, Nyala Safaris,
instituted legal action against Nhema for allocating a lucrative hunting
concession to one Mabel Dete, again without going to tender.
Byo police swoop on civic leaders Loughty
Dube POLICE in Bulawayo last week rounded up civic organisation leaders in
the city on allegations that they were likely to foment trouble during
the just-ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF).
Wednesday last week swooped on the offices of six civic organisations and
took away the leaders for questioning.
The six leaders, who were
detained for about eight hours by officers from the Law and Order Section,
said police alleged that they were planning to cause problems during the
The six detained leaders are from Bulawayo Agenda, ZimRights,
Peace Initiative Survivors Trust (PIST), an organisation involved in
the rehabilitation of Gukurahundi victims, and a leader representing a
coalition of churches.
At PIST offices police ransacked the
organisation's library and left with over 200 books that are used by the
organisation for its research work.
Bulawayo Agenda director, Gorden
Moyo, confirmed his brief detention at Bulawayo central police
"It is true that I was detained together with other leaders
in the civic society movement. The allegations levelled against us were not
clear but the picture that emerged is that we were being intimidated," Moyo
"We were questioned on what activities we were planning during
the trade fair. Police warned us that they did not want any noise from civic
society that would embarrass the government during the ZITF," said one of the
civic leaders who preferred anonymity.
PIST's executive director,
Felix Mafa, said police raided his organisation's offices armed with a search
warrant and claimed they were looking for subversive
"They took away all our literature and as it is we cannot
work. We are saying this is clear harassment and intimidation of civic
society. We are not going to be moved by such intimidation," Mafa
This is not the first time that police have swooped on civic
organisations in the city. Last month they raided the offices of Radio
Dialogue and Bulawayo Agenda on allegations that they were looking for
Zanu PF plans to use food as vote carrot Staff
Writers ZANU PF wants aid agencies out of the way so that it can use total
control over relief food distribution as a key campaign tool in next
year's parliamentary election, political analysts and the opposition have
Government has already forecast a bumper harvest next year and
that there will be no need for food aid. As a result aid agencies have
started to wind up food distribution activities in impoverished communal
There are allegations that government would like to fill the
void left by aid agencies during Zanu PF's campaign for the general election
scheduled for March next year.
In the last election government
took a lot of flak from aid agencies for allegedly politicising food aid and
using it to punish opponents. In some instances government attempted to take
over the distribution of food donated by Western governments through the
World Food Programme.
Opposition MDC shadow agriculture minister
Renson Gasela said government had stocked up maize to use during Zanu PF
"Zanu PF wants to create a false impression on the food
situation so that donor agencies are forced out," said
"That will give the regime an opportunity to control all food
distribution and in the process use aid relief for campaigning," he
"It is suspected that the regime has some grain stocked in
granaries that is earmarked for the election period," he
Findings of independent surveys on the food situation in
Zimbabwe continue to point at severe deficits despite government claims that
the country will have a bumper harvest this year.
politician and former Zanu PF secretary-general, Edgar Tekere, described
government's decision to stop donor aid as foolish.
"It is very
interesting when the World Food Programme winds up operations under this
situation," said Tekere.
"It is certainly not true to claim that
there is a bumper harvest this year with the gloom showing in most fields. It
is an empty boast, a foolish one," he said.
"Probably the plot is
for Zanu PF to then use the food it has allegedly been stocking secretly to
campaign for the election. That has happened before," Tekere
At a meeting on March 30, an official from the Social Welfare
ministry told donors that maize harvest for this year would be 1,7 million
tonnes. Minister Paul Mangwana the following day met with United Nations
Development Programme officials and diplomats where he repeated the figures
and said government had asked the UN to keep food aid out of its
(Zimbabwe's) humanitarian assistance appeal.
conducted by the Southern African Regional Poverty Network (Sarpn) and
Zimconsult show that Zimbabwe could suffer a deficit of between 600 000 and
900 000 tonnes of maize this year. The surveys predict a maize and small
grains harvest of between 800 000 and 1 million tonnes. Zimbabwe needs about
1,9 million tonnes of maize for annual consumption.
Zimbabwe political analyst, Professor Heneri Dzinotyiwei, said the ruling
party could use food for electioneering.
"The issue of food for votes
has always appeared in Zimbabwe and it is possible, especially under the
current political dispensation," said Dzinotyiwei.
spokesperson Makena Walker confirmed that her organisation's implementing
partners were scaling back general food distribution in May and June.
ZDI admits involvement in Charleswood
seizure Munyaradzi Wasosa THE Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) has
admitted its involvement in the seizure of Charleswood Estate in Chimanimani,
but said it did so on behalf of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), the
Zimbabwe Independent established this week.
In an interview on
Monday, ZDI general manager, retired Colonel Tshinga Dube confirmed ZDI's
involvement, but said a defence forces lands board had tasked his company to
manage the farm for the ZDF.
"Yes, the ZDF approached us sometime in
April and gave us the farm to manage on their behalf," he
Dube said Air Marshal Perence Shiri was the chairman of the
obscure defence forces board that formulates and implements ZDF's land
Dube however said the ZDI's role only went as far as implementing
defence forces' policies on Charleswood.
"That farm does not
belong to ZDI," he said. "ZDF owns the farm. All they told us was, here is a
farm, manage it for us," he said.
The state-owned arms manufacturing
company has a farm in Domboshawa called Elphida where it manufactures, among
other things, arms, ammunition, ordnance and military
Quizzed on why ZDI was managing ZDF lands, Dube said it was
part of his company's "diversification".
"We are not involved in
any land controversies," he said. "It is just a matter of
Dube admitted that the ZDI sent its personnel to
Charleswood Estate despite it being legally owned by MDC MP for Chimanimani,
He refuted allegations by the farm's manager, Sunface
Bhaudhi, that ZDI forcibly occupied the farm.
"We did not use
force on anybody on the farm," Dube said. "ZDI sent only two people who told
the workers that those who wanted to continue working on the farm should
register as ZDI workers."
The farm employs over 1 000 workers whose
future is now uncertain.
Dube said some of the farm's work force was
now under ZDI.
"We are not forcing anyone to work on the farm," he
said. "We are already paying about 100 workers."
Bennett has five
High Court orders barring the government from acquiring his farm, a major
exporter of coffee.
Asked by the Independent why ZDI ignored High
Court orders not to occupy Charleswood Estate, Dube pleaded ignorance of the
existence of such papers.
"When we went to Charleswood, we were not
aware of such court matters," he said. "I am only hearing it from you (the
media) that there was a court order."
Dube confirmed Independent
investigations that ZDF owns about 15 farms dotted all over the country.
Valhalla, a banana farm in Manicaland, is one of ZDF's farms under ZDI's
He revealed that some of the farms were lying
"On some of the farms, we have not done much farming," he
Dube refuted Bennett's assertion that his company was fighting with
Arda over control of Charleswood.
Efforts to interview the
commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, Constantine Chiwenga, were
fruitless. Air Marshal Perence Shiri could also not be reached.
Army/National Parks accused of poaching Munyaradzi
Wasosa THE Zimbabwe National Army and the department of National Parks and
Wildlife Management have been accused of involvement in poaching activities
that have decimated Zimbabwe's wildlife in the country's conservancies, the
Zimbabwe Independent has been told.
In an interview, Zimbabwe
Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) chairman Johnny Rodrigues, accused the
Ministry of Environment and Tourism of failing to curb "state
"It's a fact that the army, which was called in by
(Minister Francis) Nhema to fight poaching, is now heavily involved in the
illegal activity," he said.
Rodrigues said the army was involved
mainly in the Kariba/Chirara game area.
"ZCTF spoke to eyewitnesses
in Kariba who saw soldiers airlifting antelope carcasses," he said. "Recently
we uncovered 200 snares in one day in the area."
Rodrigues said poachers were also targeting the black rhino which is
protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
"Since December 2003, poachers in the Sinamatela Intensified
Protection Zone have killed four black rhino, while two others have been
killed in the Save Conservancy," he said.
Rodrigues said the
conservancy was under threat from poachers.
"Save has 60% of wild
animals left, but the threat of poachers in the area cannot be
over-emphasised," he said.
Rodrigues said Whitro Ranch in Mwenezi,
compulsorily acquired by the government, has no animals left.
had around 1 000 wild animals including elands, zebras and impalas, prior to
land invasions," ZCTF said.
"Due to poaching, the ranch only had 240
animals left by April last year, now there are no animals
ZCTF also said Kleinbegin Ranch, which is part of the Bubi
River Valley Conservancy, has lost 95% of its wildlife to poachers in the
past three years.
The anti-poaching organisation, which was formed
in 2001, clashed with the government in 2002 over corruption involving
"When we formed ZCTF, it was with the intention
of assisting National Parks to minimise poaching before it was too late,"
"With the government actually encouraging the
slaughter (of wild animals), it is impossible to fight something of this
Environment minister, Francis Nhema, refuted ZCTF's
accusations saying the department of National Parks was responsible for
"It's difficult to comment on behalf of the
army," he said. "Most of the staff that does the anti-poaching is
He said his ministry was "happy with the army's
He instead accused the ZCTF of falsifying figures.
"They (ZCTF) are running away from the truth by giving percentages," he said.
"Their figures worry me a lot."
Efforts to speak to army spokesman
Colonel Ben Ncube were fruitless. He was said to be attending a seminar in
THE 45th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF)
that ended in Bulawayo last week on Saturday acutely dramatised Zimbabwe's
shrinking economy because of flawed policies, although it recorded a couple
of firsts since it was launched in the 1960s.
For the first time in
the history of the fair, two donkeys were exhibited in the livestock section
of the Bulawayo Agricultural Show that runs concurrently with the
Also this year the trade fair had to run without a chairman because
the incumbent, Dr Mthuli Ncube, who is alleged to be on the run from the
law, could not attend.
This year again the trade fair scored a first
by winding up business on a Saturday instead of Sunday when it traditionally
ends. Scores of children who flocked to the showgrounds to view the stands on
Sunday were turned away.
Economists have described this year's trade
fair as a non-event owing to the depressed economy.
"This year's trade
fair was a sad event if you compare it with previous editions of the
showcase," said Harare-based economist, John Robertson. "What has worsened
this year's event is that it was held in a depressed economy. As a result the
range of products on display has been cut back due to company closures and a
shrinking customer base."
He said the situation was exacerbated by the
foreign currency exchange rate, which he said worked against the interests of
"We have problems with the exchange rate which has made it
difficult for exporters to exhibit under the prevailing
"As long as things remain this way there will be nothing to
show at ZITF. Until we realise that all our economic problems have a
political connection and we change, there will be no improvement," Robertson
The stands that usually house big companies were empty this year. A
total of 662 exhibitors, most of them small to medium-scale enterprises and
informal traders, took part at the fair that was officially opened by
Namibian President Sam Nujoma.
The number of exhibitors was less than
that for last year when 734 companies took part.
ZITF markerting and
public relations manager, Cecilia Bhebhe, could not provide details on any
deals clinched at the trade fair. Instead she accused the Zimbabwe
Independent and its sister paper, The Standard, of writing negative stories
"There is no story that I will give you but the companies
that exhibited here are very happy because they had good business.
Zimbabweans are very happy about that," Bhebhe said.
Chamber of Industries president, Felix Tshuma, only promised to provide
details once his office had gone over the details of transactions.
livestock section this year attracted 16 cattle and two donkeys as
new farmers failed to take advantage of the return of the livestock
Prize bulls that used to attract crowds in the past were nowhere to
be seen while a few cows belonging to the Agricultural Research and
Extension Services held fort at the Bulawayo Agricultural Show
Halls 2, 2A and Hall 3 that traditionally house international
exhibitors were closed.
Eleven countries took part at ZITF 2004. They
included Botswana, Malawi, Kenya, Italy, South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria,
China and Austria.
The products exhibited at this year's fair were mainly
in the services sector and traditional heavy and industrial machinery
displayed by foreign exhibitors was missing.
stands were mainly for government departments, educational and tuition
centres taking advantage of large numbers of school children to advertise
Technology that was on display was mainly farming and
agro-based equipment that included new versions of farming tractors, peanut
butter processing machines, wheat harvesting machines and grinding
Bulawayo-based economist, Eric Bloch, attributed the low profile
2004 ZITF to the state of the economy. He was however optimistic that the
fair would soon regain its lustre once factors impacting negatively on the
economy were put right.
Bloch said no genuine exhibitor would display
his products at a fair held under a distressed economy.
foreign investor would like to exhibit in a country that has such a bad image
and with this distressed economy it would be a waste of money to exhibit,
hence the poor turnout by both local and international exhibitors," Bloch
Bloch said ZITF 2004 was the worst in recent history.
trade fair was smaller in size, the majority of exhibitors were SMEs and
informal traders. Compared to previous years, this is the worst ZITF. There
was a conspicuous absence of industrialised countries and
renowned international companies. There were no serious industrial exhibits
to talk about," he said.
Commenting on the poor turnout in the
livestock section, MDC economic adviser, Eddie Cross, said the absence of
former white commercial farmers was having an effect on the show.
commercial farmers who are supposed to support the agricultural show are not
operating and there is no chance that you will get any livestock under the
circumstances," Cross said.
"This trade fair is just pathetic, but those
that are keeping it alive should be commended because it would be difficult
to revive it once it is allowed to close down," said Robertson.
said once the economy was on the right track all the missing products would
Bloch said the country's economy and the ZITF were intricately
linked and a knock on the one would affect the other.
monetary policy being implemented by (Reserve Bank governor Gideon) Gono
achieves the desired results, the fortunes of the economy and the ZITF will
improve as the two are intricately linked," he said. One exhibitor said
travelling to Bulawayo from Harare had been costly.
"The cost of
transporting goods from Harare far outweighs the number of people who made
enquiries on our products. The whole trade fair concept is now lost as it is
now a kids' affair," said the exhibitor.
LAST weekend 10 countries joined the European Union in a historic
event that pushed the size of the economic bloc to 25 states.
almost half a decade these nations were going through a pro-bation period to
satisfy minimum qualification standards set by the
EU Commissioner for External Relations, Chris
Patten, explained that the newcomers had to restructure almost every facet of
their political, judicial and economic systems before being accepted in the
Africa opted three years ago to form a union on the European
model. The African Union is battling to set up structures which mirror the
European Union - the African parliament, the African Court, a peacekeeping
force and so on.
The continent's leaders have also appended their
signatures to various conventions and declarations espousing African
standards of governance and protection of human rights. But unlike the
European Union where countries are under strict obligation to adhere to
conventions and agreements, African countries have failed to abide by their
own standards and declarations. Zimbabwe is a case in point.
governments signed the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights in
October 1986 and in October 2002 they adopted the Declaration of Principles
on Freedom of Expression in Africa.
To safeguard these rights the leaders
agreed to establish an Africa Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.
Running parallel to this is the New Partnership for Africa's Development's
peer review initiative.
Without teeth and powers of sanction, the
commission can only make recommendations and hope for the best, hence basic
human rights have been violated with impunity.
commemorated World Press Freedom Day on Monday the country's laws have
continued to shift away from the minimum standards set in both the charter
and the declaration.
For example, the declaration says there should be no
arbitrary interference with people's rights to freedom of expression. It says
public broadcasters should have editorial independence.
service ambit of broadcasters should be clearly defined and include an
obligation to ensure that the public receive adequate, politically-balanced
information, particularly during election periods," the declarations
It also says bodies set up to regulate the media should be
protected from political interference.
"Its powers shall be
administrative in nature and it shall not seek to usurp the role of the
courts. Effective self-regulation is the best system of promoting high
standards in the media."
That cannot be said of our Media and Information
The declaration says states should review all criminal
restrictions on media content to "ensure that they serve a legitimate
interest in a democratic society".
"Freedom of expression should not
be restricted on public order or national security grounds unless there is a
real risk to harm a legitimate interest and there is a close causal link
between the risk of harm and the expression," the declaration
There are also calls to relax defamation laws so that "public
figures shall be required to tolerate a greater degree of
Zimbabwe's media laws have remained largely in conflict with
these standards on media freedom.
The country's legislature has passed
laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the
Broadcasting Services Act and the Public Order and Security Act without
taking into cognisance the existence of important continental instruments. In
fact there has been no attempt by government to publicise the instruments it
has ratified - especially where these would hinder its repressive
The judiciary has also upheld the constitutionality of laws
which are at odds with African instruments.
The excuse that these are
Western values does not apply here.
The tired argument is that African
human rights and standards should have an African context so that they are
not merely an expression of norms divorced from bread and butter
Fundamental and universal human rights such as freedom from
torture and slavery, or freedom of assembly and freedom of expression fall in
the class of inalienable rights in any civilised society. There is no excuse
Despite the documents being truly African, authored by
Africans, not much effort has been put to adhere to them. African rulers,
including our own, have been quick to identify the issue of basic human
rights with Western liberal ideas. This official mantra, coupled with
accusations that Western countries also have a notorious human rights record,
have been used to deflect international criticism of serious human rights
abuses in the country where dissent of any form is classified as
Thus while the world celebrated World Press Freedom Day on
Monday, Zimbabwe had the distinction of being one of the countries most
hostile to journalists.
HANS Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm must surely
have lost their reputations of being the world's foremost tellers of fairy
tales. Those reputations, of almost two centuries standing, have inevitably
been eclipsed by the Minister of Fiction, Fable and Myth (otherwise known as
Dr Goebbels reincarnate) and his bevy of editors, journalists and
correspondents who unreservedly disseminate his vivid imaginations,
hallucinations and distortions of realities. There is virtually not a single
issue of the newspapers controlled by him which does not contain news
reports, articles and opinions which have either been grossly modified from
fact, or which contain interpretations of fact far beyond the wildest
Last week his flagship daily excelled itself in
stretching credulity beyond the most extended and generous of bounds. A
leader page article proudly trumpeted: "Zimbabwe offers conducive conditions
for investment". Are there no boundaries beyond which the truth cannot be
extended? To any rational, thinking reader the very first sentence of the
article must have evidenced that it was a work of fiction, for it commenced
with the proud sentence that "Zimbabwe has a sound and lucrative investment
climate unparalleled in Southern Africa". How far-fetched can any statement
published in a national newspaper be? "Unparalleled"? Most certainly
Almost every country in Southern Africa has an economy which is in
sounder circumstances than Zimbabwe, and which is a more attractive
investment environment than Zimbabwe. South Africa's economy is considerably
more developed, active and inviting than that of Zimbabwe. It's inflation
is almost non-existent. It has a positive balance of payments. It is on
a substantial growth path. It is accommodating to investment. It has a
virile stock exchange. It has a responsible, secure, and safe financial
sector. It has countless other favourable characteristics.
The same is
true of Botswana. No exchange controls exist. Import cover exceeds 28 years.
Inflation is at minimal levels. Government is democratic, and its successive
presidents know how to retire. Mozambique's economy, distressed for many
years, is on a rapid upturn, notwithstanding years of adverse and destructive
climatic conditions. It promotes and facilitates both domestic and foreign
investment, with minimised bureaucracy and energetic endeavours to motivate
and assist investment. In varying degrees, the same can be said of Zambia,
Malawi, Angola, Uganda, Tanzania and other countries within the
And yet Zimbabwe's highest circulating daily newspaper has the
unmitigated arrogance to allege that not only does Zimbabwe have a sound and
lucrative investment climate, which statement is devoid of foundation, but
also to control that that climate is unparalleled within Southern Africa.
That contention is so ludicrous that not only will no thinking reader accept
it and find it believable, but most must react with sad and
ironic, disbelieving laughter.
The author of that fanciful article
proceeds to allege that Zimbabwe embarked upon a "successful land reform
programme". How on earth is it possible to allege that a programme which has
resulted in the displacement of over 300 000 farm workers, a reduction in
commercial maize production by almost 80%, in tobacco production by
approximately 75%, in sugar production by at least 50%, and a 60% decimation
of the national livestock herd was successful?
The author discloses
that he lives in "cloud cuckooland" when he claims that Zimbabwe's annual GDP
growth is 12,1%. He makes that claim in the face of statements by Ministers
of Finance and Economic Development that the last two years have witnessed
negative GDP growth, and when statistics released by government, and
statements by the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe corroborate that
Zimbabwe's economy has not grown, but has contracted
Equally stretching the imagination of readers to
inconceivably distant levels is the author's statement that: "The
communication infrastructure in Zimbabwe is advanced" although, perhaps in
relative terms, that can be so. Certainly it is more advanced (but not
necessarily more reliable) than the days of communication by runners with
cleft sticks, pigeon post, or the beating of drums. But the communication
infrastructure is unreliable, ineffectual, and obstructive to ongoing
economic activity, in the extreme. Endeavours to make Subscriber Trunk
Dialling (STD) calls to centres in Zimbabwe, and to destinations beyond
Zimbabwe, require extreme patience and perseverance. Almost continuously
those endeavours are rewarded by metallic voice messages that "All circuits
on the route you have dialled are occupied. Please try again later." or that
the "network is busy". When, after recurrent immensely frustrating attempts
to connect to a targeted number and connection is achieved, the call will -
more often than not, and especially on mobile telephone networks - be
prematurely terminated by loss of signal or network congestion.
trumpeting the attributes of Zimbabwe as a sound and lucrative
investment environment, the article's author alleges that: "Whilst many may
feel threatened to walk in the streets of some neighbouring countries,
all corners of Zimbabwe are safe for locals and visitors to enjoy the
beautiful sights of the country." No doubt the very numerous victims of
having their vehicles hijacked after their drivers were held up at pistol
point will not agree. Nor will the hundreds who have suffered severe assaults
after break-ins into their homes, and the hundreds more who have been
deprived of valuable personnel belongings by highly aggressive
The sense of security which for decades was a proud attribute
of life in Zimbabwe has disappeared, as evidenced by almost every domestic
residence turned into a fortress with concrete wall surrounds, and
electrified wiring mounted thereon. The absence of that sense of security is
also very visibly demonstrated by the immense extent to which businesses and
residences are now protected by security guards - that protection was not
required in years gone past.
And the lack of security is made very
clear by the unmitigated ability of war veterans (real or pseudo), and
thousands of others to invade and expropriate farms, vandalise the
improvements thereon, displace the farmers, and make endless extortion
demands. Most of all, that lack of security is highlighted by the frequent
failure of the supposed guardians of law and order to react and take
appropriate action against the perpetrators of those many violent, criminal
The fiction is extended even further by the fallacious claim that
"Political stability in Zimbabwe is guaranteed by the progressive and
dominant role that the ruling Zanu PF offers visitors and investors". How can
it be credibly claimed that there is political stability when not only does
true democracy not exist, but the dictatorship of the party is such that
people carry party membership cards out of fear of retribution for not doing
so, the silent majority fear exercising their right to vote, Presidential
Powers are exercised to advance political objectives rather than to
address emergencies, thereby circumventing the parliamentary system.
Constitutional commissions are hijacked into issuing determinations at
variance with majority opinion, lobbyist groups such as the AAG are
unhindered in being self-appointed enforcers of their own distorted versions
of the law. Individuals can be incarcerated for up to 28 days without charges
being brought against them, persons are determined guilty by the national
press prior to trial, legislation is steam-rollered through parliament, and
Admittedly, Zimbabwe could readily have an extremely sound
and very lucrative investment climate. The fertility of its land could render
it the granary of Africa, with vast agricultural output, if land tenure,
justice, respect for human rights and property, and for international and
national law were the order of the day. Agriculture could be restored to
being the foundation of a growth economy if an equitable and constructive
land reform programme would be pursued, instead of one governed by racial
hatred and perceived enrichment of the politically favoured. The wealth of
the minerals below the Zimbabwean soil could dramatically enrich the
Zimbabwean economy, if stable economic conditions prevailed, and if investors
were not justly fearful of expropriation.
Tourism too would contribute
markedly to the economy if genuine security prevailed in Zimbabwe, crime was
vigorously attacked, and tourist needs would be readily provided, instead of
being in short supply, as is - for example - the case with petroleum
products. And the very considerable, well-developed industrial infrastructure
could be a pavement supplier of regional needs, a source of continuing
employment for Zimbabweans, a generator of essential foreign currency
inflows, an ongoing provider of employment, and a contributor to downstream
But for Zimbabwe to develop a virile, investor
conducive economy, genuine democracy and political stability, real and
absolute justice, fiscal disciplines, constructive and collaborative
international relationships, and national unity are prerequisites. Without
them, the only sound and lucrative Zimbabwean economic climate will be in the
minds and writings of government' s propagandists.
MUCKRAKER was last week struck by the hypocrisy displayed by
President Robert Mugabe and his Namibian counterpart Sam Nujoma. Without
saying who had threatened to attack either Zimbabwe or Namibia, Nujoma told
his audience in Bulawayo that his country stood ready to help Zimbabwe
fight against imperialist forces. "Where do we go," asked Nujoma
almost rhetorically, "if we allow colonialists to come back again? Therefore
we have resolved to continue fighting whether imperialists want it or
not.If they dare to attack any of our countries, they will meet us
He didn't say much on the purpose of his visit, which was to
officially open the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair. That would have been a
huge embarrassment to his host whose black empowerment bid appears to have
gone horribly wrong. On display were mainly handmade merchandise and
other handicrafts such as wood and stone carvings.
In the past ZITF
provided the platform at which new machinery, technological innovations and
the latest vehicle models were unveiled. All that is gone. The star
attraction in the livestock section, Muckraker is informed authoritatively,
were two donkeys. That's a calamity for a country such as Zimbabwe whose
farmers have a worldwide reputation for their industry
That did not stop our fist-waving leader from offering
to share Zimbabwe's experiences and expertise in land reform with
"Your excellency," said Mugabe, "I am fully aware that the land
question is equally emotive in Namibia. I wish to assure you that my
government is ready to share its experiences and expertise in areas of land
planning, land evaluation and land redistribution, as well as land tenure,
land use and estate management."
As Zimbabweans will testify, Zimbabwe
is a case study on how not to.And Nujoma cannot be said to be naive. It was
only two weeks ago that he announced land redistribution in Namibia would be
properly planned and done according to the law and that landowners would be
That is not to say Namibians are not passionate about land.
It only reflects pragmatism and statesmanship. And a few months back German
chancellor Gerhard Shroeder pledged to help a legal and organised land
reform programme. Not a project of vengeance as we have in Zimbabwe. Nujoma
knows the distinction between solidarity rhetoric and what's good for his
So Information minister Jonathan Moyo's department got even more
slighted by claims that it had been offended by Zanu PF Makonde MP Kindness
Paradza's maiden speech in parliament in which he criticised the Broadcasting
Services Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act as
inimical to investment promotion in the media! The department was stung into
another vitriolic attack of the MP's speech as "ignorant" and full of
"inaccuracies" . People were not supposed to point out that the department
was angered by Paradza's speech, who himself should have known better than to
attack party policies in public, or in private for that matter as a "nervous
"For serious-minded people to imagine that
the department would be offended by ignorant remarks made by an ignorant
novice parliamentarian is a joke that is not funny," fumed the department
"happily" in the Sunday Mail. We are surprised that a department that wants
to be taken seriously has no shame in publicising its feelings even on the
pettiest of issues.
Why is Paradza now described as ignorant when there
were wild celebrations after he was elected as the MP for Makonde? So despite
the department's pretence that it is omniscient, it makes mistakes about the
candidates that can faithfully represent the interests of the
Meanwhile Paradza seems to have thought he was within his rights
as an MP to point out bad legislation, without knowing this was taboo in
Zimbabwe. The lesson he should have learnt long ago is that it is almost a
contradiction in terms to belong to Zanu PF and be independent-minded.
Precedents litter the whole history of independent Zimbabwe, from Byron Hove,
Eddison Zvobgo, Edgar Tekere to Dzikamai Mavhaire.
help one apoplectic Lowani Ndlovu. He appears to think that spitting venom
and epithets at 80 km/hour on its own constitutes an argument. In an article
titled "Sellout papers peddling lies about Kondozi Farm" published in the
Sunday Mail, he poured forth about "rubbish", "stupid" papers as if that was
enough to make him sound better than "hogwash". Muckraker can almost bet that
the fellow claiming to know the whole truth about Kondozi doesn't even know
where the farm is located. Then he has sentences like Kondozi Farm being
"acquired for acquisition and resettlement". Can anything beat that? But the
ignorance gets worse.
Media reports said 70 traditional leaders,
including 39 chiefs, visited VP Joseph Msika at his Munhumutapa offices in
Harare led by Chief Marange. Nobody talked about 39 chiefs and 70 traditional
leaders. He calls the reports themselves "lies" but doesn't say where Msika
has denied meeting the traditional leaders. Such an inquiry would necessarily
have interfered with his preordained script. Why let an inconvenient fact get
in the way of sweet-tasting falsehoods?
The article ended with the
astounding claim that "most Zimbabweans agree with and support the
government's position that there should be no going back on Kondozi". Who
carried out such a survey? If you ask Muckraker, the only person who has
expressed such a sentiment publicly is Information minister Jonathan Moyo.
Eureka! The sentence structure, the language, the venom and tone of the
article are clearly traceable right up to the doorsteps of Munhumutapa
Building! Lowani stays a myth.
Sunday Mail political editor Munyaradzi
Huni is worried about the South African media writing what it wants about
President Mugabe. It can be inferred that he is more comfortable with a media
wearing blinkers, "a gullible press which believes that finding and
highlighting government faults is unpatriotic", to use Professor Jonathan
Moyo's phrase. A mentality which sees an enemy of the state and a foreigner
behind every thinking Zimbabwean.
According to Huni, the South African
press is still controlled by what he calls the "apartheid man" who cannot
tell the "African story, the people's story". Needless to say that he doesn't
tell us what that story is. The only thing that used to be common about
Africa is that it was once described as the Dark Continent. Beyond that, what
can Huni say we have in common with Liberia or Somalia for instance? What do
we have in common with the Sudan? Unless he wants to endorse colonial
stereotypes about famine, dictatorships, civil wars and mass poverty as the
hallmarks of the continent!
But he soon found himself puncturing his own
over-generalised claims. While the media wanted South Africans to ignore
President Robert Mugabe when he visited that country for President Thabo
Mbeki's inauguration, ordinary people gave him a "standing
"That standing ovation is enough to tell the South African
media what the people in South Africa think about President Mugabe. President
Mugabe is their hero despite all the stinking lies from the apartheid
That is the contradiction Huni doesn't appreciate. Why bother to
control the press when people know better what they want, unless you have
something sinister to hide? If people don't want the press they are getting
that press dies a natural death.
But when they choose to listen to
their conscience, even state media reporters can sometimes see the reality of
our existence. Like Sifelani Tsiko did last Saturday. In a story headlined
"Living on garbage", the reporter managed to capture in unsanitised detail
the tough life that most Zimbabweans go through everyday.
oblivious to the overpowering stench and buzzing flies, James Simango pokes
at a heap of garbage and plucks out a prize - plastic containers full of all
kinds of waste, which he puts into a sack.It's a dirty business, but one that
can bring in up to $40 000 (about US$7,5 at the Reserve Bank auction rate) a
day," is how Tsiko opens his article on the lives of scavengers in
The caption under one of the pictures of a major municipal
rubbish dumpsite reads: "Thousands of people in Zimbabwe comb through waste
dumps for recyclable materials to survive."
This is part of the daily
reality for the urban poor that his bosses in the Information department
would rather not see because they are insulated by fat pay cheques and see
the world through rose-tinted windows.
When opposition Movement for
Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai warned ahead of the 2002
presidential election that Zimbabweans hadn't seen the worst of their
problems, this was cynically twisted to imply that he wanted sanctions
imposed on the country. He predicted that most people would be reduced to
scavengers. Instead the state media produced its Hondo Yeminda and Sendekera
jingles on how the majority of the people had been empowered and that the
land reform was an unparalleled success. Luckily Tsiko managed to smuggle
into the Saturday Herald home truths to make his bosses squirm in their
seats. Truth will out, whether Newsnet wants it or not.
Newsnet, whose motto claims "When it happens we will be there", it was
nowhere to be seen last week when National Constitutional
Assembly demonstrators were beaten by riot police in the Harare city centre.
In fact, there was such a blackout a lot of people don't know to this day
that there was a demonstration that was suppressed by brutal police gangs.
That tells us all we need to know about the type of information we are
permitted to have access to. It's a feat not even the colonial regime could
have achieved in a thousand years.
South Africa's Mail & Guardian
seems to have exposed its treachery by reporting that Zimbabwe could face a
famine. Our patriotic Tazzen Mandizvidza was not impressed by that report. He
claimed people were harvesting their crops after a good rainy season. The
claims by the newspaper were meant to tarnish the country's impeccable
While Muckraker thinks the figure of eight million people facing
food shortages is grossly inflated, we do not understand how the Mail &
Guardian has "demonised" the country as claimed by Mandizvidza. To us that
reads like the meteorological office forecasting very cold weather next
month. It's a mere forecast. You can make preparations the best you can. You
don't lose anything if June turns out to be hotter than October.
more telling was the fact that Mandizvidza studiously ignored the
Herald report about thousands of Zimbabweans "living on garbage". Where is
the food Tazzen?
Assisting Mandizvidza on his Monday programme was one
Lady Rubi who appeared fairly literate but allowed herself to be led by the
nose down the garden path. Her answer to everything that irked Mandizvidza
was "capitalism". You get lured into a ZBC Holdings studio at great peril to
your credibility. We hope Rubi will be more circumspect next time instead of
simpering over-indulgently to Mandizvidza's every question.
"PRESIDENT Mugabe has said our main enemy is the financial sector
but the other enemy is the media who use the pen to lie about this
Such reporters are terrorists and the position on how to deal
with terrorists is to subject them to the laws of Zimbabwe. If there are
any reporters who think they will effect a regime change here they will
find themselves in jail, we have enough prison room for them."
quotation above is attributed to our redoubtable Information
minister Jonathan Moyo. The comments were allegedly made in Bulawayo on
Friday last week, just two days before World Press Freedom Day.
if to lend credence to Moyo's threats, on May 3 the Committee for
the Protection of Journalists issued a rating of countries that are
most dangerous for journalists to work in. Zimbabwe settled for the bronze
medal after a bruising contest with Iraq (gold) and Cuba (silver). I don't
know if it was because of British machinations that we were not able to
clinch the gold medal.
But more seriously, I found the threat from
our mercurial Information minister not only sinister, it was
It is not the "prison room" that frightens me. It is the
fact of a reporter being described as a "terrorist" by a minister whose main
duty should be to see that journalists are protected and assisted in carrying
out their duties. It is the prospect of getting unemployment or inflation
figures about Zimbabwe wrong, for instance, and landing in prison. It is
the chilling reality that it does not need a court to decide whether or not
I have committed a crime and therefore must spend a night in prison. It is
the minister's law!
I am also terrified by the liberties the
minister takes with language when he uses inflammatory statements to randomly
categorise people as this or that for political purposes. Moyo says a
reporter who writes a lie about the country is not only an enemy, he is a
terrorist as well.
Were it not for the fear of offending the minister
I would say he is being dangerously reckless with words. The moment one
mentions terrorists I am reminded of the September 11 annihilation of the
Twin Towers in New York. I am reminded of the Bali bombings.
home mention of terrorists conjures up the horrors of allegations by Zanu PF
that the MDC plotted to bomb bridges across the country and all
tall buildings in Harare and Bulawayo ahead of the presidential election in
To then juxtapose these fiery images with a journalist
scribbling away with a pen is more than hyperbole. It excites a keen sense of
bathos. You fall from the sublime to the ridiculous.
is nothing sublime about acts of terrorism but something foul about a
Minister of Information describing journalists as terrorists for merely
getting facts wrong about their country. Especially if the minister is the
sole arbiter of what is correct and what is not.
Since the pernicious
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act was promulgated two years
ago nearly 40 reporters and journalists in the private media have been
arrested although none has been convicted in a court of law. That must be a
sobering thought for the minister.
But the minister's influence on
the media in Zimbabwe has been nothing short of uMfecane since he came on the
scene in 2000. Over 400 media workers have been forced to leave ZBC Holdings
and Zimpapers while the ANZ has been forced to shut down its Daily News and
the Daily News on Sunday. The future of the Tribune is
The overall impact has been turmoil for journalists and
their families. Dozens of them have been dispersed into the diaspora as far
afield as America and the UK where they are trying to survive the best they
can while back home the minister makes sure he has enough "prison room" for
the few journalists remaining. The Zulu people had Dingane and
So it was that the mourning event for Press Freedom Day
organised by ZUJ was held under the pall of a threat by Dr Tafataona Mahoso
of the Media and Information Commission that the Tribune risked losing its
publishing licence because of administrative anomalies. Apparently there is
no other remedy for infringement.
Speaker after speaker mourned
the ever-shrinking democratic space in an age when our people should be
enjoying the full benefits of Independence. That includes choosing the media
one wants to read the way we choose what we want to wear. The irony, as ZUJ
president Mathew Takaona pointed out, is that there are more colleges now
than at Independence churning out journalists while the market for them is
getting squeezed. And government is one of the greatest investors in the
training of journalists.
There was a solidarity message from UN
secretary-general Kofi Annan, read by United Nations Information Centre
staffer Tafadzwa Mumba, and a detailed speech by former attorney-general
Andrew Chigovera, now a commissioner on the African Commission on Human and
Peoples' Rights. We were too optimistic to expect something from the
Moyo's only comment as reported in the Herald
was a bit of casuistry about press freedom not being the same as freedom of
expression. It's so banal. We all know that. All we are saying is everyone
has a right to be heard. Media plurality almost certainly increases that
chance if the minister ever bothers to read the numerous letters in different
newspapers from across a wide section of the population. We cannot all go and
gather at Pockets Hill to be interviewed by Reuben Barwe.
rather be a guest at the minister's "prison room" than turn my head into a
prison for ideas through self-censorship.
Then there was the dubious
accolade of being unfriendly to journalists. That image will be very
difficult to shake off with our minister whose temperament is not tempered by
diplomacy. Just what was the point of his noisy brawl with Sky News reporters
when Zanu PF Information secretary Nathan Shamuyarira had already sanctioned
the crew's visit? That is in addition to dozens of foreign journalists who
have been deported in the past two years because they were tarnishing the
country's image. The minister or the journalists?
Forex runs out at Western Union Ngoni
Chanakira INTERNATIONAL money transfer agency, Western Union, on Monday ran
out of foreign currency for customers after Zimbabweans living abroad sent
in US$1,7 million to their counterparts.
There was drama in Harare's
central business district on Nelson Mandela Avenue as disgruntled customers
began losing tempers after being told by Western Union officials that foreign
currency was being rationed because it could not go round the hundreds of
them queuing outside.
The branch had to be temporarily closed and
security agents called in.
Last week, after meeting with South African
Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni in Botswana, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
governor Gideon Gono sent a statement telling the nation that they could now
sell their foreign currency to local banks and no questions would be asked as
to the source of the cash. Gono said the rate used would either be $5 200 or
the prevailing auction rate, whichever was higher.
rate on Monday stood at $5 333,76 for the United States dollar and $9 459,68
for the British pound.
"The money transfer agencies still need to
solve a few procurement issues in order to deal with transfers from the
diaspora," economic consultant Eric Bloch said. "They had not requested a
huge amount of forex to give customers and were overwhelmed by the
Bloch chairs the RBZ committee set up to tap foreign
currency from Zimbabweans in the diaspora. He said money transfer agencies
however needed to get their act together for the process to be
"After I made my announcement that locals will not be asked
where they got the money from, it started rolling in," Gono told
businessdigest. "In the two days after my announcement from Botswana we have
received US$1,7 million, which is not small change. Just imagine what will
happen in a month."
The money was from the UK, South Africa and
"Individuals now prefer to hand in their money to money
transfer agencies and commercial banks than sell it on the streets," Bloch
said. "If they get caught then they forfeit the money to the state and are
Parallel market rates at the moment are about $5 500 to
the US greenback as opposed to $5 300 officially, giving a difference of
between $100 and $200.
Analysts said the huge amount of money could
have been intended for school fees for relatives failing to meet the
country's escalating costs.
Everyone guilty says Robertson Ngoni
Chanakira ECONOMIC consultant John Robertson says without the parallel market
exchange rate used before Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono
bounced onto the money-controlling scene, every company producing commodities
would be bankrupt.
He said every exporting company came to depend upon
the additional Zimbabwe dollars they could obtain by trading part of their
export proceeds at the rising parallel market rates.
and frequent steep increases in wages and salaries, rents, utility charges
and other operating costs meant that these companies would not have been able
to meet their payments to staff without selling some or all of their
available foreign exchange on the parallel market," Robertson told business
executives gathered in Harare to discuss the foreign currency situation on
"But for the parallel market exchange rate, their exports
would have been impossible to sell because by converting 100% of their
proceeds at the official rate of exchange, they would not have been able to
cover their production costs." Some individuals and financial institutions
have been hauled before the courts accused of abusing the country's foreign
currency regulations as set down by the RBZ. Some executives have however
fled the country saying it is unfair to blame them because the money was
helping the nation.
Fearing that they would be hauled before the
courts on allegations of externalisation, NMB Holdings executives Julius
Makoni, James Mushore, Otto Chekeche and Francis Zimunya left the country for
the United Kingdom. So did Intermarket Holdings boss Nicholas Vingirai,
Barbican Holdings founder Mthuli Ncube and several financial institution
middle managers who sought refuge in the UK, South Africa and the
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development Chris Kuruneri
and business tycoon James Makamba are currently in jail for allegedly
externalising funds. Companies such as Telecel and ICL have already been
fined while Kingdom, CFX and Barclays Bank are awaiting judgement on their
"In essence without the parallel market exchange rate every
company producing commodities, goods or services for export would have been
forced into bankruptcy at some stage between 2000 and 2003," Robertson said.
"This is simply because at the rapidly rising rate of inflation, Zimbabwe
dollars at fixed official exchange rates inevitably became excessively
Gideon Gono on presidential ambitions Ngoni
Chanakira RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono says Zimbabweans
should not misconstrue his progress in cleaning up the financial services
sector as gunning for the presidency in disguise.
The governor on
Tuesday said his job description was simple and very similar to those of his
"My role is to monitor the country's monetary
policy issues," he said. "I am supposed to supervise financial institutions,
money supply growth, interest rates, balance government expenditure and
payments as well as try to curb devils like hyperinflation. Actually the job
is very clearly defined and specific. While doing this, maybe things have
Sentiments have been expressed that Gono, President
Mugabe's financial confidante, was now usurping the powers of the Minister of
Finance and Economic Development.
When he was appointed governor
in December, Gono's boss was Herbert Murerwa, once given a dressing down in
public by President Mugabe who accused him of running a funeral parlour
instead of a Finance ministry.
Murerwa was however early this year
reshuffled and replaced by business tycoon Christopher Kuruneri in President
Mugabe's latest "Young Turk" cabinet.
Kuruneri is currently in
remand prison awaiting trial for various issues including externalising
foreign currency to build an eight-bathroom two-storey mansion in South
Musical chairs immediately ensued at Finance after Kuruneri's
arrest and Murerwa bounced back as Gono's boss again.
(the idea about the presidency) is because I deal with everybody," Gono said
when asked about his ambitions and whether he was interested in President
Mugabe's job on Tuesday.
A high-ranking business executive asked the
"When I do my reports I talk to everybody - the media,
lawyers, labour, women's groups, soldiers, economists and small-scale
business executives. You cannot achieve success in this kind of job if you do
not consult widely. About the job at State House I'm hearing it from
He said however his work rate was proving too much for some
individuals, including his advisors.
"When I arrived here people
thought I was crazy," he said. "My security slept at around 2:00 am daily and
came back to pick me up at home at 8:00 am and it was business as usual. I
had a job to do because I had my maiden monetary policy statement to present
within three weeks, which I did. The rest, as you can witness, is now up to
the public to judge."
Gono, in his monetary policy statement, told
bankers that they were wayward and he would deal with them ruthlessly if they
did not comply with RBZ regulations.
"Some thought I was joking,"
he said. "When I told the nation that asset management firms were an accident
waiting to happen they did not believe me. Thank God that accident did not
Gono said Zimbabwe's economy needed more surgery before it
could get back to normal levels.
He said what had killed the
economy was indiscipline, smuggling and the parallel market caused by a
serious foreign currency shortage and a skewed exchange rate. He said both
government and the private sector were responsible for
Gono's predecessor was Leonard Tsumba, accused of trying
"bookish solutions to a crisis scenario" by Mugabe.
"We still have
to deal with indiscipline which did not define any logic," he said. "It was
fashionable in Zimbabwe to increase prices at any time and there was now a
bandwagon of price increasers. This had to be stopped. The country was full
of middlemen with no job description."
Zimbabwe's unemployment rate
stands at more than 75%.
Gono said his consultations with all
stakeholders had opened up a different world not only within the financial
services sector but also in all others including churches, activist groups as
well as top government brass.
"Right now the governor's office no
longer has a door and windows," he said. "We are now working on bringing the
roof down at 80 Samora Machel Avenue so that anybody and everybody can come
in and give me advice.
However, I will not come to you. You must come to
me to advise me what you think because there are too many Zimbabweans to go
around if I decided to do a door-to-door exercise."
he was receiving support from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) for his policies, Gono said he had agreed not to reveal information
about those who were helping him in his cause. He said this could prove
dangerous in the event that their "constituency" did not approve of
"What I can tell you is that there are some individuals who
continue to blow their trumpets even when there is no audience," Gono
He confirmed that if he found that individuals who influence
the success of the monetary policy statement were not playing ball, he would
simply run with the ball and win the game for the nation without
"If the politics is not good and people are complaining I will,
albeit diplomatically, tell them to deal with it," he said.
need to move on and this demands action. When I accepted this job I told my
bosses that failure was not an option."
ZTA strives to polish image Ngoni Chanakira THE
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) has now been forced to organise a workshop
to explain how and where they arrive at some of their figures dished out
Tourism industry officials have been issuing different
information for arrivals and departures, making life very difficult for the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra)
which need the figures to calculate revenue.
RBZ governor Gideon
Gono last year said there was huge potential in tourism which officials were
not taking advantage of..
He allocated $15,7 billion to the industry
from the productive sector facility during the first quarter of this
While there have been conflicting statistics on arrivals and
earnings Gono says tourism receipts increased by 40,4% from US$11,4 million
in 2002 to US$16 million in 2003.
Economic consultant John
Robertson this week disputed the figures, saying the department seemed to be
guessing all the time.
He said as long as tourists feared for their
lives they would not visit Zimbabwe but go to neighbouring South Africa and
Zambia from where they could also view the famous Victoria
Gono, in his monetary policy review statement, said reflecting
improving tourist perceptions on Zimbabwe as a safe and attractive
destination, the number of tourist arrivals had been on a marked upward trend
ZTA marketing executive Givemore Chidzidzi was this week
quoted as saying they would be organising a workshop, especially for media
practititioners, to explain to them how they arrived at some of their
He accused the media of failing to understand how his
organisation arrived at them.
Confusion meanwhile continues to
rein in the country's tourism industry with the announcement of Gono's new
figures during the monetary policy statement review.
figures, announced in the monetary policy review statement, were surprisingly
almost 100% lower than those released by the ZTA. The revelation put the
credibility of the tourism authority in doubt and embarrassed
The ZTA had earlier issued statistics indicating that the
country's tourist arrivals had grown to 2,2 million last year compared to
2,041 million in 2002.
In his statement, Gono announced that tourist
arrivals had only increased to 1 089 million last year compared to 739 284 in
The tourism authority claimed that tourism receipts had plunged
from US$75,7 million in 2002 to US$44,1 million last year. However Gono said
there had been a 40% increase in tourism receipts from US$11,4 million in
2002 to US$16 million last year.
Zimbabwe Council for Tourism
(ZCT) boss and Zimsun chief executive officer Shingi Munyeza disputed the
figures, saying they were exaggerated
NRZ problems hamper sugar exports Eric
Chiriga ZIMBABWE Sugar Refinery (ZSR) says it is failing to supply sufficient
sugar quantities for export because of delays and inefficiency by the
National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ).
"The erratic supply of rail
wagons and locomotives by the National Railways of Zimbabwe caused delays in
railing sufficient quantities of sugar to the port for export," ZSR chairman
Godfrey Gomwe said.
He said all shipments under the African Caribbean
Countries and various other preferential quotas had been
The NRZ is facing serious operational problems because of a
shortage of locomotives and rail wagons. To operate viably, NRZ requires at
least 108 wagons but it has only 60 that are usable.
parastatal is paying Spoornet, a South African rail service provider, a total
of R6 million every month because it is failing to return wagons it had
Gomwe said the unavailability of locomotives coupled with
the shortage of coal was adversely affecting the supply of sugar on the local
"The domestic market sugar off-take was 9% as compared to the
previous year," he said. "This was principally a result of production
bottlenecks experienced at the refineries in Bulawayo and Harare due to
shortage of coal coupled with the unavailability of locomotives and rail
wagons to transport the raw sugar from the Lowveld to the respective
Gomwe said sugar production for the year 2003 was 501
423 tonnes, a decrease of 14% as compared to the previous year.
ZCTU seeks $861 000 monthly wage Godfrey Marawanyika/
Rodwin Chirara A MAJOR collective bargaining battle is on the cards between
employers and workers as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) is now
seeking $861 000 as the minimum wage in line with the poverty datum
Labour's demands come in the wake of poverty datum line figures for
the first quarter which were compiled by the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe
ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo this week said there was need
for an upward review of what workers were earning.
"What we would
like people to earn is based on the recommendations of the Consumer Council
of Zimbabwe who said the poverty datum line for a family of six should now be
$861 000 a month," Matombo said. "$861 000 is what we are simply asking for.
That figure is for the first quarter and now we are in the second quarter and
are giving employers up until June 1 or else we are embarking on a nationwide
strike to pressure them (employers)."
The last time the ZCTU called
for a successful stayaway was in 1998, when it managed to grind the economy
to a standstill as workers heeded the union leaders' call for a work
However, over the past two years, the ZCTU's efforts to
protest on issues such as those of governance have failed to meet the 1998
Matombo said although some of the unions were still
negotiating with their employers they should try and meet the June
"We are saying that they should meet the June deadline just
in case inflation maintains its stability like what it has been doing during
the first quarter," Matombo said.
"Then there would be a need to
stabilise incomes against prices, because some employers are now adopting the
Reserve Bank governor's comments that workers should not demand higher
In his monetary policy review, RBZ governor Gideon Gono said
workers should not make huge wage demands because this could cause
inflationary pressures on the economy.
Employers' Confederation of
Zimbabwe president Mike Bimha was not available for comment as he was said to
be attending a board meeting.
Last month the Confederation of
Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) raised concern about the issue of labour
The CZI said for a successful economic recovery programme, the
ZCTU should not be accustomed to high wage increments that have been
necessary in the past because of hyperinflation.
The CZI said the
ZCTU should mitigate "their wage expectations in the light of the falling
Zimbabwe's year-on-year inflation has declined from
a high of 622,8% in January this year to the current 583%.
same time month-on-month that averaged around 18% last year, and reached a
peak of 33% in November, slowed down to 13,7% in January, 6% in February and
5,9% in March.
'Rwandan' cleansing act on Zim scribes By Bill
Saidi SO soon after the people of Rwanda remembered Africa's worst example
of ethnic cleansing in 1994 a few weeks ago, it was chilling to hear a
junior minister in the government of President Robert Mugabe speak once again
of journalists as "terrorists".
What do you do with
He did not use the word "cleansing", but it can be taken
for granted that to accomplish this mission the Department of Information may
have to engage in a clean-up as gruesome as the Hutu massacres of Tutsis and
This may not be in the literal sense - lining up the
journalists in a football stadium and having them shot at dawn. But shutting
down their newspapers and throwing them out of jobs could have the same
So far, the department, through its licensed-to-kill "Rambo" -
the Media and Information Commission - has displayed its keenness to do just
But it was even more frightening, on World Press Freedom Day,
to hear the government media practically wetting itself with glee and
optimism at the state of freedom of the press in this country.
listen to them, but particularly Tafataona Mahoso, you would think the New
York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists had just
awarded Zimbabwe a first prize as the Most-Journalist-Friendly country in the
Not a word about their rating of Zimbabwe as the third worst
country in the world for journalists to work in.
Iraq, under the
US-led occupation, topped the list. But there is a bloody war in that
country, whatever label the Bush administration may wish to stick on
Cuba was second, whatever spin Fidel Castro's apologists, among
them President Mugabe and Zanu PF, would want to put on it.
Cuba is a communist country, run by one man's iron fist since 1959.
The island state may supply doctors to replace highly-qualified but
lowly-paid Zimbabwean doctors who flee their own country to seek more dignity
and more pay in other lands, far and near.
Apart from the official
Gramma newspaper, Cuba has few other newspapers which could qualify, in the
strictest sense of the words, as free and independent. This would be like
mentioning any other newspaper in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea,
apart from The Pyongyang Times, the official organ of the Workers'
The world got to know so little about the recent tragic collision
of two trains near the DPRK's border with the People's Republic of China for
that precise reason - real valuable information is rationed, much like most
of the food is rationed in that country and in Cuba.
For Zimbabwe to
be included among the Top Three on the Worst-Journalist-Haters' list is
something that ought to make Jonathan Moyo, Mahoso and all those "analysts"
they trundle to the TV studios, sick with shame.
But, of course, it
would be out of character for them to feel any shame whatsoever. Their
mission is to "cleanse" the media fraternity of any alien substances, such as
the 100% pure, clean liquid that guarantees freedom and the independence of
thought of anyone who takes even a smidgen of it.
Moyo did not exactly
amaze many of his critics with his recent statement that Zanu PF (or Zimbabwe
as represented by that stone-age party) did not believe that the existence of
an independent media was a requisite component of the democratic
He has gone too far along the road to perdition to be
expected to pronounce any doctrine or ideology other than that which
repudiates everything the United Nations Charter and the Declaration of Human
Rights of 1948 stand for.
Speaking of which, you had to applaud the
fervour with which speakers at the World Press Freedom Day function - nobody
in their right senses dared to call it a celebration - sponsored by the
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists defended the right of the citizen to consume
any and all information.
Even Andrew Chigovera, the former
Attorney-General, after detailing the functions of the African Human Rights
Commission, could not help but comment that journalists needed to unite to
fight for their rights.
But the most sharp-edged comment came from Elisha
Mushayakarara, the long-time banker and civil servant. He said he found out
about Zimbabwe's atrocious record as the third worst country for journalists
to work in on the Reuter terminal - and not in the local media.
and more people, previously hooked on the government propaganda that the
world media was being unfair in its treatment of the country's politics, are
slowly beginning to realise this must be the biggest fib the government has
foisted on the people.
If there is any cleansing to be done, the
journalists are the last people to deserve it.
The real targets are so
loud and foul-mouthed their identity and location must be public knowledge by
l Bill Saidi is editor of the Daily News on Sunday currently