Opposition leaders accuse Zimbabwe's President of a 'midnight ambush' over
Alex Duval Smith and Tracy McVeigh
Sunday October 12 2008
Robert Mugabe yesterday attempted an 'ambush' on the power-sharing agreement
in Zimbabwe by claiming all the key cabinet posts and control of the state
security forces for his own party.
In an open challenge to the power-sharing pact between the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the President's ruling Zanu-PF
party, which have reached deadlock over the allocation of ministries, Mugabe
made a typically defiant gesture by gazetting the 14 key ministries as
having been allocated to Zanu-PF.
In fact the negotiations of which posts go to which party are still
undecided, although the number of posts that should be allocated to each
party has been agreed, and the former South African president, Thabo Mbeki,
has been asked back to Harare to attempt to resolve the impasse.
Last night Mbeki's spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga, confirmed to The
Observer that the former president was heading to Zimbabwe determined to
bring the country's warring parties together. 'Yes, there is a deadlock in
Zimbabwe, but Mbeki is flying to Harare on Monday to make sure there is
solution to the power-sharing deal,' he said.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the announcement of the posts by Zanu-PF
was a 'midnight ambush style of attack' and meant the proposed national
unity government was again in jeopardy. 'It shows that Mugabe thinks this
thing is not about power-sharing but about power-grabbing. We reject the
unilateral, contemptuous and barbaric ambush by Zanu-PF as an attempt to get
the MDC into office but without power. We derive our legitimacy and mandate
from the people of Zimbabwe, not Zanu-PF, who were rejected by the very same
people in the 29 March elections.'
Mbeki, chief mediator for the Southern African Development Community (SADC),
now faces an even more uphill struggle. But Ratshitanga insisted that the
former South African leader has been in contact with Mugabe, MDC leader
Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, who heads a rival MDC faction. The
trio met on Friday for more than an hour but little progress had been made
apart from inviting Mbeki to return.
Mugabe then took the step of unilaterally claiming both the security
portfolios - defence and home affairs - which the MDC had insisted should be
split. He also claimed foreign affairs, justice, media, mines and land. Last
month Zanu-PF signed an agreement with the two MDC factions which stated
that Mugabe's party would be granted 15 ministries, Tsvangirai'13 and
'What worsened the whole issue is Mugabe's refusal to share the cabinet
posts equally,' said Chamisa. 'As MDC, we fear that if Mugabe allocates
himself key ministerial posts such as defence, home affairs and justice,
then chances are high that he might abuse the powers invested in him to
purge those that viewed to be his enemies.
'We need to move forward and address immediate problems such as hunger and
reopening of companies as well as addressing education and health issues,
but Mugabe is a stumbling block. We strongly believe that we should continue
negotiations until we reach common ground.'
On Friday Tsvangirai told journalists: 'We have declared a deadlock and
therefore the process cannot move forward except in the presence of the
facilitator [Mbeki].' Tsvangirai won the March presidential elections but
according to disputed official figures he fell short of the necessary 51 per
cent. A re-run in June became a one-man race after Tsvangirai withdrew,
citing a wave of violence and murder being unleashed against his supporters.
Zimbabwe's inflation is hovering above 231 million per cent and prices
double every two to three days, compounded by acute food shortages and
chronic disease rates. The World Food Programme has launched a new appeal
for £70m to help feed the country.
Thabo Mbeki heads for Harare to break deadlock over cabinet posts as
opposition MDC cries foul
By Raymond Whitaker
Sunday, 12 October 2008
South Africa's former president, Thabo Mbeki, is on his way to Zimbabwe for
what may be a final attempt to rescue the peace deal he brokered last month,
after President Robert Mugabe sought to appoint members of his Zanu-PF party
to every key post in the cabinet.
The government-owned Herald newspaper announced yesterday that Mr Mugabe had
unilaterally allocated his party all the portfolios governing security and
the economy, leaving the opposition with less important ministries. Under
the deal signed on 15 September, the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai,
was due to become prime minister, and his Movement for Democratic Change
said it would demand the ministries of home affairs, finance and foreign
affairs. The Herald said that Mr Mugabe planned to award all three
portfolios to Zanu-PF, as well as the defence and justice posts.
Nelson Chamisa, the MDC's main spokesman, called the announcement a
"midnight ambush style of attack" that had put the proposed national unity
government in jeopardy. "This is Zanu-PF's arrogant wish list," he said. "It
is unilateral, contemptuous and outrageous. It shows that Mugabe thinks this
thing is not about power-sharing, but is about power-grabbing. We see things
Last month's accord was greeted with relief at home and abroad, but there
has since been deadlock: not only has Mr Mugabe done nothing to implement
the agreement, but Mr Mbeki was ousted from the South African presidency,
weakening his prestige. A spokesman said he would arrive tomorrow at the
request of Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai, who failed yet again on Friday
evening to resolve the division of cabinet positions.
Under the power-sharing deal, Mr Mugabe would remain as President and head
of the cabinet, in which Zanu-PF would have 15 seats. The combined
opposition would have 16 seats, reflecting their defeat of the government in
April parliamentary elections. Mr Tsvangirai, who led Mr Mugabe in the first
round of the presidential election held at the same time but withdrew from
the June run-off in protest at the rising tide of violence against the
opposition, would chair a separate committee of ministers tasked with
The deal always looked unwieldy, and fears that Mr Mugabe was simply seeking
to outlast his opponents appear increasingly justified. The official media,
while softening their abuse of Mr Tsvangirai, have continued to denounce
"interference" by Britain, the US and the rest of Zimbabwe's supposed
Western enemies, but these countries may be too distracted by the
international financial crisis to maintain pressure on the Zimbabwean
The MDC insisted in the negotiations that it wanted responsibility for the
security forces to be split, with the opposition gaining the home affairs
ministry, which controls the police. It also wanted the foreign affairs
portfolio, to restore Zimbabwe's reputation abroad, and said the country
would not receive the international economic assistance it needs unless it
controlled the finance ministry.
Zimbabwe's economic slide has continued since the pact was signed, with
official inflation at a new record 231 million per cent. Yesterday the
central bank introduced a new Z$50,000 note, barely two weeks after
launching Z$10,000 and Z$20,000 notes, and increased the amount Zimbabweans
can draw each day from their bank accounts. Previously the limit was
Z$20,000, forcing people to go to the bank almost every day and wait in long
queues. The new ceiling is Z$50,000, enough to buy three loaves of bread.
A controversial associate of Zimbabwe's President sees his business partner
deported to the U. S. to face fraud charges
Brian Hutchinson, National Post Published: Saturday, October 11, 2008
Ari Ben-Menashe is a former spy and arms dealer who maintains what he calls
a "personal relationship" with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, a man he
A resident of Montreal, Mr. Ben-Menashe has for years conducted business on
behalf of the brutal Mugabe regime, attempting to "improve" its image, or so
There was a scheme in 2001, when he contrived to incriminate Mr. Mugabe's
chief political opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, in a presidential assassination
plot. It was a nasty, ugly affair, conducted primarily from Mr.
Ben-Menashe's Montreal office.
In Harare, Mr. Tsvangirai was accused of treason and jailed. He faced
execution. Mr. Ben-Menashe, 56, was the prosecution's star witness. The
trial judge saw right through him, calling him "rude, unreliable, and
Hard to say how that helped Zimbabwe. It did nothing to improve Canada's
Mr. Ben-Menashe returned to Montreal with a personal services contract
forged with the Zimbabwean government. Allegations of fraud soon followed.
Furious food buyers claimed to have been stiffed by Mr. Ben-Menashe's food
shipment companies. There were lawsuits. A divorce from his wife.
Now this:Mr. Ben-Menashe's longtime business partner was deported last week
to the United States, where he faces myriad criminal charges, including
racketeering, conspiracy and fraud.
Until his capture, Alexander Legault worked from a number of downtown
Montreal offices that he shared with Mr. Ben-Menashe. A Montreal police
officer became aware of their activities. It was his dogged police work that
led to Mr. Legault's detention and deportation.
Mr. Legault is a 59-year-old American with a troubling past. He married a
Canadian named Frances Langleben; her mother, Florence Langleben, was among
those who sued the U. S. government and the Central Intelligence Agency for
involving them in secret brainwashing experiments.
He arrived in Canada in 1982 and was soon arrested following a U. S.
extradition request. The Superior Court of Quebec dismissed the request on
grounds that evidence of fraud tendered against him was insufficient. In
1986, aU. S. federal grand jury indicted Mr. Legault on new charges,
including fraud and the use of fictitious names. According to court
documents, Mr. Legault is alleged to have helped defraud the Egyptian
government of US$7-million by participating in a bogus export scheme that
involved frozen chickens.
He then filed a refugee claim. Before that was dismissed, he moved to
Windsor and allegedly participated in a multi-million dollar Ponzi-style
scam that involved the brokering and financing of wholesale food
transportation. The fraud was directed at elderly Florida residents and
resulted in many more criminal charges laid against Mr. Legault, and others.
One of his alleged associates, an American named Ray Reynolds, was arrested
and plea-bargained with state prosecutors in Florida. He agreed to a 22-year
Mr. Legault, meanwhile, remained safe in Canada, which frustrated Florida
officials to no end. "Legault claimed years ago that he had some kind of in
with the Canadian government, that it would always protect him," says Jodie
Breece, former chief assistant statewide prosecutor. "Maybe that explains
the inactivity of the Canadian government in [going after] him."
His marriage ended; he then married a martial arts champion, and they had
four children together.
It was around this time, in the mid-1990s, that Mr. Legault's immigration
lawyer, Richard Kurland, introduced him to Ari Ben-Menashe. "My thinking
was, maybe they could work together," Mr. Kurland once told me in an
interview. "Here were two intelligent guys. They both had interesting
Born in Iraq to Jewish parents, Mr. Ben-Menashe was fired from Israel's
intelligence service in 1987 and was arrested in New York two years later,
accused of trying to sell Israeli warplanes to Iran. A sensational trial
ensued and Mr. Ben-Menashe was acquitted.
He became a favourite -- if unreliable -- source for American investigative
journalists such as Seymour Hersch and Craig Unger, both of whom were
ultimately burned by faulty information Mr. Ben-Menashe provided.
Unwelcome in the United States, Australia and Israel, Mr. Ben-Menashe moved
to Canada in 1993, married, and became a Canadian citizen.
He also attracted interest from Foreign Affairs officials who seemed to
think him a good source of information.
Mr. Legault was a wanted man when the pair set up shop together. In 1998, he
filed an application for permanent residence in Canada, on humanitarian and
compassionate grounds, arguing that his children needed him close by. The
application was denied, but he kept working in Montreal, alongside Mr.
The pair was hired by the Mugabe regime, and from Montreal launched the
disgraceful attempt to incriminate Morgan Tsvangirai and send him to the
In 2003,Mr. Legault was finally ordered from Canada. An airplane was hired
by the Canadian Border Services Agency; he was to fly from Montreal to
Chicago, where he was also wanted. He didn't show up for the flight. Mr.
Legault became a fugitive.
The National Post tracked him down in 2005. It wasn't difficult, even though
Mr. Legault had by then taken an alias. He was calling himself Frank
Lavigne, and was operating, with Mr. Ben-Menashe, a Montrealbased company
called Albury Grain Sales Inc.
Remarkably, Canadian authorities knew this. "We are aware that [Mr. Legault]
was operating under at least one other identity," CBSA spokesman
Robert Gervais told the National Post, in July, 2005. "We were aware of the
address of Albury Grain Sales, and it's an empty office. Obviously, we're
still looking for him, and we're active in our investigation, but up to now,
even with all this information, we haven't managed to arrest him."
They needed only to watch Mr. Ben-Menashe's movements. After closing down
Albury, he opened another office on the edge of Old Montreal. A new grain
shipping company was minted, called Traeger Resources and Logistics Inc. The
CEO? Frank Lavigne.
I called the Traeger office this week, asking for Mr. Ben-Menashe. We spoke
at length. He expressed no regret that his fugitive partner is now sitting
in a jail cell in Clinton County, N. Y., that he is awaiting almost certain
extradition to Florida, where authorities say he will spend the rest of his
life in prison, if convicted. On Monday, Mr. Legault was denied bail. His
next court appearance is Nov. 7.
"My personal feelings don't matter," Mr. Ben-Menashe told me. "I'm not in
any trouble. I haven't broken any laws."
It's true. Mr. Ben-Menashe has not been charged with any crime. Authorities
in the United States have expressed no interest in him, and Canadian
officials seem untroubled by his activities. He has not been accused of
harbouring a fugitive.
He has lost his partner of long-standing but he is not without friends. Mr.
Ben-Menashe still has his relationship with Robert Mugabe, which dates back
to 1985, he says. Among other things, he serves as political and business
fixer for the loathed Mugabe regime, helping arrange transactions between
the Zimbabwean government and private companies, and attempting to
rehabilitate the country's dreadful image.
Albert Weidemann, an anti-Mugabe activist in the United Kingdom, notes that
Mr. Ben-Menashe recently dangled a lucrative contract in front of him,
during a meeting inside London's Ritz Hotel.
According to terms of the contract, which the National Post has obtained,
the government of Zimbabwe promised to pay Mr. Weidemann US$1.4-million a
month, for two years. Mr. Weidemann says it was intended as hush money. He
refused to sign it. "I couldn't look at my friends in Zimbabwe had I taken
that money," he says. "I couldn't live with myself had I done that deal with
The Montrealer shrugs it off. It was a sweet contract, for everyone, he
says. He stood to gain 10% of the payments from Zimbabwe, according to the
terms. "We don't work for nothing," Mr. Ben-Menashe says.
Rumours have surfaced that he met with his African patron in late August. In
Montreal. "I'm not commenting on that," Mr. Ben-Menashe says. "I won't
discuss it." I asked him to deny it. He refused.
Other opportunities may develop, he allows. "I have a personal relationship
with Robert Mugabe. If you want to deal with him, then you might want to
deal with the guy who knows him pretty well. And I know him very well," Ari
Given everything -- his past dealings, his political interferences, his
associations -- this should worry the Canadian government. It seems it does
National Post, with files from Graeme Hamilton
The Sunday Times
October 12, 2008
Hopes that Zimbabwe's once booming safari industry could be revived have
been dashed by reports that Robert Mugabe's cash-strapped government is
allowing rich trophy-hunters to destroy the country's wildlife.
Tourists pay tens of thousands of dollars for permits to bag the Big Five
(elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and rhino) on private land, but safari
operators have reported encounters with professional hunters and their
trophy-seekng clients in the Hwange and Victoria Falls national parks, and
tourists have heard shots fired and seen carcasses. The government denies
the claims. Last week, Dr MZ Mtsambiwa, director-general of the Zimbabwe
Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, insisted "no trophy hunting takes
place in national parks", adding that men seen with hunting rifles in
protected areas were professional hunters engaged to train park staff in
elephant culling techniques.
Poaching is also on the increase - 27 black rhinos have been slaughtered
this year - and Zimbabwe's national parks authority has given orders for
more than 60,000lb of bush meat to be issued to staff every month, as a
supplement to their wages.
"The survival of our wildlife is now being seriously threatened by the very
people who are supposed to be protecting it," says Johnny Rodrigues, of the
Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.
Saturday, 11 October 2008 19:45
PROCEEDING with public examinations for primary and secondary schools
tomorrow could have disastrous consequences for the future of students
because the education system is in disarray, The Standard has learnt.
Last week, acting Minister of Education Flora Bhuka announced that all
examinations would go ahead although there was a shift from the traditional
dates for certain subjects.
But educationists and civil society have warned the move could
backfire because pupils, teachers and the examining authority, the Zimbabwe
School Examinations Council (Zimsec) indicate serious lack of preparedness.
There was no learning worth examining this year, they said.
Students have not received statements of entry to confirm they had
been correctly registered for the examinations.
The statement of entry guides the students on the subject, date and
time they will write their examinations. By Friday close of business,
examination papers had not been delivered to most schools with reports that
Zimsec employees were on a go-slow.
Takavafira Zhou, President of the Progressive Teachers Union of
Zimbabwe (PTUZ), said the decision by government to go ahead with
examinations was most unfortunate.
He said there was no meaningful learning and teaching in 2008 and that
examination classes were not prepared
"As a union we are worried that Zimsec and Ministry of Education
officials want to give the false impression that everything is on course,"
Zhou said. "As PTUZ we note that examinations are not an event but a
process. Given realities on the ground it is logical to cancel 2008
According to PTUZ, between January and March there was industrial
action by teachers. Then schools closed a week earlier for the March
During the elections teachers acted as polling officers, prejudicing
students as a result. Nothing was done to compensate for the lost time.
After the March 29 elections, said PTUZ, classes were also disrupted
during April, May, June and July in the retribution campaign by Zanu PF that
left at least 130 MDC supporters dead.
Teachers were also targeted and displaced during the violence while
some schools were invaded and used as torture bases by self-styled war
veterans and Zanu PF militia, disrupting classes.
There are also fears that there would be no invigilators at most
examination centres, as teachers have been on strike since the beginning of
the school term in protest at low pay. Last week, teachers received a "top
up" of $90 000 to their salaries. The top up is many times more than the
average salary teachers received last month.
The PTUZ is demanding at least US$1 200 a month as basic salary in
line with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe's "dollarisation" of the economy.
The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) last week weighed in with
concerns that it was not wise for the examinations to go ahead. Among other
concerns, Unicef said teachers and District Education Officers were "ill-
equipped" to run national examinations.
A survey conducted by Unicef showed that an estimated 40% of the
country's teachers were reporting for duty, while a third of the pupils were
Unicef supports orphans and vulnerable children in meeting their
schooling needs. It said the 2008 academic year was seriously disrupted
because of the continuous teachers' strikes, elections and accompanying
Unicef said following "disturbing results" from routine monitoring
visits on the situation in Zimbabwe it was seriously concerned about the
"Between a two-month teachers' strike, limited learning materials,
political violence and displacements, Zimbabwe's children have lost a whole
year of schooling," said Unicef Country Representative, Roeland Monasch.
"The depletion of teachers in schools, transport and food problems
faced by the remaining teachers and lack of resources have left the sector
tottering on the brink of collapse."
PTUZ also recently carried out a survey on the "preparedness for
"That survey," said PTUZ Secretary-General Raymond Majongwe, "proved
that teachers and students are not prepared for examinations."
The survey was prompted by a dismal performance during the mid-year
examinations. At least 30 schools were targeted in the survey.
With these worrying trends, Unicef believes the education sector is
too critical a sector to be left to die.
"Education remains the engine to drive Zimbabwe's long-term
prospects," Monasch said. "It is critical that the sector is not left to
collapse. Enduring solutions on salaries, food and working conditions should
be reached soon, the monitoring visits should be beefed up, and the
situation in schools requires urgent action.
"Zimbabwe's children are already suffering on multiple fronts; denying
them an education to better their prospects is unacceptable."
The Zimbabwe Teachers' Association has criticised the government for
undermining the plight of teachers, saying this was having negative
consequences on the quality of education.
By Bertha Shoko
Saturday, 11 October 2008 19:41
A government lawyer has admitted that the controversial appointment of
specially elected councillors by the Minister of Local Government, Public
Works and Urban Development, Ignatious Chombo was unprocedural.
This admission followed a court challenge by the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC).
The MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai sought an urgent High Court order to
stop the appointment of six Zanu PF officials to represent "special
interests" in the MDC-controlled municipality.
Virginia Mabhiza of the civil division of the Attorney General's
office agreed with MDC lawyer, Job Sibanda and Sikhangele Zhou representing
the city council that there was no statutory instrument that allowed Chombo
to make the appointments.
She made the admission during a hearing by High Court Judge, Francis
Bere in an urgent application by MDC ward chairman, Billy Ncube challenging
the inclusion of the Zanu PF officials.
Bere ruled that the application could not be given preference
following indications that the local authority was still to comply with the
Sibanda of Job Sibanda and Associates said the admission effectively
nullified the appointment of specially elected councillors, most of them
losing Zanu PF candidates during council elections throughout the country.
"The law states that the appointments are done by the way of a
statutory instrument but the minister simply wrote a letter to the Bulawayo
City Council to incorporate the councillors," Sibanda said.
"It is not a private matter between the minister and the city council.
We were seeking the nullification of the appointments and the admission by
government lawyers means they are null and void."
Last week the Bulawayo councillors asked the mayor, Thaba Moyo to seek
clarification on the criteria used to appoint former councillors, Abednigo
Nyathi, Emmanuel Kanjoma, Tadubana Tshuma, Dennis Ndlovu, Tryphine Nhliziyo
and David Ndlovu.
They argued that some of the nominees had unsuccessfully contested in
the harmonised March elections either as councillors or senators on a Zanu
Councillors accused Zanu PF of trying to regain control of the
municipality through the back door by creating parallel structures.
Other MDC councils including Mutare have also challenged Chombo's
appointments saying his nominees represented Zanu PF interests.
Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development permanent
secretary, Partson Mbiriri in an opposing affidavit sought to downplay the
view that Zanu PF was trying to impose its own people in the Bulawayo
council, where it lost control.
"Allegations that they were appointment on a Zanu PF ticket are far
from true reflection and without basis," Mbiriri said. "They are business
people running different types of businesses.
"Three of them are aldermen having more than 10 years of experience as
councillors, and were appointed to provide guidance."
Chombo has been accused of meddling in the affairs of the
MDC-controlled urban councils where in the past the minister imposed
hand-picked commissions after dismissing popularly elected MDC mayors.
By Kholwani Nyathi
Saturday, 11 October 2008 19:21
Starving teachers in the rural Masvingo central constituency have
resorted to eating porridge meant for primary school children for survival
as hunger blights the province.
The porridge is donated by humanitarian aid organisations and targets
starving school children most of whom are dropping out of school due to
When The Standard news crew visited several constituencies in the
province, teachers were queuing up for porridge alongside their pupils at
break-time although the porridge is only meant for pupils.
The teachers said they had turned to sharing the porridge with the
children because their paltry salaries could not sustain them.
Teachers earn about $100 000 a month.
"We have no option but to share the porridge with our pupils, for us
to survive and also for the energy to teach them," said Jeffrey Gumbo, a
teacher at Mutenda primary school. "There is widespread hunger and
starvation and we have not been spared, so we have to eat anything we get in
order to escape hunger."
He said there was a severe scarcity of grain in the area such that
sometimes they spent several days without eating sadza.
The teachers said they could not afford to buy the grain that is being
sold in foreign currency by local businesspeople who draw allocations from
the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).
"With the current drought situation, grain has become a rare commodity
here. We go for days without eating sadza," he said. "Imagine a bag of grain
is costing R300 and with my salary I can't afford to buy even half a bag."
Another teacher at a school in Mapanzure, who also survives on
porridge meant for school children, praised organisations like Christian
Care and the Red Cross for saving people's lives in the province.
"When we heard that the ban on food aid was lifted, we breathed a sigh
of relief because we knew food would be coming to school children and we
will be saved. If this was not the situation some teachers here would starve
to death," said a teacher, who declined to be named.
Takavafira Zhou, the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ)
president, said government had forced teachers to depend on donated food.
"This confirms what we always said that teachers' salaries are just
pathetic. That is why they are now scavenging for food," Zhou said. "Their
salaries cannot buy food and they have no option but to demean themselves
queuing for donated food with their pupils. They are losing respect in their
communities as they end up looking like miserable people."
He called on government to pay teachers salaries, enough to enable
them to buy food and sustain themselves.
By Godfrey Mutimba
Saturday, 11 October 2008 19:19
HUMANITARIAN organisations want the government to declare the current
situation in the country - particularly in the two Matabeleland regions - a
national disaster, to speed up the allocation of resources to needy
It was widely hoped that the signing of the power-sharing deal on
September 15 and an earlier government lifting of a ban on non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) would improve the working conditions of NGOs. However,
most of them have not started operating, as the government has tightened its
grip on their operations.
At a meeting in Bulawayo on October 3, members of the Matabeleland NGO
Forum said the crisis was now "characteristically complex and increasingly
spiralling out of control" thus demanding robust and multi-faceted
"There is a 78% food deficit in the country. The situation in food
terms is worse than in 1992, which had a deficit of 40% but with greater
import capacities, international goodwill, human resources etc. There is
strong basis to push for the humanitarian crisis to be declared a national
disaster, which requires the setting up of appropriate structures to manage
the situation," reads part of the minutes of the meeting.
The situation, it was noted, had been worsened by the "confusion about
the lifting of the ban on NGO operations as regard who indeed is able to
Fambai Ngirande, the Advocacy and Public Policy manager for the
National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) confirmed the
NGOs wanted the crisis to be declared a national disaster.
"Of concern is the fact that this crisis is much larger than the 1992
drought thought to be the worst in post-independent history, but without the
international good will and favourable operating environment that enabled
Zimbabwe to effectively contend with the 1992 drought," Ngirande said.
Although some humanitarian organisations said they were conducting
field operations in such areas as child supplementary feeding, resuscitating
boreholes and distributing agricultural support, the levels of need far
exceed the capacities of the NGOs involved, there were still challenges
especially in targeting vulnerable people.
High demand had also placed an additional burden on NGOs, especially
those that feed school children.
"For example where an organisation was expecting to feed only those
children enrolled in schools, they now have to cater for their siblings in
the one - five-year age group, some of whom are forced to trek more than 3km
daily to access their only meal for the day," said an NGO official.
"Organisations on the ground are clearly overstretched and further
constrained by the realities of an un-conducive operating environment,"
Ngirande said. "Worse still, the role of the humanitarian sector has been
compelled by the dire circumstances to shift from being of a complementary
nature to becoming the primary source of support for an increasingly
ballooning number of desperate people."
Most organisations have expressed willingness to play an active role
in alleviating the crisis. They are however still waiting for the
constitution of an all-inclusive government to start operations.
Last week, the French Embassy in Harare said France decided on October
3 to release food aid worth 2 millions euros "to provide immediate support
to the most vulnerable people of Zimbabwe as well as to support medium- and
long-term policies aimed at promoting food security".
"Given the difficult humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe and the
growing number of people exposed to severe malnutrition, France is
increasing its efforts to assist the population," said Stéphane Toulet, the
embassy's Deputy Head of Mission. The aid will be distributed through the
World Food Programme.
By Vusumuzi Sifile
Saturday, 11 October 2008 19:17
ARMED soldiers and war veterans last week disrupted an MDC meeting in
Manicaland organised to update the party structures on the talks between
Zanu PF and the MDC formations.
The MDC said the armed soldiers arrived in Chabata village in Buhera
South, where the meeting was being held, and ordered everybody to disperse,
claiming the gathering was illegal. The meeting was being attended by MDC
legislators from Buhera district, Manicaland provincial executive members,
councillors and ward chairpersons.
MDC provincial spokesperson for Manicaland, Pishai Muchauraya, said
the soldiers, led by one colonel Morgan Mzilikazi who allegedly spearheaded
a reign of terror in the district after the March 29 election, also wanted
to abduct local legislator Naison Nemadziva but were resisted by party
Nemadziva was voted MP for Buhera South after defeating war veterans'
leader Joseph Chinotimba during the March elections.
"They fired two shots in the air but the crowd kept coming and they
were forced to speed away in a Mitsubishi truck," said Muchauraya, who is MP
for Makoni South.
"I don't know how they want us to communicate what is going on to our
supporters," he said. "Mugabe himself has told his party officials to go out
and tell supporters about the power-sharing negotiations."
Addressing a Zanu PF central committee meeting recently Mugabe said
the success of the power-sharing agreement hinged on the support from the
grassroots and urged his party leaders to explain the implications of the
deal to the ordinary people.
"Go out and explain to the people kumusha (in the communities). There
are people who are yearning to understand how it is going to work now that
our opponents yesterday are now our partners today," Mugabe was quoted as
But Muchauraya said the disruption by soldiers showed that Zanu PF was
not sincere when it entered into a power-sharing agreement with the two
He said despite the power-sharing negotiations President Robert
Mugabe, who is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, has kept armed
soldiers, who terrorised people after the March elections, in the villages.
"As a party, we are concerned about what is happening in Buhera.
Soldiers continue to terrorise villagers. People there are living in fear.
If Mugabe is sincere why is he keeping soldiers, who killed people during
the elections in the villages?" said Muchauraya.
He said several MPs still feared for their lives despite the
power-sharing deal meant to end the crisis in Zimbabwe.
After Mugabe's March election defeat by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai,
soldiers and war veterans led a violent campaign to ensure the 84-year-old's
"victory" in the June 27 election run-off, which the opposition boycotted
citing excessive violence.
Reports allege that senior army officers and Zanu PF hawks are working
to derail the agreement for fear of prosecution for crimes they committed
Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Simon Tsatsi could not be reached
Zanu PF and MDC supporters have had an acrimonious relationship since
the March elections. The MDC has said that at least 130 of its supporters
were murdered by ruling party activists, war veterans and security agents
since the March elections.
By Caiphas Chimhete
Saturday, 11 October 2008 19:15
Residents of Masvingo are dismayed at both Zanu PF and the MDC whom
they accuse of insincerity and lack of commitment to end the Zimbabwe crisis
despite the suffering caused by the political impasse.
Zanu PF and the two MDC factions have been discussing formation of an
inclusive government that is expected to rescue the country from the brink
of an economic meltdown.
But the parties have failed to agree on who will take which
ministries, especially the key portfolios.
Hopes of a new Zimbabwe under a new political dispensation are
starting to fizzle out among Masvingo residents as the political parties
seem to be miles apart.
Residents who spoke to The Standard lashed out at Zanu PF, accusing it
of negotiating in bad faith.
"Zanu PF is using the talks to hoodwink the world into believing that
they were prepared to work with MDC when it was their machinations to stay
in power through the back door," said Dickson Mugutu of Mucheke. "Their
behaviour indicates that they are not sincere or concerned about the
suffering of the people."
Others are calling for the MDC to pull out of the talks because the
impasse is worsening their suffering. They said prices of basic commodities
were sky-rocketing everyday because of the deadlock.
"If Zanu PF is refusing to let go of the key ministries, MDC should
pull out and let it (Zanu PF) continue to ruin the country and our lives. It
is meaningless to engage it when the so-called power-sharing is not being
done on good faith," said Spiwe Sithole of Rujeko high-density suburb.
However, others feel the MDC is to blame as it signed the deal without
ensuring how the ministries would be allocated.
"The MDC went hysterical over the largely ceremonial role of Prime
Minister. I don't know how they expected to transact business of government
without the key ministries," said Masimba Gonese, a political analyst.
MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said his party was worried about the
growing disgruntlement among the suffering people of Zimbabwe who had pinned
their hopes on the power-sharing deal.
"We are sensitive to the growing anxiety and desire on the part of our
people to reach a resolution to this issue," Chamisa said. "We are aware of
the suffering, hunger and starvation facing millions of people and we do not
want this to continue."
While dismissing reports that only two ministries were at the centre
of the dispute, Chamisa confirmed that the parties had failed to break the
deadlock. The MDC has called for help from the African Union and Sadc, who
are guarantors of the deal.
"The dispute is not only over two ministries as suggested by reports
circulating in the country. That's a fallacious construction as all
ministries are at stake and we call for AU and Sadc to help us," he said.
Zanu PF's Patrick Chinamasa on Wednesday said the party had given
reasons why it should continue to hang onto the Ministry of Home Affairs and
Finance. He declined to say what these were.
By Godfrey Mutimba
Saturday, 11 October 2008 19:11
THE United States is startled by attacks on its ambassador for efforts
at bridge-building with the incoming administration.
Two weeks ago on his return from the United Nations General Assembly,
President Robert Mugabe singled out US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee,
saying he should stop interference in Zimbabwe's domestic affairs.
Mugabe said any country which interferred in Zimbabwe's internal
affairs declared itself an enemy of Zimbabwe.
But McGee told The Standard he was taken aback by Mugabe's attack for
having a conversation with one of the people in Mugabe's incoming inclusive
"One of the jobs of diplomats is to talk to the government so that
they can tell us issues such as humanitarian assistance and the future of
relations with Zimbabwe," McGee said. "But I am being told that I cannot
talk to the Prime Minister-designate. If indeed the government is
negotiating in good faith I cannot see how they can be objecting to this
The source of Mugabe's anger at McGee appears to be a recent round of
golf the US ambassador played with the Prime Minister-designate, Morgan
He said he thought the idea behind diplomatic involvement in any
country was to engage the government and the people in that country,
therefore, he had no idea, he said, what Mugabe was talking about.
Former US ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell, who McGee
succeeded, used to complain that he had no access to the government and that
he only got second-hand information. That pattern seems to be continuing
even though Zimbabwe desperately needs the West's humanitarian assistance
and financial aid to power the country's economic recovery.
McGee said he played golf with some of the leading figures in
Zimbabwe - including those from Mugabe's Zanu PF party - but declined to
name them for fear of the consequences that could befall them.
McGee said the only way forward was to get on with establishing a
government and get the agreement signed by the three political
leaders -Tsvangirai, Professor Arthur Mutambara and President Mugabe on
September 15, working.
"We have to have a government in Zimbabwe that is reflective of the
will of the people on the streets," McGee said.
Asked what advice he would give the MDC leader given the stalled
progress in negotiations over which ministries would fall under which party,
McGee said: "I would advise him to remember the mandate of the people of
Zimbabwe. They spoke very clearly on March 29, because 57% of the people
voted for change.
"They rejected the failed policies of the Mugabe regime that have
brought the economy to its knees. That was a clear message. Remember what
the people of Zimbabwe asked you to do - restore this great country to the
position that it held in the past. There is no reason why Zimbabwe should be
requesting and getting food for its people."
McGee said there was a myth that the new breed of farmers being
"pampered" by the government would conjure up a panacea to Zimbabwe's food
A study of agricultural production in Zimbabwe revealed that
subsistence farmers had been feeding the people of Zimbabwe as they were
producing 63% of the food requirements before the purge of commercial
farmers under the chaotic land reform programme, unleashed in 2000.
But the problem affecting productivity in the agricultural sector was
that resources were being made available to a very small group of people.
Consequently, there would be another 18 -24 months before Zimbabwe would see
any semblance of food security.
"What beats me is that you have wonderful farmers who have proved that
they know how to grow crops, productive farmers you can rely on - that is
what the revolution was supposed to do. . ." McGee said.
But in spite of the attacks McGee said the US and other donors had
committed themselves to continue the humanitarian assistance.
"We are looking to increase the US$170 million to US$200m this year,"
he said. "We are looking at ways to increase the amount of health
assistance, to increase assistance in the area of water purification and
water delivery, which has affected 1% of the people. That is way too many
but the government has not done anything."
In return, he said they expected among others, the return of good
governance, return to the rule of law, a market economy, an end to
corruption, and respect for human rights.
"These issues have to be met," he said. "We are going to take a very
careful look at any government in Zimbabwe before there is any re-engagement
with Zimbabwe - that is development assistance. This is not only us but all
the donor nations. This delay in forming a government is making Zimbabweans
pay dearly - (in terms of) prices because of the unavailability of things."
By Davison Maruziva
Saturday, 11 October 2008 19:01
ZIMBABWEANS should not expect to buy imported goods at prices similar
to those prevailing in other countries, National Incomes and Pricing
Commission (NIPC) chairman Goodwills Masimirembwa has said.
In an interview with Standardbusiness last week, Masimirembwa said
unlike other countries, Zimbabwe was not manufacturing the goods hence it
was inevitable for them to be more expensive.
"Those goods are going to be more expensive here because of transport
costs and other mark-ups being factored in the price," Masimirembwa said.
"Consumers should be grateful that instead of travelling to other countries,
they are now able to buy these goods locally."
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor, Gideon Gono, recently
licensed some businesses to sell imported goods in foreign currency. Under
the scheme, businesses effect a 30% mark-up on the original price.
But some consumers were last week expressing disappointment over the
scheme, saying the prices were more expensive compared to those prevailing
in South Africa and Botswana among other countries in the region.
"At US$19, a 20kg bag of Roller Meal is just too expensive even after
adding the 30% mark-up," one female shopper said. "That is more than R100
and in South Africa; I can buy at least three bags with that much or even
buy two weeks' groceries."
Others said at US$5, a two-litre bottle of Mazoe Orange crush is more
expensive compared to the same product being exported from Zimbabwe and sold
at R8 in South Africa.
Shoppers also complained about prices of such things as cooking oil,
rice and soap, which they said were astronomical if compared to prices both
in Botswana and South Africa.
"But I think it is too early to say the goods are expensive because we
only got started," Masimirembwa said. "We want this thing to settle down
before judging it."
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Callisto Jokonya
said his organisation was happy with the programme.
"We are still happy with the programme and would like to advise
consumers not to worry about the starting point," Jokonya said. "When shops
start restocking, things will be okay and prices will come down eventually."
By Jennifer Dube
Saturday, 11 October 2008 18:58
ECONET Wireless, the country's leading mobile operator on Friday
signed an agreement with Homelink in which the two companies will partner in
the roll out of the International Calling Card (ICC).
ICC is an innovative new product that will allow subscribers to
purchase airtime in foreign currency. The recharge card will be sold at
Econet and Homelink points countrywide. ICC will enable subscribers to make
Last month Econet was awarded a licence under the Foreign Exchange
Licensed Warehouses and Retail Shops category to sell recharge cards in
Douglas Mboweni, Econet CEO, (pictured) said the agreement between the
mobile operator and Homelink was an innovative journey that has no end.
"It's a milestone, an innovative journey which is going to be
continuous," he said.
"Without partners you cannot achieve anything."
Allen Choruma, Homelink, CEO, said what was left was for the partners
to implement what had been crafted.
"It is very easy to craft strategies . . . but when it comes to
implementation that is where the strength of executives is measured," he
Choruma said the partner had managed to overcome the problems of
living in a bureaucratic environment. Econet had to seek approval from both
the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe and the
By Ndamu Sandu
Saturday, 11 October 2008 18:54
THE saga involving the expropriation of assets belonging to Mutumwa
Mawere spilled into Senate last week after MDC Senator Sekai Holland moved a
motion for the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry, as the Upper House
seeks clarity on government's involvement in the case.
The development could open a can of worms and will put under the
microscope Arafas Gwaradzimba's reign as administrator of Mawere's empire
since 2004 when the government placed the companies under "reconstruction."
Holland told Senate on Wednesday that only a Commission of Inquiry
would clarify how the government was involved in the case.
"We need to know how the government is involved. There is need for
clarity," she told the Senate.
In an interview with Standardbusiness on Friday, Holland said: "We
want to get this thing sorted out. If there are those who stole the money,
let us get the criminals."
She said MDC Senators instead of commenting on President Robert Mugabe's
speech on the opening of Parliament which has no bearing on what was
happening to the people of Zimbabwe, the party wanted to use Senate for the
benefit of the people of Zimbabwe.
Holland said after her presentation her colleagues wanted to know the
terms of references of the Commission and she was consulting fellow Senators
in identifying the parameters through which the Commission would operate.
The terms of references are likely to be tabled when Senate resumes
sitting next month.
Standardbusiness wrote last week that TAP had paid US$700 000 to
service providers, including AMG for the period it was under Arafas
Gwaradzimba's administration. AMG (Zambia) had received US$345 829.98. The
revelations by this paper prompted Holland to move a motion for the setting
up of a Commission of Inquiry.
The proposed Commission would investigate whether SMM was indebted to
the government as alleged and whether it was insolvent.
The Commission would seek to establish why the government after
declaring SMM insolvent then tasked a nominee company, AMG Global Nominees,
to buy the alleged insolvent company.
Mawere - whose business interests spanned across virtually all sectors
of the country - was in 2004 accused of externalizing vast sums of money.
After failing to extradite him to Zimbabwe, reconstruction laws were used to
wrestle his companies.
The Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Reconstruction of
State - Indebted Insolvent Companies) Regulations in 2004 resulted in the
appointment of Gwaradzimba as administrator of SMM Holdings.
Mawere was labelled a fugitive from justice. Only last month, the
South African businessman got respite after the Supreme Court ruled that
Mawere had not deliberately put himself beyond the reach of the law and as
such would not be classified as fugitive from justice.
A move by Gwaradzimba to run TAP on a Zambian High Court ruling ticket
that by virtue of being an associate company of SMM, TAP should be put under
reconstruction backfired in August after the Supreme Court ruled in favour
of Mawere. The Zambian Supreme Court said Zimbabwe's reconstruction laws
should not be used across the Zambezi as Zambia is a sovereign state with
its own laws.
By Ndamu Sandu
Saturday, 11 October 2008 18:52
FDH Bank Limited, Malawi's 10th commercial bank has deferred its
much-hyped opening to the public to December as contractors are reportedly
still putting finishing touches to the inaugural branch, CEO Thom
Mpinganjira said last week.
The bank is wholly owned by FDH Financial Holdings and will join First
Discount House Limited and FDH Stockbrokers in the group.
Kingdom Financial Holdings Limited (KFHL) is the single largest
shareholder in the group with 40.16%. Other shareholders are Thomson Frank
Mpinganjira Trust (39.84%) and Old Mutual (20%).
Mpinganjira told Standardbusiness last week that depending on the
contractors' promise, "the first branch would be opened in mid December".
The bank opened in July with one branch servicing corporates and small
to medium enterprise financing while preparing for its opening to the public
Mpinganjira said depending on the work of contractors, the bank would
first open with a branch in Blantyre with two other branches to be opened in
Lilongwe and Limbe.
Asked whether the bank's roll out would need the expertise from KFHL,
Mpinganjira said there are no plans to recruit additional personnel from
KFHL. In July the bank recruited Clement Kahiya as chief operating officer.
A former KFHL Audit Executive, Kahiya has a two and half year Temporary
Mpinganjira said the group had shelved indefinitely plans to list on
the Malawi Stock Exchange. Initially the group had said it will list this
"Our priority is to set up and properly establish the bank. We see
this (listing) as an unnecessary distraction of our focus at this point," he
Saturday, 11 October 2008 18:31
THE apparent deadlock over the formation of the new Cabinet in the
wake of the agreement between Zanu PF and the MDCs has caused much pessimism
and despondency among ordinary Zimbabweans.
The agreement was only going to work if the parties acted in good
faith and cultivated a culture of trust and confidence between them. These
ingredients are, quite sadly lacking, hence the continuation of the
political impasse that has so debilitated the economy of the country.
In order to gain an understanding of the current difficulties over the
allocation of cabinet seats, I intend to revisit a model of power previously
employed in these pages. The basic feature of that model, conveniently
adapted from Susan Strange's theory of power in the international political
economy, is Structural Power, which is the power to shape and determine the
structures within which others operate. It is the power to set the agenda
and decide how things are or should be done. The Cabinet itself the key
structure for this purpose.
We saw in the past how Zanu PF traditionally uses Structural Power to
set the agenda and framework in which persons operate and relate to each
other within the political and economic landscape. In many ways, the battle
over the cabinet is centred squarely on the desire to, on the part of Zanu
PF, maintain close hold on the sources that confer structural power and on
the part of the MDCs, to gain control of the same sources.
Strange identified four sources of Structural Power, namely, namely,
Production, Finance, Security and Knowledge. Put simply, the proposition is
that structural power is held by those that are able to first, exercise
control of people's security; make decisions and control the manner of
production; control the financial architecture, i.e. supply and distribution
of finance and control the definition, development, dissemination, storage
of and access to knowledge broadly defined to include information, ideas and
beliefs. To these four we added welfare as another source of power - the
ability to provide or withdraw aid to the people.
The election season was the climax of the battles over the control of
sources of Structural Power. But the elections failed to decisively deal
with the issues at stake, leaving the Thabo Mbeki-mediated negotiating
process to decide matters. When, therefore, the agreement was signed on 15
September 2008, after many twists and turns, the hope was that although it
was a messy compromise, it would pave the way for recovery. Yet a
fundamental weakness of the agreement is that it does not provide for an
efficient enforcement mechanism or what little there is, is not capable of
doing the job effectively.
A key shortfall is that it does not properly deal with the allocation
of cabinet seats, which symbolically signify the amount of structural power
that each of the parties commands under the proposed order. Yet because
structural power is the key form of power that Zanu PF and the MDCs have
been fighting for, it is odd that this was not properly and effectively
dealt with prior to the signing of the agreement. A quick look at some of
the so-called key ministries within the framework of this model should help
indicate why the fight over the cabinet is simply a perpetuation of the
struggle over Structural Power.
The Home Affairs ministry is chiefly responsible for policing affairs.
It is part of the security apparatus, alongside the military and
intelligence services. It is understood that Zanu PF will retain the Defence
ministry, responsible for the armed forces. In any event, as the
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces under the Constitution, Mugabe and
Zanu PF were always going to have greater leverage in this area. The police
authorities have greater day-to-day involvement with the ordinary people.
Control of both the defence and police authorities would enable Zanu PF to
retain the tight hold they have had over the security forces for 28 years.
Within the above model, it would enable Zanu PF to have exclusive control of
security as a source of structural power.
An alternative outcome in the spirit of the compromise agreement, and
in order to share power arising from the security structure, would be to
share the ministries that make up the security structure. Since Mugabe and
Zanu PF already draw power from the military by virtue of his supreme
command as President, it makes sense to allow one of the MDCs to have
leadership of the police authorities. In any event, the MDCs control of the
police authorities would not be as exclusive as Zanu PF fears, because under
the Constitution, the Police Commissioner-General is a Presidential
The arrangement of sharing power drawn from the security structure is
not new. When Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, Mugabe became Prime
Minister and was also in charge of the defence ministry. His rival, Joshua
Nkomo took the Home Affairs ministry. Of this arrangement, Nkomo says in his
autobiography, The Story of My Life, that it was necessary for him and his
party, PF Zapu that they "demand a senior ministry dealing with security
matters. Robert Mugabe himself took the ministry of defence, responsible for
the armed forces. I took the ministry of home affairs, in charge of the
police. That seemed the formula best calculated to win the confidence of the
fighting men of both armies and to contribute to the building of a real
sense of impartial national security." (pp225)
These words echo very loudly in today's political environment and show
why it is necessary to share power arising from the security structure.
Second, the finance ministry is critical in that it confers leverage
over financial and economic matters, which represents the Finance Structure
as outlined in the above model. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has
epitomised the critical role of the provision (or withdrawal) of finance and
the significant power that this represents. Whoever controls this ministry
and the institutions falling under it will have enormous power drawn from
the finance structure. Zanu PF has had exclusive control of this ministry
for 28 years. Given the state of the economy, it has not worked well and is
unlikely to work any better going forward. They know that nothing will work
if the old order persists. But the fear is that letting finance slip might
mean letting go of the power that is drawn from the finance structure.
The same analysis applies to the power drawn from the knowledge
structure, in this case the dissemination of information through the media.
The agreement referred to the electronic media, including foreign-based
radio stations. But it was strangely mute on the print media, where, as we
have seen in the last 8 years, information laws were employed to cause the
closure of a number of newspapers. Zanu PF would like to control the
ministry that is responsible for information matters because it would retain
its dominance of the media. The perpetual abuse of the state media, in some
cases the use of hate language has continued even after the agreement was
signed. For as long as Zanu PF retains the type of control that it has had
over the media it means it will retain the greatest, if not exclusive
control of power drawn from the Knowledge/Information structure.
In a nutshell, the on-going squabbles over cabinet positions represent
the continuation of the struggle between the parties for the control over
the sources of structural power. Structural power confers the ability to set
the agenda. The key sources of power, namely, production, security, finance
and knowledge have to be accounted for in determining the allocation of
cabinet positions, because they give a symbolic (and actual) signal of who
has greater leverage in the proposed government.
Zanu PF has, for a very long time enjoyed a monopoly over the sources
of Structural Power. It is hard for them to give that up because it would
signal a diminution of its power over the state. But given the circumstances
that they face, they have very limited options. It could well happen, as a
result of frustration that the MDCs could decide to walk away and leave Zanu
PF in charge of all sources of structural power. But they know as well, that
power under those circumstances would be meaningless. Good faith and common
sense are essentially if the current impasse is to be overcome.
Alex Magaisa is based at, Kent Law School, the University of Kent and
can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Archaic Banking Practices Contributing To Cash Crisis
Saturday, 11 October 2008 18:38
THE banking system seems to be totally log-jammed with monstrous
queues and everyone being inconvenienced, especially their own staff. The
banks' archaic way of approaching the current cash problem has to a large
extent caused this - so the problem is of their own making.
They require four or five days to clear a cheque within the same
branch, let alone the same bank. So anyone wanting to clear a deposit more
quickly has to do a "Transfer". Instead of a small cheque handled by one
teller, the customer has to queue (and bug) the poor receptionist for a
large form, fill it in, queue again and then bug the personal banker, or
some other overworked person, to hand it in.
Presumably this person has to then vet it and do the necessary
computer entries and, of course, remember to charge for the transaction,
duplicating the time involved. Another problem arises as there is no place
on the cheque book to record the transaction and there is a very good chance
that the poor customer will not have a true balance, so to be sure he needs
to first bug the receptionist for a bank statement, who also has to ensure
that the correct number of pages is charged for. Again double the work.
To do a payment to another bank is similar to the above but is called
an RTGS and the form needs to be filled in in triplicate and presumably at
least three people need now to action that form. What a waste of paper and
Because the banks now take so long to clear cheques, of course, no
one will accept them as payment in these hyperinflationary times. So
everyone now needs cash to do smallish transactions, hence the monstrous
queues and demand for cash.
Have they for one minute thought that anyone needing to buy a small
basket of groceries would possibly collect the groceries, take them to a
till and when the amount is known ask the supermarket to hold the basket
while they organise an RTGS! Surely in this day of IT it should be possible
for banks to set up a call in centre where shops can phone in to confirm a
person using a cheque has funds to cover his purchase. Surely too cheques
could be cleared in maximum 24 hours, even if it means employing overnight
Reserve Bank Governor, Dr Gideon Gono must share a large portion of
the blame in having limits on how much a person can withdraw on a given day.
Firstly, the limits he sets are ridiculously low (sometimes getting to be a
few US cents). So anyone who has to have cash has to visit the bank several
times putting more stress on the system. To compound the problem Gono will
not allow businesses to draw wages for their workers, instead insisting that
everyone opens a banking account - even people earning the equivalent of
less than US$10 a month. This has got to be close to crazy and makes no
economic sense at all putting immense pressure on the banking system. The
banks should stand up to the Governor of the Reserve Bank and tell him it is
not workable, but no, they meekly accept the pressure he inflicts on their
Besides being totally overworked by the laborious systems the banks
have devised, the staff are largely breathing other people's stale breath as
few of the banks are designed for the large numbers that cram into the
banking halls for hours on end. This cannot be good for anyone's health or
The problem of people writing rubber cheques is also caused by the
banks. Writing cheques that cannot be honoured due to insufficient funds
should surely lead to the closing of that persons account, black listing by
the banking fraternity and even prosecution for fraud. That would soon put
a stop to people writing bad cheques, instil confidence again in the system
and make cheques acceptable again as a means of payment.
My challenge to the bank managers is to be innovative, think of their
staff and customers. Quicker and better ways of doing things are there to
Whose Money Is It Anyway, Mine Or Gono's?
Saturday, 11 October 2008 18:35
RECENTLY the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Gideon Gono increased
the withdrawal limits from $1 000 to $20 000.
The following Monday morning he introduced new notes. This guy is a
"genius". But much to my surprise that very Monday morning there were
longer queues at the banks.
I thought maybe it was the excitement for the new notes and the
increased withdrawal limits. But come to think of it whose money am I
queuing up for? Is it my money or Gono's money?
I can't seem to get an answer to that one but I think the money
belongs to Gono. I wake up early in the morning to toil for my family but
only to have Gono imposing on me the amount of money I am able to take home.
Is this for real or it's a dream? Whose money is it anyway?
There are new notes at the bank and Gono has increased the withdrawal
limits but the very same day all the "magnanimous" measures take effect I
got nothing from my account. My very trusted bank just told me to wait in
the queue, as the bank did not have money!
Shocked as I was, I joined the long anaconda-like queue but still up
to lunch time there was still no cash in the bank!! Where is the money? What
does that man in a clean expensive suit whom I assume is the bank manager
mean when he says "Bank harina mari" (the bank does not have money). I mean
whose money is not in the bank because I know my account has got money. So I
guess it's not my money that is not there. But whose money is it?
Zimbabweans, the money is not ours because it belongs to Gono. He can
do whatever he wants with it so it definitely belongs to him. He can wake up
one morning, put on his million dollar suit and declare that day: "I will
introduce new notes for my people and increase their cash withdrawals."
Well, all we can do is wake up, put on our cheap - I mean our
expensive one thousand dollar - work suits and look forward to another day
of making and meeting old and new friends in the bank queues. Obviously
fellow Zimbabweans, the money is not ours. There is no such thing as my
hard-earned money. My question still remains: Whose money is it anyway?
Africa Will Rue Allowing Health Professionals To Join Brain Drain
Saturday, 11 October 2008 18:33
AFRICA'S health professionals are working everywhere and anywhere but
For every nurse still tinkering at their calling on the continent,
many more have left the motherland for other shores a long way across the
At the last official and published head count, Zimbabwe's five main
hospitals had 36 senior doctors doing the work of 145, and 291 primary care
nurses sharing amongst themselves the spoils for 2 500. That was in 2006.
It has gotten worse.
But these yearnings for distant pastures, greener and more verdant,
are reported among the majority of nursing students. That is according to
the findings of a study published in the journal Human Resources for Health,
issue number 5 of Volume 6.
The study was carried out among nursing students training in Uganda.
Its aim was to assess their career plans, especially relating to intentions
to stay and work at home or to ride the haemorrhagic tide of the brain
drain. Its findings have the potential to subdue even the most optimistic.
It is not so much about the novelty of the findings as it is about their
mammoth scale. The findings and their implications may just as well be
relevant to most African countries, including especially Zimbabwe.
It's almost three years since Nozizwe Moyo (not her real name) has
been in Bulawayo, where she is a final year student at the Mpilo School of
Nursing. The hope is that she graduates soon and gets a job. Maybe burdens
at home will lighten. Lately, things have taken a turn for the worse. Meals,
at best, are not regular and, at worst, of the sort that you bravely endure.
The government allowance of $9 000 each month can only do so much.
Her aspirations are not out of the ordinary for one her age. There is
financial independence, a decent life, eating properly and clothe oneself.
Owning a house and driving a car are part of the picture and there are
siblings to see through school.
The Zimbabwean nurse joining the public service today may expect to
begin at the five-digit salary of Z$ 17 000 a month. That buys about three
loaves of bread.
With the chronic shortages of everyday life in Zimbabwe, of everything
from drips to absolutely essential drugs, much of what is satisfying is not
happening. The working conditions are abysmal. Morale has plummeted through
the ground and is still digging.
"I really want to help my patients," retorts Nozizwe, "but with the
way things are, that's not easy. Can you tell me how I am supposed to handle
so many sick people, particularly those who soil themselves, with my bare
hands? And there's no soap most of the times to wash one's hands! Tell me,
how do I do it?"
Today they endure an unnecessary 6km travail to Mpilo. Tomorrow they
will brave the inevitable journey to very distant lands. Zimbabwe, along
with the rest of Africa, will rue thes loss of her children.