|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
HARARE, Zimbabwe, September 12, 2001 (ENS) - Black militias have launched a new attack on the white farmers of Zimbabewe, with matches.
In the past two weeks, about two-thirds of grazing lands in the dry cattle ranching regions that cover most of the country have been destroyed by fires raging across hundreds of square miles.
Two people, believed to be the children of squatters, were burnt to death last week, the South African Press Agency reported. There are many reports of animals dying in fires.
This year's fires are three times worse than last year's, which was the worst ever and coincided with the invasion of white owned farms by black squatters.
"The effect on the cattle industry is catastrophic," Farmers Union deputy director Jerry Grant told reporters. "There is wholesale destocking and slaughter because ranchers have nowhere to feed their cattle."
"The national commercial herd is down to 1.2 million and it's shrinking fast. We will never meet out European export quotas of 9,000 tonnes again," he said.
|Mugabe keeps farmers waiting|
|FROM JAN RAATH IN HARARE|
|WHITE farmers and the opposition in Zimbabwe began an
anxious wait yesterday to see if President Mugabe’s Government would stick to
its latest international agreement to restore the rule of law.
Late on Tuesday, five southern African heads of state ended a two-day meeting here to try to end the 19-month reign of lawlessness that has seen more than 150 people murdered — including just a handful of supporters of the ruling Zanu (PF) party — and thousands assaulted, tortured, driven from their homes and threatened with death.
“We are moving forward,” President Muluzi of Malawi, chairman of the Southern African Development Community, said. “I can assure you there will be a change because the Government of Zimbabwe is committed to the issues (of the rule of law).” Mr Mugabe had also affirmed again that he would adhere to the deal, drafted by Commonwealth foreign ministers in Abuja, Nigeria, in which Zimbabwe undertook to end lawlessness and to carry out a programme of “legal and sustainable” land reform.
Mr Mugabe has also agreed to set up a parliamentary committee comprising Zanu (PF) and opposition Movement for Democratic Change MPs.
Mr Mugabe has shown little concern over broader international outrage over repression of his opponents and white farmers.
Officials of the Commercial Farmers’ Union met Joseph Msika, the Vice-President, who heads the Government’s land acquisition committee yesterday.
“It was better than these meetings usually are,” said a source, who asked not to be named. “We remain hopeful.”
They are due to meet again today.
Chiyangwa’s Channel 4 interview shocks viewers
|Man nabbed for breaching Exchange Control Act|
9/12/01 8:30:23 AM (GMT +2)
CUSTOMS officers at the Harare International Airport arrested a Harare man on Saturday after he boarded a South African-bound plane with “excessive” foreign currency.
Gavin Audrey Briant, 32, of
Chisipite, Harare, was searched and found to have packed the following foreign
currency in his luggage: US$8 600, £1 660 and R18 970.
He allegedly intended to take the money to South Africa.
A holiday-maker leaving Zimbabwe is allowed to take a maximum of US$2 500 or an equivalent amount, after the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Simba Makoni, slashed annual holiday travel allowances from US$5 000 to US$2 500. The move was meant to save foreign currency which has almost run dry.
Briant appeared before Harare provincial magistrate Joyce Negonde yesterday on a charge of breaching a section of the Exchange Control Act as read with Section 109 of the Foreign Exchange Control Regulations.
He was represented by Jonathan Samkange of Byron and Venturas.
Prosecutor Alvis Chimwaradze said the foreign currency Briant intended to take on his trip was excessive.
The court remanded him on $200 000 bail to 24 September and ordered him to remain at his Chisipite address until the end of his trial
Mr Mugabe's anger at blunt demands by other regional leaders that he change his ways was apparent as he slouched in his chair scowling when the summit wound up with the chairman of the Southern African Development Community, President Bakili Muluzi of Malawi, taking press questions.
The Malawian leader had earlier been candid about the SADC mission: "We came here to discuss the issues of land, political violence, human rights abuses, intimidation and the declining economy".
Mr Mugabe, who was been more or less forced to accept the deputation of five SADC leaders for two days of meetings in his capital, refused to answer any press questions.
President Mbeki of South Africa first walked out during the presentation made by some of the war veterans who are core Mugabe supporters. His advisers said he did not "storm out", but participants in the talks said that he was clearly annoyed by the war veterans' tone and conduct.
At the closing session, the war veterans rumbled and jeered at questions about political violence, free and fair elections and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. They cheered and applauded when statements were made about the need for land reform, but even this failed to bring a smile to the face of Mr Mugabe.
The southern African leaders - presidents from Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa - pressed Mr Mugabe to restore the rule of law. One fear is that his abuses are scaring away foreign investment for others.
Put under the spotlight by men he could not dismiss as neo-imperialists (his label for British and American critics, among others) Mr Mugabe was forced to reiterate his promises to stop political violence and illegal seizures of the land of white Zimbabwean farmers. But his pledges were unenthusiastic.
The summit also established a task force which it said would monitor events in Zimbabwe closely to see if Mr Mugabe keeps his word.
During presentations to the summit by various groups, the leaders heard of intimidation of the judiciary, and officially sanctioned violence against the oppositio, the media, and the white farmers.
During his closing remarks, Mr Muluzi said that the neighbouring leaders "encouraged the government of Zimbabwe to work together with all the stakeholders in the country and to open dialogue to resolve Zimbabwe's current problems."
Mr Mugabe "assured us that violence would be stopped and the rule of law would be upheld". said Mr Muluzi. "If democracy is to work, there cannot be such violence."
Zimbabwe's leader had reason to be unhappy as the summit broke all protocol. The other presidents were not invited by Mr Mugabe; they told him they were coming to Harare.
They also took the unprecedented step of ordering Mr Mugabe to line up meetings with the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the white farmers and church groups. This forced Mr Mugabe to come face to face with groups he has refused to meet for years.
The entire summit was a stinging public slap to the Zimbabwean president.
The Harare summit came just days after the Commonwealth's meeting on Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis, held in Abuja, Nigeria.
Both meetings showed that international pressure on Mr Mugabe is mounting in the run-up to the Commonwealth's heads of government meeting in Brisbane next month.
There is little optimism in Harare, however, that Mr Mugabe will significantly alter his policies, as there are still daily reports of farm invasions and violence against opposition supporters.
"Our best hope is that the pressure will keep mounting so that strong measures are taken at the Commonwealth meeting," said a civic leader, John Makumbe.
Price Controls Seen Triggering Panicky Selling On the ZSE
Financial Gazette (Harare)
September 13, 2001
Posted to the web September 13, 2001
Zimbabwe's stock market is seen heading for another tailspin as investors take profits on fears of an economic slowdown induced by threats from the government to reintroduce price controls, analysts said this week.
There was heightened fear on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) of a return to price controls after the government announced the setting up of a multi-sectoral price surveillance committee.
Industry Minister Herbert Murerwa told the state media last week that the committee would closely monitor the movement of prices of basic foodstuffs.
This, according to the analysts, is an indication that the increasingly beleaguered Harare authorities are considering reintroducing price controls to stave off possible food riots.
The analysts said a price freeze would dent sentiment on the ZSE and trigger selling by some investors worried about Zimbabwe's gloomy economic outlook.
Consultant economist John Robertson said reintroducing price controls could backfire on President Robert Mugabe's governing ZANU PF party, which is fighting for political survival following the emergence of the strong labour-backed opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai will challenge Mugabe, in power since the former Rhodesia attained independence from Britain in 1980, in presidential elections due next year.
"Controlling prices will inevitably lead to shortages and the emergence of a black market for almost every commodity," Robertson said.
Zimbabwe is facing severe shortages of foreign currency and fuel, largely blamed on efforts by the government to control the exchange rate against the key United States dollar and the price of fuel, plus mismanagement and corruption.
Economist Witness Chinyama warned that a return to price controls would hurt Zimbabwe's manufacturing sector, which is battling rising production costs and shortages of essential inputs.
He said the government would have to freeze increases in the prices of raw materials used in the production of basic foodstuffs if it is to avoid the total collapse of the manufacturing sector.
"The best thing is to get the economic fundamentals right because tinkering with prices will only affect the profitability of local firms and eventually drive most of them to the wall," Chinyama said.
More than 600 manufacturing firms have closed since last year, largely due to a hostile operating environment.
The government is caught in a vicious circle of unfulfilled expectations, with manufacturers warning that they will be forced to shut down unless they are allowed to charge economic prices.
The government also fears a backlash from a restive population that is crying for action to halt the economy's decay and put a stop to the deteriorating standard of living.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's money market was this week liquid for the first time in a fortnight as a substantial chunk of Treasury Bills (TBs) matured. At least $3 billion worth of TBs matured this week, releasing additional money into the market.
Dealers, who were forecasting the market to be long by at least $4 billion on Monday, also attributed the surplus market to the decision by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to inject funds into the market by purchasing some of its own paper at the end of last week.
"It looks like the Reserve Bank bought its own bills from the market last week, forcing the market to get into a surplus position," one dealer said.
"This tactic will work in the government's favour because it will be able to borrow cheaply."
In the past two weeks short-term rates have been rising due to the shortage of funds on the money market. They were however down this week, with the call rate declining from around 50 percent last week to five percent.
There was little activity on the foreign exchange market, with traders there warning of greater shortages of hard cash as the end of Zimbabwe's key tobacco market season approaches.
"We foresee even more trying times in the coming months on the official market, particularly after the closure of the tobacco auction floors," a currency dealer said.
The selling season for tobacco, Zimbabwe's single biggest export, closes at the end of October.
Bid to Allow Direct Trade in Forex At Tobacco Sales
Financial Gazette (Harare)
September 13, 2001
Posted to the web September 13, 2001
THE government is considering a proposal to allow tobacco merchants and growers to trade directly in foreign currency on Zimbabwe's auction floors as part of a programme to encourage production of the golden leaf and allow farmers to retain part of their hard cash earnings.
Treasury sources this week said Finance Minister Simba Makoni has asked the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) to look into the proposal which could see local and foreign buyers being forced to pay for tobacco purchases in hard cash.
At present tobacco merchants pay for tobacco in Zimbabwe dollars, although the price is based on the prevailing United States dollar exchange rate.
"The proposal to allow direct trade in forex is out of the realisation by the government that they can't let the goose that lays the golden egg die while other sectors are getting all the protection," a source in the Ministry of Finance said.
Tobacco is Zimbabwe's largest foreign currency earner, raking in at least a third of the country's annual export receipts.
But the tobacco growers are currently not considered direct exporters and have therefore not been given special incentives to encourage them to produce more.
Other hard cash-spinning sectors, particular the gold mining industry, have been allowed to retain part of their foreign currency earnings as part of incentives to arrest the collapse of the sector.
The government has also reintroduced a gold floor price support scheme for the sector to encourage more bullion production.
Most players in the industry, including the TIMB, this week said they were yet to hear about the proposals but the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) welcomed the move as a step in the right direction.
"This will be good news for the tobacco growers if it comes about," ZTA president Kobus Joubert told the Financial Gazette.
The Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF), Zimbabwe's largest tobacco auction floor, said the move would improve the operating climate for tobacco farmers by making foreign currency to import essential raw materials readily available.
"It would also go a long way in improving the inflow of foreign currency and would make it easy for the Reserve Bank to monitor use of the export proceeds," said TSF managing director Pat Devenish.
The proposal to allow transactions on the tobacco auction floors to be done in hard cash is part of stabilisation measures being pursued by Makoni to restore confidence in Zimbabwe's economy, battered by a deepening political crisis.
Makoni is understood to have already sold the idea to his Cabinet colleagues and that what is now holding it back are the modalities of the scheme.
The RBZ is said to be working on how the incentive package would work out but the sources said the incentives are likely to be implemented from the 2001/2002 marketing season which starts in April next year.
Zimbabwe's tobacco farmers and merchants are said to be losing at least $18 billion a year due to "hidden taxes" caused by the government's fixed exchange rate policy.
Analysts say the tobacco growers are losing money because of the widening gap between the official exchange rate of 55 Zimbabwe dollars to one US dollar and the parallel market rate that sells the American currency for more than 400 local dollars.
Foreigners Threaten Cable Firm's Markets
Financial Gazette (Harare)
September 13, 2001
Posted to the web September 13, 2001
ZIMBABWEAN cable manufacturer BICC-Cafca this week said its markets were under threat from Middle Eastern and Chinese suppliers who have political connections in the country and enjoy subsidies from their governments.
BICC-Cafca's marketing manager Edwin Kondo said Zimbabwean clients, including the Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (PTC) and the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), often preferred to import their cables from outside the country instead of buying them locally.
For instance in 1997, his company lost a $500 million PTC tender to a Chinese firm despite having invested $25 million in a cable manufacturing plant in anticipation of increased orders from the PTC.
Kondo said despite BICC-Cafca being the first African company to receive the ISO 9001 standard for quality, local parastatals appeared determined to import materials from foreign countries that might have connections to local politicians.
"Imports from the Middle East normally have incentives that make them cheaper yet the product quality would be the same compared to local market," he said, charging that some Chinese firms appeared to be favoured because they had political ties with Zimbabwean officials.
This, he said, had allowed the foreign firms to undercut BICC-Cafca for tenders, although the company had recently benefited from severe foreign currency shortages which have plagued Zimbabwe in the past two years.
PTC board chairman Caxton Muzangaza, who is also a ZESA director, said if Zimbabwean cable suppliers had in the past been sidelined in favour of international ones, this was wrong because local industry had to be promoted for national benefit.
"However it is important to also look at issues such as quality in order to protect customers," he said.
Kondo said: "We have now won the PTC back because of the foreign currency crisis that has made it difficult to import cables."
The cable manufacturer said the Zimbabwean government should come up with legislation giving preference to local cable makers over foreign suppliers following the example of Zambia, South Africa and Italy, which have legislation protecting locally manufactured products from foreign ones.
Kondo however said such a regulatory framework should not stifle competition, which is necessary for companies to maintain and improve their efficiencies.
"Government must create the environment for competition while at the same time allowing the development of local manufacturers where they are internationally competitive such as the case of BICC-Cafca," he said.
BICC-Cafca has in the meantime successfully penetrated the regional market, including South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique and Botswana through partnership with African Cable.
In a bid to consolidate the Mozambican market, BICC-Cafca is selling off its subsidiary in that country, Selmoque Pvt Limited, which acted as a go-between the Zimbabwean firm and the Mozambican market.
Exports will now move directly from Zimbabwe to Mozambique instead of going through Selmoque in a process that had become too bureaucratic, Kondo said.