GOVERNMENT is likely to cut short the term of office of the commission led
by the scandal-prone Sekesai Makwavarara, in an eleventh-hour attempt to
deal with the decay that has reduced some suburbs in Harare to sewage farms.
Roped in when the popularly elected mayor Elias Mudzuri of the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) was hounded out of office as the ruling ZANU PF
sought to exert its influence in the capital city, Makwavarara has dismally
failed to turn around the operations of the city.
If anything, the situation has grown from bad to worse since the appointment
of Makwavarara, who many observers say was hardly free of political and
Suburbs have been known to go for weeks on end without water while mountains
of uncollected refuse, raw sewage flowing in some suburbs, poor roads and
lack of street lighting among others, have become a common feature in the
This, impeccable sources said yesterday, had embarrassed the government. And
to save face, it was actively pushing for the Makwavarara-led commission's
A plan was already on the cards to show Makwavarara and her team the exit
doors before the end of May and begin a process of salvaging Harare's
long-lost "sunshine city" status, it is hoped.
As if to give credence to the game plan leading to the commission's ouster,
the anti-corruption unit last week descended on the capital's administrative
nerve centre where the commission has presided over the cosmopolitan city's
collapse. This week, a parliamentary portfolio committee moved into action
when it began gathering evidence on the concerns, expectations and needs of
"Our silence is now being misconstrued to mean we are condoning the man-made
crisis at Town House," said the source. "While the political leadership is
agreed that the time is now ripe to show Makwavarara and her team the door,
we are still to agree on how the vacuum created could be dealt with," added
The Makwavarara-led commission came into office in December 2004 following
the sacking of the MDC council after it was allegedly found guilty of
mismanaging council affairs. The MDC council had replaced one headed by the
ruling ZANU PF's Solomon Tawengwa, who was sacked in 1991, alongside the
entire council on allegations of corruption and mismanagement. In between
Mudzuri and Tawengwa's terms, a commission headed by Elijah Chanakira had
been in charge of the city.
The current commission had its term of office renewed to June.
It emerged this week that the Local Government Parliamentary Portfolio
Committee chaired by Margaret Zinyemba might produce a damning report on the
chaos and goings-on at the Harare City Council after a fiery public meeting
on Tuesday, which revealed shocking corruption and alleged dilatory
supervision at the council.
Some legislators that sit on the portfolio committee, which on Tuesday
opened a public hearing on service delivery by the City of Harare, told The
Financial Gazette that from the evidence gathered so far, there was urgent
need to act on the chaos.
"One option could be to move a motion in Parliament to remove the commission
as they are part of the problem," said a legislator who sits on the
committee, speaking anonymously.
"People running Harare are appointees, there isn't much that they can
achieve to turn around the municipality as long as some of them are there.
It seems the chair does what she wants. We are going to include this in our
unflattering report, which we will present to Parliament soon," said the
It is also understood that the Local Government Parliamentary Portfolio
Committee members and the residents want results of the investigations being
conducted by the Anti-Corruption Commission at the council made public,
especially the controversies surrounding Makwavarara who stands accused of
"The real culprit behind the series of highly irregular expenditure and the
lack of accountability by the chairperson of the Commission and others is a
system of political patronage that leveraged people to positions of power,
privilege and prosperity that almost guarantees that professional
performance, public accountability and transparency can always be sacrificed
for political expedience," said Transparency International of Zimbabwe
(TIZ)in a statement.
"While the action to investigate corruption in the Harare City Council is
welcome and warranted, it will remain cosmetic surgery, too little, too late
unless it is extended to cover other cases involving high ranking officials,
politicians and businesspeople involved in past and present corruption," TIZ
Zinyemba was not immediately available to comment on the outcome of her
committee's probe into the affairs of the country's largest municipality.
ZIMBABWE'S largest extractor of platinum, Zimbabwe Platinum Mines
(Zimplats), has elected to remain cautious on President Robert Mugabe's
recent remarks about seizing more than half the shares in foreign-owned
mines, choosing instead to put more faith in the ongoing consultations with
Zimplats, through its major shareholder Impala Platinum (Implats), has
previously responded to the government's threats. But the white metal miner
was this week talking cautiously after President Mugabe once again rattled
foreign mining houses by announcing that his government was not backing off
from a plan to take control of more than half the shares of foreign-owned
In an address marking Zimbabwe's 26 years of independence, President Mugabe,
who has seized land from whites and parcelled it to landless blacks, said
minerals were non-renewable resources hence his government needs to maximise
on the existing deposits.
Although the statement further dampened some miners' spirits, the country's
leading mining house was this week counting on the ongoing discussions
hoping that the government will climb down from its position.
"We have no comment to make at present," said Greg Sebborn, chief executive
of Zimplats, "other than the fact that we are engaged in discussions with
the government at the moment," he added.
Prior to President Mugabe's independence shocker miners had discounted the
threats to seize shares after the 82-year-old veteran of Zimbabwe's
liberation struggle had told a meeting of his ruling ZANU PF party that
miners had nothing to fear from the proposed law.
At the meeting held in the capital President Mugabe said amendments to the
Mining Act were still under discussion, contrary to an earlier statement by
Mines Minister, Amos Midzi that cabinet had okayed the amendments.
In another meeting with foreign mining executives President Mugabe also
reportedly assured them to press ahead with expansion plans, which they had
put on ice.
Insiders at Zimplats said the white metal miner is counting on its existing
Mining Agreement, which was signed by Zimplats and the government prior to
commencement of operations. Implats, the world's second largest platinum
miner, has an 86.7 percent stake in Zimplats while Zimbabwe, which holds the
world's richest platinum deposits after South Africa, is the main area of
future growth for Implats.
The Chamber of Mines, which represents both local and foreign miners, began
negotiations with the Mines Ministry after the government issued a statement
saying that it is seeking to nationalise all foreign-owned mines and give
locals majority shareholding of the mines.
With respect to the platinum metals sector, Mines Minister Amos Midzi said
the proposed amendment provides for 51 percent of all platinum operations to
be owned by the state, of which 25 percent is by way of a non-contributory
stake, and the balance by way of contribution over a period of time.
However the Chamber of Mines, which represents about 200 mining houses, says
the proposed amendments to the Minerals and Mines Act would effectively kill
off investment needed to keep mines open.
The government's proposed annexation of mines comes against a background of
an economic crisis that has left the government in a hard cash crunch.
IN some ZANU PF and academic circles the Tsholotsho Declaration has remained
a hot topic since the Dinyane School speech and prize-giving day held in
Tsholotsho on November 18, 2004. It is alleged that certain members of the
ZANU PF leadership, who descended on Dinyane in unusually large numbers,
mixed speech-making and prize-giving with plotting to foil President
Mugabe's allegedly well planned succession arrangements. To most of us the
declaration remains shrouded in mystery in spite of Professor Jonathan Moyo's
now serialised but rather belated effort to "define its actual sum and
substance for the benefit" of those with a passionate interest in such
intimate affairs of the ruling party. This certainly cannot apply to every
The most absurd revelation by Moyo is that chapter and verse of the
Tsholotsho Declaration will not be found in any written document.
Even while the declaration is unrecorded, its details as outlined by Moyo,
appear to be cloaked in serious flaws. To start with, its architects, as
Moyo calls them, appear to have laboured under the illusion that one
political group, ZANU PF, will reign over Zimbabwe indefinitely.
Regrettably, they seem to entertain the assumption that ethnicity must, of
necessity, remain an indispensable element of Zimbabwe's political
In the first published instalment, Moyo introduced yet a third dimension,
one which he does not convincingly propound as a theory. He suggests that
the Tsholotsho Declaration stubbornly refuses to fall away from the centre
of Zimbabwe's politics. It would be nearer the truth to state that the said
declaration perhaps remains at the epicentre of ZANU PF internal politics.
As the prospect of Zimbabwe ever becoming a fully-fledged one-party state in
the not-too-distant future diminishes, the need becomes more paramount for
all concerned to constantly draw a distinction between Zimbabwe, the
country, and ZANU PF, the ruling party. Of late there is growing evidence of
a resurgence of public disenchantment with the ruling party, if attendance
at opposition rallies is anything to go by.
Rather naively, the architects of the declaration continue to believe that
ZANU PF cannot be dislodged from power. Notwithstanding the extraordinary
circumstances of the said architects failing to commit such an important
official pronouncement or statement to paper in order to eliminate the
danger of variety of interpretation, they defined their own role as being
that of determining how most benevolently ZANU PF can continue to administer
the affairs of Zimbabwe well into the future.
In this context the architects appear to have succumbed to a certain
affliction which normally manifests itself in a dictatorship - a belief that
their power is everlasting, fortified by an overwhelming sense of
The names of Nicolai Ceaucescu, the self-aggrandising communist dictator of
Romania, Emperor Bokassa 1 of the Central African Republic, who was
sentenced to death for murder and the kleptomaniac Mobuto Sese Seko of the
Republic of Zaire, immediately come to mind. Bokassa's death sentence was
commuted to 20 years.
Other notable dictators are Charles Taylor of Liberia, recently captured in
controversial circumstances in Sierra Leone, Mengistu Haile Mariam of
Ethiopia, who remains temporarily ensconced in luxury in our country, Idi
Amin Dada, the butcher of Uganda who died in exile in Saudi Arabia, and the
former Life President of Malawi, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
Somehow, those who surrounded them believed that the institution of their
power was a permanent feature of the governance of their respective
But in Malawi the determination and courage of civil society, including a
fearless clergy, campaigning in tandem with 21 vibrant newspapers yielded
dividends. Banda, who fed the bodies of critics and rivals to the crocodiles
of the Shire River in his heyday, while locking the more fortunate among
them away in the wilderness of Mikuyu Prison, was escorted from Sanjika
Palace for the last time in 1994.
In politics no situation is cast in stone, especially where a people have a
resolve to determine their own final destiny.
According to Moyo, the unwritten declaration professes an unyielding
obsession with the need to "reflect Zimbabwe's regional diversity and ethnic
balance between and among the country's four major ethnic groupings, namely
Karanga, Manyika, Zezuru and Ndebele in order to promote and maintain
representative national cohesion, development, peace and stability while
fostering a broad-based sense of national belonging and identity".
Current popular opinion tends to question the validity of such ethnic
balancing. It is suggested that ethnic balancing may have become a trap in
which both ZANU PF and the MDC are now inexorably ensnared. The MDC's quest
for such ethnic dexterity has created a long-standing nightmare for the
party. Lately, the party attempted to recycle Welshman Mabhena, an elderly
politician, and present him at its congress in March as a potential vice
president of Zimbabwe, starting in 2008. It appears that ethnicity rather
than merit was the criterion used in his selection.
Any suggestion that political talent and general good qualities are
equitably distributed among the Ndebele, the Zezuru, the Manyika and the
Karanga is, of course erroneous.
The top positions in any party should, indeed, not be monopolised by one
clan or tribe. That would be perpetuating a legacy of ZANU PF. But then the
converse should also be true - that neither should such positions always be
distributed on the basis of a conscious effort to satisfy ethnic aspirations
at the expense of merit.
If it becomes evident beyond reasonable doubt, for example, that Professor
Jonathan Moyo is Zimbabwe's most competent and most astute politician, with
a track record of commitment to service for the benefit of the people, the
average citizen would, without hesitation and through democratic elections,
endorse his bid for presidential office. If, on the other hand, they
rejected him for whatever legitimate reasons, he should refrain from citing
ethnicity for his rejection.
Such a mature political disposition should emanate from a basic realisation
that we are essentially one nation, regardless of which part of Zimbabwe we
"One Zambia, one nation" was President Kenneth Kaunda's mantra as he rallied
his countrymen behind him in unity and peace on the march to progress and
development after independence. More significantly, when his compatriots
realised that, despite his good intentions, their president had quite
clearly run out of both steam and new ideas they quietly voted him out of
office, as was their democratic right. Kaunda, now 83 and out of office for
15 years, proceeded to set up the Kenneth Kaunda Children of Africa
Foundation which pays for food, medical care and schooling for Aids orphans.
Well respected internationally, he is now the patron of the Commission on
HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa.
Moyo states, "Most level-headed Zimbabweans would agree that it is unhealthy
to institutionalise tribal and village politics as the current ZANU PF
clique in power has done."
Indeed, the village politics of some of our wayward politicians have spawned
some of the national disasters and potential catastrophes of
post-independence Zimbabwe. Enos Nkala was inspired by an obsession with
delivering Matabeleland to ZANU PF, while Mutasa will not hesitate to
alienate his own people in a bid to please ZANU PF.
Evidence abounds in the long history of ZANU PF to suggest that Zimbabwe's
ruling party will confront any challenge to itself squarely, if not
violently, regardless of the location or ethnic origin of the menace.
As the architects of the Tsholotsho Declaration discovered, to their utter
undoing, ZANU PF has a track record of ruthlessly dealing with potential
threats to its political power, regardless of their ethnic origin.
The group of people who became the victims of Tsholotsho was multi-ethnic in
its composition. Going back in history, among the so-called rebels arrested
by ZANU PF and incarcerated in Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique in 1977
and 1978 were fighters and politicians from virtually every part of Zimbabwe
where ZANU PF attracted followers.
Some of the more prominent of ZANU PF's prisoners in Mozambique were Rugare
Gumbo, who now serves as a cabinet minister and Augustine Chihuri, the
current Commissioner of Police. Their provinces of origin are Masvingo and
Mashonaland Central respectively.
After independence ZANU PF's crusade to deal with perceived enemies has been
similarly multi-ethnic. Prominent politicians, Nkomo of Matabeleland,
Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole and Edgar Tekere of Manicaland, Eddison Zvobgo
of Masvingo and Willie Musarurwa and President Mugabe's own cousin, James
Chikerema, both of Mashonaland West, became premier targets. Because PF-Zapu
was the largest threat on account of its iron grip on Matabeleland, ZANU PF
sought to neutralise its leadership through the long-term detention of
officials Dumiso Dabengwa, Lookout Masuku, Sidney Malunga, to mention a few.
While the hapless Muzorewa ceased to be a serious political threat to Mugabe
or ZANU PF after April 1980, he was still regarded as a veritable enemy.
When popular former Gweru Mayor Patrick Kombayi, a wealthy benefactor of
ZANU PF in Zambia during the liberation struggle, challenged former
vice-President Simon Muzenda at the polls in Gweru in 1990 he was shot and
seriously wounded by a CIO agent and a ZANU PF activist.
Zimbabwean politicians, who seek to jealously guard their own assumed status
as ZANU PF's exclusive enemies on ethnic grounds while insisting that other
tribes are not genuine enemies of the ruling party effectively, weaken the
pro-democracy movement by dividing the challenge to President Mugabe along
Only cohesion and unity of purpose among the Manyika, the Zezuru, the
Ndebele and the Karanga in challenging dictatorship will alleviate the
current suffering of the people of Zimbabwe. Until that simple message sinks
in the minds of all who seek or claim to spearhead the current struggle
against an authoritarian government, ZANU PF will continue to rule in the
absence of any serious challenge.
STOCKS bounced back this week following an improvement in liquidity
conditions on the money market. However this recovery appears to be
short-lived as the RBZ raised its accommodation rate to 850 percent, an
indication that it would like to see tight liquidity conditions continuing
in the market. With the month of May fast approaching, it is not going to be
an easy job to maintain tight liquidity.
Over $10 trillion is expected to mature next week but it is by no means easy
to predict where interest rates are going. Worse still the RBZ is yet to
give a clear signal how high they are willing to raise them.
In light of the many inflationary pressures facing our economy, my advice is
always assume the worst when it comes to interest rates, given that
inflation is likely to continue rising in the short to medium term.
Due to the tight liquidity conditions characterising our money market,
short-term rates are likely to once again spike as banks avoid punitive RBZ
rates by seeking accommodation from other investors. This will probably see
short-term rates rise to around 500 percent in down days. In other words
expect a lot of volatility on the money market in the coming weeks as banks
try to manage their liquidity.
Investors have now adopted a short-term view to the market and are unlikely
to accept investments with tenures of more than 30-days as they seek to
maximise short-term returns. 91-day Treasury bill tender rates remain at 525
percent but are expected to rise in the short term.
In the short-term the stock market is going to be a very tricky place to
speculate in. In fact it will favour shrewd investors who will take
long-term positions. There is no point trying to go against the tide. There
is now need to seriously look at one's investment portfolio, particularly
when it comes to the quality of stocks one is holding.
Right now investor focus is firmly on counters with March results. Some of
these companies are Delta, Art, Ariston, Cottco, Dawn, Zimsun, ZSR, Redstar
and Mashonland Holdings. It will be interesting to see what these companies
will report, particularly because they were trading in a period in which
inflation was galloping and general trading conditions were impossible.
Traditionally investors have always bought ahead of results to avoid being
'left out' and we are yet to see evidence that this trend is likely to be
repeated. There is simply not enough money to drive the bulls on the market.
Where has all the cash gone, I wonder. Investors are buying here and there
but it is really nothing to write home about. It is also difficult to
decipher trends on the market as a result of the volatility in our markets.
This week we saw investors reacting positively to Econet's eight-month
results to February 2006. The results were for eight months owing to the
change in the company's year-end. Looking at the results one gets a rare
insight into the huge business opportunities in the mobile phone industry.
Turnover for the two months of January and February 2006 was $1.7 trillion
and attributable profits were nearly $400 billion.
Taking a straight-line annualised turnover figure, one gets $10 trillion for
the next 12 months giving an earnings per share figure of $15 527 a share if
the current trading pattern continues. Remember when Econet last reported
subscribers had just risen from 258 268 to 412 197. Now that the mobile
network operator has close to over 458 000 subscribers there is likely to be
a multiplier effect on their numbers going forward.
The company has positioned itself as a dominant player in the
telecommunications industry and is certainly not going to disappoint
shareholders if its latest results are anything to go by. What excites me is
fact that the company continues to innovate and you can see that they are
trying to keep abreast with technological developments in the telecoms
industry despite the shortage of foreign currency.
There is a focus on the future rather than survival under difficult
conditions. The introduction of broadband services is one such development
that will increase revenues going into the future. Mind you this is a high
margin business, which is likely to diversify income streams as Econet
benefits from its early adopter advantage.
When all is said and done I see value in the counter and would see it as not
only a good long-term investment but also a core stock that deserves a place
in any serious investor's portfolio.
THERE is a growing battle for talent worldwide. In Zimbabwe, this skills
shortage is the key driver of wage inflation, which is expected to increase
in 2006 as civil servants and other employees make incessant demands for
cost-of-living salary adjustments. It is this writer's view that here in
Zimbabwe, the so-called 'brain drain' and the deleterious effects of
HIV/AIDS have spawned the skills shortage. The 'brain drain' is projected to
continue as long as the adverse economic conditions persist.
This week's instalment examines closely the concept of brain drain. It
begins by defining "brain drain" and proceeds to review literature on the
There appears to be several definitions of "brain drain" Some scholars say a
"brain drain" occurs when people leave home to study abroad, and then stay
abroad (Kwok and Leland, 1982). Other say it occurs when people work and
study at home when young, and work abroad when older (Lucas, 1988; Azariadis
and Drazen, 1990). Brain drain is traditionally viewed as the movement of
highly skilled workers - sometimes referred to as knowledge workers - from
their home countries to countries that offer them greater opportunities in
their area of specialty as well as in terms of living conditions and
lifestyle (Tansel and Gungor, 2003). However, another prevalent form of
brain drain is the failure of students to return to their native countries
after going abroad to study. In this instalment we shall use the term brain
drain simply to mean the emigration of skilled workers - in the default case
emigration permanently but in extensions to the discussion temporarily.
Africa is suffering from a brain drain, losing one third of its
professionals to the developed world. In Zimbabwe, it is estimated that
almost three million out of the country's total 14 million Zimbabweans, the
majority of whom are professionals, are living outside the southern African
country (UNDP, 2006). The figure is estimated to comprise almost half of the
country's working population. The International Organization on Migration
(IOM) says the number of persons living outside their country of birth has
doubled over the last 35 years. It estimates that more than 175 million
people are migrants worldwide and that one in every 35 persons is a migrant.
"This trend can be expected to continue in the coming decades," warns IOM.
The focus of most brain drain studies is usually on researchers, scientists
and engineers (RSE). This category of knowledge workers can be expanded to
include medical, information technology, and business professionals (Mosley
and Hurley, 1999; Arlene Richards, 2001; Janet Scott, 2002). It was
estimated that in the past 10 years about half of the Ethiopians who went
abroad for study or training did not return. In 1997 alone more than 1,000
professionals left Zimbabwe for Britain and there were now an estimated 10
000 Nigerian academics employed in the United States. In Ghana and Zimbabwe
three quarters of all doctors migrate within a few years of completing their
medical degree. (Naledi Pandor, 2006). The brain drain issue has received
considerable attention from the Zimbabwean media as a serious economic and
social problem particularly within the context of the protracted economic
crisis. Professor Chetsanga has also investigated Zimbabwe's brain drain
From a global perspective, the issue of brain drain is even more pronounced.
In the USA, 12.8 per cent of all US Research and Development (R&D) workers
in 1993 were foreign-born, and 29.3 per cent of the R&D workers with science
or engineering PhDs were immigrants (Johnson and Regets, 1998). Most of the
OECD-born, immigrant scientists and engineers with science and engineering
doctorates come from the United Kingdom and Canada. If non-OECD countries
are included, there are three times as many foreign-born scientists in the
USA from China and twice as many from India as there are from the United
Kingdom. This reflects findings (Johnson and Regets, 1998) that Asian
science and engineering PhDs in the USA far outnumber Europeans and non-US
North Americans and that almost 40 per cent of them make firm plans to stay
(Peter Hall, 2005)
Having defined brain drain and reviewed applicable literature on the issue,
we now proceed to identify the key determinants of brain drain.
Understanding these is key to evolving effective policy interventions. A key
question is why knowledge workers move from source countries to destination
countries. For individual migrants, migration offers the prospect of a
better life. For each individual, there is a net gain wherever the benefits
of life in the destination country exceed those in the country of origin and
the difference between the two is not swallowed up by the costs of moving.
Benefits must be interpreted widely to depend on both income and the range
of other contributions to an individual's welfare - which, for a researcher,
will include the interest and challenge of the work as well as the social
and work environment more generally. It is assumed that workers only move if
they expect a net gain.
Standard economic models (Sjaastad, 1962; Todaro, 1969) emphasise expected
income differentials as the main driver of migration. However, non-economic
issues also play an important role in migration decisions among knowledge
populations (Peter Hall, 2005). According to Hall, ties of family, friends
and culture will exert a pull to stay at home though in widely varying
degrees. For others, the attractions of new experiences and a new start may
be strong. This is particularly true for academic researchers where research
programmes are usually self-determined. They will stay at home if, other
things equal, source country offers a better base than destination country
for pursuing their interests. A good example here would be the study of
ecological systems, animal species or natural resources peculiar to source.
Business-based researchers may stay home, too, if they continue to be
challenged by tasks at least as interesting to them as they know are
available abroad. In brief, the key determinants become the nature of the
tasks as well as the professional environment.
Typically, discussion on the brain drain invariably leads to an assessment
of the gains and losses associated with the problem. According to Naledi
Pandor "What this means is that African countries are funding the education
of their nationals only to see them contributing to the growth of developed
countries with little or no return on (their) investment," Although this
outflow is seen as a constructive dynamic by some commentators, the
situation requires intervention especially if Africa is to realise its
Studies show that many immigrant scholars from the developing countries,
particularly from Asia and Latin America, contribute tremendously in
development processes of their native countries while still located abroad.
Migrant remittances constitute a significant source of foreign exchange and
a strong element of domestic demand in labour exporting countries,
representing a substantial proportion of their export proceeds and their
GDP, even without counting the often considerable flows through unofficial
channels. They play a role in the economy of these countries in the form of
foreign exchange, the lack of which puts a constraint on their development.
Chenery and Bruno (1962) consider the lack of foreign exchange in LDC's as
an "external strangulation" for development, depriving them of the required
capital imports. Therefore, remittances, whose share in the available
foreign exchange of labour exporting countries is high, may substitute for
the lack of other sources, such as proceeds from exports or aid.
The remainder of this instalment explores some of the policy interventions
that can be pursued to counter the deleterious effects of the brain drain in
source countries. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
Zimbabwe should urgently address push factors that have led to a massive
loss of skilled personnel. The UNDP contends that much of the brain drain
bedevilling Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular, can be attributed
to 'a difficult macroeconomic environment and high cost of living and
taxation affecting disposable incomes and salaries'. The current brain drain
from Zimbabwe should not be viewed solely from the employment problem
created by the conditions of the ongoing economic crisis and ensuing
uncertainties. Smart labour (RSE workers) will be influenced by
international income differentials in making location decisions but they
will also be sensitive to the long-term prospects of being able to pursue
the problems that interest them. Increasing total government R&D spending or
the share of basic research alone will raise a country's R&D wages and,
ceteris paribus, retain and even attract (through circular migration)
knowledge workers. Our Universities are losing experienced academic
researchers because of poor investments in R&D.
It is this writer's contention that the issue of brain drain will generate
intense debate going forward in view of the raging global battle for talent
that is unfolding. There is need for more research on the dynamics of brain
drain in view of globalisation.
lAnthony Jongwe is a Harare based researcher and writer with a keen interest
in People Management issues. He can be contacted on cell: 091 713 653
ONCE again, there was pomp and pageantry when yet another 'new' economic
recovery programme dubbed the National Economic Development Priority
Programme (NEDPP) was unveiled last week. As usual, those who crafted the
'new' economic plan were congratulating themselves on a job 'well done'. In
the words of the likeable but rather na´ve Economic Development Minister
Rugare Gumbo, "The Government, in partnership with the private sector and
the Zimbabwe National Security Council (ZNSC) chaired by President Mugabe,
has boldly grasped the nettle to address, in a holistic manner, the
challenges facing this country . . .
"In order to achieve the set objectives of economic stabilisation, inflation
reduction, foreign currency mobilisation and use, and increased agriculture
coordination with an adequate supply of inputs and food security, it was
important that investor confidence and the positive image of Zimbabwe be
restored, key infrastructure rehabilitated and developed while the
Government's domestic and external debt would have to be reduced".
Fine words which sound familiar from our erstwhile Minister of Economic
Development. But words in themselves mean nothing, they remain just words
unless they are translated into action. And it is very difficult if not
impossible to see how these fine words can be translated into reality within
the next six to nine months in the absence of political normalisation and
the resultant active involvement of the totality of all Zimbabweans and the
international community. This reality is the crux of the matter.
What the captains of industry and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor said
at the launch ceremony was spot on in terms of their commitment to
partnership with government and creating a spirit of common concerns with
the aim of seeking a cure to an economy that is terminally ill.
The problem always is the lack of faith and confidence by the majority of
Zimbabweans and the international community in a political system that has
not produced and will not produce a sea change in people's fortunes unless
reformed or better still, overhauled.
To me, this really is the bottom line and the sooner everyone grasps this
simple fact the better for us all.
The challenges that we are facing in this country and the past record of
these initiatives require that journalists be sceptical about this 'new'
plan. Those who spoke at the unveiling ceremony of NEDPP including the
Economic Development Minister Gumbo were at pains to explain how this
so-called 'new' economic blueprint was different from the previous
programmes which all collapsed like packs of cards one after another.
The private sector was also part and parcel of the previous initiatives. And
the government's involvement was also at the highest level. So the
misgivings that are being expressed by many people are not misplaced. It is
well founded in reality. More so, when there is no political will on the
part of those who presently wield political power to normalise Zimbabwe's
Vision 2020, Esap, Zimprest, National Economic Recovery Programme (NERP),
the 10 Point Plan - these are some of the previous blueprints that never saw
the light of day. And going through this 'new' one, one can be forgiven for
concluding that what the ministers and their officials did was simply to
dust off the previous programmes, change the format and give it a new name:
the National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP). There is
nothing really new in NEDPP except the new economic jargon that the
officials threw in here and there to make it appear 'different' from the
past failed initiatives. A question of old wine in new bottles? Yaah!
Consider this: Vision 2020 and Zimprest among other documents talked about
the need for Zimbabwe to attract both domestic and foreign investment so
that the country can export, earn foreign currency, retool industry, create
jobs and empower the people. All the previous initiatives emphasized the
importance of investor confidence and the promotion of a positive image of
Zimbabwe. On paper, these were clear and visible blueprints and one is at a
loss to find out the differences between them and the 'new' National
Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP). Of importance is the fact
that the time at which the previous programmes were put together (before the
turn of the new Millennium) was not as bad and scary as the current
environment in which we find ourselves now. But the initiatives failed all
the same. What success can we envisage in a much worse environment - an
environment in which we have been isolated and ostracized by the markets
which really matter and the refusal of most Zimbabweans to buy into a
political system which has sentenced them to poverty and untold suffering.
Forget about the Look East policy. Who does not know that the Chinese, for
example are never big spenders. They move in large groups and their
frugality is legendary. An individual western tourist can spend as much as a
hundred Chinese put together if not more. Foreign investment will remain
dead in the water as long as we pursue this so-called Look East policy to
the exclusion of our long-established and trusted traditional western
Putting all our economic policy eggs into the Look East basket will not
solve our problems. Not in a thousand years! This is one of the major
reasons why the 'new' economic blueprint will remain a pipedream.
We are therefore entitled to ask Rugare Gumbo and the cabinet as a whole:
What is so special about this 'new' economic blueprint that in the next
three months, Zimbabwe can receive cash investment of US$2.5 billion? From
where? With no food, no medicines, no fuel, no jobs, power and water cuts
and economic hardships of sorts for the past six years, you honestly believe
that in nine short months, the Zimbabwean economy would have turned around?
Of course, there is nothing wrong with giving people hope but it should not
be hope based on illusion and fantasy. The key point that needs to be made
is that as journalists we will be doing a great disservice to the Zimbabwean
public and being dishonest as hell if we do not treat these endless economic
plans with scepticism and disbelief.
Yes, I agree with Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono when he said that "it is
not the responsibility of President Mugabe, the government and the private
sector only to make things work but that the totality of all Zimbabweans
beginning with the media will need to join hands and pull in one direction,"
But I am sure the good governor does appreciate the fact that the last thing
we need is a media that is a pipe organ for government and politicians.
We need a press that is dedicated to the watchdog role. Intelligent
scepticism can, and should be compatible with a basic belief in progress and
it will be a big strategic mistake on the part of those charged with the
responsibility of resolving the problems confronting this economy if all
they expect from the media is praise-singing and sunshine stories. That
produces neither light nor shade nor understanding of the processes.
Journalists are the country's eyes. They help the drivers of the process see
the pitfalls, see the unseen and know the unknown, change course, refine
things but with the train still on the rails and moving forward. I have no
doubt that the Reserve Bank governor and all the captains of industry would
agree with this position.
The active involvement of the totality of all Zimbabweans not just those
aligned to the ruling party or submissive and pliable is a very important
point. The economic meltdown that we are experiencing and which can rightly
be described as an implosion can no longer be left to one party to 'manage'.
Partisan posturing always hinders progressive ideas and helps obscure the
real issues. The whole of the private sector and civil society must buy into
the blueprint to avoid the cynicism of 'it is theirs not ours'. After all,
we are all Zimbabweans.
I see this as one of the greatest challenges facing the 'new' economic plan.
One does not have to be an economist to know that the economic nosedive of
this country around 1997 and even earlier was heralded by the almost
pathological refusal of government to listen to well-intentioned warnings
Esap, unbudgeted payments to war veterans, our involvement in the DRC war
and of course the unplanned and chaotic land reform programme are the major
events and bad decisions that kick started and accelerated the economic
crisis and eventually sealed our fate.
Talking about private sector buy-in, it is important to emphasise that the
process should not only be confined to organisations and companies such as
the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), the Zimbabwe National
Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), Employers' Confederation of Zimbabwe, Delta and
Dairibord Zimbabwe Limited.
Representatives of successful companies such as TA Holdings Limited and
others must be taken on board. The authentic labour body, the ZCTU needs to
be seen as a partner not as an opponent if there is to be a successful
implementation of NEDPP.
Candour, frankness and full frontal discussion: these are essential for
peace, stability and change.
And of course, the full answer to our nation's crisis will have to include,
whether President Mugabe likes it or not, MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai.
Politics is at the heart of this crisis. Zimbabwe is now a failed state and
President Mugabe has no option but to seize the bull by the horns and either
pass on the torch or enter into a political dialogue if the economy is to
completely heal and the country prosper again. There is absolutely no other
Anything else including these unending economic blueprints will merely be
tinkering with the edges of the nation's predicament and prolonging the
suffering of the Zimbabwean people.
No Holds Barred
THE one and only "Doctor" who many say reading through his articles is like
wading through glue will not agree with me. But the fact is that generally
speaking, the role of the media is grossly misunderstood throughout the
world, moreso, by the most despotic governments.
This makes journalism dangerous especially under repressive and
authoritarian regimes where political cartoons and jokes at the leadership's
expense are treason. Stories are told of how diabolical soldiers and secret
servicemen devoid of any human kindness murder critical editors and
journalists. They do this at the behest of dictators who do not know what it
means to use power with sufficient caution.
And as we edge a little closer towards World Press Freedom Day on May 3, we
should not forget to remember that only last year, as reported by Reporters
sans Frontiers (RST) , 63 journalists were killed the world over. The
Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) puts the figure at a
conservative 47. Whatever the exact figure, even a single death through
murder is one too many. As if this was not enough, many more journalists are
languishing in various prisons throughout the world as "dangerous criminals
against the state". Their crime: they dared tell it like it is. It is for
the same reason that for journalists there is always the constant threat of
death and torture.
The situation is far from rosy in Zimbabwe where we have witnessed the
systematic bullying and intimidation of the media particularly under that
political sadomasochist, Jonathan Moyo, who got pleasure from inflicting
pain on journalists and political opponents. Moyo's vision of Zimbabwe was
one in which people do not have a right to express their feelings, fears and
dreams. Newspapers were arbitrarily closed down and journalists arrested on
And it was always going to be next to impossible not to clash with a system
as punitive as Zimbabwe's if journalists do their job properly because it
inevitably earns them the hostility or even hatred of the establishment. In
one form of intimidation, the powers-that-be try to exert their influence
even on independent newspapers by ratcheting up pressure on newspaper owners
to depose critical editors and replace them with pliant ones. As one of the
scribes I wear the shoe and therefore know how and where it pinches.
Of course the all-knowing "Doctor" earlier on alluded to, together with some
ZANU PF apologists who will not be deterred by the minor accident of total
ignorance from penning a definitive opinion on anything do not see it that
way. To them it is as if the media is responsible for the wars, conflicts,
diseases, failures, dictatorships, corruption, greed, crime and dishonesty
that characterise the African continent today.
This is why up to this very day when there is unanimity that for Africa to
have a decisive rupture with its authoritarian present, the first sign of a
new life should be the removal of media censorship and the chain-laws that
reinforce it, the "good doctor" is unbelievably bent on tightening the
screws and the restrictions so as to guide journalists piercing self-serving
government secrecy in search of the truth and information.
It is not difficult to discern the motive of this seemingly arbitrary attack
on the media. Contrary to what they say, it is not hatred for falsehoods
that inspires these laws. It is hatred for freedom of the press, free speech
and indeed what the US-based Freedom Forum calls free spirit for all people.
All this is done to protect the political leadership on whom much flattery
is constantly lavished and in turn appreciated as can be seen through the
Zimpapers titles and ZTV, which is as boring as watching the grass grow.
I have always believed that for journalists it is what it is, be it good,
bad or ugly. Which is why I find it quite some feat for the journalists at
Zimpapers or ZTV to have done what they have done: the difficult task of
looking at the depressing, lengthy economic crisis, joblessness and grinding
poverty through some veil or more appropriately rose-tinted spectacles when
the misery index tells its own tale. They confuse reality with illusion, yet
facts are supposed to be sacred in journalism. They even talk of an economic
turnaround when there is none and of a bumper harvest when hunger stalks the
nation etc. The journalists in these institutions have reduced themselves to
megaphones for the politicians' conspiracy to lie to the nation about the
state of affairs in the country. Suffice to say it is absurd for the
journalists in these institutions to continue to debase themselves this way.
Unfortunately the issue of media censorship by the government also touches
on the very core of democracy because it is not possible to establish a
vigorous democracy without two of its cornerstones - access to information
and the right to free expression. Without these two, it can be anything else
As observed by Thomas Blanton, author of White House E-Mail: The Top Secret
Computer Message the Reagan-Bush White House Tried To Destroy, the concept
of freedom of information is changing from the purely moral stance as an
indictment of secrecy to one with more wide-ranging value-neutral meanings
chief of which is bringing about more efficient administration of
government. Simply put, it helps foster a transparent and accountable
government by among other things exposing waste, fraud, abuse and criminal
In Zimbabwe stories that immediately come to mind are those on the abuse of
the VIP housing scheme, and the War Victims Compensation Fund, Willowgate
scandal, farm grab scandal, United Merchant Bank scandal, etc. The media did
its job but the major problem has been, except for one case, persistent lack
of action by the authorities even after the information is obtained and
Of course I will be the first to admit it. News is susceptible to
manipulation. And indeed, we have seen flashes of sensationalism in the
independent media to downright falsehoods, unfairness and bias in the state
media where as I have said before, Jonathan Moyo, erased the distinction
between reporting and creative writing.
Examples abound. First there was the surrealistic article about anthrax mail
supposedly targeted at Jonathan Moyo (published in The Herald on January 10,
2002). Secondly, there was that work of popular fiction that is fit for a
James Bond script (published in The Chronicle of April 22, 2002) about the
MDC planning to bomb high-rise buildings in Harare and Bulawayo to
fast-track Morgan Tsvangirai to State House. I remember how, after reading
the article in The Chronicle I laid the paper down because I could not
continue reading. I felt a deep sense of sadness for journalism - a
profession for which I have a passion.
All I'm saying is that journalists in Zimbabwe are aware that it is not just
a question of a free but fair, accurate, balanced and non-partisan press as
well. As said by Charles Overby, the then chairman of Freedom Forum: there
is a tendency to pit a free press against a fair press. But it should not be
one or the other. It needs to be both.
It is as simple as that. And those Zimbabwean journalists who are like
Ukrainian philosopher Olesksa Tikhy's "thinking particles of the universe,"
are only too aware of this. They know that a free press has the
responsibility to be fair. Hence the concerted efforts to establish a
self-regulatory independent media council.
The million dollar question is, if the media is playing such a crucial role,
why then do some within the Zimbabwean government feel it necessary to come
up with objectionable pieces of legislation that make it difficult for
journalists to carry out their duties without fear or favour? Given the need
for transparency, the need for people to participate in governance and
decision-making processes and the fact that government policies should be
open to public scrutiny and debate, do restrictive media laws not smack of
ever-shrinking accountability? Are these the actions of a government that
does not have anything to hide? Do these people have a desire to consider
the interests of a rapidly changing Zimbabwe?
Indeed, if the media fulfills mankind's most basic need to know and the
survival of democracy depends on the free flow of ideas and information, why
doesn't Zimbabwe, as a constitutional democracy let the freedom speak?
PROMINENT construction and industrial group Murray and Roberts (M&R) has
shut down four of its branches as Zimbabwe's economic crisis reaches
M&R's chief executive officer Canada Malunga told The Financial Gazette this
week that although opportunities for infrastructural projects were abundant
in the country, the risk for some of them was now so high that they could
not be viably undertaken.
M&R was therefore discontinuing operations at its Bulawayo, Redcliff,
Bindura and Chiredzi branches.
The Chiredzi branch was the leading concrete dam and canal contractor in the
Malunga said the construction giant had taken the decision to wind down the
Chiredzi operations after recording shrinking business opportunities in the
He said raw and building material shortages emanating from Zimbabwe's
foreign currency crisis had severely crippled the construction giant's
"We have decided to do away with our mechanical business due to diminished
opportunities over the years," said Malunga.
The mechanical division, which falls under M&R's contracting operations,
comprised management of major structural and mechanical engineering
The electrical division, which is also being discontinued, was involved in
major infrastructural, electrical and telecommunication projects in a number
"That business is no longer core," Malunga said of the mechanical and
The M&R boss said the construction sector, which heavily relies on imported
raw materials, had been hardest hit by the country's economic crisis, which
is characterised by record-high inflation of 913 percent, a hard currency
squeeze and energy constraints.
"The construction industry has been the worst affected by hyperinflation,
and the market has diminished over the years," Malunga said.
He said M&R had already moved all its equipment to Harare while a
"harmonious" retrenchment of the affected employees was being finalised.
Malunga said M&R's structural steel fabrication facility, which supplies
structural steel to the construction and telecommunications industries,
would remain open.
THE Zimbabwe dollar fell for the first time in three months on the official
interbank foreign currency market yesterday, going down a marginal one
The Zimdollar traded at $101 193.6, down from $99 201.80, after trades on
Tuesday exceeded the US$5 million required to move the exchange rate.
Foreign currency purchases were seen at US$6 197 727.30 against sales of
US$6 142 736.27.
Daily trades had recently been averaging US$600 000-US$700 0000.
This is the first time the exchange rate has moved since January 24, when
the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduced measures that tie the movement of
the rate to actual daily volumes traded.
The measures have been criticised by exporters as a virtual cap on the
exchange rate, but central bank governor Gideon Gono this week denied fixing
the rate, saying it was up to the market to bring in the volumes required to
move the rate.
The interbank rate however still lags rates on the parallel market, where
dealers quoted the US dollar at a mid-rate of $217 000 yesterday.
CENTRAL bank governor Gideon Gono's recent statements on interest rates
point to further rate hikes ahead, but critics say he is unlikely to get the
result he desires from his aggressive rate policy if government cannot tone
down its borrowing. Gono raised the accommodation rate by 50 percentage
points to 800 percent after the markets closed on Monday. Shares moved only
a touch lower on Tuesday in reaction, reflecting how the markets have taken
the new move on rates.
Warning that Zimbabwe was "confronted with the threat of high inflation",
Gono has sent out a clear signal that he is not any closer to reaching the
"end of the line" on the rate front. Following the release of March
inflation data, up a record 913.6 percent, Gono had remained silent, raising
speculation that central bank now felt it had exhausted the rate hike as a
tool against inflation.
RBZ's hawkish stance on rates has driven the bank rate to 800 percent from
95 percent within only a year, but without gaining any ground on inflation.
But Gono said on Monday he would "continue to maintain a tight monetary
policy stance, characterised by maintenance of positive real interest rates
and short money market positions", remarks analysts say point to more rate
hikes ahead - and further damage for industry.
"It was a surprise but maybe not really a surprise. After he had given the
market the silent treatment, we thought something else was afoot. But it
seems we are continuing on that same old path and if there is no support
from all sides, these rate hikes will ultimately cause even more damage," an
analyst said yesterday.
Analysts say this new attempt will not help RBZ slow inflation, blaming
government borrowing for much of the credit expansion. Even if banks raised
their own lending rates, there would be no impact on inflation as business
has long stopped borrowing from banks, where lending rates are now over 650
"I think the policy is self-defeating because on one hand you discourage
borrowing by companies and on the other you want to curb speculative
borrowing yet the government is the main player by borrowing to pay interest
on its debt," University of Zimbabwe professor of business Anthony Hawkins
The 91-day TB rate has been at 525 percent for over a month, and Gono said
the market should not expect "a one-on-one link" between the accommodation
rate and the TB and OMO rates as the real rates on the Treasury Bills and
OMO bills were already well above inflation.
Gono has cautioned players to "pitch their sales strong enough to withstand
the inevitable liquidity storm that ordinarily comes with the vigorous
anti-inflation thrust the Reserve Bank will continue to maintain, until the
job is done".
JUST how impervious the ruling elites are to the sensibilities of the people
is demonstrated by press reports last weekend about extravagant and
non-performing Harare Commission chairperson, the embattled Sekesai
Makwavarara, rushing off in a panic to enlist the First Lady, Grace Mugabe's
support to enable her to keep her lucrative job.
Despite having caused countless ructions because of her lack of any
demonstrable leadership capabilities and her single-mindedness in exploiting
her position only to enjoy a lavish lifestyle, Makwavarara remained unmoved
and unconcerned as long as she was assured of keeping her job. As far as she
was concerned, the ratepayers of Harare could shout until doomsday about her
endless bungling and profligacy and she would not give a hoot as long as her
position was not threatened.
Not once, amid the countless outcries her ineptitude and excesses sparked,
did she feel she owed the residents of Harare an explanation. She did not
call a single press conference to clarify her position or to reassure the
residents that she would make amends. It was business as usual as she
thumbed her nose at the struggling masses in the city who, in the absence of
any service delivery, were obliged to continue paying through the nose to
finance Makwavarara's and her fellow commissioners' extravagant lifestyles.
As last weekend's press reports showed, the Chairperson of the Commission
that is supposed to be running the affairs of the City of Harare was only
galvanised into a reaction of any kind at all when the hue and cry about her
shopping and spending sprees reached a crescendo even in the official press.
But then, instead of doing the honourable thing and owning up to the people
to whom she is accountable, Makwavarara chose to run to "Mother Grace" to
enlist the First Lady's support. Memo to First Lady: The struggling masses
would view your influencing the President to protect non-performers and
parasites as a hostile act.
It is a sad reflection of how far things have gone out of control that
Makwavarara is not the only holder of high office in Zimbabwe today who
feels neither a hint of guilt nor a pang of conscience about being in public
life only to pursue self-interest and self-enrichment. Her shameful example
is the norm rather than the exception. The nation is, in fact, being milked
dry left, right and centre by crooks posing as patriots and revolutionaries.
These greedy and corrupt individuals are responsible for exacerbating and
prolonging the deprivation and suffering of the generality of the people who
are not connected to the extensive political patronage network. It's
criminal but the powers-that-be continue to look the other way. For how long
can this continue?
These leeches have become so daring at doing anything they want for
self-aggrandisement and personal gain that one wonders whether they are
answerable even to the head of state and ruling party. There have been
numerous instances when the culprits in the endless scandals and rackets
that have been exposed within government have been identified and the public
has expected them to be brought to book. But everyone now knows what happens
to these fraudsters who pose in nationalistic and patriotic clothing. Their
cases are always swept under the carpet and some are even rewarded with more
lucrative posts. That is why despite the fact that the Anti-Corruption
Commission is reported to be investigating Makwavarara and the Harare City
Council, it would not be surprising to learn that they have been exonerated
despite the mountains of evidence against them. The impoverished and
long-suffering residents of the city can cry blue murder but their protests
will fall on deaf ears. We have seen enough examples of this pretence of
going through a probe before.
The culture of official deceit, subterfuge and outright fabrication, all in
a bid to avoid acknowledging situations as they are on the ground is so well
established that there are even designated bootlickers-cum- hatchet men at
the ready to savage anyone who perceives a different reality. These attack
dogs are themselves beneficiaries of the ruling party's patronage system and
will therefore not countenance anyone who rocks the boat and thus threatens
their positions at the feeding trough.
Makwavarara's case is such an unfortunate example of official imperviousness
to public opinion because of the high-handed manner in which she was
catapulted to the top position in the Harare City Council. She has done far
worse than the first popularly elected executive mayor of Harare, from whom
the ruling party demanded and got its pound of flesh. Although she was
touted as someone who had been roped in to put things back in order,
Makwavarara has only succeeded in being a symbol of ZANU PF's bullying
tactics and refusal to accept its rejection by urban voters. She has failed
spectacularly to deliver as chief executive of the city and as a trailblazer
supposed to demonstrate what women can do when appointed to key decision
Some people have charged that the press has judged Makwavarara too harshly
and that pointing out her shortcomings and deploring her excesses has
amounted to failure to support the push for gender equity. I beg to differ.
Affirmative action, gender quotas and protocols should not be about
appointing puppets to leadership positions to enable them to catch up with
the males in the areas of corruption, avarice, inefficiency, insensitivity
and lack of accountability. Those who are fortunate enough to clinch these
positions are supposed to bring new perspectives and dynamics in terms of
dedication to service, professionalism, humaneness, integrity and fair play
for the benefit of the people they are supposed to serve.
Makwavarara has never shown herself to be concerned about or aware of any of
these ideals. She has predicated her presence at Town House entirely on
Local Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo's noblesse oblige. The minister
had his own ulterior political motives for installing a clueless sycophant
to do his biding but this cannot be described as gender sensitivity by any
stretch of the imagination. It is an insult to the women's cause in that a
capable woman somewhere who should have clinched the post on merit has been
held back while residents were forced to endure and finance the comedy of
errors staged by the odd couple of Chombo and Makwavarara.
TWO years ago, July 29, 2004 to be exact, we warned in our editorial
entitled, Wither The Golden Leaf, about the imminent collapse of the key
Given the terrifying decline in tobacco production - a microcosm of falling
production in agriculture, the engine that once powered the economy now
grappling with rising inflation, falling industrial and employment levels -
we stated that it was all gloom and doom. We foresaw very tough times ahead
for the sub-sector.
Our fears were not without foundation although government apologists felt
that they were exaggerated. Unfortunately, those fears have come to pass.
The sector faces an uncertain outlook as can be exemplified by the initially
slow-motion but now progressively accelerating decline in tobacco
And what is the upshot of it all? As the situation stands, tobacco
production this year is projected at an estimated 45 million kg, just a
paltry 18 percent of its pre-crisis levels when the country produced 250
million kg in 1999, which accounted for 33 percent of its foreign currency
earnings. In real terms, this was close to $700 million even as prices on
the international market were relatively soft due to the rise in the global
supply of tobacco. The fall in the production and decline in the quality of
tobacco is disappointing but not unexpected.
Opinions on the reasons for this disturbing trend are starkly divided. Those
opposed to the approach, style and form of the land reform exercise, which
they said was a recipe for disaster, feel that the facts and figures on the
sorry state of tobacco production are attributable to the chaotic nature of
the agrarian reforms which failed to strike a careful balance between legal
security and economic flexibility to provide optimum opportunity to achieve
their strategic objectives. And to these critics, the deep-seated crisis in
the tobacco sub-sector reads more like a chronicle of a catastrophe
foretold. Of course government dismisses this as a see-through red-herring
by those caught between reality and insecurity in the face of the land
reform initiative. Others still, blame the trend on crippling agricultural
inputs, a by-product of lack of planning and upside-down priorities on the
part of the government which we have decried time without number.
Whatever the reasons for the decline, this is a worrying trend because it
can only have serious ramifications for the battered economy. Indeed, not
only will it exacerbate the economic meltdown but the decline in the
production of tobacco, the country's erstwhile premier export commodity
together with gold also becomes more frightening when looked at in the
context of the absence of critical balance of payments support following the
fallout between Zimbabwe and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over
policy issues. This is moreso, coming as it does against a backcloth of a
marked slowdown in overall export performance.
The other issue is that although it has been argued that the quality of
Zimbabwe's tobacco, geared for the unmanufactured international leaf market,
should protect the country's market, there is now the real danger that the
country could lose its markets if the declining production continues
True, the locally produced tobacco has over the years had a wonderful
footprint on the international markets. Having established a reputation for
quality, Zimbabwean tobacco has enjoyed a customer pull. There has always
been a gap for the local leaf especially for blending purposes by
international cigarette manufacturers.
Be that as it may, international buyers need guaranteed supply because they
are in it for the long haul. They do not buy tobacco on an ad hoc basis. And
given what is happening in Zimbabwe right now, chances are they could look
elsewhere for fear of being caught flat-footed in the event of the local
industry collapsing. It is a matter of prudence for any business that
supplies of raw materials or even finished products be constantly reliable.
It is not far-fetched therefore to postulate that the steep drop in tobacco
production might have sent such shock waves to the traditional markets that
they could already be casting around for alternative suppliers to avoid
disruptions to their operations due to the Zimbabwean drag. The risk of
tobacco export market loss therefore looms large for Zimbabwe. This should
be of grave concern because it would not be easy for the country to
recapture those markets once they have been lost.