From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 12 February
Zimbabwe drops plan to seize hard currency
Harare - Zimbabwe's government has apparently panicked in the face of a rapidly growing economic crisis by announcing and then rescinding a decree seizing hard currency earnings from exporters. Yesterday's move came as the country was hit by a fuel shortage. The streets of Harare were choked with queues of hundreds of vehicles at the few petrol stations which had supplies.
An announcement from the central bank carried in the official press yesterday would have forced companies to sell all of their American dollar earnings to the government. Payment would have been at the official exchange rate, well below what is offered by the burgeoning "parallel" market. Diplomats at Zimbabwe's embassies abroad have not been paid for months and their plight is believed to have triggered the decision. No Zimbabwean would have been able to travel and no company allowed hard currency to buy imported goods. Eric Bloch, an independent economist, said: "It was one of the most foolish and ill-considered moves possible. When they realised just how disastrous the repercussions would have been, it was quickly withdrawn."
The central bank will hold an emergency meeting today to decide how to raise desperately needed hard currency. Observers believe that £313.5 million is needed to clear the embassies' debts. Mr Bloch fears that the government could decide on another equally disastrous panic measure. He said: "There will still be great problems. I have no confidence they will choose a sensible solution."
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 11 February
Assault on judges continues - high court to be 'visited' this week
ZANU PF's purge on the judiciary is set to continue with justice minister Patrick Chinamasa scheduled to meet three High Court judges this week. Legal experts have warned that the move is bound to worsen the constitutional crisis created by the impasse between the judiciary and the executive, which they say has been created by Zanu PF. Sources within the judiciary told The Standard on Friday that Chinamasa will this week be meeting with three High Court judges - George Smith, Fergus Blackie and "one other".
Following Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay's forced resignation on 2 February, Chinamasa on Friday asked Justices Ibrahim and McNally to resign. Justice Ibrahim asked for more time to consult his family, while Justice McNally said he would only retire in December, when he reaches retirement age. The government has already indicated that it will also be approaching Wilson Sandura and Simba Muchechetere to register its displeasure with the Supreme Court and ask the two senior black judges to resign.
At a special caucus meeting on Friday, ruling party MPs passed a vote of no confidence in the Supreme Court and asked the remaining four judges - McNally, Muchechetere, Ibrahim and Sandura to resign. Soon after the Zanu PF meeting, Chinamasa, who is also the party's secretary for legal affairs, is understood to have told Justice McNally that the president would not like to see him come to any harm. In an interview, Justice McNally said: "We were told very nicely and politely that we should go. Take your leave and go otherwise anything can happen. It was said very frankly that they did not want us to come to any harm."
In the meeting with Justice Ibrahim, Chinamasa is understood to have raised the issue of the judge's role as a public prosecutor during the Muzorewa era and the conviction of freedom fighters. Chinamasa confirmed to this newspaper that he had raised concern to Justice Ibrahim over his role during the Muzorewa era. Zanu PF intensified its purge on the judiciary after the Supreme Court ruling nullified President Mugabe's ban on electoral challenges by the MDC. The MDC is challenging results in 38 constituencies won by Zanu PF in last year's parliamentary elections.
Said one Harare lawyer: "Mugabe's executive is now usurping the powers of the judiciary. As the executive they are supposed to be executing the laws but they are now trying to interpret the law, which is the job of the judiciary. "The separation of powers is very clear. The legislature (parliament) makes the laws, the judiciary interprets the laws and the executive executes the laws. "But now Mugabe refuses to execute the law using the police and the army and other organs he controls through his executive powers. Instead he is trying to take over the judiciary. This is the last step towards a dictatorship and so people must resist these attempts to interfere with the judiciary."
A Harare resident who telephoned The Standard yesterday said: "Zanu PF is now causing alarm and despondency among Zimbabweans. The time has come when Zimbabweans should say "enough is enough". Zanu PF is a desperate party and will do anything illegal to ensure it stays in power. The party cannot claim to be representing the people. In fact, more people voted for the opposition than for Zanu PF itself during the elections. Even if the party wanted to claim that it has a parliamentary majority, it is dangerously thin (four seats) and 38 of the results are being challenged anyway."
Meanwhile, the MDC will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the constitutional crisis brought about by Zanu PF's bid to remove the judiciary. MDC president, Morgan Tsvangirai, told The Standard yesterday that the opposition's executive members would meet on Saturday to discuss and find a way forward following Zanu PF's onslaught on the judiciary. Said Tsvangirai: "They have no legal basis to fire the judges. We have a right to appeal against an irregular electoral process. As far as we are concerned, judges have done nothing wrong. All they said was that we have a right to be heard. They said Mugabe was wrong in denying us a chance to be heard and it is the High Court that will determine whether or not our cases are frivolous, not Mugabe."
From The Star (SA), 12 February
'Meddling' SA crew fly into diplomatic storm
Lusaka - Zambian authorities have summoned the South African high commissioner and delegates to explain why their government issued a statement on the postponement of the heads of state Congo summit from Tuesday to next Friday, it was stated on Sunday. Reliable government sources said the South African government on Saturday issued a statement that the summit had been put back to February 16. According to the sources, the Zambian government summoned the high commissioner and President Thabo Mbeki's advance party to the summit to explain "why and under what capacity" an official statement on the postponement was issued. Because of the statement, the sources said, delegates to the summit had now changed their dates.
A check on the expected delegates to the summit showed that South Africa has not been invited, but despite not being invited, Mbeki's advance party was already in Lusaka. The sources at the summit "wants to deal with those who are directly involved in the conflict without interference from outside". As diplomatic tension over the spearheading of the DRC peace negotiations between Zambia and South Africa increases, Presidential Affairs Minister Eric Silwamba has warned parties indirectly involved in the conflict not to play games. "This is not a game, so let's not just show a lot of hype while in actual fact we do not do anything," Silwamba said.
President Frederick Chiluba, who is also co-ordinator of the peace process in the DRC on Saturday said there was need for more consultations before a summit aimed at reviving the shaky peace process could be called. Speaking to journalists upon his return from a meeting in Luanda with Presidents Sam Nujoma of Namibia and Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, Chiluba said there were "certain issues that need to be discussed before a venue for the heads of state summit can be announced".
UN special envoy to the Great Lakes region Khamel Morjane on Sunday told political leaders in the DRC conflict to show political will that would confirm their commitment to the Lusaka peace process. Speaking ahead of Monday's Joint Political Commission meeting on the DRC, Morjane said the UN was ready to execute the Joint Military Commission's sub-plans of disengagement and re-deployment of forces on the ground, based on the Kampala and Harare agreements. He asked new DRC leader Joseph Kabila to show practical measures that would confirm his statement to the Security Council that he was fully committed to the Lusaka peace process and ready to engage in the inter-Congolese dialogue.
From Pan African News Agency, 11 February
Major Hitch Develops At JMC Meeting On DRC
Lusaka - The lack of consensus on the sub- plans for the disengagement of troops as agreed in Kampala has developed as a major hitch at the Joint Military Commission (JMC) meeting on Sunday in Lusaka on the DRC. Valentin Senga, head of delegation for the Movement of Liberation of Congo (MLC) said in an interview that the MLC insisted that it will not sign the Harare sub-plans to withdraw its troops 30-km away until president Joseph Kabila commits himself to the commencement of the inter-Congolese dialogue.
Senga, is also national secretary of the Front of Liberation of Congo (FLC), an alliance between MLC and the Kisangani-based Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD). He said the FLC has insisted that the issue be referred to the Political Committee Meeting of Defence and Foreign Affairs ministers, scheduled to begin Monday in Lusaka. Parties against the government in Kinshasa are expected to pin down the ministers from DRC to commit themselves to start the dialogue in Congo. "We have still refused to commit ourselves to sign the sub-plans of action as agreed in Harare. We have no problems with the content of the sub-plans but what we are saying is that we will only sign when the inter-Congolese dialogue commence.
"We want to see president Kabila to take up the initiative of meeting with the facilitator Masire because they are the ones who had a problem with the facilitator and this is why the political dialogue has not yet started," Senga said. He said it would be very dangerous for them to withdraw their troops 30km as agreed in the Kampala disengagement plans before the inter-Congolese dialogue begins in Congo which is supposed to arrange for the holding of elections and a transition government. The hitch has delayed the JMC meeting which was scheduled to last for a one day to come up with a report to for presentation to the Political Committee meeting on Monday.
From The Star (SA), 11 February
Congo rebels fight on - and blame Kabila
Kigali - Heavy fighting has broken out between rival armed forces in a densely forested area of the DRC, officials of the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) said on Sunday. Speaking from Bukavu, on the Congo-Rwanda border, they said RCD forces, who are backed by Rwanda, were fighting a force of about 5 000 ethnic Hutus, including renegade soldiers of the former Rwandan army. The renegade soldiers fled into the Congo when Rwanda's Hutu government was toppled after the 1994 genocide in which an estimated 800 000 Rwandans were killed. Allied Hutu rebels from Burundi were also involved in the latest fighting, along with Rwandan Interahamwe Hutu rebels who oppose the Rwanda government.
The fighting broke out last Tuesday around Shabunda, 300 km west of Bukavu, and was still in progress on Saturday. "The assailants were armed with heavy machineguns and anti-aircraft cannon," Benjamin Serukiza, vice-governor of South Kivu province, told Reuters by telephone from Bukavu. "Our RCD forces are still controlling Shabunda town and its airfield after repelling the attacks." RCD officials said casualty figures were not yet known in the heavily forested area. They said the latest outbreak of fighting followed "inflammatory" speeches made by Congo President Joseph Kabila after his recent installation. They said Kabila was exhorting pro-government elements to continue fighting the Rwandan- and Ugandan-backed rebels, including the RCD, who control a large area of eastern Congo.
From The Observer (UK), 11 February
Revealed: how Africa's dictator died at the hands of his boy soldiers
President Laurent Kabila's blind faith in his teenage warriors was a fatal error
The teenage killer of Laurent Kabila is still on the run a month after the Congolese president's murder, according to a dramatic account of his assassination which has emerged in Paris. The report also casts new light on why the 'child soldiers' of the ex-president's army turned against Kabila and plotted his assassination. It suggests there was no international conspiracy, nor were Congolese rebels who control much of the eastern part of the DRC responsible. Rather, Kabila's kadogos (Swahili for child soldiers) committed parricide against a man they believed to have betrayed them.
Kabila had believed that the kadogos who had served him loyally since his rebellion in 1997 against ex-president Mobutu were utterly loyal. He even told a visiting foreign businessman: 'They will never do anything against me. They have been with me since the beginning. They are my children.' Kabila's young killer entered the president's office at the Marble Palace in Kinshasa on 16 January, as the increasingly paranoid and isolated Kabila was discussing with an economics adviser a looming summit with France he hoped would be his political salvation.
The assassin bent over Kabila, and the president, assuming the teenager wanted to talk to him, leaned towards him. The kadogo then produced a revolver and shot the president four times, and then escaped with other conspirators while the palace resounded with gunfire. At least three of those involved in the plot, including the unnamed killer himself, fled Kinshasa, crossed the river Congo and may have gone into hiding in Brazzaville, capital of the neighbouring Congo. The investigation casts doubt on the official version of Kabila's murder. According to Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo, Kabila was killed by another bodyguard called Rashidi Kasereka, 18, who was then shot dead.
But, according to yesterday's report in Le Monde, Kasereka played a minor role in the assassination team. A sub-lieutenant who took part in the assassinations, identified by Le Monde only as 'A.L.', said that Kasereka was killed by Kabila's bodyguards while the real killer escaped. 'A.L.' was in charge of 35 men who were posted outside the presidential palace. Two men got inside the building, four others hid in the palace to provide cover. 'Rashidi was one of four men giving covering fire to our partner. But Rashidi never got out. The rest of us, we ran about 300 metres to where we had left our six vehicles. Then we split up and disappeared into the city.'
The plot to kill Kabila started in early January when a dissident group of kadogos went to Brazzaville and drew up a document setting out Operation Mbongo Zero. 'Mbongo' is a Swahili word for buffalo, a reference to the ex-president's corpulence. A copy of the assassination plan has been kept by one of the plotters, identified by Le Monde only as 'Abdoul'. Consisting of three unsigned hand-written pages, it explains how the conspirators would infiltrate strategic positions in Kinshasa, including the presidential palace, the national radio and television station and the headquarters of the country's electricity company. It involved some 75 members of Kabila's bodyguard at the presidential palace, many of whom were arrested after the killing.
The roots of the boy soldiers' dissension go deeper. Kabila founded his Alliance of Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire in 1996, backed chiefly by Rwandan and Ugandan forces (with whom he later fell out), but with support from the kadogos, from the east of the country. Kabila consolidated his power base by organising the assassination of one of the co-founders of the Alliance, Andre Kisase Ngandu, who had been chief of the National Council of Resistance for Democracy, a group opposed to Mobutu to whom many of the kadogos belonged. One of those kadogos was 'Abdoul', who supported Kabila during the 1997 coup d'etat, but never pardoned him for killing his former leader: 'I marched with Kabila, but I knew he was a traitor.'
Resentment against Kabila grew. Last June, in a desperate roll of the dice, Kabila agreed to meet the Rwandan president General Paul Kagame, to devise a plan to protect his teetering regime. Kagame was a long-time enemy of the kadogos and thus the meeting alienated them further. At the same time, Kabila was sowing internal dissension. According to Abdoul, he treated his 'children' with contempt: 'We knew no one in Kinshasa. All the time we were with Kabila. But he treated us badly. We didn't have salaries, all the money came from him. We were like beggars.'
Increasingly paranoid, Kabila started to devour the children of the revolution. Last November, he believed he had discovered a plot against him and arrested, tortured and killed soldiers loyal to Commandant Anselme Masasu Nindaga who had days earlier made a subversive speech at a reunion for 1,200 kadogos in Kinshasa. The day before his assassination, Kabila had witnessed the execution of 47 kadogos, all believed to be plotting against him. His terror had turned on those who had been his closest allies, the boy soldiers who had marched with him from eastern Congo four years earlier.
The waiting game
THE issue of compensation for Zimbabwean land won't go away. Last week, a farmer in Glendale had his family put through intolerable strain on the day that government announced it was to take his land. Simultaneously, a mob of unruly party thugs left graffiti on his walls, terrorised his family and labour, lit fires on floors, stole food and drink and tormented an 87 year old woman. That this was orchestrated by the State no one disputes, for who else knew the acquisition order was to be delivered that day?
The farmer says he is not leaving because he has not been compensated. That's right and fitting, but the truth of the matter is more than cynical: it is sick.
No one intends to pay compensation, whether for improvements or for land. The objective is to frighten farmers off their land - and to use whatever depraved methods it takes to achieve that goal.
And that is why, when farm invaders terrorise farmers and their workers, the police stand aside and watch from the sidelines. They have become lackeys to the system; the people paid by the people to protect the people now look after the vested interests of the ruling elite.
And the situation isn't as changeable as Zimbabweans might hope. Just weeks ago, there was a widely held belief (even by this paper) that the State might extend an olive branch. That idea was trashed very swiftly - by the State. Yet there are still people advocating appeasement, still people who believe that farmers can bring government to the table and resolve this crisis.
It can't happen without fundamental change and the reason is simple: government, and especially President Mugabe, does not want to talk. He may ask for concessions from farmers, and some farmers might be naïve enough to offer concessions, but history and precedent show that any deal made will leave farmers with nothing but the shirts on their backs.
Any deal made will also heap opprobrium on organised agriculture. It isn't just farmers who're playing a waiting game, it is the whole country. That's because Zimbabwe will come right; it may not be the same "right" that it was before anarchy reigned, but it will be a new sort of right. Well, it will if the country holds tight and weathers the storm, because a handful of people, no matter how powerful, cannot forever hold out against people power. The point is significant, perhaps more so than ever, because it is all too easy for farmers to forget that they still have the overwhelming majority on their side.
There is every reason to stand firm, to follow the example of principled farmers, and others, who're not prepared to be cowed by rhetoric, let alone terror. There are people who've left their farms under intense pressure. Interestingly, the invaders have often left soon after the legal owners of the land. That tells a story all of its own. It says the land isn't the issue, but getting the farmer off is.
And at the risk of being boring, it will be easier for farmers to adopt a united approach, to stand up for each other, to support each other through individual crises than it will to adopt an every man for himself approach. It'll also be easier, and without doubt it will be more likely to succeed, if farmers resist attempts to divide them. From the outset, ZANU-PF, often through the CIO, has attempted to split farmers down the middle, to set them at each others' throats. There is every reason, and ample evidence, to suggest those efforts are being renewed. Farmers would be sensible to shun them - and to ignore any blandishments that might be offered - because nothing offered by the ruling elite comes with any sincerity at all.
Editor- The Farmer
Standing on principle
IN a blatant act of orchestrated harassment, self-styled war veterans last week smashed the security gate at Chirobi Farm in Glendale, entered the homestead garden and demanded that the owners wife leave the property. The owner, Mr Chris Thorne, was in Harare on business at the time. Just minutes before, a government official had delivered a Section Eight order to the farm, insisting that Thorne's 23 year old son sign for it. The order effectively seizes the property from the rightful owner.
The so-called war vets and ZANU-PF supporters broke open the gate and sent the farm's remaining workers fleeing for their lives. Many escaped over the fence to spend the day hiding in the bush.
And while the labour was seeking refuge, Thorne's wife, Mary Rose and their son Marc barricaded themselves into their home, surrounded by invaders screaming obscenities through the sealed windows. Thorne's 87 year old mother, who lives in a separate cottage, was harassed when war vets rampaged into her kitchen and demanded beer. She offered them lemonade. Incensed, the mob, armed with pangas, machetes and electric cable, broke open a fridge and outside bar and drank everything they could find, littering the garden with bottles.
The invaders then stole maize meal, oil and vegetables from Mr Thorne's workers before lighting a fire on a patio to cook their ill-gotten meal, using the fire's charcoal to leave graffiti on the office wall.
Meanwhile Thorne's anxious family had contacted him in the capital. He called the police.
Thorne said he son contacted him soon after to say that a police vehicle had arrived. Sensing it was too soon, Thorne told his son Marc to remain indoors, a decision that could have saved his life. Between eight and ten people leapt out of the police car and whipped the mob into a frenzy, inciting them to further destruction before leaving.
Two and a half hours later genuine policemen arrived with the officer in charge from Bindura. And while the Thornes were waiting for the police, almost the entire farming community arrived on Chirobi. Some 60 farmers from as far away as Matepatepa came in support of the distress signal, waiting patiently in the vehicles some distance from the homestead.
The police demanded that Marc Thorne come out from the house to negotiate with the so-called war veterans. They allowed two farmers, by now experienced negotiators, to join him. Eventually the invaders agreed to leave if water was restored to the farm village. It had been cut off when self-styled vets had evicted Thorne's entire labour force from the village on 29 December last year. The workers are now living in make shift rooms in the farmyard.
But despite the harassment and intimidation, Chris Thorne says he is determined to stay put. He has not farmed since November, when invaders prevented him from planting. "It's all or nothing," Thorne told The Farmer, saying that he would not leave without proper compensation. Last season his farm produced 3 300 tonnes of maize, 1 950 of wheat and 600 tonnes of soya under an intensively farmed 700ha of arable. This year the only crops planted on Chirobi are about 10ha of unhealthy maize planted by Thorne's squatters.
And Chris Thorne says he's not prepared to make any deals. "I bought this farm 24 years ago under and AFC tenant scheme," he said. "It was derelict and I've paid for it. There'll be no offer, no trade off because that's legitimising illegality - and this is illegal."
He said that had government adopted a different approach and stuck to the rule of law, he would have been prepared to assist. "If they'd said please take five or ten people and get them on their feet, sure, anybody would help, but not this way because I'm not giving in to illegality. Besides," he added, "this has nothing to do with land; it's all about maintaining power and getting votes at any cost and I'm not giving in to that either. If I have to leave with nothing but my principles and my dignity, then I'd rather do that than appease illegality," he said.
Upholding tobacco supremacy
THE TOBACCO industry remains a significant contributor to the country's economic prosperity hence the need to ensure it is sustained and enhanced as the loss of this vital industry to the economy would immediately require other alternatives from which widespread economic benefits can be derived..
A partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Mr Paul Baxter who conducted an economic analysis of the tobacco industry, made this observation at a meeting in Harare.
This comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) is preparing for an international treaty on the Framework for World Tobacco Control, which is threatening the economic livelihood of those countries which rely on the crop. WHO is advocating for the framework to come into effect by 2003 on the grounds that the crop is hazardous to health.
However, in those third world countries that rely on tobacco a bigger portion of the revenue from the tobacco industry contributes significantly to social services including health.
But with this advocacy, the tobacco producing countries are being urged not to ignore it as this could have major social and economic implications.
"You face a major issue of: to what extent to adapt to the changes or transition. You can't afford to ignore it," said Mr Baxter.
According to Mr Baxter, "With such a significant impact on the country's economic prosperity, it is important to the future development of the nation that its tobacco industry, particularly the growing, processing, handling and export of tobacco leaf, be sustained and enhanced. Loss of this important economic crop would require immediate action to substitute with other economic activities have the same wide regional economic benefits as those available from the growing and export of tobacco leaf."
Zimbabwe's economy was based on a relatively narrow range of activities, which included tobacco growing, cotton and sugar cane farming, gold mining and the production of textiles and refined sugar. Mr Baxter emphasised the need to avoid over reliance on tobacco as the country's major economic activity as the repercussions of this could be serious.
The importance of tobacco was shown in the contribution of the tobacco industry to GDP, to foreign exchange earnings and to employment. Tobacco was said to contribute 10% to Zimbabwe's GDP.
According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers study presented by Mr Baxter, the agricultural sector was a significant contributor to the economy of Zimbabwe accounting for around 18% of GDP, supplying around 40% of all exports and employing around three quarters of the labour force. The dominant role of tobacco within the agricultural sector was demonstrated by this industry comprising around 40% of the output of the agricultural sector and about 65% of the agricultural exports.
The tobacco industry remained the dominant employing activity in Zimbabwe, employing directly around 16% of the estimated national labour force. More importantly, the combination of the direct and indirect impacts on employment resulting from the activities of the tobacco industry meant that the industry provided a livelihood, directly or indirectly, for around 18% of the country's entire labour force.
As is the case in many countries, Zimbabwe seeks to use the tobacco industry as a significant source of taxation revenue. Excise duty collections represent an important component of all public sector revenues raised. It is estimated that, for example, Zimbabwe generates about 10% of all government revenue from indirect taxes on tobacco.
The excise is levied on the sale of cigarettes, with excise duty being imposed on tobacco products as they leave the factory. The rate of excise duty is currently 80% of the ex-factory price of 20 cigarettes.
A tobacco levy also applies to tobacco growers and buyers. In 1998, it was estimated that this levy raised US$24 million in indirect tax revenue. The only import duty applied to tobacco products is a tariff of 30% applied to imports of unmanufactured tobacco.
The wider role of the tobacco industry in the Zimbabwean economy was demonstrated by the contribution made by the industry to many facets of life in the country. Commercial tobacco farms support a large health, education and commercial infrastructure of their own. This investment plays an important role in augmenting publicly funded social infrastructure and in improving the standards of living of many people in regional areas in Zimbabwe.
Tobacco farmers have invested substantial amounts of capital in facilities for people employed on tobacco farms. Housing is a major focus for this investment and on-going expenditure is made in terms of both new and improved housing.
Education for many thousands of employees' children is funded by the tobacco farmers, as are health facilities including transport, health clinics and hospitals. Basic sports facilities and equipment are provided for in most tobacco growing areas in Zimbabwe.
The domestic tobacco manufacture, British American Tobacco Zimbabwe (BAT) has played major roles in the development of social activities in Zimbabwe. There have been significant investments in various social and related activities through huge sponsorship programmes for sporting and cultural activities.
The study said this investment in wider community activities must be seen in the context of the lack of alternative sources of funds.
While it is difficult to determine with accuracy the number of people who depend either directly on indirectly in this infrastructure, some estimates suggest that around 2 million people particularly in outlying area could be dependent on this infrastructure.
Zimbabwe was in the same boat with a number of other developing countries,that rely heavily on a single or small number of primary products to sustain their economic and social development.
In a view of this study, the implications shown and the moves by the WHO, some people were of the opinion that there was need to facilitate transition that would not result in negative effects. WHO and those who are for the regulations on tobacco were accused of not offering alternatives they talk about or to giving all forms of support needed for the successful transition.
BAT Area manager of Corporate Affairs, Southern Africa, Mr Keith Gretton, alleged that WHO wanted to take away from governments the sovereign right to control and regulate the tobacco industry.
FAO: urges global concern over "mad cow" disease
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has urged countries around the world, not just those in Western Europe, to be concerned about the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and its human form, the new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD). In a statement issued in Rome, FAO called for action to protect the human population, as well as the livestock, feed and meat industries.
"There is an increasingly grave situation developing in the European Union, with BSE being identified in cattle in several member states of the EU which have, until recently, been regarded as free from the disease", FAO said.
"Confirmed and suspected cases of nvCJD are occurring in people outside the UK, in various member states. More research needs to be conducted into the nature of the agent and its modes of transmission. Much remains unknown about the disease and the infective agent. There is currently no method of diagnosis at early stages of infection and no cure for the disease, neither in animals nor in humans."
All countries which have imported cattle or meat and bone meal (MBM) from Western Europe, especially the UK, during and since the 1980s, can be considered at risk from the disease, according to the UN agency. Several countries have imported large quantities of MBM in the recent past.
FAO said it supports the EU's action and considers "that there is an urgent need to refine the risk assessment and to extend it to other countries and regions. Countries at risk should implement effective surveillance for BSE in cattle and controls on the animal feed and meat industries. At present, this means: laboratory testing of samples from slaughtered cattle, and correct disposal of fallen stock and improved processing of offals and by-products".
Within countries, FAO recommended applying the so-called Hazard Analysis and critical Control Point system (HACCP) which aims at identifying potential problems and taking corrective measures throughout the food chain. Some of the issues include the production of animal feed, the raw materials used, cross-contamination in the feed mill, labelling of manufactured feeds, the feed transport system, as well as monitoring imported live animals, slaughtering methods, the rendering industry and the disposal of waste materials.
"Strict controls have been implemented in the United Kingdom and are now being implemented in the rest of the EU," FAO said. "Countries outside the EU should adopt appropriate measures to protect their herds and to ensure the safety of meat and meat products. Legislation to control the industry and its effective implementation is required, including capacity building and the training of operatives and government officials."
FAO advised countries to adopt a precautionary approach. As an immediate measure, countries which have imported animals and MBM from BSE-infected trading partners should consider a precautionary ban on the feeding of MBM to ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats) or, to reduce the risk of infection even further, to all animals.
Attention should be paid to slaughtering procedures and to the processing and use of offal and by-product parts, FAO said. The rendering industry should be scrutinised and appropriate procedures adopted everywhere.
FAO, together with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Organisation Internationale des Epizooties (OIE), will hold an expert consultation in the near future to draw up advice for countries, particularly developing countries, to protect their people from nvCJD, their livestock from BSE, and their industries from trade restrictions and their repercussions.
The FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius is currently finalizing work on a 'Code of Practice for Good Animal Feeding' to ensure that animal products do not create risks to consumers.
FAO, together with WHO and OIE, will continue to inform countries of developments and of scientific and technical advances relating to this problem.
Quality before quantity
ZIMBABWE's smallholder tobacco growers have been urged to achieve a reasonable level of quality as the first step towards sustainable success.
This was the message for growers who attended the smallholder British American Tobacco Grower of the Year field day hosted by Mr Panganai Sani of District 9 (Marondera/Wedza).
"Grow a crop you can handle well and achieve a consistent standard before you think of expanding" was the advice from Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) president, Kobus Joubert, Farmers Development Trust (FDT) chairman Mick Taggart and Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) vice-president, Gabriel Mashingaidze. Mr Sani, who is farming in Marondera under the small-scale production scheme run by the FDT in conjunction with ZTA, grows 2ha of flue-cured tobacco.
The current season has been difficult and the dry spell at the beginning of the year was a major setback. In January, he applied irrigation using a small engine and seven sprinklers. However, the crop showed signs of moisture stress. Joyce Sani, a graduate of the nearby Dozmery Training Centre, works closely with her husband. They hope to achieve a yield of 2 800kg/ha. Guests also had an opportunity to view the crops of two other growers on the same scheme who are doing well.
Patty Makoni grows a 3ha crop and achieved high yields last year, but this year she planted very late and was advised that this was a mistake as the late planted crop was not likely to be viable. Another successful grower on the same scheme, Mr Cloud Nyakonda, also received accolades for his well-planned agricultural practices and his crop showed potential of achieving yields of up to 3 000kg/ha.
Mr Taggart said it was clear that with training, most young growers were capable of joining the ranks of respected tobacco growers.
He advised growers to pay close attention to handling, as presentation of tobacco on the auction floors was an important factor in attracting good prices. The field day was well attended and gave growers, suppliers and representatives from other sectors of the tobacco industry the opportunity to exchange views, to learn from one another and to enjoy the traditional hospitality offered by FDT and the farming community.
ZimPhos wins chemicals tender
THE Zimbabwe Phosphate Industries (ZimPhos), a subsidiary of Chemplex Corporation, has been awarded a multi-million dollar contract to supply the Department of Veterinary Services with dipping chemicals by the government Tender Board.
ZimPhos launched a new product, TickBuster, last year, which has a range of veterinary dips.
The awarding of this contract was expected to create an estimated saving of over $150 million by the Veterinary Services Department over two years, a period in which prices of the dips will remain constant.
Chemplex Corporation managing director, Mr Eben Makonese, said he was delighted with the awarding of the tender to ZimPhos.
"This is a major achievement to TickBuster, which was launched in the second half of 2000 and which is already making steady inroads into the commercial farming market.
According to Mr Makonese, ZimPhos decided to launch its own brand after the dominant player in the market ended its long standing agreement with the company to manufacture dips on its behalf.
"This experience gained over the more than 30 years of contract manufacture was enormous and we saw this as a major opportunity to bring onto the market not only our own brand but also a competitive range that challenges existing product ranges," he said.
He said the company was formulating and distributing TickBuster on its own and by being tied to external organisations, it was free to access raw materials from competitive sources thereby helping to reduce input costs and save foreign currency.
ZimPhos will supply TickBuster direct to the Veterinary Services department, for use mainly in the communal farming sector.
In the commercial farming sector, Millborrow, an agricultural dealer with a national network of outlets, is handling product distribution for ZimPhos. ð ð ð