Mon 20 February 2006
HARARE - Exiled Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam was the
brains behind last year's brutal clean-up campaign in Zimbabwe that left
nearly a million people homeless, ZimOnline has established.
Authoritative sources within Zimbabwe's feared state security Central
Intelligence Organisation (CIO) told ZimOnline at the weekend that Mengistu,
who fled to Harare in 1991 and now acts as President Robert Mugabe's
security adviser, warned the Zimbabwean leader that the swelling slum and
backyard population in Zimbabwe was creating a fertile ground for a mass
With the Zimbabwean economic situation ever deteriorating and a
discontented population growing in numbers, Mengistu advised Mugabe that the
only way to pre-empt a mass revolt in Zimbabwe or any other form of mass
action was by depopulating the cities via the brutal slum clearance
Dubbed "Operation Murambatsvina" ("Operation Clean-Out Trash"), the
controversial home demolition exercise left at least 700 000 people homeless
and affected another 2.4 million people, according to a report by United
Nations special envoy, Anna Tibaijuka.
"His idea was that reducing the urban population through such an
operation would greatly diminish the chances of an uprising," said one
senior intelligence official.
According to the intelligence official, who spoke on condition he was
not named, the former Ethiopian dictator was of the view that spontaneous
riots, worse than food riots that erupted in Harare and other cities in
1998, could happen anytime because of the deteriorating economic situation
in Zimbabwe. Urgent pre-emptive action was hence necessary, he told Mugabe.
Contacted for comment, State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa
vehemently denied that Mengistu was the author of the controversial urban
clean-up exercise, telling ZimOnline that the Harare government does not
allow the former Ethiopian dictator to interfere with the internal affairs
of Zimbabwe or of his own country.
"That is totally untrue, believe you me, I am Minister of our
government and I am also a member of the politburo (ruling ZANU PF party
inner cabinet). All the decisions to do with the operation emanated from the
politburo and were sent through me to the government," said Mutasa, regarded
as one of Mugabe's closest and most powerful confidantes.
He added: "Mengistu had absolutely nothing to do with the operation
and I think it is unfair to make that kind of allegation against him.
Mengistu is a guest in our country. He is here in exile and is simply
resting. He does not interfere at all with the affairs of our country. We
also do not allow him to interfere with his country (Ethiopia) from
But our sources said Mengistu, who survived an assassination attempt
in Harare in 1995, first suggested the slum clearance idea to Mugabe in
February, at one of the regular meetings he holds with the President and
other senior security chiefs from the army, the CIO and the police.
After Mugabe accepted the idea, it was then followed by several weeks
of meticulous planning.
Operation Murambatsvina began in May, a few weeks after the ruling
ZANU PF party trounced the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change
party in a controversial parliamentary election.
The first meeting to plan the logistics of the operation was chaired
by Mengistu himself at CIO headquarters in Harare, and was attended by
Defence Forces Commander, General Constantine Chiwenga, Zimbabwe National
Army Commander Philip Valerio Sibanda, Airforce of Zimbabwe Commander Air
Marshal Perence Shiri, CIO Director General Happyton Bonyongwe, his deputy
Menard Muzariri, Director of Prisons Brigadier Zimondi, while the police
were represented by Deputy Commissioner Godwin Matanga.
Other meetings chaired by Mengistu followed during which video
clippings of Zimbabwe's 1998 food riots, as well as footage of mass
uprisings in the Ukraine, Yugoslavia and Ethiopia were shown to the group
which called itself Operation Murambatsvina's "high command".
After a series of meetings of the "high command", the group later met
with government ministers, mayors and administrators sympathetic to the
government such as Harare Commission chairwoman Sekesai Makwavarara and
Bindura mayor Martin Dinha who endorsed the operation.
Mengistu then prepared a final document on the Operation which he
submitted to Mugabe and the President endorsed it.
Operation Murambatsvina, according to the plan, was to be implemented
in phases, starting with flea markets suspected of fuelling economic crimes,
mainly illegal foreign currency trade.
After the flea markets, other vendors were next in line particularly
those who operated push carts in cities and others who hawked goods at road
intersections. The major exercise, the destruction of so-called illegal
structures which included shacks, backyard homes and industries was to be
done in the last phase.
Army and police vehicles would be at hand to ferry urban residents
left homeless by the clean-up operation to rural areas even if they did not
have homes there in line with Mengistu's proposals in the final document.
"The exercise was well planned to ensure that not only would it
de-populate the urban areas, but it would also demoralise the victims
rendering them unable to organise or participate in any mass action," said
another senior intelligence source.
After the destruction of their homes, many would not be able to
recover immediately and would have to spend a good time of their future
lives trying to re-build themselves even if they came back to the urban
"The whole operation was premised on the idea that most urban dwellers
are opposition supporters and ZANU PF would have nothing to lose for their
suffering," said a senior intelligence source.
A project to re-build homes after Operation Murambatsvina was
envisaged in Mengistu's plan though the main objective would be to window
dress the main purpose of the slum clearance exercise.
This project, later dubbed "Operation Garikai", would naturally not
accommodate all the displaced people and would mainly benefit ZANU PF
supporters caught up in the destruction process.
A report in the London-based New African magazine, which is
sympathetic to Mugabe, which was re-produced in the Zimbabwe
government-controlled Herald newspaper last year, said the whole Operation
Murambatsvina exercise was a CIO plan to avert a popular uprising.
What the report did not mention was that Mengistu was the brains
behind the whole process.
Mugabe has spurned repeated efforts to extradite Mengistu to face
trial in Addis Ababa over his murder of thousands of opponents, forcing
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government, which itself has become repressive
in recent times, to try the former dictator in absentia.
In Harare, Mengistu lives in the lap of luxury in the plush Gunhill
suburb with 24-hour security from the Police VIP Protection Unit and the CIO
at the Zimbabwean taxpayer's expense.
The Mugabe government has since allocated Mengistu two large farms,
one in Mazowe and another in Norton. Mengistu owns a separate home in
He drives at least six luxury cars, including a Mercedes Benz, Toyota
Prado, Toyota Avensis, BMW and a twin cab truck. Mengistu enjoys a special
fuel scheme from the state's National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM) for
both personal use and for his farms, and his vehicles are serviced free of
charge at the Central Mechanical Equipment Department (CMED).
In 1995, Mengistu survived an attempt on his life when an Eritrean,
Solomon Ghebre Haile Michael and Abraham Goletom Joseph tried to assassinate
him at his Gunhill residence. The two were arrested and subsequently
sentenced to 10 and five years imprisonment respectively.
However, their sentences were later reduced to two years each on
appeal because of "mitigatory circumstances" in the case. The two said they
and their families had suffered torture under Mengistu's rule in Ethiopia,
and it was not disputed during the trial that they were victims of his
Security sources said Mengistu has become so comfortable in Zimbabwe
to the extent that he cannot imagine living elsewhere again. They also said
he cannot imagine any other government, other than the ZANU PF one, coming
into power as that would see him face extradition to Ethiopia to face the
Sources said Mengistu was rattled when the MDC nearly won the 2000
parliamentary elections and the 2002 presidential elections. Mengistu is
said to have then made plans to re-locate to either China or North Korea.
But he knew very well that he would not get the same comforts as in
"For that reason he has put his services at Mugabe's disposal to
ensure ZANU PF rules forever," said another highly placed security
official. - ZimOnline
Mon 20 February 2006
KAROI - Fugitive Zimbabwean business tycoon and a top ally of
President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party Billy Rautnebach has been
given up to May to vacate his farm as the government appears determined to
seize all land still in the hands of whites.
Rautenbach, wanted in neighbouring South Africa in connection with
fraud involving billions of dollars, was among the few white landowners who
survived Mugabe's farm seizures on account of their close connections with
But the controversial tycoon, who has in the past denied having links
with ZANU PF politicians, is on a list of white farm owners from Mashonaland
West province given up to May to surrender their land to the government for
redistribution to blacks.
''It has been resolved that you move out of the farm on 14 May 2006 as
the land reform is being finalised,'' reads part of the eviction order to
Rautenbach and other white farmers that was shown to ZimOnline at the
Rautenbach, who has extensive interests in the Democratic Republic of
the Congo (DRC), could not be reached for comment on the matter.
The governor of Mashonaland West province, Nelson Samkange, who
sanctions land seizures in the area, said there was nothing special about
the move to take Rautenbach's farm, adding that the tycoon would just have
to vacate the property if it has been listed for seizure by the government.
"He (Rautenbach) must go if his farm has been listed for acquisition,"
Rautenbach, who is now spending most of his time in Harare after
fleeing South Africa's Scorpions anti-crime unit, is said to be heavily
connected to former speaker of Zimbabwe's parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa, who
is locked up in a vicious struggle with former army general Solomon Mujuru
for the control of ZANU PF after Mugabe steps down in two years' time.
ZANU PF insiders indicated that Rautenbach may have been targeted for
eviction as part of the power struggle in the ruling party.
The tycoon, who has ran cobalt-mining ventures in the DRC at the
height of that country's civil war, is alleged to have committed various
crimes including fraud relating to the conduct of his Hyundai motor vehicle
importation business when he was still head of Hyundai South Africa.
South African authorities are said to be pressing for Rautnebach's
extradition from Zimbabwe to face trial for the alleged crimes. - ZimOnline
Mon 20 February 2006
JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwe is importing genetically modified (GMO) yellow
maize from Argentina despite a ban on genetically altered foods by President
Robert Mugabe's government.
A senior official at the Mozambican port city of Beira was quoted by
Reuters at the weekend confirming that Zimbabwe was indeed importing
genetically modified maize from Argentina.
"Zimbabwe is importing yellow maize from Argentina which is known to
be GMO - one vessel is coming into port now to offload 7 000 tonnes in
Maputo, Mozambique, and 7 400 tonnes in Beira," said the trader.
But State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, who is also in charge of
food distribution in Zimbabwe, immediately rejected the report. Mutasa said
the government had not shifted its position on GMO foods.
Mutasa said: "To be honest I have never heard of that. They would have
to consult with me but no one has done so. Maybe they might be ordering it
for livestock but I don't think so either.
"That policy (against GMO maize) is steadfast, we continue to maintain
it. It has not been reviewed and my colleagues have not changed their
position," he said.
The Zimbabwe government, like most African countries, rejects
genetically modified foods over safety fears.
Last year, tonnes of food aid sourced by the South African Council of
Churches to assist victims of a controversial clean-up campaign in Zimbabwe
was only allowed into the country after the South African authorities issued
a permit certifying that the food was not genetically modified.
At least four million Zimbabweans, a quarter of the country's 12
million population, are in urgent need of food aid between now and the next
harvest in April or they will starve.
Zimbabweans have virtually survived on food handouts from
international relief agencies after Mugabe disrupted the key agriculture
sector through his often violent land reforms six years ago.
Mugabe denies his land reforms caused the food shortages blaming the
crisis on persistent droughts. - ZimOnline
Sunday, February 19 2006 @ 04:22 AM GMT
Contributed by: correspondent
A team of agricultural experts from Nigeria's Kwara State
arrived in Zimbabwe on Friday, hoping to lure evicted white commercial
farmers as the central Nigerian State moves to revive its neglected
agricultural sector by encouraging white farmers to relocate to the country.
Zimdaily heard that the team is being led by Bukola Sakari and include
several envoys from central Nigeria. The team was due to hold talks with
government officials and white farmers. The government has promised to
cooperate with the delegation amid continuing hostility to white farmers.
The visit follows a visit by a delegation of the Commercial
Farmers Union last year. The farmers who visited Nigeria mainly represented
those who have lost their farms in President Mugabe's haphazard land
redistribution programme. Nigeria's farms have been neglected since oil was
discovered 40 years ago. One of the farmers who visited Nigeria told
Zimdaily during their week-long visit to Nigeria they had been offered large
blocks of land on 99-year leases to resettle in Nigeria.
He said the farms he had seen were overgrown and neglected. "We
could resuscitate things in a matter of months and get those places up and
running again," John Berzuidenhuit said. He said they will return to Nigeria
for further discussions, but had not made any firm decisions. The farmers
are concerned about the lack of infrastructure and Nigeria's reputation for
corruption. But Kwara state is optimistic that the men will agree to the
"I think the few farmers that have visited will spread the good
news that there is arable land," said Nigel Crompton, who is part of the
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is also on record giving
his support for the project, saying Nigeria was "anxious to benefit from
their expertise and experience". The farmers would find their stay in
Nigeria "rewarding and exciting," he added when the group visited the
capital Abuja. But Nigeria is not the only offer the farmers have had. White
farmers have also received overtures from Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda
By Staff Reporter
Last updated: 02/20/2006 04:46:51
THE government has handed over a cheque of Zim$8 billion to the opposition
Movemenr for Democratic Change (MDC), its entitlement under the Political
Parties (Finance) Act.
The MDC has split in recent months following a dispute over senate elections
Party leader, Morgan Tsvangirai favoured a boycott of the elections but his
senior colleagues, boosted by a vote of the party's national council,
insisted on fielding candidates leading to an acrimonious split.
MDC secretary general, Welshman Ncube, who is a member of the faction
opposed to Tsvangirai, received the cheque last week from Justice Minister
In an interview with New Zimbabwe.com Sunday, Priscilla
Misihairabwi-Mushonga, recently chosen as parliamentary spokesman for
Ncube's group, said the money would be used to finance the party's congress
this coming weekend.
"We need close to $20 billion to host the party congress and this money will
go towards that budget," she said.
She said sharing the money with Tsvangirai's group was out of question.
"They (Tsvangirai's group) are using Harvest House and we have not tried to
muscle in and disturb their peace. They also have access to most of the
party vehicles which they have not offered for sharing. It is in that vein
that we have also not seen the need of sharing the $8 billion from
government," said Misihairabwi, MP for Glen Norah.
The congress set for the weekend is expected to instal former University of
Zimbabwe student leader, Arthur Mutambara, as leader.
Mutambara is set to pick former Zimbabwe Union of Democrats leader, Margaret
Dongo and university lecturer Heneri Dzinotyiwei as his running mates. New
Zimbabwe.com also understands that there are feverish attempts to lure
Tendai Biti to the fold, said to be the "only reasonable guy from
Tsvangirai's side" by one official.
Tsvangirai's group plans to hold its own congress later in March, but that
may be of little consequence if Mutambara manages to rally MDC supporters
Dr Alex Magaisa, a political commentator said: "Mutambara's entry into
Zimbabwean politics represents a new phase in the struggle. The MDC has so
far been too closed -- not allowing participation at the highest level by
"Mutambara's arrival suggests this may change and we are likely to see more
and more people in the Diaspora seeking to play a role in the political
transformation of Zimbabwe. It's not only Tsvangirai who would be scared of
Mutambara at the moment, but President Mugabe too.
"Mutambara has a great track record and is respected at home and abroad."
Pedzisai Ruhanya, a political journalist said: "Mutambara's entry into the
political arena will without doubt cause a lot of headaches in the MDC,
especially for those who do not want to reform...whose claim to political
legitimacy is the ability to say pasi nanhingi (down with so and so) or
chinja maitiro (change your ways).
"Without doubt, Mutambara is a political force who can only be underrated by
delusionary politicians. It is without doubt that any faction in the MDC
that takes him will most likely emerge the strongest. I am told he is part
of the pro-senate group and this will bring nightmares to the other faction.
"If that is the case, the pro-senate faction, by widening its choices and
making leadership renewal, is likely to emerge as the legitimate group
because besides Mutambara, I am also informed that the group has also
invited quite a number of credible people and the usual tactics of labelling
it pro-Zanu PF wont work."
New Zimbabwe.com readers also hailed Mutambara's entry into the Zimbabwean
"If Mutambara becomes President of the troubled MDC," said Golden Gadzirayi
Nyambuya by e-mail, "I know for sure democracy is very close. I have never
believed not even for a second that Tsvangirai is the man for the job. The
man has a chronic paucity of leadership skills at the national level.
However, I profoundly
appreciate the contributions he has made to Zimbabwe."
Msekiwa Makwanya, an opinion writer who first urged Mutambara to enter
politics said: "Mutambara is not only a public leader, he is also close to
the captains of industry in the region and has the gravitas to pull people
in one direction.
"Margaret Dongo and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga will re-unite again to
give women a meaningful representation in politics."
Below is the full text of a statement by Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono
following Zimbabwe's settlement of debt arrears to the IMF
By Gideon Gono
Last updated: 02/20/2006 02:44:22
IT IS a point of ancient wisdom that "a journey of a thousand miles begins
with one step", that bears testimony to the arduous accomplishment the
country has achieved in clearing its overdue obligations in the IMF's GRA
This has paved the way for the country's retention of its membership in the
community of global financial partners.
To this extent, Zimbabweans from all walks of life have every reason to feel
both humbled and relieved by the fact that one of the thousand mile journey
in our turnaround efforts has been accomplished through our collective
dedication to transform what at first was an insurmountable task, when we
were initially making symbolic payments of US$1,5 million per quarter on a
US$210 million debt, into the resounding success that we have now
The road along the thousand mile journey has, however, not been without its
challenges, trials, tribulations and moments of anxiety.
This notwithstanding, what should give Zimbabweans from all walks of life a
deep sense of pride and accomplishment is the fact that we have arrived at
the destination that we set out to achieve as a unified people.
In feeling relieved and justifiably elated by the signals coming out of the
IMF, it has to be realised by all Zimbabweans, however, that settling the
GRA arrears, while important, is not an end in itself.
The real improvement in our livelihoods, as a people, lies in our collective
ability to meaningfully uplift production on the ground. Our farmers must
till the land with greater vigour; our hoteliers must aggressively market
their products; our miners must extract the minerals from the riches of our
soils; our manufacturers must expand their horizons on value-addition; while
all Zimbabweans should think and sing production, production, production.
In doing this, we should guard against excessive exuberance, as there are
still many thousand mile journeys we have to transverse collectively, and,
with unity of purpose.
As we refocus our strategic lenses on the future, we should not
underestimate nor relegate to the dustbin the critical lessons we have
learnt from the thousand mile journey we have just accomplished.
A key lesson is that, as a Nation, when we agree to do something in the
interest of the economy and its people, we must remain focused and united
all the way;
To this end, Monetary Authorities wish to pay special tribute to the
leadership in the Ministry of Finance, and to the Hon. Minister himself, Dr
H.M. Murerwa, and to the Presidium for being steadfast in their support of
the sacrificial program to repay the IMF.
Equally, as Monetary Authorities, we amply recognise that this achievement
is, by no means, a product of a singular institution, sector or individual.
Rather, this achievement is credited to all Zimbabweans here at home and
those abroad; to all players in Business, Labour, Government, civic society,
as well as numerous other cooperating social and financial partners who all
rallied behind the initiative through sacrifice and/or direct contributions.
The Central Bank on its own could not have been able to make any difference,
were it not for the resounding support we got from all sectors and
stakeholders across the board.
The challenges that lie ahead are many and formidable. The Country still
owes various international creditors significant amounts of money, which as
the Central Bank we pledge to make good without fail, in the fullness of
We ask our creditors, however, not to take precipitous actions that may
undermine or compromise our ability to craft win-win outcomes.
In these efforts, it would, however, be useful and progressive if the
positive signals coming out of the IMF on Zimbabwe's membership in the Fund
are used by the international community as stepping stones to build fruitful
bridges of cooperation, with and assistance to Zimbabwe, particularly in
respect of such programs as those granted to other economies, including debt
re-scheduling and debt forgiveness.
As a country, Zimbabwe has demonstrated to the international community that
through sacrifice, we are committed to making good the dues we owe to our
creditors. Zvikwereti zvedu tinobhadhara.
With the US$210,6 million we have paid to the IMF over the recent months,
essentially to meet past commitments, as apposed to current requirements,
Zimbabweans have had to go without medical drugs; without adequate food
imports; without enough fuel, electricity and many other essentials, and for
that, we ask the international community to take note as they re-evaluate
their risk perceptions on Zimbabwe.
Equally, our prioritisation of the IMF does not in any way reflect any
deliberate attempt to relegate other creditors. Simply, our humble strategy
was one guided by survival instincts, in the interests of protecting the
long-term standing of the Zimbabwean economy.
We urge that on our part, as Zimbabweans, let us not lose the momentum of
goodwill that is beginning to emerge.
We plead with all stakeholders to take mutually reinforcing and
collaborating actions on all fronts of our capabilities, so as to ensure
that we do not squander the chances and opportunities beckoning to us.
Yes, inflation is high and is expected to temporarily escalate further
before rescinding to targeted lower levels.
From The Sunday Independent (SA), 19 February
By Charlene Smith
Every week tens of thousands of refugees flow into South Africa, and each
week South Africa ships out a few thousand, more than 1 000 every week to
Zimbabwe alone. But United Nations and police officials say trying to stem
the tide is like trying to stop a tsunami with a bucket. Jonathan Martins,
the programme manager of the United Nations-funded International
Organisation on Migrancy (IOM), told The Sunday Independent that South
Africa's borders were "incredibly porous. People from as far as Ethiopia
tend to go south to South Africa because there is a perception there are
jobs and opportunities in South Africa". People-smuggling rings are cashing
in on the situation, particularly from Zimbabwe as people flee economic
meltdown and political repression. Zimbabwe's The Herald newspaper says
syndicates operating at Beit Bridge, the border post, use South
African-registered vehicles to transport people from as far as Bulawayo to
Johannesburg for a fee of R800 to R1 000. They are transported to Beit
Bridge where they are guided across the Limpopo river and then picked by
taxis on the South African side.
According to Limpopo province police statistics, 753 illegal immigrants were
arrested between January 5 and January 12, an average of 100 a day. However,
this is the rainy season in Limpopo, which sees fewer immigrants entering
the country as the Limpopo River floods, making the crocodile-infested
waters more hazardous than usual. UN officials and police say human
trafficking - the "new slave trade" is on the increase. Martins said "the
distinction between 21st century and 18th century slavery is that now
recruitment is most often by perception rather than force." Human smuggling
is often a choice by people who want to be smuggled into a country and for
which they will pay. "Trafficking involves recruitment and transportation
for purposes of exploitation. We have assisted people trafficked here from
around the world especially China, eastern Europe and a number from this
continent." Martins said someone trafficked to South Africa "from a
neighbouring state will be sold for very little, around R500. Children are
more expensive. Price depends on what is considered as exotic."
According to police sources and the IOM, women from places such as the
Democratic Republic of Congo are offered jobs as housekeepers in South
Africa, only to have their passports seized and to be forced into
prostitution. South Africa is sufficiently concerned about trafficking to
have established a task force two years ago and a helpline 0800-555-999.
Police say they have not had a successful prosecution yet against
traffickers, hindered by a lack of legislation against the practice in South
Africa. The Institute for Security Studies began a research project on Human
Trafficking in January. Chandre Gould, a senior researcher for the project,
said a meeting would be held this week among some of the organisations with
experience in trafficking to figure out how to accumulate data on
trafficking. She said that no data was being systematically collected to
obtain a national overview of the problem. "We know nothing at all, as an
example, about trafficking in men and boys or the trade in body parts."
Loren Landau of Forced Migration Studies at the University of the
Witwatersrand said "a lot of people are voluntarily smuggled by syndicates.
Many come here with the idea of going to Europe or Canada; they use South
Africa as a transit point. Many come across in taxis. We have spoken to home
affairs officials about finding a more humane way of dealing with refugees
than very costly forced repatriation. But they are reluctant to recognise
asylum seekers from Zimbabwe, especially." Nonetheless, the situation has
improved. Last year, Landau said, South Africa recognised 8 000 asylum
seekers and 35 refugees from Zimbabwe. He said that South Africa needed "to
recognise that the regional economic situation is not good, and they must
recognise that economic refugees will come. South Africa needs to ensure
their rights are protected and they are not pushed into criminal activity."
From The Chicago Tribune, 19 February
By Laurie Goering, Tribune foreign correspondent
Kabwe - Times have been hard since the state-owned mines and textile mill
closed in this industrial town in the early 1990s. Workers, with no other
job options, were forced to revert to subsistence agriculture. Kids dropped
out of school. Small businesses collapsed. So when Chinese investors began
arriving to reopen the textile plant, open a manganese mine and build an ore
smelter, the welcome could hardly have been warmer. "We are very impressed
with the Chinese investment. We need it. We have no option if this town is
to survive," said Thomas Muwowo, secretary of the Kabwe Chamber of Commerce
and Industry. With Chinese help, "this ghost has some flesh now," he said of
his dusty town in Zambia's central interior. But at the reopened textile
mill, salaries are low, ranging from $24 to $88 a month. Safety gear is
scarce, workers say. And Chinese managers hold all the top jobs. "We are
held at ransom," said Dickson Chirwa, chairman of the local textile workers
union. "They treat us like their workers at home, as cheap labor. But the
matter is, we need them."
China is fast becoming one of Africa's biggest investors, donors and
political allies. The developing giant is helping build the continent's
biggest dam, in Ethiopia. It has launched Nigeria's first satellite into
orbit. It has lent Angola $2 billion in exchange for oil. It is farming
shrimp in Mozambique, installing phone systems in Kenya, building roads in
Zambia and securing rights to Africa's timber, oil and mineral resources.
All told, Chinese investment on the long-neglected continent has mushroomed
from $10 billion in 2000 to $18 billion in 2003, and China has become
Africa's third-largest trading partner, behind the U.S. and Britain. China
"is filling the void left by the West," said Bruce Imboela, a development
studies professor at the University of Zambia. In particular, he said, China
has provided investment and development aid in regions and countries where
the West has been reluctant to make deals. But China's growing sway in
Africa also is a worry for Western governments and for many Africans.
Chinese loans and investments are a major reason President Robert Mugabe's
disastrous regime in Zimbabwe remains afloat, analysts say. China has sent
tanks, helicopters and fighter aircraft to Sudan's government, which has
supported attacks in its Darfur region in which tens of thousands of people
have been killed.
China's willingness to deal with rogue regimes, to overlook corruption and
to push ahead with projects regardless of safety and environmental concerns
risks lives and undermines African institutions and Western efforts to
promote good governance, analysts say. "China offers an alternative source
of support, even for some of the United States' closest allies, when they
chafe under Western pressure for economic or political reform," the
U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations said in a report released in
December. In some cases, "China's aid and investments are attractive to
Africans precisely because they come with no conditionality related to
governance, fiscal probity, or the other concerns of Western donors."
Western governments also fear that China's economic clout on the continent
could lead to growing political clout, with small African nations throwing
their votes in with China at the United Nations on issues such as Taiwan, or
China refusing--as it has in recent years--to condemn human-rights
violations in such nations as Sudan that it counts among its major oil
suppliers. "They're a big player in international politics, and they need
the support of small countries like Zambia," Imboela said.
In landlocked Zambia, one of Africa's poorest countries, China has been
eagerly welcomed as a much-needed new aid, trade and investment partner. The
countries, each with a socialist history, have ties dating to Zambia's
anti-colonial struggle in the early 1960s, when China backed liberation
movements across the continent. Today, however, China's focus is business.
In recent years it has become the third-biggest investor in Zambia behind
South Africa and Britain, pouring more than $300 million into mines,
manufacturing projects, construction companies and agriculture, according to
the Chinese Embassy in Lusaka. It has invested $150 million in reopening the
Chambishi copper mine in Zambia's north, creating almost 2,000 jobs, and
plans a $100 million smelter at the plant as well. It is mining coal in
Choma, processing copper and cobalt ore in Kitwe and smelting copper in
Ndola. The investment push has been matched by new development assistance.
Chinese banks are helping pay for a hydroelectric dam on Zambia's Kafue
River, and China's government has rebuilt most of the main roads linking the
country's major cities.
"For us, they're an important contributor to economic growth in this
country," said Sharon Sichilongo, who now speaks a little Mandarin to
facilitate her work as spokeswoman for the government-funded Zambia
Investment Center. The Chinese like Zambia as well. Li Kekun, the manager of
a $6 million manganese smelter set to open next month in Kabwe, said Zambian
authorities have been forthcoming with tax breaks and other incentives for
the plant. They are very helpful to us and regard the plant as their own. We
have felt very welcome," he said through an interpreter. The plant's Zambian
construction workers are somewhat less enthusiastic, particularly about the
salaries, which Li said range from $44 to $132 a month. But "I want to see
this thing go," said Eddy Ndhlovu, the Zambian foreman at the project, who
had been unemployed since losing his mine foreman job in 1994. "Kabwe has
been devastated. There are no jobs here." At the former government textile
mill, Chinese businessmen have invested $24 million since 1997 to upgrade
the plant. "Where other nationalities have shown reluctance to invest, the
Chinese have come," said Albert Chifta, the Zambian deputy general manager
of the Mulungushi Textiles plant.
But after nearly a decade in town, the plant's salaries are low, he
acknowledged, and Chinese bosses still hold all the top management jobs.
Last November, union workers at the plant struck for a week to try to boost
salaries, which they say are barely enough to pay a family's rent, and to
demand better safety clothing against the harsh chemicals used in the
factory. In the end, threatened with being fired, they returned to work
without winning any concessions. "We have no other options of work,"
acknowledged Chirwa, the chairman of the union. Safety concerns have been an
issue at other Chinese plants in Zambia as well. And in April, 49 miners
were killed in an accident at the Chinese-run Chambishi copper mine. "The
Chinese don't put safety and environmental concerns as that important," said
Imboela of the University of Zambia. "They do things faster and cheaper than
the West." But overall, "the growth of China is a big blessing for us," said
Francis Chigumta, a development expert at the University of Zambia. "As long
as Taiwan is separate and China is growing, we expect to enjoy these
African News Dimension
Sunday, 19 February 2006, 6 hours, 37 minutes and 22 seconds ago.
By Elias Wilson
THE Food and Agriculture Orgnaisation has allocated US$150 000 (Z$15
billion) to the Zimbabwean Government to put in place measures to control
and prevent the outbreak of the deadly H5NI bird flu.
Veterinary Services Department Principal Director, Dr Stuart
Hargreaves said the country has so far received US$33 000 (Z$3.3 billion)
and the remainder would made availabe later.. "We were allocated US$150 000
by FAO but we have only only received US$33 000. The money was immediately
used to launch awareness campaigns about the disease across the country," he
said. He however said he was not aware when FAO would make available the
remaining funds. The deadly bird flu has hit most parts of the Northern
Africa with Nigeria and Egypt having lost many birds. Last year Zimbabwe
suspended ostrich and poultry exports due to an outbreak of bird flu at two
ostrich farms in the Matabeleland province. Dr Hargreaves also said health
experts from all the Southern Africa Development Community countries would
meet in Pretoria South Africa next month to discuss regional strategies to
contain the disease. He said the meeting should come up with resolutions on
how individual countries could contribute to the prevention of the disease.
"In March we will meet in Pretoria and the aim is to control come up with a
regional approach on how we can control the disease. Since the disease is
spread by migratory birds, an outbreak in one of the country would mean that
all the neigbouring countries would be at risk," he said.
February 19, 2006
By Basildon Peta
Zimbabwe has found a new way to pay its bills: print money - a
staggering Z$21 trillion (about R70 million) needed to buy foreign currency
to pay off International Monetary Fund (IMF) arrears.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono predicted the
money-printing spree would fuel hyper-inflation to 800% in two months time.
The current rate is 600%.
President Robert Mugabe's government won't be expelled from the
IMF for now, after it paid its $9 million (R55 million) debt arrears.
Speculative reports said much of the money had come from
Zimbabwe's murky mining concessions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
which are controlled by army generals and senior politicians.
However, Gono has since disclosed that the central bank printed
the money to buy the foreign currency to pay the IMF locally.
He said Zimbabwe had no choice but to print money to pay its IMF
arrears. "We printed $21 trillion to buy foreign currency to pay the IMF,"