|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Gweru Executive Mayor James Bwerazuva
and his Kwekwe counterpart
Johnson Mawere will each get their official Mercedes Benz car and a brand
new Nissan Hardbody vehicle as part of their exit packages.
A Nissan vehicle of the type to be bought for
the departing mayors
costs around $43 million.
mayors, whose final terms expire at the end of next month,
will also each receive a piece of land and undisclosed amounts of money from
their cash-strapped councils.
Local Government Minister Ignatius
Chombo, who must approve such
packages for mayors, could not be reached for comment on the matter.
Both Bwerazuva and Mawere confirmed that
their councils had approved
golden handshakes for them but the two refused to give the details of their
Ratepayers in the two
municipalities will have to fork out several
millions of dollars more to buy new vehicles for incoming mayors who will be
elected at the end of next month.
Bwerazuva yesterday said that he deserved the hefty
by the council.
He said: “If my employer
feels that I deserve such a package, what’s
wrong with that?”
Mawere said after serving Kwekwe for more than a decade
he was also
entitled to a massive package on leaving.
it is true that the council is working out such an exit package
for me, but I don’t have the specific details of that package yet. Do you
think I do not deserve such a send-off considering that I have served in the
council over the last 14 years?” Mawere said.
Residents in Gweru and Kwekwe
yesterday described the mayors’ packages
as extravagant and insensitive given the two municipalities did not have
councils have had to hike tariffs and rates almost
every month in order to keep up with skyrocketing inflation, representatives
of ratepayers in the two cities said.
Gweru Residents and Ratepayers’ Association
chairman Willie Muringani
said: “Do we have that kind of money to buy him a new car just to say
goodbye and then buy another one for the incoming mayor?
“It is very unfortunate that we cannot reverse the
decision, but let
it be known that the residents are angry over the decision to buy another
mayoral car for Bwerazuva who already has another council vehicle at his
Muringani added: “The residents
have been pressed against the wall by
the high tariff charges the council is charging, so adding another burden on
their backs might result in dire consequences.”
Kwekwe residents’ leader Esoph Esat described
Mawere’s package as
Esat said: “Just recently
they announced plans to introduce a
supplementary budget because they have no money for service delivery but on
the other hand they want to buy a new car for a mayor who is leaving office.
Where will they get that money from?
“Any right-thinking person would see that this is a
luxury that we
cannot afford at the moment. As residents we want to present a formal
objection to the proposed package.”
council sources Bwerazuva’s package, which was approved
at an executive committee meeting last week, consists of a brand new motor
vehicle, a commercial stand and money equivalent to one-and-a-half times his
He will also take with him his official mayoral Mercedes Benz car,
which he wrecked in a road accident last year. The vehicle is back on the
road after the council repaired it. The sources said councillors had
initially resisted the move but were later whipped into line by the town
clerk, Godfrey Nhemachena, who presented a government circular outlining the
mayor’s benefits. The circular stipulates that an outgoing mayor’s exit
package comprises a one-off payment equivalent to their annual remuneration
at the date they vacate office, a residential stand in either a low or
medium-density area, a cellphone handset and a vehicle to be decided by
council. The Kwekwe City Council’s executive committee chaired by deputy
mayor Noah Charinya approved for Mawere to drive off with his official
Mercedes Benz vehicle, a new twin-cab Nissan Hardbody truck and a one-off
payment of a pension equal to his annual salary. The Kwekwe mayor will also
get either a residential or commercial stand and a cellphone. From Zerubabel
Mudzingwa Bureau Chief
State fails to pay for rural electrification
THE Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) is unable to pay
for vital spares and equipment needed to keep the national power grid up as
it emerged this week that the government had failed to pay the power utility
$26 billion for its rural electrification programme.
Most parts of Harare could be plunged into darkness
because ZESA is
unable to pay for 18 transformers it needs to keep power flowing to 12 of
the capital’s residential areas, well placed sources told the Daily News.
“The power utility is struggling to raise
enough foreign currency to
import transformers,” a ZESA source said yesterday.
The source, who spoke on condition he was not named,
added: “In May,
an order was placed with Southwales but we have failed to pay them. This is
a serious threat to general lighting.”
executive chairman Sydney Gata this week dismissed as utter
rubbish reports that the power utility was failing to pay suppliers of
equipment and that the power corporation’s cash position had been worsened
by the government’s failure to honour its debt commitments to ZESA.
“What you are asking me about is utter rubbish. We have
better things to do than discuss such rubbish. That is trash. OK.
Musatinetsa mhani imi (please don’t trouble us).”
However ZESA spokesman Shepherd Mandizvidza
confirmed the parastatal
was experiencing difficulties in raising hard cash to pay for transformers
that are manufactured outside the country.
He said: “The authority sources transformers from
Such a scenario, coupled with a serious shortage of foreign currency, has
impacted negatively on the power utility’s turn-around period to contain
some of the electricity faults.”
The state power
company’s manager for Harare, Stephen Pieron, said
ZESA was losing transformers through vandalism, adding that the company’s
stocks of the vital transformers were running low.
Pieron said: “There has been a
lot of vandalism and this has increased
the demand for transformers.”
The sources said ZESA was failing to recover
about $26 billion used to
implement the government’s rural electrification programme and as a result
the power company was failing to pay suppliers of transformers and other
A spokeswoman of a Harare
company that supplies ZESA with equipment
and spares, Tsitsi Mbabvu, confirmed that the power company was experiencing
problems in meeting some of its debt commitments.
Mbabvu, who is executive director of
Southwales Electric, said: “We
have had a long-standing relationship with ZESA.
“The amount they owe us and the quantities we deliver to
privileged information on our part.
“But it’s not a
secret that like other companies in the country, ZESA
has its own cash-flow problems. As a result we have created a managed
payment plan with them. We acknowledge their problems.
“Probably when they started the
year, they had their projections but
due to economic hardships they are struggling like others. ZESA constitutes
about 60 percent of our business,” Mbabvu said.
The rural electrification programme was launched
by the government in
the run up to last year’s presidential election in a move analysts said was
meant to win support for President Robert Mugabe in the tough ballot against
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The sources said ZESA had agreed to implement the
programme on the understanding that the government would reimburse it.
According to the sources, the ZESA board had in
April finally ordered
that the rural power programme be stopped because the government had not
honoured its commitment to repay ZESA.
“The ZESA board and management in April rejected all new appeals from
the people running the rural electrification programme,” a top ZESA
official, who spoke on condition he was not named, said yesterday.
He added: “Actually the board stood firm and cancelled all orders it
had placed with our suppliers of transformers for the programme following
government’s continued reluctance to repay our $26 billion. “We desperately
need foreign currency to fund our own projects but the government’s refusal
has thrown our plans into jeopardy,” said the top official. Mugabe has
threatened to dissolve the ZESA board allegedly because he believes it had
failed to expedite the rural electrification programme. By Precious Shumba
EU freezes aid to Africa
Maputo – European Union (EU) development aid to Africa running into
hundreds of millions of euros has been frozen because African countries are
insisting that President Robert Mugabe be allowed to attend meetings between
Europe and Africa.
A meeting to try and solve the problem was held at the
(AU)’s leaders meeting in Maputo on Friday, but the matter was not resolved.
The discussions followed the stance taken by
African countries in
April this year to refuse to attend a Euro-African meeting in Lisbon if
Mugabe wasn’t allowed to attend.
is forbidden from travelling to Europe in accordance with EU
sanctions, but African leaders said Europe couldn’t dictate who should
Senator Alfredo Mantica, the Italian deputy minister
affairs and leader of the EU delegation, says the Euro-Africa meeting, where
the implementation of development plans would have been discussed, still
couldn’t take place.
“The reasons for the
suspension of political ties have still not been
He said though, that the two parties had decided to have talks on an
informal level so that assistance for some matters, such as peace operations
in Africa, could be made available.
Africa is exploring all
avenues to get financial support from Europe
for peace operations in war-torn Burundi.
An AU commission official involved in the process says
Lisbon meeting followed on the first Europe-Africa meeting held in Cairo,
Egypt, two years ago.
An eight-point plan for
co-operation between Europe and Africa was
drawn up and it included assistance for the fight against Aids, food
supplies, Africa’s debt and support for peace operations in Africa.
The official says
there’s about 200 million euros (Z$186 billion)
available for peace operations, of which 10 million is already available.
Development aid of several more million euros for, amongst others HIV/Aids,
can become available if the deadlock is resolved.
At Friday’s meeting in Maputo, the
EU was represented by Mantica,
because Italy now has the presidency of the EU, a representative of Ireland,
who takes over the chair next, and a commission representative.
Africa was represented by South
Africa, Mozambique and an AU
South African official says African countries didn’t have
high hopes of the Euro-Africa meeting, because the implementation of
European development aid is “always very complex”.
He said the money promised at the
Cairo meeting was in any case “a
re-channelling of money already promised to Africa at bilateral level or at
other regional forums”.
POLICE yesterday charged opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) deputy secretary-general Gift Chimanikire under the state’s draconian
Public Order and Security Act (POSA) for allegedly authorising the
publication of advertisements in newspapers that police say denigrated
President Robert Mugabe.
Under POSA it is an offence to insult, criticise or ridicule Mugabe.
Chimanikire was yesterday afternoon summoned
to Harare Central Police
Station where he was made to sign a warned and cautioned statement.
He was accompanied to the police station
by his lawyer, Innocent
Chagonda said the police
alleged that Chimanikire contravened Section
16 (2b) of the Act when he authorised the MDC’s information department to
publish the adverts in the private Press.
“Yes, I can confirm that Chimanikire was charged
under POSA. The
police are alleging that he authorised the publication of adverts that
insulted the President,” said Chagonda.
Chimanikire yesterday said he was not responsible for the running of
the MDC information department which placed party adverts in newspapers.
“I denied the charge and they said they will
proceed by way of
summons,” he said.
Under Section 16 of
POSA, one can be jailed for a year or fined $20
000 for making abusive or indecent statements about Mugabe.
During the run-up to last
month’s mass action, the MDC ran adverts in
various newspapers depicting an old man fleeing from an angry mob that
accused him of being a senile thief and a murderer.
The crowd also accuses the old man of raping
their children and
trampling on their rights.
Police contend that the old man is Mugabe.
In the last two weeks police have
also charged Associated Newspapers
of Zimbabwe (ANZ) chief executive officer Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, commercial
director Moreblessings Mpofu and Daily News editor Nqobile Nyathi over the
same adverts, which were published in the paper early last month. The ANZ
officials deny the charges levelled against them.
Chimanikire becomes the fifth MDC leader to be charged by
The opposition party’s treasurer, Fletcher Dulini-Ncube, is already on trial
facing charges of murdering Bulawayo war veterans’ leader Cain Nkala two
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai,
party secretary-general Welshman Ncube
and legislator Renson Gasela are all on trial for treason for allegedly
plotting to assassinate Mugabe ahead of last year’s presidential election.
The opposition leaders deny the charges.
ZCTU calls on government to quit
THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) yesterday called on the
government to resign because it had failed to resolve the country’s
deepening economic and social crisis.
ZCTU secretary-general Wellington Chibhebhe
said in a Press statement
yesterday: “If it were any other democracy, (Finance) Minister Herbert
Murerwa and the entire government would have resigned for presiding over the
mess that this economy is in.
“The ZCTU, therefore, calls on the Zimbabwean government to
most honourable thing under the circumstances – resign en masse and spare
the innocent people of Zimbabwe the unnecessary problems they have to face
on a daily basis.”
Chibhebhe, whose ZCTU has in the
past called mass job strikes to press
for better living conditions for workers, however did not say what action
the powerful umbrella union would take to ensure workers were cushioned from
the worsening hardships.
Murerwa could not be reached for comment on the
matter by the time of
going to print last night.
criticised the central Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)’s
failure to ensure there was enough local currency in circulation in the
country, saying workers were unable to receive their paltry wages because
there was no cash at banks.
Zimbabwe, which is battling with its worst economic
independence in 1980, is in the grip of a cash shortage because the RBZ has
no hard cash to pay for imports of special ink and paper used to print
Banks are limiting cash withdrawals to about $5
000 per client, which
is a very little amount given Zimbabwe’s surging inflation of more than 300
The union leader said:
“Workers cannot afford to be denied access to
their salaries every month because of a macroeconomic problem that the
government has created and is failing to solve.
“Even after queueing for hours one is not
guaranteed to get enough
cash as banks have resorted to giving small amounts which are not adequate.”
Chibhebhe spoke as it emerged this
week that the government had failed
to pay some of its workers a total of $110 million in salaries because of
the serious shortages of cash.
The cash crunch has spawned a new black market for the
dollar. For the last four years foreign currency has been readily available
only on the illegal but flourishing black market.
Meanwhile the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) yesterday said it
was concerned that workers earning the minimum wage were now being taxed by
the government following the hiking of the minimum wage by the government to
about $47 000 a month.
The chairman of the opposition
party’s Economic Affairs Committee,
Tapiwa Mashakada, said a worker earning the minimum wage was now paying over
22 percent of total earnings in tax.
Previously minimum wage earners were exempted from paying tax.
Mashakada said: “Workers on the minimum wage paid no tax
at the start
of the year but they are now in the ‘super tax bracket’ of 40 percent.
“A worker on the minimum wage now pays over 22 percent
of his total
earnings in tax before he gets his pay packet. This must constitute the
highest level direct income tax in the world.”
Mashakada, who is also the MDC shadow minister of
finance and the
Member of Parliament for Hatfield, called on Murerwa to review the tax
threshold, which was increased during the 2003 fiscal year from $90 000 to
AS the public and private sectors wrap up salary negotiations for
this year, there are already clear signs that the inflation-chasing wage
adjustments that employees are being awarded will do little to improve the
plight of increasingly poverty-stricken Zimbabwean workers.
The wage negotiations are
being done in a hyper-inflationary
environment that threatens the very survival of local companies and the
livelihood of workers.
Even as companies award whatever cost of living adjustments they can
afford, prices are shooting up and making a mockery of the new salary
The prices of basic food commodities such
as mealie-meal, bread, sugar
and a host of other products are reported to have shot up by more than 600
percent in the past two weeks.
Yet workers are only being awarded salary increases averaging
To make matters worse, there have been steep
hikes of school fees,
commuter transport fares, rates, rent and medication. Most service sectors
have also increased their tariffs in an attempt to keep pace with inflation.
This is coming at a time when most
Zimbabweans are already having to
do without many basic necessities because of high prices and severe
shortages of food and other commodities.
Many families are already reported to be surviving
on only one meal a
day, a meal that in most cases does not even deserve to be called that.
It is hard to imagine how people who have already
resorted to such
measures will continue to survive in a worsening environment.
It is becoming clear that to keep body and soul
together under this
harsh environment, workers would need a cost of living adjustment every
But of course this is not feasible
under an economy in which many
companies would collapse if they were to award their employees salary
increments that take into account the consumer price index.
According to figures from the Central Statistical
year-on-year inflation rose 300.1 percent in May.
Wage increases of this magnitude would make it impossible
local firms to continue operating.
businesses are already battling severe shortages of fuel,
foreign currency, raw materials and spare parts, which have forced most of
them to scale back their operations and lay off staff.
So what options do workers have in such a situation?
Certainly, they can resort to
industrial action, already witnessed at
several private companies and in the public sector.
Teachers, doctors, Zimbabwe Electricity Supply
Authority employees and
workers in the banking sector have embarked on strikes in the past few weeks
and some of their demands have been met.
But even as they receive promises of better pay, the cost
of living is
rising, meaning they will soon be back before their employers demanding
more, potentially poisoning industrial relations at a time both workers and
employers should be pulling together to ensure that local firms make it
through this difficult patch.
But as all this happens, there is no discernible solution in sight.
only future that most Zimbabweans can look forward to is
one of increased food insecurity and worsening poverty.
The government – which in the past has kept a tight lid on prices in
what it said was an attempt to protect Zimbabweans from the soaring cost of
living – seems to have either thrown in the towel or lost whatever interest
it had in the welfare of its people. Donors and humanitarian agencies have
millions of other needy people to worry about as well and many are even
scaling down their involvement in Zimbabwe. Where is Zimbabwe heading, does
anyone even care anymore?
Once the people’s trust is lost, the writing is on the wall
The suspicion that politicians are inclined to tell lies is as old
as politics itself.
Yet when a politician is caught
in a lie, the consequences are often
dire, at least in democratic countries.
Indeed, proving that a politician is a liar is just
about the only way
to get rid of him or her quickly and terminally, which is why the attempt is
so attractive to political opponents.
what, exactly, is a lie in politics? Few cases are as clear-cut as
that of Anneli Jaatteenmaki, whose short-lived stint as Finland’s first
woman prime minister recently came to an end.
She had attacked her
predecessor during the election campaign for
being fork-tongued about Iraq, saying one thing to United States President
George W Bush and another to the Finnish people.
Her knowledge was based on Finnish foreign
office records. Had she
She began to equivocate
and in the end said that she had not. When the
opposite was proven and a secret document was found in her possession, she
had to go.
Another campaigner under investigation by his parliament for
“economical with the truth” is German Chancellor Gerhard Schröeder. But his
case is very different. The opposition, still smarting from its narrow
defeat in last autumn’s election, accuses him of not having told the truth
about Germany’s weak economy and the consequences for the national budget.
Almost a year after the election, a parliamentary
committee of inquiry
is still interviewing “witnesses.” But it does not look as if it can get
very far. At most, deputies will be able to offer the public a fresh example
of a favourite trick in politics: to tell people the truth was told and
nothing but the truth, but not exactly the whole truth.
The most serious current case concerns President Bush
Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In fact, the charges
of lying concern only Blair, for Bush has (so
far) been absolved of all possible sins in view of the apparent success of
the Iraq campaign.
But Blair is under heavy fire from his parliament’s
Committee for having overstated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
Intelligence dossiers (it is claimed) were “sexed up”
underlings. More particularly, there was no evidence for Blair’s claim that
the Iraqi dictator could have launched “WMDs”, as weapons of mass
destruction are now called, “within 45 minutes”.
it matter whether this claim was strictly true or not? Don’t we
know from past evidence that Saddam was prepared to develop WMDs and to use
them if the occasion presented itself?
Are not the reasons for the war
overtaken by its reality? In the end,
is this really a question of lying?
In the British case, the answer is not so simple.
In the middle of his second term, Blair is going through a bad patch.
Opponents within his own party are
increasingly replacing the
ineffectual Tory opposition.
Blair is much more vulnerable than he was a year ago, and he must
tread softly if he does not want to lose further support.
is another point.
The reasons given for the war in Iraq were never entirely clear. WMDs
in Saddam’s possession were but one in a sequence of arguments. There was
also, at least in the US, the desire to avenge the terrorist attacks on New
York and Washington, as well as geopolitical interests. Blair also expressed
moral outrage at the way the Iraqi dictator had behaved toward his own
people in making the case for regime change. Supporters of the war – often
reluctant in any case – had picked up one or the other of these arguments,
and if they focused on WMDs, they now feel betrayed. The two cabinet
ministers who resigned over the affair, Robin Cook and Clare Short, want
their own revenge and thus continue to attack Blair for his “lies”. So far,
Blair has proven his resilience to such charges. Indeed, he has gone on the
counter-attack, notably against the BBC, which had not exactly supported the
war with enthusiasm. But does the uncertainty now circling Blair like a
vulture now smell the appetisingly foul scent of a lie? Or is it more a
question of a prime minister losing the trust of his people, including some
his erstwhile friends and allies? Trust is a vital commodity for all
politicians. Once lost, it is difficult to regain. Blair has used the “Trust
me!” pose often, not least in the case of the war in Iraq. In any case, one
does not have to be found out as a liar to lose such trust. It is sufficient
that clouds of doubt develop. Indeed, a politician’s reputation can be
damaged even if no one doubts the truthfulness of his statements. It
suffices if people feel that he is trying to mislead them, or even that he
has not got things clear in his own mind. A leader can tell the truth,
nothing but the truth, but less than the whole truth and yet still be
trusted. Once a politician has lost trust however, people will no longer
believe him even if he tells the truth. By Ralf Dahrendorf Ralf Dahrendorf,
the author of numerous acclaimed books, is a member of the British House of
Lords, a former Rector of the London School of Economics and also a former
Warden of St Anthony’s College, Oxford. – Project Syndicate/Institute for
Shortage of cheque paper emerges
BULAWAYO – Companies that print cheque paper and security documents
have been hard hit by Zimbabwe’s foreign currency crisis, leading to
shortages that are adversely affecting local businesses, it was learnt this
Officials with Bulawayo-based firms involved in
the printing of cheque
paper said they were facing difficulties in importing paper and machinery
spare parts for their printing presses.
“The machines that I use to print cheques require delicate and
sophisticated equipment, which is imported,” a manager with one of the
The official, who spoke on condition he was not named,
shortage of foreign currency is the main reason why there is a shortage of
Officials in the banking sector said
local financial institutions were
experiencing delays in sending out cheque books to clients because of the
shortage of cheque paper.
Normally, it would take 48 hours or less to collect a cheque book, but
some bank customers have complained that it is now taking up to two months
for the cheque books to be ready for collection.
The shortage of cheque
paper is coming at a time when local banks are
facing severe shortages of cash that are partly blamed on the Reserve Bank
of Zimbabwe’s failure to import the special paper and ink needed to print
bank notes. The shortage of paper and ink is also a result of the country’s
foreign currency crisis.
Many bank clients have been forced to rely on cheques
to make payments
because of the failure to secure enough cash at banks. Financial
institutions have significantly reduced their maximum withdrawal limits to
as low as $5 000 per customer in some instances.
But Zimbabweans need large amounts of money to make their purchases
because of soaring inflation.
Raymond Phiri, a Bulawayo-based
businessman this week complained that
the shortage of cheque paper and the eight-week wait for a cheque book was
now affecting his business.
“We have been conducting most of our transactions
owing to shortage of cash.
“And because of
the shortages of cheques, our business has been
seriously affected,” he said.
Company executives said many local firms had resorted to
which are expensive to customers because they come at a fee and which also
increase pressure on banking personnel due to the high volumes of people
turning to this option.
Money supply growth soars to 160 percent
ZIMBABWE’S annual broad money supply (M3) growth surged to 167.3
percent in January, driven by increased notes and coins in circulation and
demand for deposits, according to statistics from the Reserve Bank of
In its latest monthly economic bulletin, the central
bank said January
’s M3 rose 2.5 percentage points from 164.8 percent in December, underpinned
by a staggering 174.1 percent and 159.4 percent increase in narrow and
money or M1 comprises notes and coins in circulation, plus
demand deposits, while quasi-money refers to instruments that act as a store
of value but are not immediately accepted as a medium of exchange. These
include savings accounts, money market investments and building society
“Growth in narrow money emanated from
increases in demand deposits of
$181 362.7 million and notes and coins in circulation of $58 321.8 billion,”
the RBZ said in its economic report.
Deposits with maturities of over 30 days, class C
shares and other
share deposits at building societies shot up by $39 617 million in January.
Savings deposits went up by $28 288.8
million and $24 623.9 million at
building societies and commercial banks respectively.
Net credit to government grew by $84 690 million,
largely from the
Analysts have warned already
that Zimbabwe’s money supply growth is
now too high and is detrimental to any prospects of economic stability in
They say the
government must abstain from persistent borrowing from
the domestic sector to reduce the rate of credit creation in the ailing
“The underlying factor is that government has resorted to domestic
borrowing to fund its domestic debt, which is currently standing at $446
billion, and this fuels the growth in money supply,” said an economist at
the University of Zimbabwe, who declined to be named.
He added that money
supply would continue to rise because the
government had few sources of revenue.
Analysts said the slight increase of 2.5 percentage
points in annual
broad money growth in January could be the result of the central bank’s
attempts to tighten its monetary policy.
Trust Bank Corporation Limited group economist David Mupamhadzi said
the introduction of a two-tier interest regime, under which consumptive
borrowing attracted high interest rates, was aimed at discouraging
speculative borrowing that was fuelling money supply growth.
From The Boston Globe, 17 July
With Africa on the US agenda, journalist Geoff Nyarota speaks out for his
By Joseph Williams
Seated in the dining room of his Cambridge flat, Geoff Nyarota seems more
like a college professor - salt-and-pepper hair and beard, neatly pressed
shirt and slacks, patient, low-key demeanour - than an investigative
journalist. But his fierce eyes and the intensity of his words belie his
demeanour. Nyarota is a founder of The Daily News, an opposition newspaper
in Zimbabwe dedicated to exposing corruption and human rights violations
occurring under President Robert Mugabe, who has held power since 1980.
Nyarota's work has taken its toll: Mugabe's administration has harassed and
jailed him, and The Daily News printing presses were bombed. In the spring,
Nyarota and his family slipped into South Africa just ahead of death
threats, and he headed for a fellowship at Harvard University. As his
country devolves toward civil unrest and violence, other news from Africa -
President Bush's visit, civil war in Liberia, the AIDS crisis - has made
headlines. Earlier this week, Nyarota, a former schoolteacher, reflected on
the turbulence in his homeland, Bush's commitment to African nations, and US
views of his homeland.
Q. Are you heartened that President Bush's visit demonstrates interest in
A. Yes. But not sufficient interest. Bush's visit was a step in the right
direction, but unfortunately it was not a giant step. We expected a giant
step. [Bush's itinerary] avoided trouble spots. [But] it was significant to
some of the world's poorer countries and indicates a serious commitment [to
Q. What is your assessment of the news of Bush's visit and how the trip was
A. I think the coverage was comprehensive. That is one of the advantages of
the American media. They have access to the news, right up to the top, and
they cover it comprehensively. But they can only cover what's happening.
They cannot cover what is not happening. The problem was the Iraq war
dominates the news. The messenger did a fantastic job of covering it. But
the message was lukewarm.
Q. What do you mean?
A. Zimbabwe seems to be of little significance [to the United States]. For
example, in March there was growing unrest and a general strike in Zimbabwe
[to protest Mugabe and his policies]. There was very little notice in the
US. That month, the US invaded Iraq. In comparison to Iraq, maybe [the
strike] was a nonevent. It was a nonstarter. Iraq invoked images of
terrorism. There is state-sponsored terrorism in Zimbabwe, but it is local.
Q. Given President Mugabe's violent hold on power, what do you think when
you hear Bush talk about [Liberian leader] Charles Taylor and his need to
step down, but not refer to Mugabe or Zimbabwe at all?
A. I'm disappointed. Maybe not surprised. My lack of surprise comes from a
fuller understanding of the American mind. When I listen to President Bush
speak about Zimbabwe, I realize he is not fully informed. It is not very
clear to him how the 13 million people of Zimbabwe are suffering today.
Q. Since gaining independence, Zimbabwe has become an unstable nation on the
brink of civil war. What happened?
A. [President Mugabe] acquired absolute power, [and] absolute power corrupts
absolutely. [After a 15-year war for independence] Mugabe was a hero in
Zimbabwe. He was a statesman of international stature. Well respected,
because he sacrificed personally to bring about independence. Then he
embarked on a socialist program which brought much benefit to the
population. The slogan was, ''Health for all by the year 2000.'' By the time
2000 arrived, unfortunately, it was health for none. Now, everything is in
turmoil. Last week the price of bread went up 400 percent to $1,000 a loaf.
The minimum wage is $7 a month. There are shortages of staple food like
cornmeal; now there's a shortage of foreign currency. Inflation is rising at
300 percent. Unemployment is 70 percent. There is a serious brain drain:
Professionals who can find the money for the tickets are leaving every day
for the US and as far afield as New Zealand, Australia, Canada.
Q. The problems in Zimbabwe seem similar to a lot of countries in Africa as
A. But the situation in Zimbabwe is different in that Zimbabweans ...
expected the situation to be different for two or three reasons. [We
expected the leadership] would have learned from their proximity to the
power bases of those countries [nearby] and would know what mistakes not to
make. It was expected that they would learn from the mistakes of others. The
leadership was also highly educated. Mugabe himself has nine [college]
degrees. His cabinet was all graduates - doctors, professors. And also
Zimbabwe had a solid infrastructure: mining, farming, road networks, an
airline. It had everything. So there was an expectation that Zimbabwe would
Q. Given that Mugabe was an educated man, and that the country was well
developed, why did it fall into the same trap as, say, Liberia, where civil
war has been raging for nearly 20 years?
A. Power, power, power. Initially, the view is that Mugabe was not corrupt;
the view was that corruption was thrust upon him. Now, he is surrounded [by
corruption]. He himself publicly declares that there are corrupt [officials]
in his administration. He doesn't say, `I am one of them.'
Q. Does that suggest that the US should move Africa and Zimbabwe up on its
international agenda? Should Zimbabwe be an area to which the US pays more
A. It should be. Zimbabwe has so many exportables: mineral, agricultural, we
were one of the largest producers of tobacco, we had one of the best tourism
infrastructures of the world - Victoria Falls, which nobody comes to see
because of the current situation. I have a vested interest here, as an
African in the United States. I want to read more [about Africa]. Americans
should really be interested in what happens outside of America. I mean, this
country is outstanding in one regard: It is an ethnic potpourri. Everybody
is here. When you walk down the street in Boston, there is no way of telling
from which country is the taxi driver, from which country is the janitor,
from which country is the doctor. You cannot tell. Like me, they have an
interest in what happens [in the rest of the world]. If [Americans] become
interested in the fate of the rest of the world, they could stem the tide of
some of these people coming to the shores of America seeking freedom and
opportunity. [They] are here not because of some profound love of this
country but because they seek freedom and opportunity, both of which are
denied them in their own country. If countries like Zimbabwe reverted to
normal in terms of development, democratic processes, provisional social
services, they will participate in that process of development [at home].
And the Americans will then come as tourists, as partners in development,
and as investors.
Inflation Puts Basic Foods Out of Reach
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
July 17, 2003
Posted to the web July 17, 2003
Zimbabwe's Consumer Council (ZCC) on Thursday said the latest jump in
inflation would put the price of basic commodities further beyond the reach
of the urban poor.
The Central Statistical Office pegged the inflation rate for June at 364.5
percent, more than 64 percent up from the previous month's high of 300
"Price increases continue to push the cost of living for the urban poor well
above their income levels," CCZ director Elizabeth Nerwande told IRIN.
The CCZ estimates that an urban household of six members would now need over
Zim $200,000 (about US $241) per month to cover its basic needs. On average
a domestic helper in Zimbabwe earns Zim $25,000 (about US $30) per month,
while a court orderly's salary is Zim $60,000.
"In high-density suburbs across Harare (the capital) we are seeing people
facing real poverty. Most people have exhausted their coping mechanisms and
are living from hand to mouth. And the situation is unlikely to improve,
given the broader economic crisis in the country," Nerwande said.
A government decision in May to suspend price controls on some commodities
had "slightly" improved the situation. "Some basic foodstuffs have
re-appeared on shelves in supermarkets, but these are often sold at parallel
market prices and are unaffordable for most households," Nerwande said.
Earlier this week bakers unilaterally hiked the price of bread from Zim $550
(US 60 cents) to Zim $1,000 (US $1.14 ) a loaf, following an increase of
more than 1,000 percent in the Grain Marketing Board's (GMB) selling price
In response to the price hike consumers boycotted bread, forcing retailers
to reduce the price to Zim $800 (about US 90 cents.)
Nerwande also raised concerns that the current inflation rate did not
reflect reality, because it ignored the thriving parallel market where
prices were almost double controlled rates.
Zimbabwe's fuel crisis deepens as Libya deal falters
By Basildon Peta Southern Africa Correspondent
18 July 2003
Zimbabwe's petrol crisis is set to worsen after President Robert Mugabe's
attempt to resume fuel supplies from Libya stalled. He was unable to reach
an agreement over the value of oil assets mortgaged to Libya's leader,
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Mr Mugabe agreed to mortgage Zimbabwean oil assets to Libya in exchange for
oil when he met Colonel Gaddafi in Tripoli earlier this month. These
included a major oil pipeline, which runs from Beira port in Mozambique to
Zimbabwe's eastern city of Mutare, as well as oil storage facilities in
Harare, under an asset arrangement deal aimed at settling Zimbabwe's debt to
Libya and securing fresh fuel supplies.
Senior oil industry sources in Zimbabwe said Libya had not taken over the
assets because Gaddafi wanted "to pay peanuts for them". They said the
state-run National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim) had done an independent
valuation of the assets in conjunction with an Italian company, Roux Italia,
and valued them at about $150m (£95m). Libya's oil company, Tamoil, valued
them at only $38m.
A Zimbabwean oil official said: "This is totally unacceptable." Officials
said it was unclear how the disagreements would be resolved. They said they
had left everything in President Mugabe's hands.
They said a powerful lobby in the Zimbabwean oil sector had also emerged
which was strongly against the decision to mortgage the oil assets to Libya,
even if an appropriate value was agreed.
Another official said: "These are critical national assets which must be
under the control of Zimbabweans. Giving them to anyone is like putting
control of your army to foreigners."
Those who did not want the assets to be mortgaged to Libya said they should
be sold to local consortiums of Zimbabwean businessmen over whom the
government could exercise control. But they conceded that the consortiums
did not have the foreign currency to help the government import fuel.
Tamoil halted fuel supplies to Zimbabwe after Noczim accumulated a $67m
debt. The debt remains unpaid and Zimbabwe has failed to supply agricultural
commodities it had promised to Libya to offset the debt. Colonel Gaddafi is
said to want Zimbabwe's oil facilities as part of his plans to supply fuel
to other southern and central African countries such as Zambia, Malawi,
Botswana, Swaziland and Mozambique. The pipeline from Beira has been his
The latest problems with Libya have forced Noczim to abdicate its
responsibility to import fuel for the whole country, leaving it to private
importers. But the private importers sell the oil on the black market at
exorbitant prices, leaving most motorists unable to run their cars.
Officials said Noczim was only importing and selling small amounts of fuel
for specific government sectors such as the army and the police and a few
public transport operators.
Zimbabwe churches apologize for not helping nation
Copyright © 2003 Nando Media
Copyright © 2003 AP Online
By ANGUS SHAW, Associated Press
HARARE, Zimbabwe (July 17, 10:05 a.m. ADT) - In a stunning appeal for
forgiveness, Zimbabwe's Christian churches apologized Thursday for not doing
enough to stop political violence, hunger and the economic collapse of the
Western governments and human rights groups blame the chaos embroiling the
once-prosperous and stable southern African country on the increasingly
autocratic and violent rule of President Robert Mugabe.
The Zimbabwe Council of Churches, which represents all Christian
denominations in the heavily Christian country, said it had watched
passively as poverty worsened, leaving children begging on the streets. The
council includes about a dozen denominations comprising more than half the
population of more than 12 million people.
The council also said it stood by amid the collapse of state health and
education services and widening political divisions in the nation.
"We have, with our own eyes, watched as violence, rape, intimidation,
harassment and various forms of torture have ravaged the nation. Yet some
perpetrators have been set free," the council said in a statement.
"We have been witness to and buried our people who have starved to death due
to food shortages ... while we have continued to pray, we have not been
moved to action. We as a council apologize to the people of Zimbabwe for not
having done enough at a time when the nation looked to us for guidance," it
The church leaders, who released the statement after their annual meeting,
said they planned to pressure the government to allow them to import food
aid while also lobbying for economic reforms and the resumption of talks
between the ruling party and the opposition.
The meeting was concluded July 2, but the statement was only released
Thursday, after some "soul searching," said a church official who declined
to be named.
Mugabe, a self-avowed Roman Catholic, has repeatedly criticized churches for
meddling in political affairs.
Zimbabwe has been locked in a political stalemate since Mugabe was named the
victor in last year's disputed presidential elections. Many international
monitors and human rights groups said the poll was heavily swayed by the
intimidation of ruling party militants and by electoral irregularities.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change has refused to recognize the
In a separate statement Thursday, the Catholic Bishops Conference, the
Zimbabwe Council of Churches and the Evangelical Fellowship of other
Christian groups said they were united in their resolve to pursue "the route
of a peaceful, mediated settlement which will bring normalcy to our nation."
The council of churches also said it planned to set up a task force to
investigate the National Youth Service, widely accused of being used as a
ruling party militia engaged in the violent intimidation of Mugabe's
Zimbabwe is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980.
Official inflation rose last month to 300 percent, though unofficial
estimates taking into account new, massive price hikes for food and a
thriving black market in scarce food and gasoline put it closer to 600
The U.N. World Food Program estimates food shortages will leave 5.5 million
out of about 12 million Zimbabweans in need of emergency food aid this year.
Part of the crisis is blamed on a state program that seized thousands of
white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to black settlers. Many
prime farms went to politicians and ruling party cronies and were left idle
amid a devastating drought.
Hard currency earnings from tobacco, tourism and mining have collapsed and
investment and foreign aid have dried up in protest of human rights abuses
and disputed presidential elections last year.
Council Acts On Fuel Woes
The Herald (Harare)
July 17, 2003
Posted to the web July 17, 2003
MASVINGO City Council has applied to the Government for a licence to import
fuel from South Africa in a bid to ease its fuel woes.
The council resolved to import fuel on its own citing inconsistent fuel
supplies by service stations.
The shortage of fuel is threatening council operations.
Several measures, among them buying fuel at $1 500 a litre from the black
market or buying foreign currency to import the fuel, were proposed but were
shot down by councillors.
The city was only left with the option of applying for a licence to import
Masvingo executive mayor Mr Alois Chaimiti confirmed the move yesterday.
"We have already applied for a licence from the Government to import fuel
and we expect a reply anytime from now so that the little forex that we get
may be used to import fuel.
"Although council was experiencing severe fuel shortages we felt it was
tantamount to promoting the black market if we bought fuel at a price higher
than the stipulated pump prize," Mr Chaimiti said.
He said buying foreign currency on the black market was also turned down as
it would prejudice residents and the council resolved to buy the forex at
the official exchange rates when it is available.
Fuel shortages in the country have severely crippled the operations of most
companies and local authorities and in Masvingo, the Fire Brigade has often
failed to respond to emergency calls due to lack of fuel.
Zimbabwe Judge Delays Key Ruling in Tsvangirai Treason Trial
17 Jul 2003, 17:22 UTC
Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, and his two co-defendants
will have to wait for more than a week to know if the High Court in Harare
will dismiss the treason charges against them, or proceed with the trial.
Judge Paddington Garwe said there should be a ruling on the matter on
Monday, July 28. But he said he might need more time.
The judge was speaking at the end of four days of arguments by the defense
and prosecution teams on a motion by the accused for the case to be
The defense team, led by attorney George Bizos, argued that charges against
the three opposition leaders should be dismissed, because the two key state
witnesses are not credible because they were paid large sums of money by the
Zimbabwe government on a consulting contract. The lawyer also said their
testimony, and other prosecution evidence, failed to meet the minimum
standard of proof.
The government's two key witnesses, Canadian political consultant Ari
Ben-Menashe and his assistant Tara Thomas, testified that Mr. Tsvangirai
approached their company to arrange the assassination of President Robert
Mr. Ben-Menashe secretly made a video recording of a December 2001 meeting,
during which Mr. Tsvangirai is alleged to have made the request. Mr.
Tsvangirai and his co-defendants deny the charge, and the audio on the
videotape is difficult to understand.
The poor quality of the tape, the defense argued, was a deliberate attempt
to leave the proceedings of the meeting to the interpretation of the two
witnesses. The defense lawyer described the meeting as an attempt at
entrapment, in exchange for money. He also said Mr. Ben-Menashe's and Ms.
Thomas's evidence contradicted each other.
The prosecution team, led by Acting Attorney-General Bharat Patel, argued
that Mr. Tsvangirai was under no inducement and participated voluntarily in
the meeting. The prosecutor said Mr. Tsvangirai did not reject the idea of
assassinating the president or a coup d'etat when they came up.
He also said that though Mr. Tsvangirai's co-defendants were not at the
videotaped meeting, they had attended earlier meetings during which it is
alleged the plot was discussed. The prosecutor said there is no legal basis
to dismiss the case.
If convicted Mr. Tsvangirai and his co-defendants could face the death
Sense of humour failure
17/07/2003 15:27 - (SA)
Harare - A top Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) official was arrested on
charges of "ridiculing" President Robert Mugabe in cartoons showing the
Zimbabwean leader fleeing for his life from an angry crowd, MDC lawyers said
MDC lawyer Innocent Chagonda said Gift Chimanikire, the deputy general
secretary of the MDC, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with
"ridiculing" Mugabe in cartoon advertisements placed in the independent
media in that country.
Chimanikire was held at the Harare police station on Wednesday where he was
questioned over the advertisement, and charged under the Public Order and
The legislation gives Mugabe's government powers close to a state of
emergency to arrest suspects at will and detain them at length without
appearing in court, ban public gatherings and makes it an offence to
criticise the state.
"The police are alleging that he (Chimanikire) authorised the publication of
adverts that insulted the president," said Chagonda.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail.
The advertisement was published just before the MDC's five-day pro-democracy
national strike in early June which paralysed the country.
Mbeki denies Mugabe exit report
17/07/2003 15:27 - (SA)
Pretoria - President Thabo Mbeki has denied telling his United States
counterpart George W Bush that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe would step
down in December.
"There is no such thing. I don't know where that comes from," he told
reporters in Pretoria on Thursday.
"There was no discussion at all about anybody stepping down."
Weekend reports, quoting unnamed diplomatic sources, suggested Mbeki told
Bush during his recent South African visit that Mugabe would be out of
office by December.
Mugabe reportedly gave Mbeki an undertaking that he would step down at his
Zanu-PF party's congress at the end of the year.
Tsvangirai: No proof of plot
17/07/2003 17:39 - (SA)
Harare - Lawyers for Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai called
Thursday for treason charges against him to be dropped, saying no overt act
of treason had been proved.
Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and two
senior party officials have been charged with plotting to assassinate
President Robert Mugabe last year.
The state's case hinges on meetings Tsvangirai held with Canada-based
political consultant Ari Ben Menashe in late 2001, at which he is alleged to
have requested Ben Menashe's help in "eliminating" Mugabe and arranging a
coup to take over power.
On Thursday Tsvangirai's lawyer George Bizos said nowhere on a secretly
recorded videotape of one of the meetings is Tsvangirai heard to request the
consultant's help in carrying out the alleged assassination plot.
"There was nothing more than discussion initiated by Menashe," Bizos said.
He added that there was "no evidence of a conspiracy, no evidence of a
request" to assassinate Mugabe heard on the tape.
The videotape is a key piece of evidence in the state's case.
State lawyer Bharat Patel claimed on Thursday the video corroborated
testimony given in court by Ben Menashe earlier this year that there had
been a prior agreement to kill Mugabe.
"It is abundantly clear, not only that there was prior agreement that
President Mugabe should be assassinated, but that the army should be brought
in to play" following Mugabe's elimination, he said.
Cover for plot
The MDC say they contracted Ben Menashe to do political consultancy work for
the party in Canada and the United States. But Ben Menashe claims the
contract was just a cover for the alleged plot.
Judge Paddington Garwe said he needed time to consider the submissions made
by both sides and stood the matter down until July 28, when he is expected
to make a ruling on the application.
In submissions made this week, Tsvangirai's lawyers accused the state of
destroying documents that may have been helpful to their case as well as
blocking their enquiries in search of evidence.
They also told the court it was "highly improbable" that Tsvangirai would
have approached a complete stranger like Ben Menashe with a request to
However, state lawyers claimed the MDC thought the political consultant
could be bought off, and that the party wanted to exploit his contacts in
the Zimbabwe government to carry out the alleged coup.
On Thursday they said the defence had failed to establish any basis for a
The defence's application to have the charges dropped comes six months after
the start of the marathon trial, which has so far heard testimonies from
about a dozen state witnesses.