The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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The Star, Malaysia

Malaysian firm-led group gets RM2.3bil Zimbabwe water project

By DAVID TAN in Langkawi
THE Zimbabwean Government has awarded a US$600mil (RM2.3bil) water supply
project to a joint-venture company formed by a Malaysian firm and the
Matabeleland Zambeki Water Authority.

According to Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Jamaludin
Mohd Jarjis, the Malaysian partner has an 80% stake in the joint venture,
with the Matabeleland Zambeki Water Authority holding the remaining 20%.

"The full details of the deal will be announced at a signing ceremony on
Saturday which will be witnessed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe," he said ahead of the
opening today of the latest Langkawi International Dialogue.

Jamaludin said the deal underscored Malaysia's success in making use of the
Langkawi International Dialogue series to seize business opportunities

"This dialogue has matured into a platform that enables Malaysia to take
part in new and emerging businesses in the African continent.

"Malaysian corporate giants which have achieved success domestically must
take up the challenge of becoming global players. They must make use of the
dialogue to form networks with the private business sector in African
nations," he added.

Jamaludin said Malaysia must also capitalise on the business match-making
prospects offered by Swaziland.

"Swaziland's King Mswati III has offered Malaysian entrepreneurs the
opportunity to venture into the agriculture and technological sectors," he
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New Zimbabwe

MDC may be forced to drop election petitions

By Staff Reporter
Last updated: 07/29/2004 12:47:01
ZIMBABWE'S opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) could soon be
forced to abandon its election petitions filed in 2000 disputing the outcome
of several parliamentary election results, it has been learnt.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told the Daily Mirror newspaper on
Wednesday that if the cases were still unresolved at the time of holding the
next elections in March 2005, they will be automatically dropped as
Parliament would be dissolved.

Over 30 cases are yet to be finalised after the MDC alleged violence and
electoral fraud, having managed to win nearly half of the contested 120
seats in the 2000 poll.

"The law states that Parliament is dissolved before the staging of any
elections," said Chinamasa. "Effectively, there are no sitting
Parliamentarians when elections are held."

This means that the opposition would be left without a basis for contesting
the 2000 results if their cases are not finalised.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai lost the petition he had filed against Zanu PF'
s Kenneth Manyonda, thereby relegating the former to a mere watcher of
Parliamentary proceedings in the run up to his loss in the 2002 Presidential

Chinamasa said he had no control over the issue as it was already in the
courts, hinting that it would not be beneficial to rush the cases.He said:
"The individual petitions vary case to case as each one has its own
individual peculiarities.

"Sometimes the cases are slowed down for various reasons with the very
people who filed the charges being responsible."

Chinamasa added that in the event that the 2005 poll came around before the
petitions had been finalised, the cases would have to be abandoned as the
law was specific on the procedures preceding the holding of parliamentary

Acting attorney general, Bharat Patel said that he could not determine the
pace at which the cases progressed saying that they carried out their duties
in a non-partisan manner.
Additional reporting Daily Mirror

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The Mercury

      No more talks, says Mugabe
      July 29, 2004

      By Basildon Peta

      Johannesburg: President Robert Mugabe's ruling party has officially
shut all doors to talks - formal or informal - with the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change.

      The fate of talks to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis was sealed more than
a week ago when Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who headed a Zanu-PF
delegation, met his counterpart in the MDC, Secretary-General Welshman

      Chinamasa told Ncube that the Zanu-PF Politburo had discussed the
matter and decided that the party no longer wanted any talks with the MDC
because it now commanded the upper hand in Zimbabwean politics and could
defeat the opposition in elections.

      Chinamasa told Ncube that all options for resolving the Zim-
      babwe crisis, which had been discussed during the much talked-about
informal talks, were therefore no longer options as far as Zanu-PF was

      Chinamasa is said to have also told Ncube that Mugabe's proposed
electoral reforms should simply be embraced by the MDC, since they
"coincided" with what the MDC had been demanding. There was therefore no
need for any further talks. If the MDC did not accept the reforms, Chinamasa
said, Zanu-PF would implement them unilaterally.

      Ncube confirmed that he had met Chinamasa.

      "Dialogue, formal or informal, is dead," said Ncube. "Zanu-PF has shut
all doors to dialogue. Any reports that keep on suggesting that we are
engaged in any kind of talks to resolve the problems here are therefore

      Mugabe's proposals include the setting up of a new "independent"
commission to run Zimbabwe's elections.

      They also involve reducing polling from two days to one, the use of
transparent ballot boxes and counting of votes at polling centres.
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The Herald

Zanu-PF set to win polls: Moyo

From Masvingo Bureau
THE Minister of State for Information and Publicity in the Office of the
President and Cabinet, Professor Jonathan Moyo, yesterday said Zanu-PF would
overwhelmingly win next year's parliamentary elections owing to the
confidence the public has in the ruling party coupled with the recovering

Prof Moyo said the country had managed to safeguard its sovereignty and was
now working at improving the economy after laying a firm foundation on the
political front.

Addressing hundreds of students during a lecture at Bondolfi Teachers'
College, Prof Moyo said the agenda of the proponents of regime change
collapsed with the failure of last year's "final push" instigated by puppets
of the British government.

"The political mood in the country at the moment is positive and public
confidence has been restored with the indications of the recovery of the
economy, which has seen inflation going down.

"The nationalistic spirit among the people is high after we managed to
secure our sovereignty and Zanu-PF will be re-elected next year
overwhelmingly," said Prof Moyo.

He told the students that Zimbabwe had won the battle against the
neo-imperial intrigues of the British and American governments, saying the
focus of the Government at the moment was to tackle the economic challenges
facing the country.

Prof Moyo said the Western powers that were advocating regime change in the
country were bent on reversing the gains of independence and the right of
the country as a sovereign nation to have control over its resources.

He said the talk of regime change was inspired by the desire to stop the
country from cherishing the legacy of the liberation struggle and its
political independence.

"We have succeeded to defend our regime values and there will be no regime
change, never. The values will not change. The values of the liberation
struggle are indelible. What is special is that we are prepared to die so
that the totality of our culture and norms in the regime remains unchanged,"
said Prof. Moyo.

The country, Prof Moyo said, had managed to fight and win a war against a
regime of white supremacists whose ideology was premised on the
brutalisation of the black and indigenous people. The victory brought with
it a new system of values as an independent people.

He said those in the anti-Zimbabwe bandwagon were seeing themselves through
British lenses, pointing out that Zimbabweans had reclaimed their land four
years ago without coercion.

He said Zimbabwe was the first country to be targeted for regime change in
Africa because the hopes and aspirations of its people had unsettled the
privileged position of the British kith and kin in the country, especially
with the land reform programme.

"Regime is not the leader or government, but a regime is a system of values,
fundamental values that define who we are and what we cherish about our
history, heritage, social struggles, hopes and aspirations as a people,"
said Prof. Moyo.

Prof Moyo said the British and Americans were using the rule of law and
human rights to stop the attainment of the total enjoyment of Zimbabwe's
regime values. He added that the criticism and attempts to ostracise
Zimbabwe did not originate locally, but were inspired by foreign elements
opposed to the values Zimbabwe stood for. Prof Moyo said teachers had an
important role in educating the nation about the true values and aspirations
of a country.

The student teachers appealed to the Government to include them in the land
reform programme by allocating them land, saying they fully supported the
agrarian reforms.

Prof Moyo is today expected to address students at Masvingo Polytechnic and
Masvingo Teachers' College.
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The Herald

Police Support Unit starts deploying teams

Herald Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Republic Police's Support Unit has started deploying its public
order reaction teams to all the provinces countrywide in preparation for
next year's parliamentary elections.

At least 70 police officers, after having undertaken a course in public
order, will be dispatched to the country's 10 provinces.

Another 70 are expected to be trained next month and would be spread

Prior to this initiative, there were only three areas with such reaction
teams and these included Harare, which covered Mashonaland West and
Mashonaland Central provinces; Bulawayo, which covered Matabeleland North
and Matabeleland South.

The other one was stationed at Buchwa and it covered Zvishavane, Manicaland,
Mashonaland East and Masvingo.

Speaking at the graduation of the 70 at Chikurubi Support Unit Camp
yesterday, Assistant Commissioner Douglas Nyakutsikwa, who is the senior
staff officer responsible for operations, said they wanted to have a
reaction team in every province in preparation for next year's parliamentary

"As obvious, we would be under spotlight from the Western countries and the
(opposition) MDC has also threatened to use violence and boycott the
elections next year," he said.

"We would like to warn the (would-be) perpetrators that the police will be
out in full force and will bring all the culprits to book."

Last week, President Mugabe said police should ensure that next year's
parliamentary polls were "conducted in a peaceful and tranquil environment"
since the country would be in the limelight.

He said this was critical since the country's detractors would, as usual,
seek to deliberately misrepresent the situation and the electoral process in
the country.

The President also warned those who were bent on indulging in violence and
any other illegal activities with a view to tarnishing the country's image,
saying that the full wrath of the law would descend upon them.

The graduands were trained to deal with big public events, ceremonies and
serious public disorder incidents. At least eight policemen who underwent
judo training in the past 11 months also graduated.

Asst Comm Nyakutsikwa said the essence was to harmonise the relationship
between the police and the public by observing human rights, particularly
those associated with freedom of speech and association and the right to
peaceful protest.

"There is, therefore, a need to strike a balance between the enforcement of
law and order and the protection of these rights," he said.

He said equipping police with judo skills was necessitated by the fact that
a number of officers had been killed by criminals while on duty.
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      FML ship in stormy waters

      Nelson Banya
      7/29/2004 7:54:06 AM (GMT +2)

      THE beleaguered First Mutual Asset Management (FMAM) company, saddled
with a mountain of delinquent debt owed to Syfrets Merchant and Corporate
Bank (Sybank), has turned the heat on Royal Bank, on which it has laid a
hefty $70 billion claim.

      Sources privy to the unfolding drama, the latest chapter in the First
Mutual Limited (FML) tale of woe, indicate that the dispute with Royal Bank,
which has refused to recognise FMAM's "exceedingly exaggerated" claim, could
yet re-open a can of worms.

      The case is likely to touch off a legal minefield because Royal claims
that securities worth $14.12 billion, placed with FML, had mysteriously
disappeared. But it is understood that FMAM insists that Royal should be
placed under compulsory liquidation for failure to pay the disputed debt.

      Investigations by The Financial Gazette revealed that the debt arose
from a deal struck in November 2003 during the run-up to FML's listing on
the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE).

      The exposure of the transaction, which entailed Royal Bank financing
Capital Alliance, a management investment vehicle which ultimately acquired
the biggest shareholding (20 percent) in FML, provides fresh evidence of how
the fateful deal went awry.

      "FML management approached Royal Bank for finance to purchase shares
at the listing of first Mutual Limited. It was agreed that an amount of $6.5
billion would be granted to Capital Alliance, the management vehicle.

      "First Mutual would, in turn, place a deposit of $6.5 billion with the
bank, which amount would be used to cover the payment for the shares," a
source said.

      This is in spite of FML's earlier protestations that Capital Alliance
had raised the $29 billion required to acquire the FML stock in transactions
"carried out on an arm's length basis and no funding or guarantees were
provided by First Mutual Limited."

      Royal Bank still holds the shares, bought on behalf of Capital
Alliance, as security. According to sources, the $6.5 billion deposited by
FML would only be repaid upon repayment by Capital Alliance. To date,
Capital Alliance has made no payment, both of principal and interest, which
was due in May.

      Apart from the $6.5 billion, another transaction involving $7.99
billion was struck, secured by the misplaced securities amounting to $14.12

      Royal contends that the lost securities had been bought outright and
reflected as liquid assets in its books.

      "The bank has paid First Mutual amounts now totalling $4 billion, but
no securities have been released to the bank.

      "The amount being claimed is exceedingly exaggerated by the new FMAM
management and does not take into account the lost securities and
understanding regarding the underlying transaction in Capital Alliance. It
is made up of 6 months interest totalling $55 billion on capital of $14

      "The bank has not agreed to this amount," the source added.

      Royal, which is mindful of the effects of the hefty claim on its
survival, is also claiming interest on the lost securities and holding out
against further payments until the outstanding issues are resolved.

      The eruption of FMAM's row with Royal into the public domain will
increase pressure on FML, which has already been suspended twice this year
by the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE).

      Sources said FML management was yesterday making frantic efforts to
craft a cautionary statement to shareholders as it emerged that Sybank, a
subsidiary of the ZSE-listed Zimbabwe Financial Holdings Limited (Finhold)
group, was likely to push for the liquidation of FMAM, whose obligation to
the latter is reported to have swelled significantly due to interest

      Unconfirmed reports last night indicated that the cautionary statement
would say FMAM had gone into voluntary liquidation, citing the funds it is
purportedly owed by Royal.

      Finhold insiders told The Financial Gazette that the debt arose from
normal money market dealings between the two institutions.

      The circumstances of the FMAM/Sybank debt, which the two entities'
listed parent companies had previously kept under wraps until the simmering
dispute erupted into the open, suggests that much has not been disclosed by
financial institutions, analysts said this week.

      "Certain important information is glossed over and hidden under off
balance sheet items. What would explain the reluctance by the two public
companies to supply their shareholders and the market with information
surrounding the debt, apart from a premeditated plan not to disclose vital
information?" one analyst queried.

      He added that FMAM's inability to settle with Sybank was indicative of
underlying problems at the firm, which is yet to be registered by the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), now overlord over the registration of all
financial institutions.

      Outside of the flagship life business, FMAM, which managed assets in
excess of $160 billion as of December, is the second most important part of
FML's business after Trust Holdings Limited (Trust) in which FML holds a 25
percent stake.

      The 60 percent owned FMAM contributed a net deficit of $16 billion to
FML in the year to December 2003 as a result of a $27 billion loss arising
from irrecoverable investments in the collapsed ENG Asset Management.

      The loss triggered a bitter dispute between FMAM and Finhold's
Zimbabwe Banking Corporation (Zimbank), with the former accusing Zimbank of
refusing to cash ENG cheques made out to FMAM, resulting in gross prejudice.

      FMAM contended that Zimbank dishonoured the ENG cheques despite the
fact that the ENG account had sufficient funds to back the cheques.

      Apart from the treasury function, FMAM is involved in pension fund
management, unit trusts and manages FML's property portfolio, which includes
the pristine First Mutual Park in Borrowdale, Harare, Arundel Office Park,
Pearl House and the Collonade in Msasa, among other properties.

      FMAM managing director Wellington Zengeza could not be reached for
comment yesterday, although GFML management is expected to hold a press
conference this morning.

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      Minister Moyo loses Daily News case

      Brian Mangwende
      7/29/2004 7:54:29 AM (GMT +2)

      THE High Court yesterday ordered Information Minister Jonathan Moyo to
pay $2.5 million in defamation charges against The Associated Newspapers of
Zimbabwe (ANZ).

      ANZ, publishers of the defunct Daily News and The Daily News on
Sunday, successfully sued Moyo following defamatory statements he made
against The Daily News and its staffers in The Herald on May 17, June 3,
June 10, June 14, June 15 and June 18 2003.

      The High Court also ordered Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers) Private
Limited to pay $5 million and columnist Nathaniel Manheru to pay $250 000 as
the second and third respondents respectively. Herald editor Pikirayi
Deketeke claimed that he was Manheru.

      The judgment was handed down yesterday in the High Court on behalf of
Justice Yunus Omerjee. Details of the full judgment are yet to be made

      The defendants' lawyer, Johannes Tomana, said his clients would
definitely appeal against the judgment.

      "Defendants are going to appeal against the decision within the
prescribed 14 days," Tomana said.

      Simon Sadoma of Gill, Godlonton and Gerrans, the lawyers representing
ANZ had this to say of the judgment: "It's a victory for press freedom."

      Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) director Sarah Chiumbu said:
"It's a progressive move by the judiciary because of late the media has been
receiving a lot of negative judgments. We hope that such cases, when they
crop up, are handled on merit and not influenced by politics.
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      Minister cited in MDC supporter's death

      Brian Mangwende
      7/29/2004 7:54:58 AM (GMT +2)

      FORMER Minister of Youth Development, Gender and Employment Creation,
Elliot Manyika, faces claims for $135 million in connection with the death
of a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporter and injuries to another
during violence which marred the Zengeza by-election held about four months

      The claims against Manyika, who has since been relegated to the
obscure post of Minister Without Portfolio in the President's Office, come
amid a cacophony of angry voices over the bloodshed and shootings that have
characterised Zimbabwe's elections.

      Violence, which has become a trademark of the country's elections, has
been blamed on growing intolerance for political opponents and

      The claims against Manyika, the ruling ZANU PF legislator for Bindura
who was dumped from his former ministerial portfolio in the last mini
Cabinet reshuffle, are contained in High Court cases 8359/04 and 8360/04 in
which the plaintiffs Arthur Chinozvina and Aurther Gunzvenzve have filed
summonses implicating Manyika in the sudden death of 22-year-old Francis
Chinozvina, an MDC activist and the injuries to Gunzvenzve. Manyika is
currently ZANU PF's political commissar.

      In papers prepared by Magwaliba, Mathuthu and Kwirira Legal
Practitioners and filed at in court on June 30 2004, it is claimed on behalf
of Francis Chinozvina that:

      "On or about the 28th of March 2004 and at Chitungwiza near the
residence of a Movement for Democratic Change parliamentary candidate, the
defendant caused to be discharged a firearm into the direction of the late
Francis Chinozvina and others.

      "The discharging of a firearm in a public place and in the presence of
a considerable number of persons was deliberate or alternatively grossly
negligent. As a result of the defendant's conduct, one bullet from his
firearm hit the person of Francis Chinozvina causing serious and severe
injuries as a result of which he died immediately."

      It is claimed that before his death Chinozvina was a commodity broker
earning $1 million monthly and supporting several dependants including five
minor children left behind by his late brother.

      The plaintiff claims, on his own behalf and the minor children, from
Manyika $20 million in respect of funeral expenses, $30 million for his own
loss of support and damages and $40 million for loss of support and damages
for the minors.

      In the second case, Gunzvenzve claims that as a result of the
shooting, he sustained a huge hole across the shin, severe wounds around the
lower part of his knee and severe damage to the knee cartilage and tendons
and wants $45 million from Manyika.

      Gunzvenzve's claim is for $20 million for medical expenses incurred,
$15 million for future medical expenses and $10 million for damage, pain,
suffering, shock, disfigurement and loss of amenities of life.

      Manyika's address in both summonses is cited as 55 Shaneragh Road,
Mandara, Harare. Contacted for comment, Manyika said he had sold that
property in 1999 and had not had sight of the summonses.

      "They are dreamers," Manyika said. "I sold the house in 55 Shaneragh
in 1999. I don't live there anymore. As far as I am concerned, that story is
a non-starter. The police have already said that I was nowhere near
Chitungwiza on that day."

      In earlier press reports published in the government-controlled media,
police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena exonerated Manyika, saying the Member
of Parliament for Bindura was in his constituency at the time of the
incident and that his alibi had been confirmed by the Electoral Supervisory
Commission chairman, Sobusa Gula-Ndebele, police officers at a roadblock in
Mazowe, personnel at Mazowe Hotel and employees at his farm.

      Bvudzijena was quoted as saying: "As much as we would want members of
the public to come forward with information, we will only tolerate
reasonable and substantive information that can be used in a court of law".

      The police subsequently arrested a 43-year-old Arcturus man identified
as Ernest Matsotso in connection with the Zengeza skirmishes. Matsotso has
since appeared at the Harare magistrates' court in connection with the

      The bloody Zengeza by-election was won by ZANU PF's Christopher
Chigumba, who trounced MDC's "imposed candidate" James Makore. Makore has
since filed a petition in the High Court challenging the outcome of the poll
results, arguing that the by election was riddled with violence. The Zengeza
seat fell vacant following the abrupt departure of MDC legislator Tafadzwa
Musekiwa to the United Kingdom citing security reasons.

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      ZANU PF official grabs 50 houses, stands

      7/29/2004 7:57:14 AM (GMT +2)

      THE scandal-ridden Municipality of Chegutu has produced a damning
report alleging that controversial ZANU PF councillor and deputy mayor
Pheneas Mariyapera acquired 50 houses and stands worth millions in a
well-orchestrated scam that could drag in senior government and ruling party
provincial officials in Mashonaland West.

      The report, dated June 29 2004 and sent to Local Government, Public
Works and National Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo on July 5 2004, was
compiled by the acting town clerk, Marufu Chigwenzi Zinyowera, after
residents and council workers had queried the continued decline of services
in the town.

      Mariyapera, who is said to have the backing of ZANU PF Mashonaland
West provincial bigwigs, was implicated in an earlier report by a government
task force as the chief culprit behind the disappearance of funds from the
council's drying coffers as well as the abuse of $150 million in ratepayers'

      On the acquisition of council stands and houses, the report said it
was common knowledge that most of the houses had not been paid for in the
normal way.

      "The deputy mayor has in his name 23 houses/stands. In addition, there
are at least 27 others registered under his family name - Vhurumundu," the
report said. "There is wanton disregard for municipal by-laws with respect
to the location of buildings. The extent of interference in management and
nepotism is highlighted . . . which shows the list of Mariyapera's relatives
employed by the Municipality of Chegutu . . . All of these buildings belong
to the deputy mayor and his circle of friends who openly boast that Chegutu
is their turf."

      Zinyowera said there was an additional list of Mariyapera's friends
currently being compiled.

      "The final proven figure of stands and houses owned by the clique is
staggering, taking into account the size of Chegutu.

      "Unless the above areas are redressed decisively, no amount of
recapitalisation will bring normalcy to the Municipality of Chegutu," the
report said.

      "There is need for the party (ZANU PF) to launch an immediate and
thorough investigation into the above and other areas of concern," it said.

      According to the damning report, Zinyowera said to bring normalcy back
to the Chegutu Town Council, issues that needed urgent attention included
greed in the acquisition of property and stands by councillors and council
employees and strategic recruitment and placement of workers with criminal
intents leading to the abuse of the home ownership scheme.

      Other burning issues, the report said, included the wanton destruction
and conversion of municipal capital equipment to personal use by councillors
and nepotism in the recruitment and promotion for council workers and
defeating the course of justice by protecting criminals.

      Efforts to get comment from Chombo's office proved fruitless.

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      MDC's fence-sitting sends confusing signals

      Brian Mangwende
      7/29/2004 7:58:37 AM (GMT +2)

      THE Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)'s indecision over
participating in next year's crucial parliamentary election has caused a hue
and cry among a highly expectant but now equally confused electorate.

      As they struggled to weigh the political meaning and basic
significance of the MDC's announcement that it will have to test the waters
first before deciding whether or not to participate in the poll, analysts
were unanimous that the wait-and-see attitude adopted by the country's
largest opposition party was likely to boomerang.

      The MDC, together with other unidentified political parties and
interest groups, will this week launch the Broad Alliance.

      The alliance's specific brief will be to gauge the mood of voters in
the run-up to the general election, scheduled for March.

      The alliance will also ascertain from the electorate whether or not
the MDC should participate in the poll. It is only after this exercise that
the opposition party will make its decision.

      But the analysts said it was high time the MDC made up its mind,
otherwise it risked the danger of a serious political backlash because the
long-suffering masses whose hopes the opposition party had raised could feel

      The poignant message from the analysts was that the opposition party,
which the government of President Robert Mugabe accuses of being a Western
front to effect regime change in Zimbabwe, had to make its choice now.
Either it was for the election or against it.

      Failure to do this, one analyst said, would send wrong signals that
could be interpreted to mean that "deep down the opposition party leadership
knows that it does not have what it takes to win an election against ZANU
PF. This will mean that they have decided to become career politicians who
will bid for their time in some distant future when there are electoral

      Alois Masepe, who had a failed flirtation with opposition politics in
the early 1990s, said of the MDC's apparent indecision over the election:
"They don't have a political strategy. Given the short time left before the
election, the MDC needs to come clean and say they are either participating
or not. This is not a guerrilla warfare issue. It's either they are
participating or not. They should stop reacting to events and start
initiating them."

      He warned: "Their indecision will replicate itself in the electorate.
The electorate will also be hazy as to whether to vote or not, register to
vote or not. Time is running out. Right now there is voter confusion that
eventually may lead to voter apathy and the ruling party is likely to thrive
and come out the victor in voter apathy situations."

      According to Masepe, the MDC, led by former trade union leader Morgan
Tsvangirai, had to make up its mind. The opposition political party, he
said, should either embrace the "cosmetic" electoral changes introduced by
the government, recognise President Mugabe as the legitimate head of state
and "hope that one day they will change things along the way or refuse to
participate completely until the electoral playing field has been levelled".

      Tsvangirai has since said that unless ZANU PF made genuine efforts to
ensure that the electoral laws, which are heavily in favour of the ruling
party, were addressed in line with international standards, the opposition
party would boycott the polls. The opposition leader recently said his party
would not accept "half a loaf".

      This was after the government, which stands accused of stifling
democratic space, rigging elections and systematic bullying and intimidation
of voters has proposed reforms to the Electoral Act.

      Critics, however, say the changes are not comprehensive enough. They
argue that unless repressive laws such as the despised Access to Information
and Protection of Privacy Act and the draconian Public Order and Security
Act are repealed, the reforms proposed by the government will be

      The director of Women in Politics Support Unit, Janah Ncube, had this
to say about the MDC's political strategy: "The MDC is creating a perception
that they are undecided yet in actual fact they are readying themselves for
the election. This can be confirmed by the recent confirmation process,
which has caused tension within the MDC.

      "I believe that the MDC has embarked on this road (perceived
indecision) as a political strategy to create a certain atmosphere to its
advantage. Although they have not openly declared to their membership
whether or not they will participate in the 2005 election, they have sent
signals that they will take part."

      Political commentator and ZANU PF sympathiser Jonathan Kadzura said
the MDC's stance was a function of a complete loss of confidence on the part
of the opposition in its electorate, hence the need to form an alliance to
gauge the mood of the people before making a concrete decision.

      "The principal supporters of the MDC were white farmers who had
something to protect - land that they thought was theirs," Kadzura said.

      "The youths seem to have lost confidence in the MDC as well. The
Zimbabwe economy, which seems to have been the main weapon against ZANU PF,
has now gone through the wind twister and is now beginning to show up
against the background of a successful land reform

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      Outcry over NGO law

      Njabulo Ncube
      7/29/2004 7:59:03 AM (GMT +2)

      PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe, wary of civic groupings the government
suspects are working in cahoots with the main opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) to wrest political power, is leaving nothing to
chance to "bury" the opposition in next year's parliamentary polls.

      President Mugabe, whose recent electoral changes have been dismissed
by critics as the beginning of the road to nowhere, has already declared
next year's parliamentary polls as a fight against his arch-enemy, British
Prime Minister Tony Blair, and his perceived "puppet", the MDC.

      To this end, the veteran leader - whose claims to a popular mandate to
rule Zimbabwe are bitterly disputed by the opposition - is already pushing
forward stringent legislation to regulate the operations of non-governmental
organisa-tions (NGOs).

      The proposed legislation is envisaged to be passed into law when
Parliament resumes sitting in August. The measures are seen by analysts as
tactics to push out NGOs and civic organisations likely to drum up political
support for the MDC, especially in the rural areas, the ruling party's

      On one hand, most of the NGOs in Zimbabwe, just like in most Third
World countries, are funded from the West. On the other, the MDC is accused
of being a Western front being used to effect regime change in the country.

      The government claims that Western countries, led by Blair, sponsor
most of the NGOs indirectly through various shadowy intelligence
organisations linked to their respective governments.

      The West, on its part, makes no secret of its impatience with
President Mugabe. It has just come short of demanding that he resigns as it
believes that a new man at the helm could do better than the incumbent.

      It is against this background that President Mugabe accuses
non-governmental organisations of meddling in Zimbabwe's domestic politics
and now wants to outlaw funding of NGOs by foreign sponsors or donors, among
other proposed stringent measures. This is widely seen as an attempt to
thwart groups seen as sympathetic to the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC.

      "Non-governmental organisations must work for the betterment of our
country and not against it. We cannot allow them to be conduits or
instruments of foreign interference in our national affairs," President
Mugabe said during the official opening of the Fifth Session of the Fifth
Parliament of Zimbabwe.

      "My government will, during this session, introduce a Bill repealing
the private Voluntary Organisation Act and replace it with a law that will
create a Non-Governmental Organisation Council, whose thrust will be to
ensure rationalisation of macro-management of all NGOs," said President
Mugabe, much to the delight of ZANU PF supporters.

      The proposed Bill, a draft of which has been seen by The Financial
Gazette, has sent shivers down the spines of local NGOs, the international
community and the opposition, who view the envisaged legislation as another
assault on democratic forces in Zimbabwe.

      Many rights groups say the proposed Bill, if enacted into law in its
present state, would close a majority of NGOs operating in Zimbabwe in the
same "crude and cruel" fashion the Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act (AIPPA) shut down three private newspaper within 12 months.

      "The proposed NGO Council is an MIC (Media and Information Commission)
in the making," said an NGO representative, speaking on condition that he is
not named. "Just like AIPPA, the proposed Bill reeks," he added.

      The draft Non-Governmental Organisations Bill, 2004, when it is passed
into law by Parliament in which ZANU PF enjoys a majority, prohibits local
NGOs from receiving outside money, carrying out activities relating to
governance - a general term for human rights issues - and civic education.

      Analysts said it would be extremely difficult for local NGOs to
operate without foreign funding and the National Association of
Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) has issued "Bill alerts" advising its
membership on the draconian nature of the proposed law.

      The draft of the Bill, which is now circulating among NGOs in
Zimbabwe, states that foreign non-governmental organisations involved in
human rights and civic education will not be registered.

      The proposed Act will also provide for the creation of a
Non-Governmental Organisations Council as well as the creation of a new
position of a registrar of NGOs.

      The draft states that all NGOs must be registered with the state
council and no foreign organisation could operate "if its sole principle or
objective involves or includes issues of governance".

      It reads in part: "No local non-governmental organisation shall
receive any foreign funding or donation to carry out activities involving or
including issues of governance."

      The proposed NGOs Council's main function will be "to consider and
determine every application for registration and every proposed cancellation
or amendment of a certificate of registration."

      The council, to be made up of five appointed NGO representatives and
eight appointees from different government departments as well as from the
President's Office, will also formulate a code of conduct for NGOs.

      Registered NGOs will be required to submit to the registrar a copy of
audited accounts for a year. Inspectors, appointed by the Ministry of Public
Service, Labour and Social Welfare, will have the right to examine the books
of any NGO.

      The minister, wielding the power to de-register or dissolve any NGOs,
will also rule on appeals brought by aggrieved NGOs.

      Brussels-based Amnesty International, a human rights watchdog, has
categorically slated the latest manoeuvres by President Mugabe to interfere
in the operations of NGOs. It said the proposed legislation had been crafted
specifically to silence President Mugabe's critics among civic groupings.

      "As with other legislation in the past two years, the government will
use this new Bill to silence critical voices and further restrict the right
to freedom of expression. It is a clear attempt by the government to
suppress dissenting views as parliamentary elections scheduled for March
2005 draw closer."

      Amnesty International called on President Mugabe to immediately repeal
or amend all legislation which violated the right to freedom of expression,
association and assembly.

      The organisation said President Mugabe should bring national
legislation in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, the African Charter and other international human rights standards.
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      The worst is over, claims Gono

      Nelson Banya
      7/29/2004 7:57:40 AM (GMT +2)

      WHEN Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono took over the
mantle from Leonard Tsumba last December, many thought the distinguished
banker and turnaround expert had taken on a challenge that would do untold
damage to his reputation.

      Indeed, Gono himself would, in jest, ask the multitudes who jostled to
congratulate him on his appointment, if it was not more appropriate for them
to extend their commiserations.

      Eight eventful months on, the affable Gono's boundless energy has been
emitted throughout the financial sector, while his unfailing optimism has
spilled beyond the borders - to some of the most unlikely corridors in

      There is also an unmistakable stubborn resolution and seriousness,
nay, austerity, that belies the governor's outward bonhomie, as most banking
executives will testify.

      Which is why Gono's bold declaration during Tuesday's monetary policy
review statement that "the worst is over" did not elicit the sort of
sniggers it most probably would have just six months ago.

      Yet the facts on the ground, coupled with the trusted assessments of
institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and South
Africa's Stanbic Bank, do seem to give credence to the assertion.

      The inflation scourge has since been decidedly tamed. Monthly
inflation, which peaked at 34 percent in November 2003, averaged 6.6 percent
between February and June 2004.

      Annually, inflation peaked at an all-time high of 623 percent in
January, but has since declined by 228 percentage points to 394.6 percent as
of June. RBZ officials and neutrals alike believe the 200 percent year-end
target is achievable.

      "Relentless efforts will continue to be applied to extinguish the
inflation scourge from the economy in line with our targets of 200 percent
by December 2004 and further down to double digits by mid- 2005," Gono said.

      On the exchange rate front, the anticipated collapse of the $824:1US$
surrender rate and the weighted average auction rate did not materialise,
much to the predictable chagrin of the exporting community.

      While the revision of the diaspora floor rate, from $5 200 to $5 600
against the US$ is likely to see the auction rate creeping up from the
current $5 300, exporters are not likely to be appeased.

      Instead, the RBZ has refined the carrot and stick export retention
scheme, effectively reducing the portion of export proceeds to be
surrendered to the central bank at the much-loathed official $824:1US$ rate.

      Exporters making pre-payments will continue to retain 80 percent of
their export proceeds in their foreign currency accounts (FCAs), with the
remainder being converted at the ruling auction rate.

      Acquittals made within 30 days will now attract a 75 percent retention
level, with no funds liquidated at the official rate, meaning the remaining
25 percent will be converted at the ruling auction rate, currently about
$5300 to the greenback.

      Export proceeds acquitted within 31 to 60 days will see exporters
retaining 70 percent of their earnings in FCAs, while 15 percent will be
converted at the official rate and the remainder at the auction rate.

      For acquittals made during the 61 to 90-day period, exporters will
retain 60 percent in their FCAs, while 15 percent is converted at the
official rate and 25 percent at the auction rate.

      Separate conditions have been set for the horticulture sector, whose
acquittal periods have been compressed, while the sector has been rid of the
surrender arrangement at the official rate.

      The gold support price has been adjusted from $71 000 to $85 000 per
gramme while tobacco merchants have retained the right to keep 100 percent
of their export proceeds, to the extent of draw downs made on the relevant
offshore loans.

      The new gold price roughly adds up to US$430 per ounce, against the
current international bullion price of US$394.

      On the banking sector, currently comprising of some 41 institutions,
Gono expressed satisfaction over the calming waters after the first quarter
tempest that threatened to sweep away several locally owned banks.

      "Out of the 41 banking institutions, five are under curatorship, two
under liquidation and four are still under the Troubled Bank Fund, but we
are pleased to report that as of yesterday (Monday) one bank settled its
obligation and is now out of the fund, leaving just three.

      "On the balance, therefore, Zimbabwe's financial sector remains highly
stable, with 73 percent of banking institutions being in a solid, safe and
sound condition," Gono said.

      Although no information was let out concerning Trust Bank Corporation,
which got over $200 billion from the Troubled Bank Fund, but whose
obligation to the RBZ has since ballooned to about $1 trillion through
interest charges, there was an indication that the authorities were looking
to resolve the issue and that of other banks remaining on life support, in
the next quarter.

      While most economic players and analysts have been won over and bought
into the Gono prescription which, by his own admission, has some
unorthodoxies not to be found in economics journals and textbooks, it is
also insightful to note that some foreign investors are beginning to take a
keen interest in Zimbabwe.

      South African mining mogul and big deal maker, Mzilikazi Khumalo, who
was in attendance at the RBZ on Tuesday, professed to taking a sunny view of
the environment across the Limpopo.

      "I must say the governor has done very well in bringing about positive
changes," said Khumalo, who also revealed that his Metallon group, which
owns the Independence Gold Mining group, was looking at expanding its local

      Congolese businessman Kalaa Mpinga, who led his Mwana Africa
consortium in taking over the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed Bindura Nickel
Corporation (BNC), was also in attendance and shared Khumalo's optimism,
doubtless impressed by another new RBZ innovation - the Accelerated Foreign
Direct Investment Window (AFDIW).

      The window, which opens with effect from September 1 and closes in
December 2006, will have several attractive concessions which include
unfettered access to foreign currency proceeds and full remittance of
dividends in foreign currency.

      In the event of political risk, the investors will have the option of
activating emergency exit options, with the RBZ making available foreign
exchange equivalent to the original investment.

      The facility will apply to all new FDIs in infrastructure development,
mining, manufacturing and other agro-based processing industries and export
generating ventures.

      While Khumalo and Mpinga, who have given the novel initiative the
thumbs up, could well be just two swallows who cannot necessarily make a
summer, they are two big swallows who hold much sway and are some of the
most significant among the precious few foreign investors to commit funds to
Zimbabwe in recent years.

      The jury might well be out, but the verdict looks set to be far from
the certain failure many predicted when Gono became independent Zimbabwe's
third RBZ governor.
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      Food security controversy rages on

      Charles Rukuni
      7/29/2004 7:59:30 AM (GMT +2)

      BULAWAYO - A parliamentary portfolio committee tasked with assessing
the current food situation in the country nearly two months ago has not yet
met, despite the urgency of the matter.

      And it is likely to be reconstituted, with new members coming in, when
Parliament resumes sitting on August 11.

      The 11-member portfolio committee on lands, agriculture, water
development, rural resources and resettlement, chaired by ZANU PF Member of
Parliament for Zhombe Daniel McKenzie Ncube, was tasked with investigating
the food situation in the country following conflicting reports about the
availability of grain.

      The government, which has been accused of playing politics of the
stomach to force people to vote for the ruling ZANU PF, claims that the
country has enough food, while donors and the West insist that Zimbabwe
faces a massive deficit.

      Parliament asked the committee to investigate the issue after Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) shadow minister for agriculture Renson Gasela
asked Agriculture Minister Joseph Made to prove to the nation that Zimbabwe,
a former regional bread-basket-turned- basket-case, indeed had enough food.

      Made, who government critics maintain should not be trusted as he has
misled the nation before over the country's food security situation, said
the portfolio committee, comprising two chiefs and four MDC members, could
carry out its own assessment.

      Gasela, who is a member of the panel, said the committee had not done
anything yet because of the adjournment of Parliament. He said it had,
however, written to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), the country's granary,
requesting information but the parastatal had not responded yet.

      "They probably don't have a reply because the situation is pathetic,"
Gasela, a former general manager of the GMB who joined the MDC after falling
out with the government, said.

      "Only last week I was in Mhangura, which is the hub of maize growing,
and I only noticed something like 10 000 tonnes. The depot there usually
handles between 50 000 and 60 000 tonnes and by this time it should have
around 40 000 tonnes."

      Gasela said the committee's work could be further delayed because the
panel was likely to be reconstituted when Parliament resumes sitting. This
meant that some members might be dropped, with others coming in. But he
would definitely be in the committee because of his position as a shadow
minister for agriculture.

      The question about whether Zimbabwe has enough food or not has been
tossed around since the beginning of the current marketing year in April.

      The government said the country would harvest about 2.4 million tonnes
of maize, more than adequate for national consumption.

      It allegedly stopped the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP)
from carrying out an assessment survey of the food situation, leading to an
outcry from donors and the West that Zimbabwe did not have enough grain but
wanted to use the little available as a political tool ahead of next year's

      The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which was working in
conjunction with the WFP, said this year's maize harvest would only be 708
073 tonnes, against a national requirement of 1.8 million tonnes.

      The country would, therefore, have to import 995 927 tonnes and still
remain with a deficit of 315 927 tonnes.

      The FAO/WFP figures were, however, based on an assessment of three
provinces, Mashonaland West, Manicaland and Matabeleland North. The survey
said 30-40 percent of the farmers would run out of food from their own
stocks by the end of this month (July).

      The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS), a United States
Agency for International Development-funded programme, on the other hand,
said about 2.3 million people would require external food assistance of
about 178 000 tonnes.

      It said 22 of the country's 57 districts had a deficit. Manicaland had
the highest number of food-insecure people while Mashonaland West had the

      FEWS, however, pointed out that absolute figures obscured the fact
that the two Matabeleland provinces had the highest proportion of
food-insecure people in relation to their total rural populations.

      In his official opening of Parliament last week, President Robert
Mugabe insisted that the country had enough food.

      "Regardless of what our detractors may be saying or doing, the
relatively good agricultural season has given full play to our agricultural
potential already enhanced by our land reforms," he said.

      "Except in those parts of our country which are traditionally
susceptible to precarious harvests, we have, in the rest of the country,
managed to reap a good harvest, certainly one good enough to meet our needs
and food requirements until the next season."

      In an editorial after President Mugabe's opening of Parliament, Voice
of America, said to reflect the views of the United States government, the
major donor of maize to Zimbabwe during the past few years, said: "Robert
Mugabe, Zimbabwe's President, says he expects his country will produce more
than enough food to feed Zimbabweans this year, with enough left over for
export. Mr Mugabe is lying - and Zimbabweans will suffer the consequences."

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      Govt's deficit spending continues unabated

      Felix Njini
      7/29/2004 8:00:01 AM (GMT +2)

      ZIMBABWE'S budget deficit, which has averaged 10 percent of gross
domestic product for the past decade, shows no sign of abating unless swift
remedial action is taken against the government's insatiable appetite for

      Indications are that the government, facing competing demands on the
fiscus, is unlikely to bite the bullet and sate its appetite for spending,
which has fuelled inflation and a ballooning domestic debt.

      The government's rampant spending, worsened by the need to import
food, fuel and fund elections, is expected to widen the budget deficit
beyond its $1.41 trillion target.

      In his mid-term fiscal policy review, acting Finance Minister Herbert
Murerwa said the budget deficit stood at $678 billion after the first half
of the year, against a full-year target of $1.41 trillion.

      Economic analysts raised fears that public expenditure would shoot
beyond the target, citing the government's record of fiscal indiscipline,
the forthcoming elections and continued parcelling out of billions of
dollars to pathetically performing parastatals in the form of debt relief.

      Murerwa, who did not give details as to where the $678 billion had
gone, hinted that the fiscus was under pressure from some government

      "While government remains committed to prudent expenditure management,
as demonstrated in the first half of the year, the budget continues to be
confronted by numerous requests for additional unbudgeted funding.

      "These are inconsistent with government measures and targets to
further lower inflation," Murerwa said.

      Analysts said expenditure was still consumptive, with insignificant
funds being channelled towards capital development.

      Parastatals are still draining the fiscus despite assertions by the
government it had stopped handouts.

      Economist Danny Meyer said the government's record of fiscal
discipline was pathetic.

      Meyer said the government had failed to respect budgets for over a
decade, contributing to Zimbabwe's economic woes.

      Analysts have been calling for a budget that reins in government
spending while giving direction to the country's long-rudderless economy.

      "This is the same government which has failed to spend within its
limits. I do not see them changing now, especially considering that they are
fighting for political survival," Meyer said.

      Previous finance ministers have been reluctant to give handouts to
parastatals, yet the leadership in those companies is still assured of
funding and has not curtailed expenditure.

      The government's reckless spending is despite the country's worst
economic crisis ever, characterised by chronic foreign currency shortages, a
70 percent unemployment rate and record inflation, which peaked at 623
percent in January but has since slowed down to around 395 percent.

      Apart from slashing expenditure, the finance ministry should punish
errant ministries for budget overruns, one of the chief causes of Zimbabwe's
economic woes, the analysts said.

      "Parliament must show that it has teeth and that it can bite. Culprits
have to face the risk of losing their jobs if expenditure is to be
controlled," Meyer said.

      He warned the government and monetary authorities of the risk of
becoming "big brother waiting with a fat cheque book to bail out
parastatals, perennial crybabies".

      The government has shown little inclination towards development of
roads, dams and street lighting. Even government offices are in a state of
great disrepair, with little renovation being undertaken.

      But it has insisted that an economic turnaround was on the cards,
though critics dispute this assertion, saying there was no evidence of a

      The economy is expected to shrink by 8.5 percent in 2004. It has been
contracting at an average rate of 10 percent during the past three years.

      Tony Hawkins of the University of Zimbabwe's Graduate of School of
Business accused the government of not divulging its expenditure patterns.

      Hawkins said unbudgeted expenses were one reason why the government
ended up in budget overruns.

      Trust Holdings group economist David Mupamhadzi noted that while the
government, for the past six months, had managed to spend below target, the
overall performance of parastatals was still a cause for concern.

      State-controlled enterprises have been shying away from the productive
sector funding introduced by the central bank to bail out ailing firms.

      "The challenge is for the fiscus to balance political and economic
considerations. It also depends on the overall performance on revenue side,
behaviour of inflation and whether ministries are not going to come and ask
for supplementary budgets," Mupamhadzi said.

      "But the major worry is the performance of parastatals. So far only
four have applied to utilise productive sector finance," he said.

      Parastatals are shying away from the productive sector facility mostly
because their accounts have not been audited for the past four years.

      Erich Bloch, an economic commentator who sits on the central bank
advisory board, concurred that the government was spending very little on
capital projects.

      Bloch said the health, education and foreign affairs ministries were
gobbling most of the money.

      The analysts said a return to the rule of law and market-driven
policies would attract international assistance, which might curb the
government's over-reliance on the domestic financial sector.

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      Whither the golden leaf?

      7/29/2004 8:29:29 AM (GMT +2)

      WITH the economy suffering ill health, the imminent collapse of key
economic sub-sectors such as the erstwhile premier hard currency earner,
tobacco, can be frightening to say the least. The local tobacco industry,
mainly geared for the unmanufactured international leaf market, had up until
recently, established a wonderful footprint on the international markets
where it had had a reputation for quality.

      Despite the intensifying international anti-smoking lobby, Zimbabwean
tobacco has for a long time enjoyed something akin to a captive market.
There has always been a gap for the local leaf, especially for blending
purposes by international cigarette manufacturers. But now there is
understandable growing concern over the swift terrifying decline in tobacco
production, which has traditionally been the country's major earner of the
greenback - in demand as the reserve currency worldwide.

      The crop, which at its peak earned the country in excess of US$600
million per season, will at most earn just about a quarter of that this
year. This makes for some pretty dismal reading especially at this irksome
moment for the country coming as it does against a background of an
accelerated slowdown in overall export performance. Previously exports made
up mainly of tobacco, horticultural products, cotton and gold among other
commodities, accounted for a very significant proportion of the country's
gross domestic product (GDP).

      But how the pendulum has frighteningly swung too far the other way.
The golden leaf has lost its lustre and now faces an uncertain outlook. The
critical tobacco sub-sector's faltering fortunes is a microcosm of the
shrunken state of the whole of the agriculture sector - the engine that once
powered Zimbabwe's previously robust economy, which is now entrenched in
stagflation - where rising inflation is accompanied by static industrial
production and or falling employment levels.

      It therefore goes without saying that the decline in tobacco
production in particular and agriculture in general will have serious
ramifications for the country's economy struggling to break out from the
doldrums - especially where a strong export performance could be the
electric jolt needed to light up the fuse for the seemingly elusive early
economic recovery.

      Indeed cynics and those opposed to the approach, style and form of the
land reform would say that the unfolding but deep-seated crisis in the
agricultural sector reads more like a chronicle of a catastrophe foretold.
Before the deeply embarrassing and retrogressive multiple farm allocation
debacle, the government had been warned that it should strike a careful
balance between legal security and economic flexibility to provide optimum
opportunity to achieve the objectives of equitable land redistribution. This
approach would not only economically empower the historically marginalised
blacks but also ensure the safety and survival of the goose that lays the
golden egg. Instead, government dismissed this as a see-through red herring
by those caught between reality and insecurity in the face of the agrarian
reforms and political detractors bent on cooking its own goose.

      However, that the imminent collapse of the tobacco industry will send
seismic disturbances throughout the fragile economy which has since lost
crucial balance-of-payments support when the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) slammed the door on it over policy differences, is an understatement
of significant proportions. Not only that but also of concern is that these
developments bode ill for the country as a reliable tobacco producer.

      In fact, at the risk of stating the obvious, we have to point out that
international confidence in Zimbabwe as a reliable supplier has since
evaporated. That explains why key traditional international buyers for the
golden leaf are already casting around for alternative producers for a
guaranteed supply. These international tobacco buyers need a guaranteed
supply because they are in for the long haul. They do not buy the crop on an
ad hoc basis.

      This is why they are looking elsewhere for fear of being wrong-footed
in the event of the now sickly local tobacco industry collapsing. And given
this scenario, a return to a normal relationship with these long-established
lucrative international markets will not only be difficult but lengthy.

      Opinions on the reason for this disturbing trend in the tobacco
industry and the frightening situation it has put us in are starkly divided
but the one that has gained a lot of currency is directly linked to the land
reform which even the government has since admitted is riddled with
irregularities. The law of the unintended consequences took hold when the
controversy-tinged land reform, ostensibly meant to address historic
injustices and inequality is now threatening the very existence of a once
vibrant sub-sector. This is why it is imperative for the country's
authorities to expedite sorting out the mess in the scandal-tainted land
reform programme to return the agricultural sector to its pre-crisis levels.
It is high time President Robert Mugabe moved beyond rhetoric into action
and dealt with the uncouth and self-centred land grabbers. Otherwise the
widely expected bottoming out of the economy could be in jeopardy.

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      Once again, it feels shameful to be an African

      7/29/2004 8:22:48 AM (GMT +2)

      At about this time last year, the sensibilities of television viewers
around the world were constantly assaulted by images of the crisis in

      The pictures flashed around the world via satellite television at the
height of the madness in that country did not make a pretty sight.

      Charles Taylor's ragtag and trigger-happy army was at its most brutal
as it fought to keep the strongman in power.

      As the drug-crazed soldiers and the rebels opposed to Taylor
confronted each other, it was not unusual to see innocent civilians caught
in the throes of death.

      Who can ever forget the sight of the corpses of innocent Liberian
civilians sprawled in pools of their own blood on the dilapidated streets of

      As an African, I cringed in embarrassment at this senseless carnage
and mayhem. For the umpteenth time in my life, I was ashamed to be an
African. Not because my mind has been ''colonised'' and I have adopted
Western imperialist values. I was ashamed because I knew the lives of fellow
human beings were being sacrificed at the altar of the vanity, greed and
power hunger of one man - Charles Taylor.

      Under intense international pressure, Taylor was eventually forced to
relinquish power and go into exile in Nigeria. But imagine how many lives he
would have saved and how much suffering he would have prevented if he had,
of his own accord, put the interests of his people above his own.

      A year after the embarrassment of Liberia, the world is once again
being forced to watch another African horror movie. It has the same plot and
the same tragic ingredients of mass misery and hunger, death and
trigger-happy militias hired to do the government's dirty work.

      These are the Janjaweed. What an appropriate name to describe an evil
that needs to be exorcised and weeded out of the fabric of African society!

      Violent militia groups going by that arrogant name have caused untold
suffering to the people of the western Darfur region of Sudan. About one
million people now live in subhuman and squalid conditions after being
driven away from their homes by these Arab militias.

      The United Nations has described the desperate situation in this part
of Africa as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. It is one
more example of a dictatorial African government failing its own people by
sacrificing their human rights, security and dignity at the altar of
self-interest and self-preservation.

      Once more, innocent civilians, particularly women and children, are
bearing the brunt of this senseless violence. The Sudanese government's
assertions that it is not sponsoring these barbaric and anarchic militias
are totally unconvincing.

      The government's failure to fulfil an undertaking made to United
Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and United States Secretary of State
Colin Powell to disarm the Janjaweed raises many questions.

      For example, how can private militia gangs master the logistics to
displace one million people and a national government is incapable of moving
in to protect the same people? Why is such a government in power?

      If there is a lesson to be learned by governments elsewhere in Africa
that sponsor and equip militias to commit atrocities against the general
population, it is that they create monsters they may eventually be unable to
contain and control. How can violent gangs that are encouraged to simply
follow their impulses in seizing whatever they want be expected to ever be
bound by societal norms again?

      The Janjaweed have been accused of committing all the usual atrocities
associated with government-sponsored militias everywhere - mass killings and
harassment of civilians perceived to be enemies of the regime in power,
rape, torture, arson, looting and intimidation.

      It is difficult to see what private militia gangs not being paid by
someone would gain from committing these crimes for months or even years.

      Some commentators have suggested that rape and other forms of sexual
abuse have been used on such a massive scale in Darfur that they should be
classified as war crimes. In fact, I think that move is long overdue as
sexual abuse and violence against women are routinely used as campaign tools
by unpopular African dictators who know they cannot win elections without
resorting to terror and repression. These tyrants should not be allowed to
continue to resort to these barbaric and perverse methods to cling to power.

      It would seem that none of the undemocratic and despotic leaders are
learning any lessons from the case of Taylor, who has been indicted for war
crimes and crimes against humanity.

      This could be because despite his troubles, Taylor is living
comfortably in exile in Nigeria. The idea of making a tyrannical leader face
legal retribution for his past misdeeds should be to deter other like-minded

      But the fact that for a second time in a year, Western intervention is
required to rescue an African population in the face of the incumbent
government's impotence highlights the need to expedite the prosecution of
errant leaders.

      These selfish leaders cannot have it both ways. They cannot continue
to spit strident rhetoric against Western governments such as the United
States and Britain when these countries show more concern for the welfare of
suffering populations such as the people of the Darfur region.

      The Sudanese government's catatonic response to a crisis of such
magnitude and gravity can only mean one thing: it is hamstrung by its
complicity with the Janjaweed militias in unleashing a reign of terror on
its own people.

      Unfortunately, it is not the only African government guilty of this
kind of brutal repression.

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      ...and now to the NOTEBOOK

      7/29/2004 8:25:19 AM (GMT +2)

      ZANU PF can be cruel. It can be cruel to hell and back, if one does
not care to study it carefully.

      Ask those poor squatters at Whitecliffe Farm just outside Harare and
they will tell you to trust this revolutionary party at your own peril.

      When the land seizures started in 2000, hundreds of families invaded
Whitecliffe Farm and disrupted a medium-density project that was already
under way at this private property. Over the next four years, ZANU PF
continued encouraging them to move and squat at the farm, pretending to be
sympathising with them as the homeless poor.

      . . . . Until last week when, after realising that they had been used
enough and were no longer of any value, the party descended on the poor
squatters and told them to leave the property, pronto. Never mind how much
they had invested on their shacks during their four-year squat on the farm.

      This is the real face of the ZANU PF we know!

      Surely the poor squatters should be feeling like political
condoms -used and then discarded. We told them, so they only have their
grandmothers to blame!

      And at the weekend Tambaoga had to run for dear life from one night
spot in Harare's Cranborne suburb after he had provoked the otherwise happy
patrons with his nauseating "ZESA yauya zvine power" jingle while on stage.

      For the record, he had not been contracted to perform at this
nightclub. No.

      What happened was that he was on a drinking binge with one Andy Brown
and they passed through this nightclub where a resident band was playing.
Feeling the need to shed some rust accruing from increasing redundancy, the
two begged to be allowed to play a few tunes from their not-so-popular
music. And they were allowed. And they played.

      After Brown left the stage, Tambaoga thought the patrons were not yet
bored enough with his new ZESA jingle and he decided to give them one extra

      Just as he started the jingle, the patrons were on him, baying for his
liver . . . and you never saw such madness. The owner of the club had to
intervene to help the clown make good his escape. Hope he learned something!


      And last week, CARE International, a global relief agency, was under
fire from "Zimbabweans" and analysts for allegedly trying to sabotage our
agrarian reform by giving some farmers in Masvingo province barren sorghum
seed last season.

      The "Zimbabweans" and analysts took turns on our TV screens to
excoriate the NGO for all crimes that one may think of.

      Representing business analysts in the noise was none other than CZ's
brother, Cde Augustine Timbe, that glory-seeker who, like William Nhara,
Nhlanhla Masuku, Claude Maredza and such other characters, is always more
than ready to comment on anything under the sun.

      Asked what was the way forward on this genuine mistake for which the
NGO has already unreservedly apologised, Cde Timbe went to great lengths to
lecture the nation about the British, the Americans, the Commonwealth, the
former white commercial farmers and all those imaginary enemies of Zimbabwe,
but in the end said literally nothing.

      CZ expected Cde Timbe, as an advertised super-patriot, to suggest that
the solution to such a crisis lay squarely on Zimbabweans ceasing to be
proud of being an alms begging country.

      Anyway, it was surprising to see Agriculture Minister Joseph Made and
others rushing to lay terms and conditions under which any other NGOs would
operate in the future! In all his life, CZ has never heard of beggars
setting conditions on their benefactors!


      Last week there was a story on ZTV about police cleaning up the
Avenues area of all prostitutes - men and women alike.

      In the story, Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri said the police
were arresting women who loitered in the area at night "dressed
suggestively". One female reporter seemed to have personally taken offence
at the use of the term "suggestively" and went on to quote unnamed women's
groups crying victimisation. The reporter went on to reveal that "a
prominent female personality" had been humiliated by police in the same
Avenues area.

      Now, here is the full story: The reporter should just have told
viewers that, in fact it was her colleague, a presenter on ZTV, who was
recently nabbed by police while conducting her business from her prolific
hunting grounds - the Avenues.

      CZ can reveal that the presenter is a hopeless case. She has a
well-documented history of frequenting the Avenues ever since the time she
was doing her MassComm at a local tertiary institution where, it is reliably
understood, that together with her friends - some of whom are now doing it
full-time abroad - she was notorious for stripping naked in the Avenues.

      CZ is told the hippo-like lady was unable to report for work on time
because she was in a filthy police cell, making arrangements to pay a
well-deserved fine for loitering for the purpose of prostitution.

      The fact that the lady - one of the many suspected to have earned
their qualifications "in kind"- is now a presenter at our only broadcaster
does not change her . . . moreso when the broadcaster is not only notorious
for paying measly salaries, but also for paying those slave salaries on the
45th of every month!

      Still on the Avenues, there are fears that with this novel idea of
publishing culprits' names in the Press, some people will no longer give
their correct names, but may choose to use their war names or others' names.
Once a name is soiled in this manner, it is difficult to clean!

      Governor's boy

      Has anyone ever followed the so- called news on our ZTV? Ever noticed
that Newsnet's correspondent in Manicaland, one Nathaniel Mlambo, covers
nothing other than the governor Mike Nyambuya, the general of the DRC war,
who seems to love publicity like nobody's business.

      "He-eeh the Governor and Resident Minister has woken up . . . he-eeh
the Governor and Resident Minister has had breakfast . . . he-eeh the
Governor and Resident Minister has a brown jacket . . !"

      Is the governor the only newsworthy subject in the whole big province
to report on? Was the fellow specifically assigned to quench the soldier's
thirst for publicity? We wonder.

      And by the way, why is it that on its boring Toringepi programme, ZTV
is almost always screening a certain Chief Chitsa of Masvingo who was
interviewed by Johannes Nyamayedenga ages ago? Is this Chief Chitsa fellow
the only chief in this country, especially when we are told there are close
to 300 happy chiefs?

      CZ cannot help but commiserate with a personal colleague of his, the
editor of The Voice, ZANU PF's weekly propaganda mouthpiece, over the latest
savage verbal attack by the Department of Information in the Office of the
Great Uncle and his War Cabinet.

      The attack came as a bolt from the blue to all Zimbabweans, as it was
only expected during the days of The Daily News, but lo and behold, the
ruling party's own mouthpiece is now being branded a liar!

      The Voice, a ZANU PF publication, correctly reported that there were
discussions going on between the ruling party and the main opposition, the
MDC, on electoral reforms. But the revulsion which came with the denial from
the Information Department shocked everyone, its composers included.

      "Quite how a party organ leads with a story exclusively sourced from
the secretary-general of an opposition party so dramatically different and
opposed to it boggles the mind and makes nonsense of militant partisanship,
itself a defining hallmark of a political party paper . . . A mere reversal
of this act of treacherous generosity, that is, expecting an MDC organ to
lead with a voice from ZANU PF, brings out the horror of this journalistic
infamy by a recently appointed editor who must be ideologically confused,"
fumed the Information Department.

      It is clear from the venom in the statement that it was not aimed at
the young editor - but his godfathers, who happen to be on the wrong side of
the ongoing multiple-farm ownership war.

      CZ says to his embattled editor friend: this is a sorry apology for a
start . . . he better finds another job like yesterday, otherwise . . . !

      But this is too unfair considering how much the young man has soiled
his otherwise good name toiling hard for the party . . . does Munyaradzi
Huni learn something from this incident?

      The Kongonya Dance Party has started . . . Let it play!
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      Axe falls on Agribank staff for abuse of $60b loan facility for new

      Felix Njini
      7/29/2004 8:01:26 AM (GMT +2)

      THE state-owned Agricultural Bank of Zimbabwe (Agribank) has initiated
criminal proceedings against individuals and bank staff involved in
mismanagement and abuse of the $60 billion loan facility set up for new
farmers under the government's land reform programme.

      The axe has already fallen on some of the workers who were implicated
following investigations, held at the instigation of the Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe (RBZ), which unravelled at total of 186 fraud cases at the bank.

      Agribank chief executive officer Sam Malaba told The Financial Gazette
that some workers involved in advancing loans to undeserving applicants have
already been fired.

      He said that the bank had also tasked the police to open dockets
against some staff members and loan recipients caught in the corruption net.

      Initial assessments by the RBZ indicated that up to $1.2 billion had
been misappropriated from the fund.

      The $60 billion fund injected by the government into Agribank, is
reported to have benefited about 10 000 applicants, inclusive of the
reported 186 fraud cases.

      Malaba said the bank's audit team was carrying out farm visits to
assess whether loan recipients used the money for the stated, intended

      Malaba, who intimated that the audit was ongoing, said that the bank
had forwarded names of some of the people caught in the net to the police
for criminal prosecution.

      "Follow up action is being taken and we are focusing on those who got
funds through forged documents or connivance with bank staff. Some of the
recipients channelled the funds to non-farming uses and we will be targeting
those people," Malaba said.

      He said that the audit team was also investigating links between some
staff members and bank clients.

      "When the funds were released, Agribank was not ready to disburse the
money. There was virtually no IT (information technology) system, no
vehicles but the situation has improved now," Malaba.
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      Tobacco sector chokes from land reform

      Felix Njini
      7/29/2004 8:06:26 AM (GMT +2)

      ZIMBABWE requires five years to restore the tobacco industry to its
former glory, analysts say.

      Industry players said the tobacco sector, Zimbabwe's one-time
principal foreign currency earner which has fallen behind mining, had been
hammered almost beyond repair.

      International investors have now shifted their attention to nascent
regional tobacco-growing competitors such as Zambia and Malawi, which are
taking steps to ramp up their output.

      The industry players noted that tobacco would this year generate less
than 25 percent of the foreign currency raised five years ago before the
eviction of white farmers from their land.

      They said the state of the tobacco industry would reflect and
contribute to an overall contraction in the economy.

      Tobacco output has been declining sharply, eroding gains achieved over
decades - before the government unleashed chaos on the farms under its
controversial land reform programme. This was after it lost a constitutional
referendum in February 2000.

      The downward trend in ouput has been despite an increase in the number
of farmers in the industry.

      The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) says 46.5 million
kilogrammes at an average price of US2.01c per kg have been sold so far this
year, compared to 48.6 million kgs at an average price of US216c per kg sold
during the same period last year.

      TIMB statistics show that weekly throughput was on the decline, with
more than two-thirds of the estimated crop having been sold.

      Zimbabwe has traditionally enjoyed the position of second largest
tobacco exporter after Brazil on the international market.

      The country's seasonal export volumes up to the end of June 2004 were
37 000 tonnes, valued at US$122.5 million. Tobacco merchants had to import
the golden leaf from neighbouring countries to cover up for the deficit from
a reduced domestic crop, the TIMB said.

      "While Mozambique and South Africa have become the major suppliers of
foreign tobacco, new sources of tobacco imports have been established in
Bangladesh, Madagascar and Vietnam," it said.

      The Tobacco Reporter of June 2004 says multinational tobacco companies
were increasingly shifting their attention to neighbouring countries. Major
companies such as Dimon were channelling millions of dollars towards growers
to fund crop inputs, barn construction and technical advice.

      In Malawi, production of flue-cured tobacco has almost doubled from
13.5 million kgs to about 22 million kgs in 2004. The country's burley
tobacco output is estimated at about 122 million kgs, up from 102.7 million
kgs in 2003.

      The Zambian Tobacco Association has said it plans to quadruple its
flue-cured tobacco volumes in the next 10 years, from 5.8 million kgs in
2002 and seven million kgs last year to 28 million kgs in 2010.

      Current production, which was earlier estimated at 12 million kgs, is
now expected to be around 15 million kgs, with the next crop target at 22
million kgs.

      The Zambian government is offering incentives to investors, including
15 percent corporate tax instead of a standard 35 percent.

      The Tobacco Reporter reports that Zambian tobacco farmers are allowed
to carry over losses for a period of five years.

      Tobacco merchants sponsoring farmers in Zambia include Dimon Zambia,
Stancom, Zambia Leaf, a subsidary of Universal Leaf Tobacco Company, and
assistance is in the form of inputs such as seed, chemicals, fertilisers and
techincal advice.

      "The tobacco industry is going to recover but it is going to take more
than five years. New farmers have limitations in terms of capitalisation and
knowledge of the industry," said economist Rungai Chizema.

      "It would have been good for the government to appreciate the progress
which had been made in developing the industry before it started evicting
commercial farmers," said Chizema.

      He said the sector had lost 50 percent of growth achieved from 1990 to
2000 in a period of four years.

      "The sector has lost 50 percent of the growth generated during the
past 10 years," he said.

      The drop in ouput is despite a sharp rise in the number of tobacco
growers. In 1990, the country had 1 493 commercial tobacco farmers growing
on an average 59 425 hectares. About 133.8 million kgs of tobacco were sold
in 1990, according to statistics from the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association

      The number of growers rose to 8 531 in 2000 when a record crop of 237
million kgs of tobacco was produced on 84 893 hectares. Latest statistics
indicate that the country now has 12 700 tobacco farmers growing on an
average 41 hectares. The projected output is 60 million kgs.

      For the past 10 years, farmers have been averaging 2 600 kgs per
hectare but the average yield per hectare has fallen to 1 500 kg.

      "Output has been coming down faster and the big question is: why are
we not surpassing the 2000 record output?" queried Chizema.

      James de la Fargue, the new ZTA president, told The Financial Gazette
last week that the country was losing more of next year's production, with
both large- and small-scale farmers quitting the industry.

      De la Fargue said underutilisation of tobacco irrigation and curing
capacity accounted for the largest slice of loss in production, with access
to finance being the final blow to recovery prospects for the industry.

      He noted that while Zimbabwe had been losing prduction, regional
competitors and countries such as Brazil were raising their production

      "We are going to have to work doubly hard to refine our markets, and
again the only entry is in flavoured tobacco," De la Fargue said.
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      Informal sector takes over economy

      Munyaradzi Mugowo
      7/29/2004 8:08:02 AM (GMT +2)

      ABOUT 60 percent of Zimbabwe's economy has been informalised and is
now outside legal-institutional regulation.

      Analysts say the descent of the country into a grey economy calls for
a widening of rules to incorporate informal elements that have completely
supplanted the formal sector as the nucleus of business activity.

      An official in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development
responsible for economic policy formulation said the rationalisation of
institutions was an indispensable prerequisite for the formalisation of both
the financial and other sectors.

      He said because of this realisation, the government, with effect from
January this year, had transferred the licensing and regulation of asset
management firms, micro-finance institutions and real estate agencies to the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

      The aim, he said, was to remove economic distortions and counteract
the moral hazards associated with rapid informalisation.

      Informal traders, small-scale manufacturers, micro-finance
institutions, asset management firms and real estate agencies are some of
the entities that have been accused of resisting measures to formalise their

      In its analysis of last year's crisis, which spilled over into the new
year, the RBZ noted that much of the speculative activity that had triggered
an inflation spiral had been fuelled by asset management firms dealing in
property, and micro-finance institutions whose lending practices were
exerting pressure on interest and mortgage rates.

      Chakanyuka Mangwiro, an economic analyst, blamed the harsh political
and volatile macroeconomic environment for Zimbabwe's rapid informalisation,
saying these had destroyed business confidence.

      "The informalisation of the economy has resulted in the stagnation of
long-term capital projects - the very drivers of economic growth. Tax
revenues fund public utilities. The fact that a greater proportion of the
economy is now in the informal sector means a contraction in tax revenues
because the informal sector does not pay tax.

      "The irony, however, is that the informal sector enjoys the benefits
of tax revenues in the form of the infrastructure they use, but the sector
itself does not pay tax. As a result, the growth of the informal sector is
linked to infrastructure decay," Mangwiro said.

      He said the country had experienced zero employment creation and
severe job losses since the shift in trade policy from protectionism towards

      Zimbabwe's jobless rate is estimated to be more than 70 percent.

      In the past two years alone, more than 100 asset management firms and
micro-finance institutions mushroomed and they reaped super profits.

      Peter Mwipikeni, another analyst, said the swift informalisation of
the economy served as a measure of institutional bottlenecks standing in the
way of development.

      "Institutions are a yardstick of growth. In fact, they are a
precondition for economic growth because they define the environment in
which business is conducted. No business, remember, operates in a vacuum,"
Mwipikeni said.

      He added: "Once the institutional framework collapses, then businesses
will inevitably collapse because institutions are a safety net against moral
hazards such as anarchy and gross lack of business confidence, the kind of
circumstances that we have been experiencing for seven years in this

      Current RBZ policies, he said, represented an attempt to "formalise"
banks, with a view to creating an ideal framework to regulate financial

      He added that monetary and fiscal policy supplements due to be
presented by the RBZ and the finance ministry should attempt to tackle the
informalisation problem.

      But Callisto Madavo, the Zimbabwean who is the vice president of the
World Bank responsible for Africa, said the country's economic future still
looked bleak and predicted that its negative growth trend would continue in
spite of the reforms.

      Madavo, a United States-trained economic expert who has been with the
World Bank since 1969, has indicated that nothing short of political change
would rescue Zimbabwe from its present economic rut.

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      90% of national beef herd now in communal lands

      Allen Chifokoyo
      7/29/2004 8:15:41 AM (GMT +2)

      ABOUT 90 percent of Zimbabwe's five million beef cattle are now
classified as communal after the controversial fast-track land reform

      Speaking at the launch of a commercialisation of hides and skins
project held at Mupandaki Business Centre held in Shurugwi last week, Ernest
Mupunga -regional director of Intermediate Technology Development Group
(ITDG) Southern Africa - said the majority of Zimbabwe's beef cattle are now
in the communal and resettlement areas.

      "Last year we did an animal census and we established that there are
over five million beef cattle and 90 percent of these are communal,"
Mupu-nga said.

      The Leather Institute of Zimbabwe (LIZ) also carried out an animal
stock census in 2003 and established that over 90 percent of the country's
national herd was now communal.

      Before the country's agrarian land reform programme, the commercial
herd was estimated to be about 30 percent of the total, while the communal
herd was 70 percent.

      The commercial herd has since fallen by 20 percent to a mere10

      This decline in commercial herd figures has also corresponded with the
fall in commercial hides used by the leather industry.

      The leather industry used to rely on the commercial hides because
their high quality, compared to the communal hides.

      ITDG, together with the LIZ last week launched a project seeking to
enhance the quality of hides from the communal farmers.

      Under the project, the two associations will teach the communal
farmers slaughter, flaying and preservation techniques of hides and has also
set up slaughter houses in Mutoko, Hwedza, Gokwe and Shurugwi districts.

      Project manager, Ina Mozhendi said the ITDG expected the project to
educate the farmers on good slaughter techniques and enhance the quality of
hides they produce.

      "We hope that this project will help in educating the farmers in good
slaughter techniques that will give quality hides for our leather industry,"
Mozhendi said.

      She added that similar projects were being run in Malawi, Botswana and

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      Boycotting elections cannot be an option

      Special Correspondent
      7/29/2004 8:23:39 AM (GMT +2)

      Over the past 18 or so months, some opposition parties, particularly
the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have been sending conflicting
signals regarding their intentions over Zimbabwe's forthcoming general
elections, scheduled for March 2005.

      The hawks in the party have been vociferously advocating an outright
boycott of the elections claiming that, in the absence of a new constitution
and with electoral laws still so blatantly skewed and open to manipulation
by the government in favour of the ruling party, it is virtually impossible
for any opposition party to win an election.

      It is fair to state that, with the government's proposed amendments to
the electoral law, though not exactly far-reaching enough, this argument has
been overtaken by events.

      Indeed the proposed reforms, already approved by the ruling party's
politburo, must have taken the wind out of these nay-sayers' sails. Among
the more salient of these proposals are that:

        a.. elections will be held over one day only;

        b.. voting will take place at neutral centres;

        c.. counting will be done at the polling stations;

        d.. ballot boxes will be translucent and that;

        e.. the seven-member committee that will supervise the poll will be
nominated by Parliament - and not by the President. It is not altogether
wishful thinking to suggest that if the MDC could do as well as it did in
the June 2000 elections when all the above safeguards against rigging were
not in place, surely it can do a lot better this time around.

      The more diplomatic among senior officials in the MDC such as the
party's secretary-general Welshman Ncube, official spokesman Paul Themba
Nyathi and the party's legal chief, David Coltart, have maintained the
position that the party is leaving its options open. What they are saying,
in effect, is probably that it is unwise to take a firm decision either way
to the effect that the party will participate or boycott the elections when
politically the country is in such a state of flux; that it is premature to
take any concrete position and that it is best to wait until, metaphorically
speaking, one comes to the bridge before deciding whether or not to cross

      Understandably, most political commentators have tended to take the
view that this is the best attitude to adopt and argue that to take a firm
position either way could prove tricky for the party should conditions
change drastically overnight, as is quite possible in politics, when it is
too close to the polls to restrategise effectively.

      They also say that to show enthusiasm for the election runs counter to
the pressure that must be maintained to force the government to level the
political playing field before we get to the elections.

      Being non-committal, they believe, is the best policy in a world
totally consumed by the need for diplomacy. These are the people who, no
doubt, are not too enamoured by the dour warnings from the likes of the
sharp-witted late United States President John Fitzgerald Kennedy that "the
hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of moral crisis,
maintain their neutrality".

      Moreover, they argue, it is the hallmark of astuteness for a
politician to be always conscious of the fact that strategising in politics
is like playing a game of poker where it is for ever prudent to play one's
cards as close to one's chest as possible.

      But while there are obvious advantages in that approach such as, for
example, the ever-present element of surprise based on the fact that you
would be keeping your opponents constantly guessing, never knowing for
certain whether you are going to feign with the right and strike with the
left or vice versa -or whether you are going to strike at all in fact -
there also are disadvantages.

      The most debilitating of these disadvantages lies in the fact that
that approach inevitably breeds uncertainty among the generality of the
party's entire membership. It doesn't end there. Further, that state of
uncertainty in the party can have a devastatingly enervating effect on the
party's activists, robbing them of that vital energy so essential in their
day-to-day task of trying to whip up more support and a greater enthusiasm
to go out in force to vote for the party among the electorate.

      Clearly anxious to placate restive party supporters throughout the
country in general and those in his Bulawayo South constituency in
particular, Coltart recently tried to soothe jaded nerves by urging them,
through his constituency newsletter, to steam ahead full throttle in their
preparation for the elections. But party members' enthusiasm could never
have been buoyed by the obvious damper that "the decision to contest will be
left until the very last minute".

      In that same report, Coltart was said to have used the analogy of a
football team with an important fixture arranged for it some time in the
near future as a guide in the attitude his party's members ought to take
regarding the looming elections.

      He reportedly said that although it might be harbouring serious
misgivings regarding certain conditions surrounding the match which its
management were convinced put them at a disadvantage, "the team will train
as hard as possible all the same and only decide on the day of the match
whether to play or not", having assessed, to its satisfaction, whether the
referee can be trusted to be impartial and whether the playing field is
level enough.

      That pep-talk doesn't seem to have fired anybody with a lot of
enthusiasm. If anything, it appears to have rendered the party's activists
even more lethargic, which is perfectly understandable considering that
nobody wants to invest their precious time, energy and money in a venture
whose principals are uncertain will take off at all to start with, let alone

      The end result of all this is that, come election time, the party will
be caught hopelessly ill-prepared to go into the fight and deliver any
meaningful punches at all. Thus, it is to state the obvious to say that that
neutral stance is eminently counterproductive to the MDC's electoral

      The most logical thing for the MDC to do is, therefore, to take a
stand one way or the other. In other words the party must come out into the
open and state categorically that "we will contest the elections" or "we
will not participate in the elections".

      If it were a decision involving anything else which is not an
election, one would have advised them to announce the latter. This would be
in line with the sage advice that, whenever you are faced with a situation
where you have no choice but to make an immediate decision in the form of
either a "yes" or a "no", it is better to say no than to say yes for the
simple reason that it is a lot easier to change a "no" into a "yes" than it
is to change a "yes" into a "no".

      In this case, however, it is a decision to do with elections that must
be taken and so, as Job Sikhala and everyone else who has suffered directly
or indirectly because of their support for the MDC since the year 2000 has
been saying, boycotting the election cannot be an option.

      It cannot be an option because it would be the ultimate betrayal of
not only those who suffered but also of those who, over the past
four-and-a-half years, have been maimed or killed because of their actual or
perceived support for the MDC.

      The sooner the MDC does the sensible thing and announces that it will
participate in the March 2005 election the better it would be, not just for
the MDC and its supporters but for the people of Zimbabwe as a whole. Of
course the MDC was demanding and is still demanding more electoral law
reforms, and quite rightly so.

      Ideally, too, it would have been much better if a new constitution
were to be put in place before we got to those elections. But the attitude
that it will have to be either the whole loaf or nothing at all is, quite
frankly, a pie in the sky.

      Rather the attitude ought to be that half a loaf is better than

      A start has been made, and one which could make a whole lot of a
difference to the outcome of next year's elections. And that, to any
reasonable person, is what is important.

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