BULAWAYO, June 11 (IPS) - It's time for mid-week prayers at the
Methodist Church in Main Street. But, spiritual affairs may be the least
important matter on the minds of those present. Instead, a lot of time
appears to be taken up by more worldly concerns, especially the pursuit of
the latest information.
Ears prick up, for instance, when someone
mentions that the price of maize meal (the national staple food) has gone up,
even though there's been no mention of this in the newspaper.
interest heightens when someone else whispers the reason why a prominent
businessman linked to the ruling party cannot get bail three months after his
arrest for "externalizing" foreign currency. (The term "externalizing" refers
to the process of circumventing the Zimbabwe Central Bank when converting
Zimbabwe dollars into foreign currency. Officials have made going through the
bank mandatory for conversions - this in a bid to stem the foreign currency
shortages resulting from falling exports and economic
It is the same everywhere. Across Zimbabwe at bars,
during social events and at funerals, people huddle together to make crude
political jokes, commiserate over economic woes - and exchange the latest
news, collected from various sources.
The forced closure of the only
independent daily newspaper, The Daily News, nine months ago and the state's
subsequent dominance of the media have given rise to less formal ways of
passing on and receiving information.
In a list of 166 countries that are
rated by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders for respect of press
freedom, Zimbabwe occupies the 141st slot. The organisation has also
described President Robert Mugabe as a "predator of press freedom". In
addition, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo was awarded the British-based
Index on Censorship's Golden Raspberry Award for "service to censorship" last
year, for his role in pushing through restrictive press laws in
This week, another independent newspaper, the weekly Tribune,
was shut down by the government-appointed licensing authority, for allegedly
being improperly licensed.
All of this has prompted Zimbabweans to
become "information scavengers" says media watcher Andrew Moyse: "They seek
information even if it's second-hand from wherever they can find it,
particularly the independent weeklies and from their radios if they are near
However, Moyse - who works as Project Coordinator at the Media
Monitoring Project Zimbabwe - says this handful of weeklies doesn't have the
capacity to "rebut the daily tidal wave of propaganda emanating from
the government-controlled media." (The monitoring project scrutinises the
local media for conformity to international standards of press freedom
Ironically - and even as they try to source news
elsewhere - Zimbabweans have also been buying more state-controlled
newspapers than they did in the past.
government-controlled publishing company that owns the country's only two
daily newspapers and three weeklies, is forecasting pre-tax profits of about
300,000 U.S. dollars this year, a four-fold increase over last year's
"Indications are that profits will surge during the second half
of the year," group Chief Executive Justin Mutasa told shareholders during
the company's 77th annual general meeting earlier this
Relishing the prospect of a captive market, Zimpapers has set
new circulation targets for its newspapers. Sales of the country's biggest
daily are projected to reach 120,000 copies by the end of the year, up from
the current 95,000.
But, Moyse cautions that as much as readers may
buy newspapers from the Zimpapers stable, this is not to say that they accept
Banning The Daily News, while using the
government-controlled media as "messengers of a crude propaganda campaign"
for the ruling party and government, has created an extreme cynicism among
ordinary Zimbabweans, he says.
"They are increasingly forced to rely
on the government media for any information, but consciously and
subconsciously take account of the bias contained in these media. Their
content is deeply distrusted and is far from being accepted at face
He says this is giving rise to a word-of-mouth culture in which
information emanating from personal experiences is exchanged - along with
news supplied by those who are still able to access electronic and foreign
media sources, which often "tend to corroborate the news the public gleans
from unofficial sources."
In a country with unemployment of over 70
percent, satellite television is available only to the wealthy few. Radio
broadcasts from the British Broadcasting Corporation, Voice of America and
particularly the British-based SW Radio Africa, run by exiled Zimbabweans,
appear to be growing in popularity - but only among those with short wave
Until recently, cyberspace offered some respite from the
state's media offerings.
However, it has now become the latest target
of the government's censorship drive. The state telecommunications monopoly,
TelOne, has asked internet service providers (ISPs) to sign commercial
contracts which ask them to spy on the e-mails of their clients for "
"objectionable, obscene (and) unauthorized" content.
ISPs are treading
cautiously. "We are discussing with TelOne," says the Chairman of the
Zimbabwe Internet Service Providers Association, Shadreck Nkala. "At the
moment we haven't reached a stage of signing (the
Nonetheless, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
says its weekly information bulletins - sent by e-mail - are already being
blocked, because the government seems to have acquired the technology to do
so, possibly from China.
"We have reason to believe that our e-mail
communication is being tampered with," says party official Nkanyiso
Instead of MDC e-mails, subscribers and supporters are receiving
blank messages telling them that selected mails have been barred for
carrying "sensitive information." (END/2004)
WFP still feeds needy in Zimbabwe, ready to do more
The World Food Programme is continuing to feed vulnerable
groups in Zimbabwe despite government claims of bumper harvest, and is ready
to broaden its activities in the country if asked to, the UN body has said.
Zimbabwean officials last month abruptly cancelled food and crop assessment
missions by the WFP and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation
A week later, Zimbabwe told international donors it would not
require emergency food aid following a bumper harvest - a statement greeted
with scepticism by many analysts and Zimbabwe commercial farming groups.
Mike Huggins, the WFP spokesperson, said late yesterday that the
Zimbabwe government had asked the organisation to continue feeding around 650
000 vulnerable people, such as orphans of HIV/Aids victims and the
The WFP normally feeds far more in the country - around 4.5
million up to April this year - as Zimbabwe grapples with its worst economic
crisis since independence in 1980. "The WFP is ready to assist in a broader
distribution of food should it be required but an assessment of people's food
needs would have to be carried out prior to any appeal being launched. This
can take months," Huggins told Reuters.
James Morris, the WFP
executive director, will be able to get some idea of the food situation when
he visits the country next week as part of a regional tour. It is not clear
whether he will meet government officials during the trip, the WFP
Bumper crop or shortfall? President Robert Mugabe has said
Zimbabwe will produce a bumper 2.3 million tonnes of maize this year but
international aid organisations have estimated it could still face a
shortfall of up to 900 000 tonnes on national demand of 1.8 million tonnes.
Although some critics blame food insecurity on Zimbabwe's seizure of white
owned farms, analysts say inflation has hit poor urban dwellers particularly
"Unemployment is nearly 70% and inflation has hovered around 600%
for a year and clearly people have lost a lot of their purchasing power and
in turn their ability to access food from local markets," Huggins
Food shortages have eased in rural communities over recent weeks as
people harvest the maize crop, the USAid-funded Famine Early Warning
Systems Network said last month. It added that larger foreign currency
reserves than last year have boosted Zimbabwe's ability to buy grain from
Mugabe said last month that Zimbabwe would "never" need to import
food, but publicly available data from South Africa shows the Zimbabwe has
imported 24 000 tonnes of maize across the Limpopo since April on top of 413
657 tonnes last year. Mugabe's critics say he may reject offers of
"emergency" aid in the run up to next year's parliamentary elections in a bid
to show his country is not mired in crisis. - Reuters
Crisis in Africa getting worse It is a truly inventive
government that can create an economic and social catastrophe, and then
proceed to figure out how to make things worse. That is what the government
of Robert Mugabe appears able to do in its maladministration of Zimbabwe, the
former Rhodesia in southern Africa.
Once a breadbasket of the region,
Zimbabwe is importing food to fight famine -- something officially denied by
Mugabe, who was re-elected in a rigged election last year.
is a result not of bad weather but of bad policy. Mugabe's idea of "land
reform" was to expel the remaining white farmers and take over their land.
The reforms resulted in land grabs for Mugabe's relatives and government
Not surprisingly, the farming industry in the country has been
devastated by driving from the land the knowledge and experience of the white
farmers -- what few who had remained, after years of persecution by the
government and lawless thugs associated with the ruling party.
make this worse?
Senior government officials said that all the land in
the country should be nationalized. "Ultimately all land shall be resettled
as state property. We want a situation where this very important resource
becomes a national asset," Land Reform Minister John Nkomo said in a weekend
interview published Tuesday in The Herald in Harare. "In the end there shall
be no such thing called private land," he said, calling on all landowners to
come forward to be approved for 99-year leases.
What a joke. The
result will be to destabilize what's left of the agricultural system, and
create more and greater food shortages. How will bankers lend money to
farmers, knowing that the 99-year leases are -- in light of the experience of
recent years -- only likely to be honored as long as the government cares to
The United Nations estimates Zimbabwe will produce only about half
its 2 million-ton grain requirements this year. The government insists it
will produce 2.3 million tons this year. No one, naturally, believes
In an interview with Sky TV, Mugabe scoffed at
suggestions that his country needed food aid: "Why foist this on us? We don't
want to be choked. We have enough," he said, insisting that Zimbabwe would
"definitely not" import grain this year.
If the situation is so sunny,
why did Mugabe's government ask teams from the U.N. Food and Agriculture
Organization and World Food Program to leave the country, midway through
their reports on the harvest?
Two organizations, Human Rights Watch and
Amnesty International, recently accused the Mugabe government of manipulating
grain distribution by providing the subsidized grain to Zimbabwe African
Nation Union Patriotic Front strongholds while denying opposition strongholds
access to food programs.
A beautiful country, which should be feeding
itself, is being run into the ground. Sanctions by the United States and the
European Union have done little, and neighboring South Africa even less, to
curb Mugabe's excesses. In the words of an opposition party spokesman, the
nationalization is "a new phase in their madness."
These are sad
events that might compound the misery of millions.
Staff Reporter Last updated: 06/12/2004 08:27:38 ZIMBABWE'S Reserve Bank
governor this week took British and Zimbabwean journalists on a run-around
about his foreign currency road show and his whereabouts.
revealed here on Wednesday, Gono flew into Britain from America on 9 June,
having confirmed his booking at the four-star Hilton Hotel in
Edgware, London, on 2 June.
British journalists were constantly told
by Zimbabwe Embassy officials that Gono was not in the country. Others were
told he was still in America while journalists in Zimbabwe who rang Gono's
office were told: "We don't know where he is."
They were right, New
Zimbabwe.com was told.
"It's only Gono and and those travelling with him
who know where he is, no-one else is being told," said a Reserve Bank
There were calls in midweek for the tightening of international
sanctions when New Zimbabwe.com broke the news about his arrival.
will be holding meetings with Zimbabwean expatriates to persuade them to send
money back home through channels set up by the government of President Robert
British shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram claimed that any
money sent back could be used to help fund Mugabe's Zanu-PF party's campaign
in upcoming elections.
He called for European Union sanctions which
prevent those directly connected with the Mugabe regime from visiting Europe
to be extended to cover those who support it financially.
And he said
that if the EU refused to act, Britain should tighten
Mr Ancram told the BBC Radio 4 Today
programme: "We have always called for the sanctions to cover not just those
directly involved in the regime, but also those who support the regime
financially, because the regime without financial support would be very
"We could act unilaterally, but certainly I think the
EU should further tighten its sanctions."
Mr Ancram said that Dr Gono,
who was formerly President Mugabe's personal banker, was regarded in Zimbabwe
as more powerful than the country's Finance Minister.
He quoted an
unnamed Zimbabwean economist as saying it was "outrageous that Gono is being
allowed into Britain on what is essentially a fund-raising trip for the
ZimVigil, a Zimbabwe group that has been holding weekly
vigils at the Zimbabwe Embassy in London began mobilising this week, vowing
to besiege the Zimbabwe House where Gono will attend a reception on
Labour's former minister Kate Hoey added her voice to calls for
Dr Gono and other financial backers of the Mugabe regime to be added to the
list of those subject to travel restrictions.
She told Today: "We have
called on an all-party basis for months for the whole list to be toughened
"Of course we could do that without involving the EU. If we
can't get it through the EU, we could do it as a country
"What we really should be doing is trying as a government to
go to the United Nations and get this whole issue looked at by the
The central bank announced earnings this week of Zim $520 billion
(about US $100 million), mainly from remittances sent by Zimbabweans living
abroad. Since the registration of 11 money transfer agencies (MTAs) five
weeks ago, thousands of Zimbabweans, both locals and those in the diaspora,
have flocked to convert their foreign currency.
"There is an
improvement in foreign currency inflows into the country since the
implementation of the new policy allowing citizens to use Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe [RBZ] accredited money transfer agencies and the adoption
of currency auction floor exchange rates," the RBZ said in a
The move to harness foreign currency from Zimbabweans living
overseas, dubbed "Homelink", was a direct response from the government to
undercut the parallel market which until now had reaped the bulk of
?MAPUTO, June 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Mozambican
authorities are preparing to brand cattle throughout the country, in order to
control the movement of the animals and improve the management of the deadly
foot-and-mouth disease, local media reported on Friday.
Mozambican deputy national director of livestock, Ventura Macamo, told press
that priority will go to those areas that have been affected by
foot-and-mouth disease, particularly along the border
He noted that this is a costly process, and
will have to be undertaken in accordance with the country's financial
capacity. Preparations include provincial budgeting, taking into account
thecoverage of the priority areas.
Macamo could not estimate
the number of cattle to be branded, saying that planning is still at local
Restriction in cattle movements in the country were last
reviewed in April, when it was decided that cattle could be moved for
slaughtering purposes, while maintaining the ban on movement for
Macamo explained that a total lift of the ban
will only be decreed when it is found that there is no longer any danger of
thespreading of foot-and-mouth disease, and when the cattle are branded, to
allow a better control in the future.
affects cloven-hoofed animals like pigs and cattle. It causes sores, blisters
and fever, deadly for livestock, but harmless for humans.
The disease's worst outbreak took place in Europe. Some six million farm
animals were culled across Britain alone, during the year 2001, which
affected around 2,000 farms and slaughterhouses. The disease also hit Africa,
with Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia among the affected. Mozambique also
reported an outbreak last May.Enditem
---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---- WINDHOEK
- A black farm workers' union in Namibia threatened on Friday to seize
white-owned farms by force in an angry response to a new
farmers' organisation which has vowed to fight land expropriations in the
southern African country. President Sam Nujoma's government last month
told 15 white farm owners to make an offer to sell their property to the
state, the first move by the authorities to force the white farmers off their
"If the white colleagues do not want expropriation of land, we can
always introduce a new method - which is taking the land without compensation
and without sharing it with them, by force," said Alfred Angula,
general secretary of the Namibia Farmworkers' Union.
responding to statements from a new organisation, the Namibia Farmers'
Support Initiative, launched this week to oppose the expropriations, which
have fueled fears that Namibia may follow the path of Zimbabwe on land
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe launched land reform in 2000
in which thousands of white farms were seized, at times using force, and
handed to landless blacks.
Angula accused the new group of "trying to
stop the land reform process in Namibia" and of inciting violence.
of NAWFU are sending a serious warning to Sigi Eimbeck and his followers not
to provoke the Namibian people", he said, referring to the leader of the new
Eimbeck said on Friday that his group was dissatisfied with the
main Namibia Agricultural Union, which is seeking to hold negotiations with
the government on land reform.
"We want a fair and transparent land
reform process and will take government to court on behalf of our members if
the expropriation is done unfairly", he said.
"There exists a lot of
uncertainty and fear among farmers after the government sent out
expropriation notices last month," said Eimbeck.
The government has
repeatedly stressed that land reform will be carried out within the context
of the law, that just compensation will be paid, and that the move is
necessary as most of Namibia's arable land is in white hands.
former German colony which came under South African rule until its
independence in 1990, has been ruled by Nujoma, who has sent strong signals
on the land issue.