Mon 26 June 2006
HARARE - The Zimbabwe government using technology acquired from China
has been able to partially jam signal from the Voice of America (VOA)'s
Studio 7 radio station that broadcasts into the crisis-hit southern African
country, ZimOnline has learnt.
Studio 7 is one of three radio stations operated by exiled Zimbabweans
and broadcasting into the country from outside its borders after President
Robert Mugabe in the last six years shut down all independent broadcasting
Harare labels the private radios enemy stations bent on inciting
Zimbabweans to revolt against Mugabe, in power since Zimbabwe's 1980
independence from Britain.
An official in the Ministry of State Security, who spoke on condition
he was not named, said the state's spy Central Intelligence Organisation and
engineers from the Ministry of Information were now working flat out to try
and completely jam Studio 7 broadcasts into Zimbabwe.
"There has been marked improvement on trying to block the US
propaganda (Studio 7 broadcasts) from reaching us since the beginning of
this month. The team is now aiming to look for ways to completely block the
signal coming via a transmitter in Botswana," said the official.
According to the official, equipment to block Studio 7 broadcasts was
imported from China last year. The government has been quick to use the same
equipment to jam broadcasts from another foreign-based radio station that
targets Zimbabwe, the London-based SW Radio.
ZimOnline was unable to immediately confirm with Studio 7 whether its
broadcasts were being interfered with. But the spokesman of the United
States embassy in Harare, Timothy Smith, said the mission was aware of
problems listeners were having receiving Studio 7 signal, adding that
Washington had been alerted to probe the matter.
Smith said: "We have heard of the problem of the Studio 7 signal and
we sent it to Washington so that we are 100 percent sure of the source of
the problem. AM signals can have a number of interferences which are not
specific. So the investigations will tell us what the real problem is before
we speculate. By Monday (today) we should be having a definite answer."
However, ZimOnline understands that the American government is aware
of the Chinese technology imported by Harare to disrupt Studio 7 broadcasts
and VOA technicians are said to be in the process of working out measures to
counter the jamming.
Zimbabwe's Ministry of Information refused to comment on the matter
saying in the first place it did not recognise Studio 7 because the radio
station was not registered in terms of the country's laws.
Studio 7 is a US government sponsored project to try and provide an
alternative platform for a variety of views and opinions that are otherwise
unable to get heard on Zimbabwe state-owned radio because they are perceived
as contrary to the views of Mugabe and his government.
It broadcasts on AM and on shortwave but for more than a week now,
listeners have been unable to receive clear signal from the station because
of the jamming by Harare.
Studio 7 broadcasts in English as well as in the two main vernacular
languages, Shona and Ndebele, enabling it to reach out to remoter parts of
the country, inaccessible to Zimbabwe's few remaining independent
Zimbabwe has four radio stations and one television station all owned
and controlled by the government.
The southern African country, which has laws providing for the
imprisonment of journalists for up to 20 years for publishing falsehoods,
was last year ranked by the World Association of Newspapers as one of the
three most dangerous places in the world for journalists.
The other two countries are the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan
and the Islamic Republic of Iran. - ZimOnline
Mon 26 June 2006
HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party on Sunday said
most Zimbabweans were grateful for its rule and dismissed as insignificant a
new opposition political party launched at the weekend.
ZANU PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira shrugged off calls by the leader
of the newly launched United People's Party (UPP), Daniel Shumba, on the
ruling party to resign because it had failed to run Zimbabwe.
Shamuyarira said Zimbabweans were happy with ZANU PF because the party
had liberated them from colonial rule and gave them land seized from former
white farmers. He said the call by Shumba - a former provincial chairman of
ZANU PF - was just a case of "sour grapes" after he was suspended from the
The ZANU PF politician said: "ZANU PF will not resign because of his
(Shumba) opinion. Many people are grateful to us for what we have done -
giving land to the landless and bringing independence. He is just bitter for
having been suspended from the party that made him what he is."
Shumba and five other ZANU PF provincial chairmen as well as former
government propaganda chief, Jonathan Moyo, were in 2004 suspended by Mugabe
from the party after attempting to thwart the appointment of Vice-President
Joice Mujuru to the post.
Mugabe had backed Mujuru - who is the wife of powerful former army
general Solomon Mujuru - to take over as second vice-president of ZANU PF
and the government, to place her ahead of rivals for the top job when the
veteran leader retires in 2008.
Shumba, Moyo and others had supported former parliamentary speaker
Emmerson Mnangagwa for the vice-president's job but were blocked by Mugabe
and punished for daring to oppose Mujuru's rise.
Last Saturday, Shumba launched his own UPP at a poorly attended rally
in the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party stronghold
Addressing about 700 delegates at the rally, Shumba said ZANU PF must
resign for causing widespread poverty among Zimbabweans.
"People have been condemned to poverty, hunger and destitution by ZANU
PF. The people want ZANU PF to call for democratic elections now. It has
lost legitimacy to rule. It must resign for triggering economic collapse,"
he told his party's supporters.
No other leaders of the party were unveiled at the launch with Shumba
saying an interim executive team will be announced on July 31.
A divided and bickering MDC has struggled to dislodge ZANU PF from
power over the past six years with the opposition complaining that Mugabe
has used violence and rigging of elections to remain in power.
Political analysts say the UPP, which draws most of its support from
Masvingo province, is unlikely to make much impact on Zimbabwe's tough
political scene. - ZimOnline
Mon 26 June 2006
BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe's beleaguered currency at the weekend tumbled by
more than 50 percent against the United States dollar on the parallel market
for foreign currency that is the only sure source of hard cash for both
individual and corporate buyers in the country.
Zimbabwe is grappling an acute foreign currency shortage itself the
result of a seven-year old economic crisis that has also spawned shortages
of food, fuel, essential medicines, electricity and just about every basic
The American unit was last Saturday selling for Z$410 000 on the
illegal but thriving black market in the second largest city of Bulawayo up
from the 200 000 to 300 000 Zimbabwe dollars the greenback was fetching the
The South African rand, the second most sought after currency in
Zimbabwe after the greenback, was selling at 70 000 local dollars up from
the 50 000 to 55 000 it was selling for the previous Friday.
But rates on the official market remained fixed with the American
dollar fetching 101 196 Zimbabwe dollars while the rand, the currency of
Zimbabwe's biggest trading partner and supplier of goods, remained stable at
one unit to 14 857 local dollars.
Black market traders said the movement in rates were because of huge
demand especially of rands by locals wishing to go to neighbouring South
Africa to buy mostly basic commodities that are either in short supply or
too expensive in Zimbabwe.
"Many people are buying the rand. As we are nearing the end of the
month when more people have cash to buy foreign currency we expect more
demand for American dollars and rands as people want to go shopping across
the borders," said Nokuthula Sibanda, a Bulawayo foreign currency
The fall of the Zimbabwe dollar on the parallel market is expected to
push up prices of fuel and most basic goods that are imported into the
country using hard cash mostly sourced from the black market.
Bulawayo economist, Erich Bloch, who is an adviser to the Reserve Bank
of Zimbabwe, called for a devaluation of the dollar on the official market
to try and attract hard cash into official channels and limit black-market
He said: "This calls for the devaluation of the dollar. People should
also be encouraged to use electronic money as a way of starving the illegal
foreign currency dealers, but that means there should be some incentives for
using methods like bank certified cheques. The central bank can set the ball
rolling by introducing such incentives for banks themselves."
Previous adjustments of the official exchange rate have failed to stem
the black-market, with many economists saying the solution did not lie in
tinkering with the exchange rate but in addressing underlying economic and
political problems hampering the hard cash generating export sector. -
The deposed mayor of Harare, Engineer Elias Mudzuri, was a welcome support
at the Vigil. He was introduced by Washington Ali, the Chair of MDC UK. Mr
Mudzuri was thrown out of office by the Mugabe regime, which installed its
own commissioners to oversee the collapse of local government. Mr Mudzuri
is now the General Organising Secretary of the MDC and is in the UK to help
sort out the MDC UK structure. He was very supportive of the Vigil and
urged everyone to attend. He signed our petition which he said was in line
with the MDC agenda. "A petition to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan about
human rights abuses in Zimbabwe: We are deeply disturbed at the
deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. It seems as if the international
community does not care that a rogue government can hold its people hostage.
In the past six years up to a quarter of the population have fled the
country. Half of those remaining face starvation. Any dissent is stamped
on. The UN's special envoys have seen this for themselves and condemned the
regime. We urge the UN Security Council to take measures to help free the
suffering people of Zimbabwe."
We were relieved to see our homeless Zimbabwean street sleeper, Munyaradzi,
again. He was with us two weeks ago and was helped to find shelter by the
Zimbabwe Association. He then disappeared and we were worried what might
have happened to him. But he was back today in better heart. We are seeing
so many people in need of our help.
In recent weeks, the Vigil has been approached by contacts in South Africa
and Botswana about starting Vigils. We are thinking about how to advise
them but realise their situation is totally different to ours. We have the
freedom to hold regular protests - and the police and local authority give
us permission. As our friends in Botswana say "How can other Zimbabwean
refugees in other countries of exile like us here in Botswana form a vigil?
We are not allowed to embark on any political activities."
For this week's Vigil pictures:
FOR THE RECORD: 36 signed the register.
FOR YOUR DIARY:
· Monday, 26th June, 5.30 pm - special service, organised by the
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Trafalgar
Square, London, for Zimbabwean and Sudanese victims of torture to mark UN
International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. We are pleased that the
Zimbabwean community in the UK has linked with activists from another
suffering African community. The service will be preceded by the laying of
flowers at the Sudanese Embassy, 3 Cleveland Row, London SW1A 1DD at 5 pm.
Flowers will be laid at the Zimbabwe Embassy after the service. During the
service there will be speakers, commemorative music and cultural
performances. (Note from Central London Forum: "we will be attending this
event in place of our regular Forum - hope you can join us there.")
· Qabuka: 28th June - 15th July. A Zimbabwean theatrical
production at the Oval House Theatre (Box Office 020 7582 7680). Some Vigil
supporters are taking part. "Devised and improvised from the personal
stories of over one hundred Zimbabweans-in-exile, Full Frontal Theatre
presents a magical and exuberant look at the lives of Zimbabweans living in
the UK. The last four years have seen thousands of people abandon a country
in crisis - many fleeing persecution and torture - only to encounter Britain's
asylum system. QABUKA is a timely and at times spontaneous show, made in
response to current and changing events that affect those exiled. A postcard
from the edge which deftly finds the humour in tragedy and the mischief in
tribulation." For online booking and more information, check:
· 24 hour Vigil of Solidarity, 2 - 3 July: The United Network of
Detained Zimbabweans, Zimbabwe Action Group, Zimbabwe Association, Free Zim,
Zimbabwean Women's Network, Zimbabwe Vigil in conjunction with the Refuge
Council invite you to spend time at their Vigil of Solidarity outside the
Asylum & Immigration Tribunal. The fresh hearing by the Asylum &
Immigration Tribunal into the 'AA' case takes place this week. The hearing
will consider new evidence presented by the Home Office to support its
contention that it is now safe for Zimbabweans who have sought refuge in the
UK to be forcibly returned to the hands of Mugabe's Zanu PF regime. The
organisations involved call on the British government to: a) Recognize the
risks faced by Zimbabweans who are deported, b) Halt deportation to Zimbabwe
and c) Allow asylum seekers to apply for judicial review. Venue: Field
House, Breams Buildings, Chancery Lane, London EC4A 1PR. Time: Sunday 2nd
July 5.00pm until Monday 3rd July 5.00pm. Contact: Noble Sibanda - 07888 643
689, email@example.com. For archive diary
The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place
every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of
human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in
October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk
25/06/2006 14:16 PM
Harare - Ailing Zimbabwean banks are struggling to raise a minimum
capitalisation of US$10m by September in line with a central bank order,
fuelling fears that many would have to close or merge.
Banks operating in Zimbabwe's inflation-ridden economy were given the
deadline last year to raise base capital of Zim$1trillion or pull down their
The country's financial sector has been ailing since 2004 when it
suffered its worst crisis which left seven banks under judicial
administration and three financial institutions liquidated.
Three of the banks that had been closed in 2004 reopened in January
last year as part of a new umbrella grouping that the central bank hoped
would help revive the troubled financial sector.
The Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG) brought together the Royal,
Trust and Barbican banks and planned to take in more distressed banks. But
it has not really taken off.
The governor's warning
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono last year warned that
more banks could be incorporated into the ZABG while those which failed to
meet the requirements to join the grouping would be liquidated.
Meanwhile, the September deadline is giving bank officials sleepless
"Most banks are unlikely to meet the September 30 deadline for the
minimum capital requirements," the Bankers' Employers Association warned in
a letter to a union of bank workers.
"Thus, some banks may actually be forced to close or merge with other
banks if they are to survive and retain workers," it said.
While most banks performed well last year, the environment "has
deteriorated significantly" in the first five months of 2006, with the
majority posting heavy losses, the association said.
Only five of Zimbabwe's 18 registered commercial banks have so far
raised the minimum amount required.
Costs outstrip income
Banks say skyrocketing operating costs are outstripping income.
Zimbabwe is in the throes of economic recession characterised by high
inflation which now verges on 1 200%, high unemployment and chronic
shortages of foreign currency and basic goods like sugar and the staple
To add to the banking sector's woes, the Zimbabwe Bank Workers Allied
Workers Union (Zibawu) has demanded a 1 600% pay hike.
Independent economist Daniel Ndlela said the outlook was bleak for
"Only established banks will be able to meet this requirement in time.
Because of the volatility of the exchange rate movement, locally-owned banks
will find it difficult."
He said most banks were "sitting on fictious balance sheets which made
them billionares at one stage but the next morning they are broke because of
the continued movement of the exchange rate."
Zimbabwe has pegged its exchange rate at Z$101 196 to US$1, but the US
currency in fact fetches at least Z$380 000 in the parallel market.
One bank has approached Deutsche Bank of Germany to become a foreign
partner while three others have urged shareholders to invest more more
From The Sunday Independent (SA), 25 June
But many obstacles remain, not least a surplus of elephants, to the
establishment of a cross-border reserve between South Africa, Botswana and
From a hill in Mapungubwe National Park, the wide sandy course of the Shashe
River can be seen snaking its way from the north to its meeting point with
the Limpopo River. It is a beautiful sight and one that the old royals who
once ruled there must have enjoyed from their mountain fortress, after which
the park is named. Their experience of the vista was almost 1 000 years ago,
long before the spectacular confluence marked the spot where three countries
now meet. This was when a socially structured community thrived there among
the rocky outcrops and baobab trees, doing business with traders from Persia
and India, as revealed by archaeological excavations. Now the hope is to
turn back the clock and return the area to its pre-colonial splendour, if
not in actual fact, then at least in broad intent. The aim is to transcend
the political borders by creating a transfrontier conservation area that
spans the adjoining sections of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
The Shashe River forms the border between the latter two countries, and the
Limpopo is the border between them and South Africa. There is an island at
the rivers' meeting point that has a cottage on it. It is an improbable
place for people to live, because mighty waters meet there in good rainy
seasons. It is perhaps typical of the region's mystique that some peculiar
theories were advanced when I first asked who the owners might be. But it
turns out to be one Hendrik Coetzer who says the island came with a large
Botswana (then Bechuanaland) farm his father bought in 1952. Situated where
it was, it wasn't certain at first which country it belonged to, which
prompted his father to declare it the Independent State of Shasheland. That
in turn prompted the British colonial government to annex and declare it
part of its Bechuanaland Protectorate. Coetzer told me this at a ceremony
that took place this week at the dry confluence of the two rivers, where the
environment ministers of the three countries signed a memorandum of
understanding towards the creation of the Limpopo-Shashe Transfrontier
Conservation Area. Negotiations to this end have been going on for about
eight years as conservationists and sympathetic officials have tried to win
political support for turning the confluence into a reserve spanning
Their success, though still qualified, met with much excitement at the
ceremony. With the three countries' flags fluttering from poles planted in
the sand, and with police (some armed with assault rifles) from all three
sides keeping watch, the ministers made ringing speeches. Zimbabwe's Francis
Nhema declared melodramatically: "We are here to reclaim what we destroyed
over the years. We must bring together what we set apart. We need to correct
out mistakes." South Africa's Marthinus van Schalkwyk, sporting dark glasses
and a stylish bush jacket, predicted that "generations to come will look at
what we have done and see it as the work of people who had courage and who
understood the need to make sacrifices". Botswana's Kitso Mokaila said his
hope was that the process to create the "It will be to the benefit of
conservation and the socio-economic development of this region." The
conservationists present were visibly delighted to hear their political
leaders, not least Zimbabwe's Nhema, speak with such enthusiasm. But for all
the obstacles already surmounted, patching together the Limpopo-Shashe
transfrontier conservation area is going to be no easy task.
In terms of difficulty, it is in fact at the opposite end of the spectrum of
southern Africa's pioneering and most successful transfrontier park, the
Kgalagadi, which was established in 2000 between South Africa and Botswana.
That happy experiment consisted of the amalgamation of two virtually
pristine tracts of Kalahari separated only by beacons in a dry river bed to
indicate where the political border ran. Limpopo-Shashe has a multitude of
complicating factors that are political, economic and ecological in their
making. Professor Willem van Riet, the chief executive of the Peace Parks
Foundation, the organisation founded by renowned industrialist and
conservationist Anton Rupert to facilitate the establishment of parks across
national borders, makes no bones about it, saying that it is one of the most
complex situations he and his people have been involved in. He will not say
so, naturally, but one problem must obviously be the situation in Zimbabwe.
The effect of its instability is well illustrated by the protracted delay in
linking its Gonarezhou Park with the Kruger National Park and Mozambique's
Limpopo Park to form the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. But the
difficulties Van Riet does talk about concern not only the formidable
political, security and management aspects of putting parks together across
international boundaries. The most immediate and perhaps biggest complexity
starts with patching together workable conservation entities within the
South Africa's side hardly presents a problem. Progress with extending and
consolidating what was last year named the Mapungubwe National Park has been
nothing short of spectacular. All but one farm cutting into the park and
preventing its consolidation have been bought out, and roads, a rest camp
and other tourist facilities like boardwalks have been provided. Having been
declared a World Heritage Site in 2003, the park has grown to close to 30
000 hectares. It has served as a catalyst for sizeable private reserves on
adjoining land. Negotiations are already in progress to link all these
together, including the 34 000 hectare Venetia Reserve belonging to De Beers
Consolidated Mines, and a prospective 100 000 hectare private reserve that
is in the making further east, towards the town of Musina. The South African
park system will undoubtedly anchor the proposed transfrontier conservation
area, for on the Zimbabwean side especially, the situation is brittle by
That country's proposed contribution consists of the 41 100-hectare Tuli
Circle Safari Area cut out on the western side of the Shashe River, a 76 379
hectare chunk of communal land owned by the Maramani community and two
ranches, Sentinel (32 000 hectares) and Nottingham (25 000 hectares), which
are said to have fallen victim to partial land occupation but which, despite
some continuing farming activities, are apparently happy to join in a
cross-border arrangement. None of these lands can be termed reserves, but
Van Riet says there seems to be a will in Harare, as among the local
communities, to turn the area into a park. On the Botswana side the
situation seems less fragmented, even though existing reserves are privately
owned. These include a conglomeration of 36 farms that form the 70
000-hectare Northern Tuli Game Reserve. It has three upmarket lodges and a
number of tented safari camps which draw about 30 000 visitors a year. One
of the immediate headaches is Botswana's large elephant population, which
has destroyed many trees in their part of the proposed reserve. South
African conservationists are not delighted by the prospect of them doing the
same to beautifully treed Mapungubwe.
The dream of a transfrontier park is one that goes back to 1922 when Jan
Smuts, then South African prime minister and a conservationist of note,
declared some of the farms along the Limpopo border as the Dongola Botanical
Reserve. In 1947, when he was again prime minister, he had it declared as
the Dongola Wildlife Sanctuary, with visions of establishing a transfrontier
reserve across the Limpopo and Sashe rivers. But the Nationalist government
put paid to all that by shutting down the park when it came to power in