Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
The Geoff Nyarota Column
I normally have a jaundiced view of politicians who are in the habit of making profound statements in the national interest while standing on podiums in foreign lands.
President Robert Mugabe has become a past master in this regard, as he occasionally makes known his new thinking on the sensitive but pertinent issue of his retirement from office during trips abroad. He grants interviews to foreign journalists while travelling in distant lands or to the few foreign journalists fortunate enough to be allowed to interview him in his office in Munhumutapa Building, much to the chagrin of local journalists. Particularly embarrassed are those loyalists within the government’s media juggernaut who tirelessly sing in praise of him. Through dispatches from such distant capitals, Zimbabweans often get to know that their president is indeed thinking about the prospect of either stepping down in the foreseeable future or extending a little further his term of office.
The MDC appears to have taken a leaf out of President Mugabe’s book in this regard, which is regrettable, considering that the party should be striving to shake off the image, imaginary or real, of an organisation manipulated by foreign interests.
During a recent visit to the United Kingdom by the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, his party’s new secretary general Tendai Biti, made a statement that made instant headlines.
Biti was quoted by Reuters news agency as having disclosed that the MDC had accepted in principle a proposal to grant to President Mugabe immunity from prosecution for human rights violations, if that would help to save the nation from further catastrophe.
Such a statement will no doubt incur the wrath of our compatriots in the western regions of Zimbabwe, especially those who suffered the consequences of the deployment of or witnessed the atrocities perpetrated by Five Brigade during the Gukurahundi campaign of the 1980s. Also likely to take umbrage at such a pronouncement are the hundreds of thousands who have been victims of sporadic ZANU PF-sponsored political violence since independence, including the infamous Operation Murambatsvina and the millions who have been forced to relocate to the diaspora over the years as political and/or economic refugees. They, as well as all upholders of democratic values and principles, expect, understandably so, that President Mugabe be held to account for the transgressions of his government.
The MDC’s proposal was, in those circumstances, as daring as it was unexpected among Zimbabweans who, in their frustration, now expect salvation or a solution to their nation’s political and economic crisis from divine intervention or from the mediation of President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. Surprisingly, Biti’s proposal is not entirely original.
As one who has been a victim of both persecution and excessive prosecution by the government, I was stunned, back on May 16 2005, to read in British newspaper The Times an article by Richard Dowden. He suggested that the government of President Mugabe’s nemesis, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, eats humble pie and deals directly with the Zimbabwean leader.
“There is a chance of an internal deal that may involve immunity for past crimes,” Dowden postulated. “Zimbabwe may be one of the places where justice has to be delayed — perhaps until the next world — for the sake of peace.”
Part of my revulsion to Dowden’s proposal was that it was coming from a foreigner. “Perfidious Albion,” I said to myself.
This time around, a year later and with Zimbabwe’s inflation now well over the 1 000 percent mark, on the back of a precipitous socio-economic meltdown, and with the same proposal now coming from Zimbabwe’s most influential opposition party, I paid more attention.
I have heard this proposal propounded by Zimbabweans in numerous private conversations, but never in public, apart perhaps from the daring articulation of the late university don and Financial Gazette columnist, Professor Masipula Sithole. Zimbabweans are renowned for their magnanimity. In 1980 they pardoned Rhodesian rebel Prime Minister Ian Douglas Smith, whose security forces committed untold atrocities inside the country and in Zambia and Mozambique during the war to liberate our country.
Since independence a pervasive culture of endemic fear has engulfed Zimbabwe. In fact, this terror has its roots in the violence spawned by that war, which the rural population was forced to endure in the operational zones of the brutal guerilla conflict.
The overwhelming sense of fear that has become a common characteristic of Zimbabwe’s political ethos after independence is a carry-over from that war. Virtually every Zimbabwean lives in fear, prompting the uncharitable observation of the citizens of neighbouring countries that we have become a nation of cowards. Ordinary citizens, whether rural or urban, live in perpetual fear of the state security machinery — the army and the CIO. They are terrified of ZANU PF and its own ruthless machinery for spreading terror and instilling fear, the so-called Green Bombers.
In reality, the ostensibly powerful ZANU PF politicians also live in morbid fear — they are terrified of the CIO and the man to whom the organisation is ultimately responsible, President Mugabe.
Rather paradoxically, the President himself, meanwhile, also leads a terror-stricken existence. He is horrified by the prospect of the people doing a Pinochet on him in retaliation for the years of hardship, deprivation, cruel humiliation, violence and atrocity suffered by millions as a result of his government’s retrogressive policies and actions. As a result, President Mugabe believes his own safety and security can only be guaranteed by his continued tenure of office. It can’t be sheer love for power that has transformed him into a virtual prisoner at State House for the greater part of the last quarter century.
While it is patently clear that government has no solution to the nation’s many ills, notwithstanding an abundance of resources, both natural and human, with potential to achieve an effective turnaround of our economy and our fortunes, President Mugabe will not step down because of a very real fear of the people. The increasingly elaborate security arrangements around his person bear ample testimony to this theory.
Meanwhile, our nation is held hostage to a problem that can be solved quite expeditiously.
Every other initiative, from foreign-sponsored quiet diplomacy to home-grown mass action, having failed dismally, the time may now have arrived for the people of Zimbabwe to seriously consider the proposed pardon for President Mugabe. Ideally, before it is implemented, Zimbabweans would be asked in true democratic fashion and in the national interest to indicate in some form of referendum whether the majority endorses such a proposal.
Essentially, they would be requested to choose between holding President Mugabe hostage at State House to the continuing detriment of the nation while hoping to inflict punishment on him one day or releasing him on some irrevocable guarantee of immunity so that we can get on with the momentous task of rebuilding our nation and rehabilitating our wrecked economy. Endorsement of the MDC proposal would result in a win-win situation; a compromise in which President Mugabe would be reprieved while Zimbabweans extricate their country from his relentless and devastating clutches. A transitional government headed by whoever appears to be Zimbabwe’s most popular politician currently, would then be put in place, with United Nations-supervised elections being held at the earliest opportunity.
For President Mugabe, just to be the beneficiary of leniency and clemency, when he himself is intolerant and unforgiving and for him to witness the rebirth of a nation with vast potential for prosperity and a new hope for future generations would be a form of excruciating punishment.
Once in a while, President Mugabe would be invited to tour places such as Kondozi Farm, with Edwin Moyo on hand to show him thousands of happy employees once more working around the clock to meet growing export orders. The former president would also be invited to tour Tsholotsho, Lupane or other rural districts of Zimbabwe, there to witness new development projects, with citizens, happily waving to him in nostalgic memory of the triumphant guerrilla war hero that he was before the onset of Gukurahundi. In this scenario, politicians such as Professor Jonathan Moyo would be reined in so that their talents and boundless energy are tapped for the benefit of Zimbabwe.
Incidentally, if President Mugabe dies in office, he will still escape the punishment for which we all clamour so stridently and persistently. Essentially the options are that President Mugabe either escapes punishment now through a magnanimous grant of immunity while we proceed to rescue our nation or that he escapes punishment through death in office after our country has deteriorated even further.
In the final analysis, Zimbabweans carry on their shoulders the responsibility to spearhead the search for a solution to the current crisis. They cannot relegate this onerous duty to Thabo Mbeki, Kofi Annan, Tony Blair or George Bush. Zimbabweans must have pride of proprietorship over a homegrown solution. The issue of amnesty could be a pointer to such a wholly Zimbabwean solution. The solution to the current crisis must emanate from a spectacular prescription, requiring courage and determination. But then, as a nation, we have become prisoners of fear. The majority of the population cannot articulate their views or concerns openly on such sensitive but divisive issues as Gukurahundi for fear of being branded tribalists or Mugabe-lovers. Ndebele subjects who campaign for justice on this issue, however belatedly, do so away from public platforms, their campaigns assuming the countenance of rebellious plotting against the Shona majority.
Because they are accused en masse of conspiring with or supporting the Gukurahundi atrocities, the Shona majority have taken to adopting a negative attitude to any initiative that seeks to address the issue of the atrocities. This has engendered inexorable ethnic polarisation in the nation. The largely ethnic split within the MDC is a veritable symptom of that schism.
Before we seek to distribute any funds in compensation for government-inflicted hardship, let us first create the conditions for the generation of wealth. Once our country is set on the road back to prosperity and we have an abundance of resources we can then, acting together as a nation, address a number of outstanding issues that are the cause of disaffection among sections of the community. Such issues include the prospect of reparation or compensation for those who suffered the ravages of Gukurahundi, sporadic and murderous political violence, Operation Murambatsvina as well as bombs that exploded under printing presses. Demanding compensation today is a futile exercise, unless we expect Gideon Gono to print more money for that purpose. This is the harsh reality; these are the hard facts.
Bad timing and inappropriate strategy are the bane of even otherwise progressive initiatives, as the illustrious Professor Arthur Mutambara may already be lecturing to all who care to listen to him.
Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
Mavis Makuni Own Correspondent
REACTING to the re-emergence of former long-serving Kenyan president, Daniel Arap Moi, on the political scene, opposition politician, Raila Odinga, is quoted as saying: "There are people who have left the field — let them stay out there and leave others to handle the country's political affairs."
Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), which comprises a coalition of opposition parties, made the remark after Moi, who was ousted in a humiliating electoral defeat in 2002, declared categorically that KANU, his former ruling party, should not go into a merger with ODM, which is now the official opposition. The former president maintained that KANU was already a national party which was strong enough to stand on its own.
However, opposition politicians fear that Moi is trying to position himself ahead of time so that he can influence the outcome of the next general elections by making sure only his chosen candidate would win. They feel that Moi, who was a founding member of KANU 56 years ago and was its chairman for more than 20 years, has had his chance and should now enjoy his retirement and stay in the background. "You had 24 years to do what you wanted, what did you do?" Odinga challenged the former president.
While politicians in Kenya are grappling with how to prevent a former president from staging a political comeback, the converse side of the issue — how to get an incumbent president to leave — was broached by South African President Thabo Mbeki at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town.
Mbeki argued against unlimited terms for presidents, saying it was inconceivable that incumbents would continue to enjoy the support of their people if they clung to power for the rest of their lives.
"For many countries on the continent, the big challenge is managing developing multicultural, multi-faith, multiethnic, multilingual societies which don't cohere naturally," the Sunday Times quotes Mbeki as saying. "All these components of this society must get a true sense of belonging. That means access to political power and access to resources in a manner that is equitable, that communicates the message that all of us belong."
It is interesting that this inclusive rather than exclusive approach should be advanced by Mbeki, who has been accused during the ongoing controversy surrounding Jacob Zuma of resorting to pre-emptive machinations to stop the former deputy president from ascending to the top post.
Zuma's vociferous supporters, who are mainly Zulus, have made a big issue of his dismissal by Mbeki last year and his trial on allegations of raping a family friend this year as underhand attempts to rob him of a chance to become South Africa's next president because of his ethnic origins. The ruling ANC has sometimes been referred to as 'Xhosanostra' because both Mbeki and his predecessor, the revered Nelson Mandela, are Xhosas. But in his speech in Cape Town Mbeki, who has also been accused of secretly harbouring ambitions for a third term after the expiry of his constitutionally limited incumbency in 2009, stressed that life presidencies and ethnicity had no place in a democracy. His stance will however, not elicit enthusiastic support from most of his counterparts on the African continent, which has some of the longest-serving presidents in the world. Some have been in power for periods ranging from 26 to 40 years and are outdone only by Cuba's Fidel Castro, who has been at the helm for a record 47 years.
While there is growing opposition to this monopolisation of power, the incumbents often resort to arguments such as the one advanced at the World Economic Forum by former Mozambican leader, Joachim Chissano.
In response to Mbeki's criticism of the concept of life presidencies, Chissano, who himself relinquished power a few years ago, said the issue should be looked at in an "African context". He argued that two terms were not enough for a leader to complete his programmes.
Critics would shoot down Chissano's argument for several reasons. Experience in Africa has shown that the longer a president remains in power the more dictatorial and tyrannical he becomes. The only programme he is interested in promoting at this stage is his own political survival and the repressive apparatus he needs to crush dissent gobbles up resources that should benefit the rest of the population. There are very few countries in Africa today that are better off under life presidents than they were at the attainment of independence.
Most are characterised by civil strife, dilapidated infrastructure, pauperised populations, ruined economies and public institutions. The only oasis in this desert of misery and suffering are the opulent lifestyles of those enjoying the patronage of the dictator. Chissano said he supported unlimited presidential terms as long as incumbents were elected in free and fair elections by people who said; "Okay, this president is doing well, we want him to remain."
The trouble in many African countries is that the people are saying, "We are tired of this brutal dictator, we want change" and the incumbent resorts to repressive measures or electoral fraud and rigging to thwart the demands of the electorate. Proponents of the "African context" school of thought fail to appreciate that any country on the planet is a work in progress which can never be completed by one person. If it were possible for one leader to do everything that needs doing in a country and solve all problems for all time, government would have to be abolished, there would be no need for it.
Business Day (SA), 8 June
Controversial Zimbabwean tycoon John Bredenkamp - an erstwhile ally of President Robert Mugabe’s government - has not fled the country, although his business empire is under official investigation by the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate for "economic crimes". A spokesman for Breco International, Bredenkamp’s holding company, with interests in mining, agriculture, manufacturing, leisure, real estate and sports, said yesterday the prominent magnate had left for London on Tuesday on a "scheduled trip through the normal channels of travel". This comes amid reports that Bredenkamp, who government authorities claim holds a local, South African and Dutch passports, "fled" in a private jet to escape a widening probe into alleged economic crimes. Police have raided Bredenkamp’s businesses, investigating alleged flouting of exchange control regulations, tax evasion and violation of the Citizenship Act. However, a company spokesman, who requested anonymity, said that while it was true that Bredenkamp’s businesses were under investigation, he had not fled the country. "It’s true there are investigations at the moment into a number of allegations, but it’s ridiculous to say the chairman fled the country," the spokesman said.
Bredenkamp, named several times among Britain’s top 50 richest people, has a home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in the UK. He also has many other houses around the world. Asked whether the widely reported fallout between Bredenkamp and Mugabe’s regime could be the cause of the probe, the company spokesman said: "I just don’t know." Bredenkamp, who has business interests around the world, including petroleum trading and aircraft manufacturing, grew close to the Zimbabwean government after he was accepted back into the country in 1982. He had been declared persona non grata in 1980 for unknown security reasons. Bredenkamp has been involved in Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF politics and sources say this is the "real reason behind the investigation". It has also been widely reported that he brokered arms deals for Zimbabwe when it was involved in the Congo war, where he had mining interests before he was forced out in a fierce scramble for mineral concessions with another controversial Zimbabwean mogul, Billy Rautenbach. Bredenkamp, a former Rhodesian rugby captain, was born in SA in 1940 but moved to Zimbabwe as a child.
Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
Stanley Kwenda Own Correspondent
SIX priceless historical art pieces were stolen from the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe (NAGZ) in Harare on Tuesday afternoon, raising fears of the existence of a cartel on the prowl for artefacts after an audit revealed the disappearance of a staggering 1 500 pieces from the National Museum in Harare.
The pieces comprised four original traditional Zimbabwean headdresses better known as Mutsago and two Makonde masks from Mozambique. The artefacts were all made from wood and were kept in the Northern section of the gallery as part of its permanent collection.
“I can confirm that six unique and exquisite items were stolen from the Gallery on Tuesday afternoon. The pieces define the Zimbabwean traditional way of life and some of them are used as symbols of the Gallery and are very important in the history of the country,” said Doreen Sibanda, the NAGZ Director.
News of the theft follows an audit report revealing that some 1500 artifacts disappeared from the National Museum of Human Sciences in Harare last year.
According to the NAGZ official, a Caucasian man, who entered the gallery on the day in question and refused to obey some standing rules, was the prime suspect.
“The pieces are also used by traditional researchers from around the world because they contain the country’s exclusive and original handiwork. Although some art pieces of such a nature are being done
for commercial purposes these were the original ones done for purely
art purposes,” said Sibanda.
“We are working very closely with the police and we have since notified Interpol, these pieces cannot be valued but they are very valuables pieces,” said Sibanda.
The NAGZ official said the pieces are usually taken to European countries where they fetch high prices.
Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
Chris Muronzi Staff Reporter
Government has hiked duty on imported orange juice by 40 percent, up from five percent sparking an outcry from the Beverage Manufacturers Association, which says the move would push prices up.
The BMA deputy chairman B. Bushu said the industry was currently experiencing supply constraints due to another poor season at Mazoe Citrus Estates, the prime supplier of orange juice, whose operations have been hamstrung by the occupation of a fifth of its land by ‘new farmers.’
Mazoe Citrus Estates has recently increased the price of raw juice by 1000 percent.
“Orange juice is a very
popular dilutable drink enjoyed by almost everyone in Zimbabwean society. The prices have been so reasonable over the years that every dining table, every satchel could not go for long without some orange juice,” Bushu said.
“The increase in duty is happening at a time when Mazoe Citrus Estates, the sole supplier of orange juice increased the price of the product by more than 1000 percent. It is also known that Mazoe will not be able to meet the requirements of juice manufacturers due to a poor orange season.
“Against a backdrop of increasing operational costs the increase in duty comes as an unwelcome development that can only hurt the consumers’ pocket. The Beverage Manufacturers Association has tasked its members to find
ways and means of ensuring that the cost of orange crush does not soar beyond the
reach of the ordinary customer,” said Bushu.
Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
THE Financial Gazette, which has persistently maintained its leadership among the country’s business weeklies, this week launches its first-ever multi-billion dollar promotion that has already generated a lot of excitement.
Dubbed The Financial Gazette Mega Promotion, the inaugural competition will run for a period of three months, punctuated by two monthly draws in July and August with the climax being the grand draw pencilled for September 15.
Pilate Machadu, the sales and marketing manager for the pink paper - as the publication is affectionately known - revealed yesterday that at least 38 lucky winners will walk away with spectacular prizes between the first and final draws.
“We committed ourselves to giving back something to our loyal readers who have stood by us regardless of the turbulent economic times,” said Machadu. “While we cannot reward every Fingaz reader for obvious reasons, we have laid a solid foundation for an exciting future that will offer more prizes to our readers,” he added.
Machadu, who doubles up as chairman of the powerful Advertising Media Association said the promotion will become an annual event. The inaugural competition has attracted some of the country’s top brands namely hospitality concern Rainbow Tourism Group, financial behemoth Barclays Bank, national airline Air Zimbabwe, Multichoice Zimbabwe and leading wholesaler Jaggers & Trador.
“Fingaz is seeking unbridled brand loyalty, and so are our partners. In the same vein, the partnership is promoting a reading culture in Zimbabwe. We are glad to have RTG, Barclays, Multichoice, Jaggers & Trador as well as AirZim as our pioneering partners and we are confident that the convergence of these leading brands will offer something spectacular to our readers,” said Machadu.
To participate in the competition, readers can buy any two consecutive issues of The Financial Gazette between this week and August 31, fill in the user-friendly form(s) inserted in the newspaper(s), attach the completed form(s) to the Fingaz masthead/banner and send the entries to the given address.
In order to make it easy for readers in outlying areas, at least 25 outlets across the country have been designated as deposit or entry form collection points.
A reader can enter the
competition as many times as possible thereby enhancing his/her chances of winning.
“There will be draws in July and August that would build up the excitement ahead of the grand draw,” said Machadu.
The prizes include DSTV equipment and subscriptions, shopping vouchers, air tickets, hotel accommodation, free Fingaz subscriptions and school fees payments totalling $500 million.
Over the years, the Fingaz has lived up to its reputation as a must read publication boasting specialised and leisure sections such as the Companies & Markets, The Property Gazette and The Weekend Gazette.
Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
Kumbirai Mafunda Senior Business Reporter
THE country’s second largest mortgage lender, Beverley Building Society (BBS), has begun to show signs of stress under the seven-year-old economic crisis by closing down four of its branches in an unexpected escalation of its cost-cutting efforts.
Sources within Beverley disclosed this week that the building society had by the end of last month wound up operations at four branches in Harare.
These include Kamfinsa, Market Square, Fourth Street and Westgate branches. The bank’s clients said their accounts have already been transferred to nearby branches. Some employees have also been transferred to other branches.
Sources said the banking institution had implemented the measure as part of a programme to cut mounting costs.
The move comes two years after the building society closed down six of its branches in 2004, at the height of a liquidity crisis that rocked the financial sector.
The sources also revealed that following the branch rationalisation, management has asked workers to sign up for voluntary retrenchment.
Beverley managing director Miccah Moyo had, by the time of going to print, not responded to enquiries sent to him on Tuesday.
By Mike Pflanz, East Africa Correspondent
Zimbabwean police yesterday rescued a six-year-old British boy held hostage at a friend's farm for almost 24 hours by drum-beating supporters of President Robert Mugabe.
As the mob pounded on doors and windows, James Mackenzie and his friend Ross Grinham, also six, were barricaded into a room behind several locked internal gates by Ross's mother, Chantelle Grinham.
The mob, members of Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, kept up the drum-beating and chants for the farm's owners to leave throughout the night and all yesterday morning.
Police finally mounted a rescue mission after frantic calls from James's parents, Rob and Hilary Mackenzie.
At noon yesterday, two dozen officers with machineguns arrived at the farm, near Chinhoyi, 60 miles north of Harare. They forced the crowd back, burnt their drums and freed Mrs Grinham and the two boys.
"James has been very quiet all day. They all have," Mr Mackenzie, 45, said last night at the family home four miles from Mrs Grinham's farm.
"They are choked up with the emotion of it all. It was an immense relief to hear the police were going in but you couldn't help worry it was going to turn sour. We thank God it went well.
"James has decided now he wants to be a policeman when he grows up."
Mr Mackenzie, a fully-trained voluntary paramedic, said the worst part of the ordeal was being able to talk to his son by telephone as the mob were chanting outside.
"We just told him to hang on, that there were some nasty men making a nuisance outside but not to worry because help was coming," he said. "But I've attended enough scenes where people have been beaten or killed, and one can't help but fear the worst."
No shots were fired as the elite police unit took control of the crowd. Several were arrested but it was unclear whether any charges would be brought.
David Ashford, consul at the British High Commission in Harare, said: "We rang the local police on Tuesday night and they eventually responded.
"The family assure me the boy is emotional but unharmed. The police are investigating. Any further action would depend on the family."
James's parents, who are both Christians running an orphanage for 206 child victims of HIV and Aids, said last night that they had no plans to leave the country, despite rising insecurity and the world's worst inflation.
"We'll see how James settles down again but we have a lot of long-term projects and work here we would not want to abandon," said Mr Mackenzie.
He and his wife, 43, have promised James a trip to England in July to visit Legoland and the Farnborough Air Show.
Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
Investment Advisory with Nyasha Chasakara
DESPITE a number of companies posting good results over the last few weeks, the steam has been taken out of the market following a significant recovery in money market rates this week.
Problems regarding the payment of value added tax had also affected investor sentiment. Thankfully trade resumed after a week-long standoff between stockbrokers and the country's revenue collectors. There is a lot of room for counters to move in the medium term, especially as a result of the weakening of our local currency and continued rise in inflation.
However the future is not very exciting when one looks at the operating constraints that companies are faced with. Declining volumes and falling disposable incomes have begun to take their toll on operations and companies are starting to report dropping volumes, some by as much as 30 percent in the last four months.
Once in a while however you do get some companies that surprise. ZSR, true to its profit warning, did just that, posting results that proved that the group is truly a defensive stock. It is not often that you get a handsome growth in profits, supported by strong cash flows, underpinned by a good recovery in operating margins. It is also interesting to note that the group now has businesses that have significant critical mass in their respective market segments.
On an operating income basis, 33 percent came from the food business, 29 percent from packaging and 30 percent from the wholesale business, with the balance coming from property and engineering. The transport business is worrying and will need to be restructured to make some meaningful contributions to bottom line.
Going forward, ZSR is looking very strong, barring a return to price controls in the sugar business. With a bigger crop of sugar forecast this year, things can only get better for the company and I maintain that investors buy the counter, especially on price weakness. Together with Hippo, ZSR are some of my top picks for this year.
Speaking of Hippo, a full allocation of water is set to contribute to an overall improvement in sugar cane production this year. Farming disruptions remain a worry on the Mkwasine Estate but generally the sugar industry is in a better position than it has been over the last two years. This should benefit both Hippo and ZSR.
Redstar did not disappoint either, publishing results that were in line with market expectations. The results expose the potential of the business, particularly in the higher margin retail business where the company operates the Spar franchise in the southern parts of the country.
Currently the business is earning low margins because of its exposure to the cutthroat wholesale business and will do well to increase its critical mass. Operating cash flows for the period were over $191 billion and this is one of the company's major strengths, which should put the business on a strong footing. With over $493 billion in cash at the end of March, the company will also continue to benefit from the current high interest rates.
Moving on to Rio Tinto, another favourite counter of mine. The 2:1 bonus issue recommended by the board was last week approved by shareholders and will see the tradability of the share improving. The company has so much potential but is unfortunately being constrained by the shortage of electricity in the country. It is the future of the company that I am more interested in in an economy that is operating efficiently. The experience in the mining sector and resources built over the years puts Rio Tinto in a good position to benefit from a recovery in the economy. Gold prices remain strong and appear to be benefiting from the weakness of the US dollar. The strength of the price means that Rio can now mine marginal areas due to increased profitability.
While short-term prospects for the market may look gloomy, I see some good long-term plays, particularly given that in some cases, it really looks like 2006 is showing some recovery in agricultural output, although we are nowhere near where we want to be.
Due to the input/output relationship, we certainly should have some improvement in our economy but sadly in the input side of it remains worrying. Even as we are starting to prepare for the next farming season, the exchange rate has already moved, making inputs expensive if they are available. The shortage of foreign currency will continue to adversely affect the supply of agricultural inputs and hence output unless there is a significant inflow.
China Peoples Daily
Zimbabwe will face timber shortage within the next 10 years due to over-harvesting and uncontrolled veld fire, experts on timber industry have said.
Although the country still has substantial tracts of land with commercial trees, the current harvesting levels and uncontrolled veld fire could see it turning to other countries for its timber requirements, an expert with the Forestry Commission said on Wednesday.
Zimbabwe could become a net importer of timber within the next 10 years because there was unwarranted cutting down of commercial trees with no replantation, the expert said.
Also, Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe's hub of commercial forest, last year lost timer worth 20 trillion Zimbabwe dollars to veld fire. (One U.S. dollar equals about 101,000 Zimbabwe dollars.)
According to statistics compiled by the Timber Products' Federation, timber covering close to 10,000 hectare, constituting 12 percent of the country's pine plantation, went up in smoke just inside four months between July and November last year.
The area affected was equivalent to the volume normally harvested over a three-year period.
Richard Kanyekanye, the federation chairman, said the industry was working on a strategy to adopt sustainable forests management before the situation got out of hand.
At the last count in 2004, Zimbabwe's commercial trees declined from 12 million in 1998 to 6.5 million. The annual growth rate also took a dip to 0.9 percent in 2004 from 3 percent in 2003.
The timber industry contributes 3.9 percent to the country's gross domestic product.
Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
Personal Glimpses with Mavis Makuni
SCORCHED earth policy, according to my trusty and well-thumbed dictionary, refers to "the policy in warfare of removing or destroying everything that might be useful to an invading enemy."
What my tattered dictionary does not say is what you call it when the 'army' that is responding to the perceived invasion dynamites even the most strategic 'bridges' and other structures that are crucial to its own continued survival. How does it re-establish linkages over the abysses that it not only created originally but continued to widen and deepen with great menace and flourish long after the initial skirmish?
Growing reports and indications that the sovereign government of Zimbabwe now thinks that British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, whom it has cast as the villain responsible for all this country's political and economic problems over the last six years, holds the key to the re-establishment of relations with the European Union and the United States suggests that it is about to tackle one of the most complicated face-saving operations imaginable. Despite the go-it-alone bravado it has sought to display all along, Zimbabwe may be discovering that finding a formula to call a truce in a war of words in which it did all the shouting is not a walk in the political park.
Press reports indicating that the overtures that the powers-that-be have been making through mediators such as some Zimbabwean religious leaders and former Tanzanian president, Benjamin Mkapa, are not exactly eliciting enthusiastic and grovelling responses from the British, the Americans and the Europeans are therefore not surprising. These are the people who until now have been portrayed as this country's worst enemies, saboteurs and a threat to its sovereignty. British and American ambassadors to Zimbabwe such as Sir Brian Donnelly and Christopher Dell have been vilified and ridiculed in the most undiplomatic manner when they should have been treated as our guests and bridge-builders.
The Zimbabwean government may be discovering too late that it is almost a mission impossible after employing the most virulent, all-pervading, anti-Western propaganda using the crudest and most intemperate language, for it to be now taken seriously. It has lost credibility among the foreign blocs it ruthlessly subjected to ridicule and unfounded accusations and its own people, down whose throats it tried to push countless fallacies.
At the height of this campaign during which the government tried to convince the world that the 'revolutionary masses' of Zimbabwe were waging a struggle against Western imperialism, anti-Blair, anti-British, anti-American and anti-EU epithets and denunciations became an integral part of political oratory, government jingles, and lyrics of songs by patriotic artists. It was the stuff of a new brand of journalism in the state-controlled press. Elections were fought and won on the basis of 'manifestos' whose main themes were 'to defeat Blair' or some other enemies like American President George Bush or Australian Prime Minister, 'Howard the Coward' as he was derisively described. Who can forget the monotonous "Sendekera Mwana Wevhu" advertisements in which Blair was ordered to make himself scarce because he 'smelt of Iraq." The propaganda was breathtaking in its sheer volume, viciousness, stridency and faith in the myth of the "mass mind", a concept under which all Zimbabweans were supposed to hold the same opinions on everything. There was no shortage of labels for those who saw things differently and pointed out that this massive culture of hate was futile and counter-productive.
Now that its proponents are hoist with their own petard and are ready to be helped to back down, the question to ask is, was it worth all the commotion and ill will it generated? And if the covert attempts the government is making to re-establish links with the international community fail, what then? Will it be back to the macho denunciations of the British and their allies or will the government make another face-saving U-turn and welcome United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, whose planned visit it is currently dismissing? We are definitely in for an intriguing political period ahead.
But before the next chapter even unfolds, one group that will definitely suffer an irreparable credibility gap are the religious leaders who are said to be trying to broker a truce between President Robert Mugabe, the EU and the United States. They are reported to be already getting the cold shoulder from diplomats who have asked a question whose answer Zimbabweans would also be interested to know: whose interests are they serving? They have definitely not been galvanised into their current role by the plight of the ordinary people whose suffering might have been eased if they had been courageous and principled enough to speak out against government excesses before things became so dire.
It is significant that even as President Robert Mugabe continues to lay the law at official functions that clergymen and women should not involve themselves in politics, these “peacemakers” are being allowed to intervene in a diplomatic row of the government's own making. Where were they over the last six years when their moral leadership and guidance was needed to confront the political intolerance, violence and killings that traumatised ordinary Zimbabweans? Why was there a deafening silence from them at about this time last year when hundreds of thousands of people were rendered homeless by the government's Operation Murambatsvina?
The 101-year-old Victoria Falls Bridge that links Zambia and Zimbabwe over the Chambezi River will be reopened on June 15 after being closed to heavy traffic last year for repair work, an official said here Wednesday.
Minister of Communication and Transport Abel Chambeshi told parliament that the emergency repair works which were being carried out on the bridge have been completed and trucks weighing 56 tons or below are now permitted to travel over it.
Chambeshi said the bridge was closed last year following recommendations by two foreign companies that the structure undergo emergency repair works after they carried out studies in 1992 and 2005 respectively.
The two companies found that the bridge was excessively vibrating every time heavy trucks passed through it.
The 152-meter bridge, put into use in 1905 with life span of 100 years, was reconfigured in 1929 to take vehicles weighing up to 46 tons.
The minister said the reopening of the bridge would decongest two other entry points, Chirundu and Kazungula, where traffic congestion was experienced when the bridge was closed.
He said the emergency repair works were financed by the World Bank and another 1.7 million U.S. dollars would be required for major repair works.
Located just below the Victoria Falls, the bridge was designed by Ralph Freeman, the same engineer who designed the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
Constructed from steel, the arch spans 156.50 meters, with a height of 128 meters above the valley floor. The bridge carries cars, trains and foot traffic and plays host to the world-famous, 111-meter Shearwater Bungi Jump.
Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
Kumbirai Mafunda Senior Business Reporter
Zim grain harvest falls far short of requirements
AN international crop monitoring agency has said Zimbabwe will continue to be one of a few pockets facing a food deficit in the southern African region this year, despite above normal rains during the last agricultural season.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) said although Zimbabwe would register an improved grain harvest, it was highly unlikely to be anywhere near the government’s optimistic projections.
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made, who has previously misled the nation with overly optimistic staple grain projections, has put Zimbabwe’s maize output from the 2005/2006 season at 1.8 million tonnes.
Fewsnet, which releases regular reports on African countries’ food situations, said although Zimbabwe had received sufficient rains, food security will remain precarious for most households in 2006.
The network said although this year’s maize harvest is a significant improvement compared to last year when the country harvested just over 500 000 metric tonnes, it falls far short of domestic requirements and Zimbabwe will once again have to import a significant amount of maize to augment domestic harvests.
Fewsnet projects that the crisis-hit country will only harvest between one million and 1.1 million metric tonnes of maize, leaving it with yet another food deficit. It blamed agricultural disruption linked to the government-sanctioned wholesale seizure of white-owned farms for distribution to veterans of the liberation war and supporters of the ruling ZANU PF party and shortages of critical inputs as having compounded the crop situation.
“In Zimbabwe, Fewsnet agrees with the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) maize harvest estimate of 1 000 000 to 1 100 000 MT, a large improvement over the estimated 650 000 MT last year,” said Fewsnet in its recent report. “After successfully importing over one million MT in the marketing season just ending, Zimbabwe will still face a major import challenge during the 2006/07 hunger season (October 2006-March 2007),” it added.
Zimbabwe requires close to two million tonnes of grain for its annual national requirements.
Last year, Zimbabwe spent US$135 million to import grain, stretching the country’s meagre hard currency reserves at a time when exports continue to decline significantly.
Fewsnet’s projections are in tandem with those earlier released by the USDA, which estimates a harvest of between 800 000 and 900 000 metric tonnes of maize. The USDA blames shortages of inputs such as fertiliser and poor land preparation for the poor crop.
The crop forecast agency also warned that inflation, which recently hurtled past the 1 000 percent mark to 1 042.9 percent would further erode consumers’ purchasing power, thus pushing more households into poverty.
“Despite the improved harvest, hyperinflation continues to restrict food access, especially in urban areas, and many households depend on remittances from Zimbabweans abroad to secure their food supplies. The threat of severe food insecurity will persist and could worsen when the lean period sets in later in the year,” the food-monitoring agency warned.
Fewsnet’s food deficit reports come at a time when the World Food Programme (WFP) has begun scaling down aid to Zimbabwe.
Insiders in relief agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also told The Financial Gazette this week that an annual crop assessment survey carried out by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC), a multi-stakeholder body comprising the WFP, Southern African Development Community institutions, NGOs, Fewsnet and the government was completed last Friday with the results expected next month.
Zimbabwe, once an exporter of maize and other agricultural produce, has in the past six years been reduced to a net importer of the staple commodity owing to the effects of an ill-advised nationalisation of rich farmland and economic mismanagement which critics blame on President Robert Mugabe’s administration. The government flatly denies the charges.
Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
Perspectives with Jonathan Maphenduka
THERE were two interesting developments during the past week: the Zesa-Eskom deal in which US$37 million will be invested to expand and upgrade the power utility’s Hwange Power Station (HPS) and the government’s announcement of a US$50 million fuel import revolving facility due to start this month.
The fuel deal with a French bank, BNP Paribas, becomes the first such arrangement since government surrendered fuel imports to the private sector and individuals, an act which is blamed for the current state of the economy which has been rudely shoved to its knees, with inflation of over 1 000 percent.
The arrangement has a strong link to the country’s mining industry, suggesting a possible mortgaging of the nation’s mineral resources to guarantee
its success. This was
quite clear from the emphasis placed on the mineral wealth of the country.
This was further buttressed by Bindura Nickel Mine’s pledge of its earnings to guarantee the success of servicing the deal.
A welcome part of the arrangement is the dramatic shift in policy which now requires Noczim to import fuels for all sectors of the economy, abandoning the disastrous abdication of responsibility by government when it surrendered imports to the black market about three years ago.
The two developments are interesting because they have an inherent element of stabilising supplies to give a fillip to the economy to begin to recover. This is particularly true of fuel, whose scarcity has forced a sharp decline of the economy and other social services in the past six years.
The economy needs stability in the supply of these commodities to recover and stay on course. Its recovery to its pre-2000 levels will be the yardstick with which to measure and determine its growth.
The fuel import facility, hailed as a purely commercial arrangement as opposed to political juggling, envisages a monthly draw down of US$40 million per month renewable every 12 months.
The renewal will depend on Zimbabwe’s ability to service the debt, and an important element of the facility is Noczim’s reversion to being the sole importer of the commodity, a strategic function which should not be left to private individuals whose only concern is profiteering.
If servicing of the facility is sustained, it will give the economy the impetus to recover sufficiently to begin to grow.
While the face value of the facility is established, interest on the debt was not announced — a critical omission from an arrangement involving public funds. But whether interest will be small or big is not important: what is important is the ability to sustain the facility.
Restoring fuel imports to Noczim for all sectors has the potential to produce a laudable impetus to the economy to move towards recovery. But there are conditions:
continuity of supplies and stability of consumer prices.
The first week of May saw a dramatic improvement in the flow of supplies which sent pump prices plummeting to $185 000 per litre, the lowest level in more than a year. This happened just at about the time when government announced it was working towards stabilising fuel prices as part of its NEDPP strategy.
But this decline was shortlived as prices rose to a new high of $260 000 per litre, triggering a flurry of black market activity. Service stations that had seen the appearance of queues taking advantage of a comparatively cheap commodity price quickly increased prices beyond $200 000 per litre.
The first impact of the increase on public spending was the announcement by commuter bus operators of a new fare of $80 000 a trip against the prevailing $50 000. Although the operators appeared to hesitate as the police warned of dire consequences, some of this self-willed lot thumped their noses at the police and forced the travelling public to pay the new fares.
As a way of forcing the authorities to ignore
the culprits, the operators withdrew their buses
last Wednesday, leaving thousands of commuters stranded. They do this every time a new fare structure becomes imperative, and get away it.
They do not waste time negotiating with the authorities for a fare increase.
This is just one example of what instability of prices is doing to the economy, and one of the imperatives to buoy the recovery programme is to bring about stability of fuel prices. The government must aim at making fuel prices affordable.
This will bring far-reaching benefits to the economy in the first instance, and stability to the cost of living. The need to alleviate the grinding poverty now affecting the majority of the population needs to be tackled with the greatest of zeal.
You cannot deal with widespread poverty without first dealing with its causes. The fuel deal
is the first means to
enable the country to realise some of its goals, and poverty-reduction must rank high on the government’s domestic priorities.
The Zesa-Eskom deal, where the South African power utility will invest US$37 million for the expansion of HPS, is a manifestation of how low the country’s economic fortunes have declined, forcing the government to swallow its pride and
sanction a foreign investment which it could have avoided if its own resources were available and its planning was not compromised by negligence.
Zesa executive chairman Sydney Gata, in a statement shorn of detail, said the deal was part of a strategy to ensure the country produced enough electricity to address a projected “regional crisis in mid-2007.”
Put in layman’s language, this means that the expansion and upgrading project will be completed and ready to avert the projected crisis by this time next year.
But there was a curious omission of the date of completion when Hwange’s contribution to the national electricity bank will enable the country to export 150 megawatts per week to South Africa to amortise Eskom’s investment.
Recent public statements by divisions of Zesa have put completion of refurbishment of HPS and Kariba South at between 24 and 42 months. If there is anything in this connection that Zesa is keeping close to its chest, this can only lead to public confusion.
If, as we are told, Zimbabwe’s demand is projected to peak at 3 000 megawatts, perhaps this winter, and the country is currently importing 35 percent of its requirements, when is the country likely to reverse that import figure to a surplus of 150 megawatts for exports to Eskom?
Gata admits that the shortage of coal has led to below capacity yield from HPS, and this was compounded by persistent breakdowns of equipment. It is common
knowledge also that the national power utility has suffered from massive
vandalism which hit a record 4 600 cases last year alone.
How is the power
utility dealing with the problem which appears to be running out control,
and cannot be perpetrated by outsiders alone, to turn imports into exports?
It is not enough for Gata to say the country is “in a dire situation” and working “flat out” to avert a catastrophe in 2007 when self-sufficiency and the time to complete various refurbishment projects are irreconcilable.
Enough has been said by the company to reveal a deepening crisis. At the same time, conflicting statements about the situation have been recorded, leaving the public thoroughly confused and alarmed.
A public investment drought in the sector is a euphemism for poor planning as evidenced by the country’s failure to go it alone on the Batoka Gorge Hydroelectric Project in 1993.
It is not enough to say the power problem in Zimbabwe is a regional one when a country like Zambia is working to complete its lower Kafue gorge scheme to avert a crisis while Zimbabwe is grappling with refurbishing aged equipment.
UP until now, the South Africans have been wary of getting involved in the expansion of Hwange Power Station while coal supplies were low, erratic and could not be guaranteed.
This has cost the country dearly in much-needed foreign currency, and dealt a crushing blow to the economy. The government’s failure to invest in the power sector since 1993 has left the economy submerged and gasping for air.
Has government learned a lesson from this experience? When priorities are put back-to-front like the government did by committing the army to the DRC conflict, only disaster can result.
Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
Nelson Banya News Editor
THE Parliamentary portfolio committee on transport and communications has recommended that government bans media coverage of elections at least two days before voting begins.
The committee, chaired by Makonde House of Assembly representative Leo Mugabe, made the recommendation following a probe into the state of the public media, whose findings were tabled in Parliament last week.
“The committee observed that there were newspapers that flood the Zimbabwean market a day or two before the elections. The committee recommends that there should be a regulation that prohibits the coverage of elections at least 48 hours prior to the elections just as in the United Kingdom and the United States of America they have compliance laws,” reads part of the report.
The recommendation follows submissions by Tafataona Mahoso, head of the Media and Information Commission, who is pushing for control over distributors of both local and foreign newspapers and magazines. Mahoso told the Parliamentary committee the Danish cartoon furore made increased regulation of publications originating from outside the country necessary.
South African newspapers Sunday Times and the Mail & Guardian have made in-roads into the Zimbabwean market, while the The Zimbabwean, a weekly publication produced by non-resident Zimbabweans, has also established itself. The Zimbabwean was launched in the run-up to the March 2005 Parliamentary elections.
State media editors Pikirai Deketeke of the Herald and William Chikoto of the Sunday Mail also threw their weight behind the proposed blackout on election coverage two days prior to voting.
“On the issue of newspapers that flood the Zimbabwean market a day or two before the elections, Mr Deketeke said that there should be a regulation that prohibits the coverage of elections at least 48 hours prior to the elections. Mr Chikoto added that in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States of America they have compliance laws that foreign distributors of magazines and newspapers must abide by before they publish,” the Parliamentary committee reported.
A US embassy official yesterday dismissed the parallels drawn between compliance laws in his country and the Parliamentary committee’s proposals.
“That description displays total lack of knowledge of the compliance laws in the United States. We do not have a media blackout prior to elections as suggested.
“There are compliance laws, but they tend to differ from state to state, city to city and even counties administer their own elections. These often relate to electioneering cordons and not 48-hour media blackouts, which would violate the First Amendment. That is totally false,” the official, who declined to be named, said yesterday.
Zimbabwe currently has stringent legislation regulating the media. Since the promulgation of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act in 2002, no less than four newspaper titles, including the country’s largest circulating independent Daily News, have been banned.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary committee has also recommended that the Broadcasting Services Act be amended to allow more players in the broadcasting sector, where the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings enjoys monopoly status.
“Concerned that the national broadcaster continues to enjoy the monopoly of airwaves despite the Supreme Court ruling which opened the airwaves to other players; noting also the deterioration of the quality of programming and programmes on radio and television, and taking cognisance of the government’s call for maximum utilisation of resources by parastatals, the committee resolved to adopt the previous committee’s inquiries on the activities of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings companies to review the process of the unbundling.
“The committee was also informed by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe that the only organisation licenced to provide transmission infrastucture, Transmedia, had no resources to undertake the erection of transmitters. Therefore, your committee recommends that the operating licence for Transmedia should be rescinded forthwith as it has no resources to fulfil its mandate as the national signal carrier.”
Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
Kumbirai Mafunda Senior Business Reporter
ZIMNAT Wealth Managers (ZWM) has appointed Tafadzwa Chinhamo, formerly of Kingdom Asset Managers, as managing director.
Chinhamo left KAM, where he occupied a similar position, last week to join Zimnat. He boasts of a wealth of experience in fund management gained over 10 years.
“The change will do me good,” is all Chinhamo could say when reached for comment this week.
Chinhamo, who chairs the Association of Investment Managers, replaces Clive Mphambela who left ZWM early in the year. Prior to Chinhamo’s appointment, parent company TA Holdings’ finance director Bothwell Nyajeka was doubling as acting managing director.
Chinhamo spent nine years at KAM, with six of those at the helm of the asset management firm. Before joining KAM he worked for the then Zimbabwe Development Bank (ZDB).
Andrew Mhere is now the acting managing director at KAM, a subsidiary of Kingdom Financial Holdings Limited (KFHL).
TA Holdings wholly owns ZWM. ZWM provides asset management services to a wide range of individual and corporate clients.
Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
AFTER running Kondozi farm to the ground, government will now partition what is left of one of the country’s most viable horticultural projects to ‘capable’ farmers, after its erstwhile owners spurned overtures to return to the decimated property, The Financial Gazette has established.
In what amounts to admission of the government’s failure to run the Odzi farm, State Security, Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement Minister Didymus Mutasa yesterday revealed plans to subdivide the farm for parcelling out to individual farmers.
“We are going to subdivide Kondozi and parcel it out to individuals,” said Mutasa.
Government seized Kondozi from businessman and industrialist Edwin Moyo and the De Klerk family in 2004 and handed it to the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA), which however failed to sustain operations. ARDA then ceded control of the farm to the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) under its command agriculture Operation Maguta programme to grow crops which has also failed to utilise the prime farm productively.
Army details in charge of operations at Kondozi recently disclosed that farming activities had been hamstrung by systematic looting of equipment by senior government officials and ministers, including Mutasa.
Other ministers implicated include Joseph Made (Agriculture), Michael Nyambuya (Energy and Power Development), Chris Mushowe (Transport and Communications) and Munacho Mutezo (Water and Infrastructural Development).
Government moves to partition Kondozi come in the wake of reports that a plan to return the farm to its former owners had collapsed after they insisted on the return of looted equipment.
Although Moyo was not available to comment yesterday, sources close to him said he had laid down conditions for the return of the farm.
Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
Posted to the web June 8, 2006
Charles Rukuni Byo Bureau Chief
The building boom in Bulawayo continued with the city council approving plans valued at $87.2 billion in April.
This was more than the total value of plans it approved in the first quarter of the year. The council approved plans valued at $72.8 billion from January to March.
Most of the development was concentrated in the low density suburbs of Burnside, Matsheumhlope, Selborne Park and Suninghill. Approved plans in these suburbs totalled $29.5 billion with town houses to be built in Matsheumhlope valued at $4.9 billion.
Mahatshula, Killarney and Parklands fell in second place with plans valued at $26.4 billion.
Cowdray Park, which hosts Operation Hlalani Kuhle, dominated the building boom in the high density suburbs with plans valued at $5.7 billion being approved.
It is likely to continue to rule the roost as the government and the city council has given beneficiaries deadlines to pay up for their stands.
For the first time in years the approved plans also showed that developers were coming back into commerce and industry. Five industrial plans valued at $1.6 billion and seven commercial plans worth $8 billion were approved together with seven public works plans valued at $7.3 billion.
"Overall, the outlook for much of Africa continues to be more favourable than it has been for many years". This sentence, taken from the fifth African Economic Outlook 2005/2006 report, published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development last month, may encourage the people of a continent generally considered the least fortunate.
The authors of the report naturally remind readers of the ongoing humanitarian disasters in Sudan and Ethiopia, the instability still hampering Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern provinces, and the economic debacle in Zimbabwe.
But the situation is improving, a point borne out by the review of 30 African countries, which represent 86% of its population and 90% of output.
Economic trends are certainly positive, with 4.9% growth in 2005 and forecasts of 5.8% for this year and a further 5.5% in 2007. In North Africa hydrocarbons are fuelling expansion (6.3% in 2006), with a special distinction for Mauritania, which has just exported its first shipment of crude oil. Fortunately the troubles in Ivory Coast are not affecting west Africa (5.3%) but instability is holding back central Africa (5%).
The drought in Malawi and Kenya has not prevented eastern Africa from making a good showing (5.6%). As for southern Africa (5%) it is split between the recession in Zimbabwe (-4.8%) and the oil-fed opulence of Angola (26.4%).
All Africa's economic indicators are pointing in the right direction. Inflation is remarkably low (7.3% in 2006) for countries coping with the rising cost of energy imports. Here again Zimbabwe, with almost 1,000% inflation, is an exception. Elsewhere budget surpluses are comfortable and trade surpluses impressive (6.3% of GDP).
Such good results are largely due to the rising price of oil and raw materials driven by global growth. Predictably oil exporters are growing faster (5.5%) than the others (4.4%).
However, according to the OECD, the increasing pace of growth is also the result of a rise in development aid, primarily in the form of debt cancellation. Aid to Africa accounted for 36% of the world total in 1999, rising to 46% in 2004 ($79.5bn). Another positive factor is renewed foreign investment ($18bn in 2004), even if most of the funds have gone into oil drilling.
The report points out that there are fewer conflicts in Africa, consolidated by elections and referendums, particularly in Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda, Cape Verde and São Tomé. Democracy is taking root and countries such as Nigeria, Congo or Cameroon are taking measures to make the oil industry more transparent.
But there is still a long way to go on the road to development. The report notes that only six African countries - Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Mauritius and Tunisia - are likely to halve the number of people surviving on less than $1 a day [by 2015], in line with the millennium goal set by the United Nations in 2000.
It is not so much the omnipresent corruption that worries the OECD as the state of the continent's infrastructure and transport systems. According to the report, Africa is hampered by a lack of mobility, with the poorest people - witness South Africa's townships - unable to travel.
Local authorities, international donors and private investors should, it argues, join forces to improve the mobility of goods and persons. Otherwise there will be neither social life, national identity, trade nor development.
By Lance Guma
07 June 2006
Neighbours Zimbabwe and South Africa have both unveiled draft legislation meant to secure state authority for the interception of phones and e-mails by their respective security agencies. In South Africa the ‘Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-related Information Bill’ will require mobile phone operators in that country to monitor and intercept communications if requested. Companies will face fines of R100,000 if they don’t comply. Any customers who sell their phones or sim cards and fail to relay the personal information of the recipients can be imprisoned for up to 12 months. South Africa says it wants to crack down on crime.
In Zimbabwe towards the end of May the government unveiled what it called ‘The Interception of Communications Bill.’ Transport Minister Christopher Mushowe said they would set up a ‘ communication centre to monitor and intercept certain communications in the course of their transmission through a telecommunication, postal or any other related service system.’ Robert Mugabe’s regime argues that they need the law in order to protect national security. Opposition spokesman Nelson Chamisa however called it an attempt to legalize what they are probably already doing and that is spying on the communications of ordinary citizens.
Meanwhile in South Africa the biggest mobile operator Vodacom said it was not practical to get all the names and addresses of the 20 million pre-paid users in the country. Under the law they will be required to cut services to those whose names are not in the database. Dr Handel Mlilo from the Concerned Zimbabweans in North America group said both countries were simply introducing laws meant to benefit politicians and that ‘if you give them an inch they will take a mile.’ He said it was important to ensure that the judiciary is involved in any of the proposed laws because without checks and balances the legislation could be abused.
A South African columnist, Rebecah Kenda,l who writes for I-Africa.com says of the new law, ‘on the one hand, it prohibits anyone in the general public from intercepting communications…on the other hand, it allows certain government organization, such as the South African Secret Services , the South African Police Services, the National Intelligence Agency and the South African National Defence Force, to intercept or monitor any communication that they deem threatening to the safety and security of the country.’ The anxiety in South Africa is felt even more in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe’s critics know the new law is targeted at them.
Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
7 June 2006
Another week, another cock-up on Zimbabwe. It's not funny anymore. We've become a laughing stock. But more important, people are dying in Zimbabwe and we don't care. I wonder what would have happened to the so-called Rainbow Nation had the rest of the world washed its hands and urged us to get on with it. President Thabo Mbeki made a much-publicised trip last week presumably to talk about Africa over tea with Tony Blair. It's a year since the G8 met in Gleneagles. What to do with Africa was a big story. Western masses, egged on by their celebrities, marched in the streets and demanded action from their leaders. They were dotting the i's and crossing the t's when everything went up in smoke. Bombs in London ripped everything apart. And so Africa went back to where it belongs - at the back of the queue. The G8 is meeting again in the next few weeks in St Petersburg, Russia. Vladimir Putin has never been a friend of the developing world. The Soviet Union was. Putin has bigger fish to fry. And, as host, he's in charge of the agenda. In the past he's expressed some irritation with the G8's preoccupation with Africa.
So Mbeki went to London presumably to assess progress made with Blair's manful attempt to put Africa at the top of the international agenda. It is not unreasonable to imagine that "how to handle the host" was also on the agenda. But Mbeki knows that any discussion on Africa is incomplete without a mention of the terrible situation in Zimbabwe. He came prepared. Robert Mugabe, in an attempt to mollify the wrath of the international community after Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Trash), last year invited UN secretary-general Kofi Annan to Harare. In the past few weeks, Annan's office made it known that his busy schedule would allow him finally to make the trip. That little shield came in very handy for Mbeki in London, and he wielded it with some vigour. So whenever the Zimbabwe question was posed, there was a stock answer: Annan is going to Harare. Let's wait and see what happens. Suddenly a low-key visit took on the mantle of a mission that would in one fell swoop solve all Zimbabwe's problems. We're clutching at straws here. But all Mbeki wanted was to simply get out of a jam. Unfortunately Mugabe, as always, did not play ball. Mbeki had hardly finished talking up Annan's visit before Mugabe cancelled it. It's not the first time that Mbeki has been so publicly humiliated by Mugabe. How much of this can he continue to take?
Mbeki's lack of action on Zimbabwe is as illogical, incomprehensible and insensitive as his views on Aids. They are the issues which raise his hackles more than any other. Mistakes were made, conceded Winnie Madikizela-Mandela rather reluctantly after much prompting by Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the Stompie Seipei affair at the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. The non rapist has apologised, to no-one in particular, for attributing medicinal qualities to a shower. Even the odd couple - Tony Blair and George Bush - have publicly admitted what everybody knew all along - that monumental blunders were made in the invasion of Iraq. You admit to mistakes, learn from them and move on. As Mbeki approaches the sunset of his political career, he should be thinking about his legacy: how history will judge him. Unless he concedes that a mistake was made he won't be remembered as the man who presided over the most sustained economic growth in a long time; or the man who single-handedly put the developing world at the centre of the international agenda. History won't be kind to him. He will be known or remembered as the man who looked the other way as Zimbabwe burnt, or the man who rested on his laurels as his people were devastated by the Aids pandemic. There are stock answers for both - we have the best ARV programme in the world, and so on. It just doesn't wash, Mr President. It is those who feel it who are the final arbiter; the only ones whose views matter.
The SA government may have decided to sit on its hands because it believed Mugabe's wrath was reserved for the white farmers. In fact the majority of the victims of his brutality are black people, most of whom had nothing. They are now in even worse straits. That should call for a change of policy. Who are these poor that we're determined to help if the poor of Zimbabwe don't fit the bill? Or are we just reciting the mantra so that we can feel good about it? With his party turning against him, Mbeki needs success, good news that would turn the headlines in his favour. He needs to stay relevant. They are lining up to prematurely dance on his grave, and that includes the ungrateful Mugabe, the biggest beneficiary of his generosity. By changing tack on Zimbabwe, Mbeki will not be betraying his beloved Africa project; he will be remaining true to its spirit. You can't preach to others if you can't sweep your own backyard.
The Herald (Harare)
June 7, 2006
Posted to the web June 7, 2006
There is a general shortage of food in the country's police holding cells while the living conditions for inmates need to be improved, Bikita West Member of the House of Assembly Cde Claudius Makova (Zanu-PF) said yesterday.
Cde Makova, who is the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs, was presenting the committee's report on the Ministry of Home Affairs. He said in its findings, the committee noted that there was a general shortage of food, erratic fuel supplies and staff accommodation shortages at police stations.
Cde Makova said during the committee's visit to Highlands Police Station it was disclosed that inmates in the holding cells had gone for two days without food and this was attributed to the shortage of maize. "The shortage of food was said to have been exacerbated by the shortage of maize. Suspects were said to have gone for two days without food and some were relying on food brought by relatives," he said.
The lawmaker said there was also a shortage of tissue papers forcing inmates to tear blankets and using them as tissues. The situation, Cde Makova said, was even worse at Harare Central Police Station where the living conditions for suspects were appalling. He said the cells were unfit for human habitation as the sewage system burst on a daily basis thereby putting the inmates at risk of contracting diseases. The committee recommended that the sewage system at the station should be overhauled as it had outlived its life span.
It also recommended that suspects at police holding cells should be treated in a manner befitting human dignity. Cde Makova said officers at the station told the committee that they had gone for two years without receiving new allocations of uniforms while there was no protective clothing for cleaners. He said at Gweru Central Police Station there were 175 officers out of a staff establishment of 300 and this was affecting smooth service delivery. There was also a shortage of accommodation at the station with some married officers being housed in former horse stables.