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Mixed reactions to Mutambara

Zim Independent

            Dumisani Muleya

            NEWLY-ELECTED leader of one of the rival factions of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Professor Arthur Mutambara,
strode onto the political stage this week talking tough.

            After being elected president of the camp formerly led by
founding MDC deputy leader Gibson Sibanda at a congress in Bulawayo on
Saturday, Mutambara addressed his first press conference as leader the
following day promising fire and brimstone.

            "We are putting (President) Robert Mugabe and his regime on
notice: we are going to fight you tooth, nail and claw. We will use all
tools of the struggle at our disposal, including jambanja (confrontation),"
Mutambara roared amidst cheers from party members.

            "Our agenda is very clear: to fight and defeat the Zanu PF
regime and become the next government. We will work with all other
democratic forces to achieve this."

            Mutamabara proposed what he described as a "total
de-legitimatisation strategy" to dislodge Mugabe from power. This, he said,
included adopting measures to ensure Mugabe's legitimacy crisis is

            This might include withdrawing from all election-based
institutions and launching anti-government street protests, he said.

            Mutambara said although he now leads the so-called pro-senate
faction, he was "anti-senate".

            "My position was that the MDC should have boycotted those senate
elections. Not only that, I want total withdrawal from parliament and all
other election-based institutions," he said.

            Asked how he would be able to coordinate his "total
de-legitimatisation strategy" when he is living in South Africa, Mutambara
said he was returning home fulltime to engage in the struggle for democracy.

            "Forget about America and South Africa, Zimbabwe is the front.
We will fight and outflank Zanu PF in the streets," he said in remarks
reminiscent of his days as a University of Zimbabwe student leader.

            Mutambara called for nationwide mobilisation of various groups -
including a reunited MDC - to create a critical mass to confront Mugabe's
regime over political repression and the economic crisis.

            Describing the founding MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai as a "hero",
Mutambara said he was prepared to step down and contest the MDC presidency
if the warring factions bury the hatchet.

            Mutamabara said his faction was nationalistic and patriotic as
he sought to shake-off the alleged Western "puppet" image which Zanu PF
foisted on the original MDC. He recalled Zimbabwe's anti-colonial heroes and
rejected claims that his faction was moderate compared to Tsvangirai's.

            "Those who think we are moderate and will be negotiating with
Zanu PF are in for a big shock," he said.

            Mutambara tried to shift his camp's ideological position by
coming out in strong denunciation of "any form of imperialism, violation of
state rights and unilateralism".

            Apart from dusting off the liberation war legacy, Mutambara also
promised a "land revolution", a strong foreign policy which does not pander
to the whims of powerful countries, to promote democratic imperatives and
also deal with the current economic crisis.

            On questions, Mutambara gave detailed, albeit sometimes
unconvincing, answers in an aggressive and often humorous style.

            After the press conference, Mutambara shook hands with senior
members of his faction - including newly-elected chairman Gift Chimanikire -
as if to camouflage the public clashes in the camp that preceded the

            While critics gave Mutambara credit for raising key issues and
for his oratorical skills, others - including diplomats present at the
congress - felt he did not seize the opportunity to make much political

            They felt he failed to connect his past and present. He also
ignored a number of important issues - like macroeconomic conditions and
food shortages - which ring a chord with the population.

            Some say Mutambara's performance was not compelling enough to
cut an impression of a politically bankable leader in line with a
groundswell of expectations triggered by his return to join mainstream

            Mutambara, some say, also exposed himself to criticism by
sounding like Mugabe on other issues, especially his anti-colonial and
anti-imperialist mantras which cut no ice with a hungry electorate.

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Nyambuya, Gata clash over new Zesa board

Zim Independent

            Ray Matikinye

            ENERGY and Power Development minister Mike Nyambuya this week
blocked attempts by Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) chief
executive officer Sydney Gata to impose his associates on the power utility's
board of directors.

            Nyambuya resisted the move arguing that the names on Gata's list
needed to be sanctioned by the president.
            President Mugabe approves board members for all parastatals.

            Gata allegedly forwarded the names of Frank Sambo, Obert
Nyatanga and Cletus Nyachowe as candidates for the new board.

            Before the announcement of the board on Wednesday, Gata was
locked in a meeting with Nyambuya as he tried to persuade the minister to
announce additional names.

            Government on Wednesday appointed a new Zesa board. The
operations of the power utility have been under Gata's exclusive charge as
he doubled up as executive chairman and CEO since 2003.

            Gata has run Zesa as a de facto one-man show for the past two

            Professor Christopher Chetsanga, Jonathan Kadzura, Francis
Chirimuuta, retired Brigadier General David Chiwenza and Dr Ndabezihle Dube
were appointed to the board.

            Sambo, who Gata wanted on the board, was retrenched and then
rehired as a consultant at a rate of  $1,3 million an hour.

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Chiyangwa faces fresh probe

Zim Independent

            Clemence Manyukwe

            BUSINESSMAN Phillip Chiyangwa is under police investigation on
allegations of externalising foreign currency in violation of the Exchange
Control Act.

            Director of Public Prosecutions, Loice Matanda-Moyo, said in an
interview on Wednesday a docket on Chiyangwa was submitted to her office but
was referred back to the police for further investigation. Chiyangwa is
facing charges of exporting US$200 000 to Namibia.

             "The docket has been referred back to the police for further
investigations after we raised certain concerns. Once it has been
re-submitted to our office we will make a decision whether to prosecute or
not," Matanda-Moyo said.

            She could not give further details on the matter.

            Contacted for comment yesterday, police spokesman Wayne
Bvudzijena said: "As soon as we comply with instructions from the
Attorney-General's Office, the docket will be handed back to them."

            The Zimbabwe Independent first broke the story on the alleged
externalisation of forex in January last year. Chiyangwa was said to have
externalised US$200 000 between 2001 and 2004 to cover the preliminary costs
of a joint-venture business in Namibia.

            Chiyangwa, a former Zanu PF MP and provincial chairman for
Mashonaland West, was expelled from the ruling party last week for
unspecified reasons. His fallout with the Zanu PF leadership however
appeared to have been prompted by his arrest towards the end of 2004 on
allegations of espionage.

            Documents show that Chiyangwa was allowed by the central bank to
move money to Namibia, but when the deal collapsed the foreign currency was
not repatriated.

            In authorising the transfer, the RBZ is understood to have
demanded quarterly progress reports on the envisaged joint venture.

            In March last year Chiyangwa's lawyers, Byron Venturas, wrote to
the Independent saying the businessman had not committed any crime and that
he had repatriated the foreign currency in question.

             "After the collapse of the joint-venture due to the Namibia
Northern Investment Company failing to raise adequate funding our client
repatriated his investment in the Namibian operation back to Zimbabwe under
the auspices of the Reserve Bank," the letter said.

            "For the avoidance of any doubt, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
has concurred that there was no criminal activity perpetrated by our client,
his business or any of their affiliates during this transaction," the
lawyers said.

            At that time RBZ governor Gideon Gono told the Independent
Chiyangwa had repatriated part of the money.

            The businessman, through his investment vehicle, Native
Investments Africa (Pvt) Ltd, is said to have wanted to forge an alliance
with a Namibian company, Namibia Northern Investment Group (NNIG), which
later failed to raise enough money for the venture.

             Documents showed that Native Investments had undertaken to
provide plant machinery and necessary technical assistance while NNIG was to
provide buildings and working capital for the venture. This arrangement is
understood to have given birth to a registered company called Crittal Hope
Namibia (Pty) Ltd.

            AR Project Services (ARPS) Namibia, a wholly owned subsidiary of
ARPS Ltd, a company incorporated in South Africa and owned by Mutumwa
Mawere, was appointed the project consultants on behalf of NNIG.

            In July 2001, Chiyangwa opened a bank account in Namibia with
the Standard Bank at a Windhoek branch.  The businessman is said to have
operated a current account and later opened a foreign currency account (FCA)
in which he was the sole signatory.

            It was said Chiyangwa proceeded to deposit several US$20 000
bank drafts by three local banks namely Zimbank, Barclays Bank and Jewel
Bank. It is understood Chiyangwa then transferred N$154 950 from the FCA to
the current account.

            The balance in the current account as at December 24 2004 stood
at N$16 807 (US$2 800).  The Independent understands that in 2004 a total of
N$1 252 472 (US$208 745 at that time) was transferred from the FCA to the
current account.

            While detained, the businessman is said to have suffered a mild
stroke as a result of intense interrogation by state security agents.

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Charamba in hot soup over Tsholotsho

Zim Independent

            Dumisani Muleya

            AS President Robert Mugabe's succession battle rages on, his
spokesman George Charamba has been caught up in the web of political
intrigue. He is accused of working with a faction which Mugabe accused of
plotting a palace coup against him in 2004.

            High-level Zanu PF sources said Charamba was reeling from his
headlong plunge into the eye of the Mugabe succession storm through the
damaging Tsholotsho episode which has claimed a number of high-profile
political casualties.

            The Tsholotsho meeting was held on November 18 2004, apparently
to block Vice-President Joice Mujuru's ascendancy to her current position.
Mujuru, in the camp led by her husband, retired army commander General
Solomon Mujuru, only won after Mugabe's intervention.

            Emmerson Mnangagwa had tried to outmanoeuvre her. Mnangagwa and
Mujuru's camps were locked in a bitter power struggle in the run-up to Zanu
PF's congress in December 2004.

            Charamba, sources said, was still floundering in the succession
quagmire amid growing suspicion about his role in the incident which has
left Zanu PF divided down the middle. His situation was worsened by his
clash with ZBC workers and government officials whom he allegedly accused of
being responsible for his failure to become information minister.

            Sources said Zanu PF propaganda chiefs want Charamba removed
from his position for his links to Mnangagwa. This explains the party's
deputy information and publicity secretary Ephraim Masawi's proposal during
Zanu PF's conference at Esigodini last December to have one spokesperson for
the presidency - Mugabe and his two deputies - and another for government in
a new information set-up.

            Information which filtered through this week showed Charamba was
an important actor in the Tsholotsho drama. Sources said Charamba met
Mnangagwa, then speaker of parliament whose supporters met at Dinyane High
School, Tsholotsho, in mid October 2004, at his offices at Parliament
Building for talks about the succession. It is said Charamba organised the
meeting with Mnangagwa through the  clerk of parliament, Austin Zvoma. That
marked the beginning of Charamba's role as a Mnangagwa advocate until he
defected. He hired a plane for the Tsholotsho meeting.

            Charamba's former immediate boss in Mugabe's office, Jonathan
Moyo, who was Information minister, revealed in an article in the Zimbabwe
Independent of December 23 2005 that the presidential spokesman was deeply
involved in the Mnangagwa faction.

            "It is common cause among those who know what happened that
Charamba, Mugabe's press secretary, actually drafted Emmerson Mnangagwa's
speech that was delivered by (Justice minister Patrick) Chinamasa at Dinyane
School on November 18, 2004," Moyo wrote.

            "I still have the original copy of Charamba's draft speech with
his handwritten cover note attached!"
            Charamba has not denied this although he was not available for
comment this week.

            The state security agents are said to be concerned about reports
which claimed last year Charamba might have been the one who told New
African magazine editor, Balfour Ankomah - after his visit to Harare and
living with him in his house - that the CIO was the architect of the widely
condemned Operation Murambatsvina.

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Factionalism flares as Zanu PF succession race rocks Masvingo

Zim Independent

            Ray Matikinye

            THE Zanu PF succession race has taken its roadshow to Masvingo
where a recent visit by the national political commissar, Elliot Manyika,
seems to have fanned political rivalry in the province.

            When Zanu PF thought it had finally smothered the scourge of
divisions in its ranks in Masvingo, the Tsholotsho contagion has spread to
revive lingering factionalism, party insiders say.

            They say the divisions have been stoked by fears that central
committee members elected under the deposed executive might find themselves
with no political ground to fall back on when an audit of party membership
and structures has been completed.

            A provincial executive led by Daniel Shumba, that has since been
dissolved by Manyika, included central committee members - Josaya Hungwe,
Stan Mudenge and Tinos Rusere - who had become front-runners of a faction
seeking control of the fractious province.

            Shumba, who had a brief stint with the United People's Movement,
parted ways with the fledgling opposition party to form his own United
People's Party (UPP).

            His plans to launch the party in Masvingo has unsettled Zanu PF
in an area it has always taken as its preserve.
            But the decision to oust Shumba's provincial executive has left
the province, known for its age-old divisions - open to internecine fights
for supremacy under a new political configuration brought about by the
dissolution of the executive.

            Shumba was suspended along with five other provincial chairmen
for taking part in the Tsholotsho meeting that sought to scuttle
Vice-President Joice Mujuru's ascendancy to the presidium.

            The new interim executive led by Samuel Mumbengegwi has started
auditing party structures established under Shumba's tenure and has
unearthed serious anomalies that exaggerated
            party support in the volatile province.

            Party insiders say the members tainted by the Tsholotsho debacle
feel enfeebled by lack of grassroots support now that the audit exercise has
exposed a scheme put in place to overstate party support and enhance
Masvingo's role in the outcome of President Robert Mugabe's succession race.

            "Central committee members are panicking. They see themselves
without grassroots support when the audit is complete," said a source
familiar with the political manoeuvring.

            The source said central committee members, struggling to erase
the Tsholotsho smudge on their political careers, had solicited Manyika's
intervention, hoping
            to reverse the outcome of the audit.

            "There are set rules in terms of the composition of party
structures from the lower levels up to the provincial executive. There
cannot be a district without the stipulated number of branches to justify
such a structure," a source said.

            "But what has been the case is that more districts than the
provincial population could justify were established and this is what the
audit seeks to remedy," said a provincial member who declined to be named.

            The provincial executive said central committee members feared
the current audit would unmask their political stratagem that had been
fashioned to bolster Emmerson Mnangagwa's chances in the succession race.

            Central committee members view the audit as a purge to rid party
structures of members aligned to them while the party fears Shumba might use
the structures as a springboard to launch his UPP if existing structures are
left untouched.

            Provincial political commissar, Dzikamayi Mavhaire, declined to
comment further than saying: "All is well in the province.  The audit is
going on smoothly."

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NRZ fires 35 workers over ticket scam

Zim Independent

            THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has fired 35 workers,
who are part of a group of about 500 employees implicated in the smuggling
of agricultural equipment and fertiliser.

            The scam, also involving Zambian nationals, was unearthed by the
Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) in the resort town of Victoria Falls last
month. The smuggling is said to have prejudiced the state and the NRZ of
billions of dollars in lost revenue.

            NRZ workers, as part of their benefits, are entitled to
privilege ticket orders that allow them to transport personal goods at 25%
of the normal costs. The NRZ workers were allegedly selling the tickets to
Zambian traders who used them to smuggle goods out of the country.

            NRZ public relations manager, Fanuel Masikati, this week
confirmed the dismissal of the 35 workers and said investigations were still
going on into the involvement of other workers.

            "We have dismissed 35 workers who were abusing the privilege
ticket order," said Masikati. "Investigations are still going on for the
remainder of workers involved in the scam and more will be dismissed once
investigations into their cases are complete," Masikati said.

            However, Masikati could not be drawn to confirm the number of
workers involved in the scam. Sources within the NRZ said about 500 workers
from various centres across the country were involved.

            The sources said the scam has been going on for the past three
years since the privilege tickets were introduced.

            The sources said NRZ workers were selling the tickets to the
Zambians in foreign currency while the wagons in which the goods were
transported were marked "on NRZ business" and were therefore not subjected
to searches by Zimra staff.  - Staff Writer.

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Mutasa cleared

            Clemence Manyukwe

Zim Independent

            NATIONAL Security, Land Reform and Land Resettlement minister,
Didymus Mutasa, has been cleared of political violence allegations after
state witnesses declined to testify against him.

            A Zanu PF faction is understood to have been making
behind-the-scene manoeuvres to have Mutasa prosecuted for intra-party
violence that erupted in Manicaland ahead of the March election last year.

            The case stemmed from violence which broke out between one
faction loyal to the minister and another aligned to Makoni North aspiring
candidate, James Kaunye.

            Last week, one of the defence lawyers in the on-going trial at
Rusape Magistrates' Court, Aston Musunga, confirmed that no state witness
had implicated Mutasa for leading attacks that left Kaunye unconscious.

            "All the 20 state witnesses did not implicate Minister Mutasa.
What was mentioned in the state outline did not come up in court," said

            The trial of 32 Zanu PF supporters accused of violence that
involved Zanu PF's Makoni North district chairman, Albert Nyakuedzwa,
started in January after a botched attempt by the CIO to coerce witnesses to
withdraw their testimonies.

            The court issued an order barring the CIO from interfering with
state witnesses, but refused an application by another defence lawyer, Amon
Toto, for Mutasa to be indicted on the basis of the state outline.

            Toto raised concerns of selective prosecution, saying Mutasa, as
a "significant perpetrator" judging from the state outline, should be
brought to court.

            Musunga said apart from Mutasa, 12 accused persons were also
acquitted and discharged because no one was able to link them to the
violence. The acquitted include Nyakuedzwa's wife - Erica Nyaude, Zanu PF's
Makoni North secretary for transport, Happiness Mafuratidze, and the
district's deputy secretary for legal affairs, Everisto Bhosha, who was
represented by Toto. The trial is expected to end today.

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A  taste of bitter Zanu PF medicine for Chinotimba

Zim Independent

            Augustine Mukaro

            SELF-PROCLAIMED commander of farm invasions Joseph Chinotimba's
business network faces imminent collapse as an onslaught on his political
career is being launched by Zanu PF.

            The former municipal policeman who rose to fame during the land
invasions in 2000, could see his empire, built through patronage, crumble.

            Sources in Zanu PF said Chinotimba was one of the people
discussed at last week's politburo meeting, which resolved to expel former
MPs Philip Chiyangwa and Kindness Paradza who represented Chinhoyi and
Makonde respectively before their fallout with the ruling party.

            Since his involvement in the Tsholotsho debacle, Zanu PF has
been gradually clipping Chinotimba's wings, first through elbowing him out
of the parliamentary election before proceeding to boot him out of the
Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions.

            If Zanu PF decides to expel Chinotimba, that would mark a
serious indictment of his business empire, especially the security company
which has secured most of its contracts on the basis of his links to the
ruling party.

            Chinotimba owns Edlan Security, which has been providing
security to a number of parastatals and government buildings since 2003.

            Edlan Security officers are distinguished by their green
uniforms at Zupco bus termini throughout Harare. They are also in charge of
security at Zupco headquarters and Grain Marketing Board depots in and
around Harare.

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RBZ's dithering on Basel Accord could cost banks

Zim Independent

            By Farai Makumbe

            I HAVE observed with great interest the furore surrounding the
recently revised capital requirements for banks in the country and helpless
responses by banking executives to these new rulings.

            From a purely technical point of view, the level of capital
requirements of US$10 million is not being highlighted as the critical
issue, but rather the problem rests with how the issue of capital
requirements has been managed within the banking sector by the central bank
in the past couple of years.

            At the heart of this problem is the central bank's failure to
make progress in ensuring the implementation of the core aspects of the
Basel Accord. And as if this is not enough, Basel II will very soon become
an industry standard and if local banks are going to compete on a regional
scale, especially with our South African counterparts, there will be a
continued expectation to comply with this best practice standard outside the
comfort zone of our borders.

            For the benefit of those outside the banking sector, Basel II is
an improved framework on the Basel Accord on capital adequacy standards
prepared by the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements' Committee on
Banking Supervision.

            The revised framework requires banks to allocate capital for
operational risk and adopt improved risk management systems, apart from
capital adequacy for market risk.

            While the RBZ has shown an awareness of the obstacles in
implementing Basel in a developing country such as Zimbabwe, it does not
appear to have set a strategy or pathway towards compliance and revamping
the capital requirements approach to align with this best practice

            Some of the perceived challenges include:

            * The shortage of internationally-recognised credit rating

            * The absence of a consolidated bank supervision approach;

            * Absence of sophisticated risk assessment techniques and
technology; and

            * High compliance costs.

            While it is fair to say these are big challenges to deal with in
the current environment, the fact remains that local institutions will
continue to lose their competitive edge in the region and a long-term
solution is overdue.

            Firstly, capital adequacy is vitally important to both the safe
operation of banks and to broader financial markets. Without sufficient
capital, banks could not do their job of providing loan liquidity or
stability to the nation's borrowing markets. A strong capital base ensures
that should there be a downturn in the business environment, banks would be
able to support businesses and still withstand the downturn.

            The RBZ needs to adopt a consultative approach to setting a
viable limit in the short-term as a stop-gap measure while striving for the
Basel II approaches in the longer-term.

            Secondly, capital requirements would be tailored to the
particular risks of the institution. Banks' capital requirements should be
appropriate to the specific types of assets they invest in, as well as the
precautions they take to safely finance and manage those assets (risk
management and corporate governance).

            When a bank takes on more risks or encounters conditions that
lessen safety and soundness, they should be expected to hold capital
commensurate with those higher risks. Similarly, when those risks are
well-managed and any specific risks addressed, capital requirements should
be modified accordingly.

            Thirdly, requiring too much capital can do more harm than good.
Requiring capital beyond levels commensurate with risk would limit the
sectors' ability to fulfill its objectives of providing affordable financing
and stability in an already inflationary environment. Unnecessarily tying up
more money to satisfy excessive capital requirements means there is less
money available for banks to distribute to borrowers.

            In addition, while it is tempting to think that requiring
capital beyond risk-adjusted levels will make the banks and our financial
system safer, the truth is that requiring too much capital can actually
create incentives for an institution to become more risky.

            For example, a financial institution with excessive capital
requirements may feel pressure to invest in higher risk assets in order to
generate comparable investment returns on the higher capital base.

            Based on these considerations, the way forward would be a phased
approach to implementing risk-based capital levels in the long-term by:

            * ensuring the RBZ as the regulator encourages banks to
formulate risk-based capital. The RBZ would maintain discretion to ensure
that required risk-based capital levels accurately reflect the risks banks
are undertaking;

            * maintaining the current statutory minimum capital ratios, only
for the short-term, and providing the regulator discretion, based on a set
of statutory criteria agreed upon in consultation with the banks; and

            * requiring appropriate procedural safeguards for any
adjustments to minimum or risk-based capital.

            The banking sector should be regarded as a partner to the RBZ as
it pursues its vision "to become the financial cornerstone around which
Zimbabwe's economic fortunes and developmental aspirations are anchored".

            * Farai Makumbe is a New Zealand-based financial analyst.

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Dollar battered

Zim Independent

            ZIMBABWE'S defenseless dollar tumbled further on the parallel
market as importers battled to raise foreign currency in a strapped market.

            Dealers said there was no meaningful activity on the official
exchange market, where rates have remained stable following a directive by
the Reserve bank that exchange rate movements should be volume-linked.

            Dealers said there were insignificant transactions to move the
rate on the official exchange market, prompting exporters to hold on to
their receipts.

            The US dollar, the benchmark currency affecting the movement of
other rates on the foreign currency market, traded at $205 000 yesterday,
from an average rate of $175 000 the previous week, while the British pound
fetched $315 000, from $280 000 the previous week.

            The official rate remained fixed at $99 000 to the US unit and
$172 700 to the British pound, and analysts said it was unlikely to change
because of lack of volumes.

            They expected the Reserve Bank to intervene once it starts
feeling the pinch of the measures.

            The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe re-introduced the interbank system
in October last year after experimenting with the auction system adopted in
January 2004.

            The auction system was meant to restore stability in the foreign
exchange market which has been overtaken by the parallel market.

            While the exchange rate on the auction system was allowed to
adjust periodically, critics said it had been of little benefit to exporters
because the adjustments were not realistic and did not allow exporters to
break even.

            In re-introducing the interbank trading system, RBZ governor
Gideon Gono said he wanted to promote the "allocative efficiencies in the
foreign exchange market".

            However, after a gradual decline of the Zimbabwe dollar on the
interbank market to levels nearing parallel market rates, Gono again issued
a new order banning any loss on the local unit for volumes less that US$5
million. - Staff Writer.

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Eight banks set to miss RBZ targets

Zim Independent

            Shakeman Mugari

            FOUR of Zimbabwe's 12 operating commercial banks are on course
to meet the central bank's US dollar-linked new statutory reserve
requirements, amounting to $1 trillion at current exchange rates,
businessdigest can reveal.

            But sources indicated there was serious jostling in the sector
among other banking institutions, with fears the tab for capitalisation
could reach $1,75 trillion for commercial banks if the Zimbabwe dollar
slides to $175 000 to the greenback by September, from the current interbank
rate of $99 000 to the US unit.

            The four banks, three of them foreign-owned and one
locally-owned, have accumulated $1 trillion apiece in assets, enough to meet
the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) imposed statutory reserve requirements to
become effective after September 31, 2006.

            The three foreign-owned banks are Barclays, Standard Chartered
and Stanbic.

            Figures obtained from central bank sources indicate that
Standard Chartered had about $1,6 trillion , Stanbic $1,6 trillion and
Barclays $1,7 trillion as at December 31, 2005.

            Zimbank, the only locally owned commercial bank that had reached
the trillion dollar mark, has assets worth $1,1 trillion by the end of last

            Details obtained by businessdigest indicate that CBZ Bank was
capitalized to the tune of $448 billion by the end of December 2005, while
the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group was capitalized to the tune of $464
billion, FBC Holdings $503 billion and MBCA Bank $492 billion.

            Banking sector analysts said while these banks were well placed
to raise their capitalisation to required levels ahead of September 31, the
exercise was likely to be an insurmountable task for the bulk of Zimbabwe's
banking institutions.

            They said current capitalisation levels pointed to a possibility
of significant mergers in the financial sector, which faced a serious crisis
that resulted in the closure of at least 10 institutions in 2004.

            NMBZ Bank had $293 billion in capitalisation while Kingdom had
$200 billion. There have been indications that NMBZ could get into a
marriage with MBCA, but sources said the courtship would start once the two
financial institutions release their financial results.

            Kingdom has the banking of cash-rich institutions -Meikles
Africa and Econet Wireless Holdings, and was likely to seek a rights issue
but sources feared this was likely to dilute minority shareholders because
of the amounts involved.

            Banking sources this week said Agribank, a wholly-government
owned banking operation which had about $146 billion by December last year,
needed aggressive capitalisation initiatives to survive the new statutory

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A new era dawns with arrival of Mutambara

Zim Independent

            By Prof  Eldred Masunungure

            ARTHUR Mutambara's entry into Zimbabwe's politics has generated
a lot of excitement and indeed even anxiety amongst some political
gladiators - ruling and aspiring.

            I would say both the anxiety and the excitement are warranted. A
lot of heated discussion has followed though one would conclude that there
has been more heat than light.

            It appears his rather sudden and certainly spectacular elevation
to one of the pinnacles of opposition politics is expected to have a
dramatic impact on national politics. He undoubtedly adds a new dimension
and configuration not only to opposition politics but indeed to Zanu PF
politics, with particular regard to the fractious succession issue within
the ruling party.

            Mutambara may be a man of many faces but his two most prominent
faces are those of a student leader and an outstanding and gifted academic.
Even his worst detractors have failed to fault his intellectual face. It is
the other face that appears to give some of Zimbabwe's political gladiators
sleepless nights.

            Mutambara's background is anchored in student politics where he
was affectionately known as "AGO", the acronym of his three first names. He
was one of the pioneers of radical resistance politics at the University of
Zimbabwe (UZ) and indeed at the country's tertiary institutions.

            He and his colleagues in the then Student Representative Council
(SRC) transformed the texture of student politics for a whole political
generation. This is why his impact is likely to be very extensive for many
graduates of UZ and other institutions of higher learning would readily
recognise Arthur "AGO" Mutambara and look back with considerable nostalgia
at a fearless, articulate and charismatic leader of the student community.

            Public opinion is deeply split as to the impact that Mutambara
will have on various levels of politics:  his impact on the two rival MDC
camps, on ruling Zanu PF politic; and on national politics generally.

            For most people it came as a big shock that Mutambara's re-entry
in politics came via one of the factions of the Movement for Democratic

            Many celebrated his entry into politics but condemned the fact
that he did so on the side of the Sibanda faction rather than the Tsvangirai
faction. This perspective draws parallels with Jonathan Moyo's entry into
active Zimbabwe politics on the side of the ruling Zanu PF rather than the
then fledgling MDC.

            The bottom line in Mutambara's case is that he joined opposition
politics and irrespective of whichever faction he joined, it was going to
have reverberations inside and outside that faction.

            Before Mutambara entered the fray in the Sibanda faction, there
appeared to be a triangular fight for the presidency of that faction. This
involved secretary-general Professor Welshman Ncube, his deputy Gift
Chimanikire and acting president Gibson Sibanda.

            All were keen - with varying degrees of enthusiasm and
candidness - to capture the top prize. Of the three, Ncube and Sibanda share
the affinity of being Ndebele and as much as some people may want to
discount the ethnic variable, the brutal reality is that ethnicity is a
salient factor in Zimbabwe politics and will be so for a long time into the

            So, in this triad, Chimanikire was the odd man out but he
projected the Shona face of the faction. As the Shona are the majority group
in the country, Chimanikire saw himself as the obvious and only viable
candidate for the presidential throne.

            But there is also the other dimension. In terms of working
experience and backgrounds, Chimanikire and Sibanda share the same bed for
both sharpened their political skills as trade unionists.

            Professor Ncube joined politics from an intellectual background
and appears more comfortable among fellow academics. To this extent, Ncube
was the odd man out and probably felt like a fish out of water. He would
obviously find common ground with Mutambara, a professor of robotics.

            To Ncube then, Mutambara would have the gravitational pull of
the Shona tag of Chimanikire plus the gravitational pull of his solid
intellectual background. It was therefore unsurprising that Ncube rooted for
Mutambara when it became clear to him that Chimanikire was handicapped by
his modest education in the same way as Morgan Tsvangirai.

            Both Ncube and Sibanda must have realised as well that in
Zimbabwe politics, and given the grip of ethnic consciousness, an Ndebele
leader would have only a faint chance of making it to State House.

            Both therefore deferred to Mutambara who has Chimanikire's
strength of being Shona without the educational handicap. Both Ncube and
Sibanda also deferred to an "outsider" untainted by the
struggles-within-the-struggle of opposition politics.

            Predictably, Chimanikire felt slighted and waved the mafikizolo
card against Mutambara and was not prepared to "step down for an expatriate
who does not know the price of bread here".

            The mafikizolo tag would not stick as Mutambara could easily
counter this by pointing out that he started his struggle over 17 years ago.

            Obviously Ncube and his camp had done their homework in terms of
lobbying for the ex-student leader and all indications were that in a
straight fight between Chimanikire and Mutambara, the former was likely to
suffer a heavy defeat.

            The entry of Mutambara in Zimbabwe politics in the Sibanda
faction of the MDC should obviously strengthen that faction against the
Tsvangirai camp. As things presently stand, the Tsvangirai wing seems to
have the numbers as its anti-senate stance resonated well with the
opposition forces.

            The entry of Mutambara may very well tilt the pendulum in favour
of the Sibanda camp provided the latter do their homework with vigour. How
would such a scenario arise?

            Mutambara would deliver votes from several constituencies: the
intelligentsia who are sceptical of Tsvangirai's modest education and doubt
his capacity to grasp modern and complex global issues and articulate them
to a global audience.

            The youth element - and these constitute a large bloc of
potential voters of the Zimbabwean population - would also find common
affinity with Mutambara, so would students at tertiary institutions.

            Ex-students of the "AGO" generation would be similarly enticed
as they reminisce on the heady days of radical student politics. He would
also likely deliver the Manyika vote and support base. These support bases
would be combined with the Ndebele bloc for a concerted effort to take State

            Mutambara's entry into MDC politics on the side of the
Ncube/Sibanda camp will cause ripple effects within the rival Tsvangirai

            Some observers even fault Mutambara for joining the "wrong" camp
and even speculate that in a straight fight between the two gladiators,
Tsvangirai would bite the dust. It must be acknowledged that Tsvangirai is
careless and sometimes speaks with an unguarded tongue and also leaps before
he looks.

            In terms of image, stature, eloquence and charisma, Mutambara
would outwit Tsvangirai. It is highly unlikely though that the Mutambara
factor would prompt a leadership change in the Tsvangirai camp.

            What this dynamism would mean on the ground is that a
Mutambara-led MDC and a Tsvangirai-led one would most likely share the
Harare vote. However, the split allegiances of the formerly impregnable MDC
fortress could divide the opposition vote to the obvious advantage and
delight of the ruling party.

            Mutambara could also capture much of his Manicaland home
province, especially the southern part of the province from Mutare down to
Chipinge. Given that the Matabeleland region is most probably going to
remain solidly behind Ncube and Sibanda, Tsvangirai would have a very hard
time penetrating this southern part of the country.

            His support is likely to be anchored in the lumpen-proletariat
in urban areas for this class has nothing to lose but its chains.

            Mutambara factor in Zanu-PF

            There is little doubt that Mutambara's entry into the country's
politics has unsettled the ruling Zanu PF party and its government. If there
was any doubt about this, a cursory reading of the state media, especially
the Herald of February 22, would dispel any lingering reservations.

            The state-aligned daily came out unequivocally in sympathy with
Chimanikire, describing him as "the long suffering deputy secretary-general"
while literally condemning Mutambara for daring to snatch the presidency of
the MDC.
            He was dismissed as "a rank outsider" whose story "reads like
the portrait of a hooligan."

            The newspaper article, entitled "Is Mutambara his own man?"
attempted a character demolition of Mutambara while doing a beautification
job on his presidential rival.

            It is patently obvious that the article was the voice of the
political establishment and its tenor betrayed the panic in the ruling

            But in launching such a vitriolic and unprovoked attack on one
of the two candidates, it by default gave Mutambara a martyr status while
simultaneously delivering the kiss of death to Chimanikire. In short, the
Zanu PF is taking AGO seriously. Why?

            Those who see Mutambara as a formidable presidential candidate
are already beginning to question the capacity and intellectual stamina of
Zanu-PF's presidential hopeful, the ruling party and state vice-president
Joice Teurai Ropa Mujuru, to stand "toe-to-toe" against the intellectual

            They are therefore beginning to "hunt" for an AGO within the
ruling party and again Simba Makoni's name is now repeatedly popping up. It
must be noted, however, that all these permutations will ultimately and
decisively depend on the framework of Zimbabwe politics in the next few

            There is mounting evidence that the ruling party and the state
want to shed the jambanja  image of politics which assisted Zanu PF to
salvage political victory from the jaws of defeat in three successive
elections, notably in the June 2000 parliamentary and the March 2002
presidential elections.

            There was visibly less jambanjaism in the run-up to the March
2005 election and in the post-election period. In fact, after the March 2005
election, jambanja politics was superseded by Operation Murambatsvina.

            The next momentous development was the turbulence in the
opposition MDC culminating in the inevitable split that will be concretised
at the forthcoming congress of the Tsvangirai camp.

            The Herald article referred to above gave credence to the
abandonment or at least intended rejection of jambanja politics in favour of
its more civilised and conventional forms. After accusing Mutambara of
introducing hooliganism into student politics, the author chided the
presidential hopeful: "Now if this is the base (ie hooliganism) that
Mutambara hopes to build on, then he needs to be reminded that national
politics is a world apart from student politics, and Zimbabwe has since
moved beyond politics of confrontation ."

            The politics of confrontation referred to is the politics of
jambanja. Without resorting to jambanja politics, Mutambara would present a
real threat to Vice-President Mujuru in a presidential fight.

            The ruling party appears jittery at the entry of Mutambara in
national politics. He already has solid credentials as a mobiliser and
organiser during his student politics. He injected student politics with a
dynamism and radical militancy that had been characteristic of black student
politics during the illegal Ian Smith regime. He has the charisma, the
energy and stature and indeed the struggle history behind him.

            Mujuru would continue to mobilise and deliver the women's vote
and to this extent this support base is likely to remain intact. Another
anchor is the war vet one and of course the Zezuru sub-ethnic group of the

            The challenge to Zanu PF, therefore, it to think about the
unthinkable, that is to look for a more energetic, intellectually agile and
charismatic person who has credentials above and beyond those of the
liberation struggle.

            The jambanja ideology and way of doing things has lost steam and
is unlikely to sell with the masses, especially when they see that the
jambanja-led fast track land reform programme has not yet yielded the
promised rich harvests.

            So, Zanu PF needs someone who can articulate and debate issues
toe-to-toe with Mutambara, and someone as equally charming. The jambanja era
is most likely dead and buried and there is need to do things differently.

            Zanu PF needs an "AGO" within its ranks and as a presidential
candidate. This is the most challenging fallout within Zanu PF of

            Mutambara's entry into national politics.

            Even more devastating a scenario for the ruling party is the
prospect of the two rival factions re-unifying. Unification of the two MDC
factions, though distant and improbable, is not impossible.

            Mutambara raised the prospect of this when he was quoted in the
Herald of February 21 as saying: "As the party goes towards two separate
congresses, the infusion of new leadership, untainted by current
disagreements, is imperative to facilitate the reunification process. It is
in this context that I define the framework of my entry into Zimbabwean

            The combination of Mutambara and Tsvangirai would be an even
bigger threat than the united old MDC. The two leaders have different but
strong and complimentary support bases. In that combination,  opposition
politics would have been rejuvenated and re-energised. That would completely
change the political landscape of the country.

            Whatever the case and final outcome of struggles for power
within the Ncube/Sibanda MDC faction, opposition and indeed national
politics will never be the same again with the entry of Professor Mutambara
into the ring.

            * Masunungure is the chairman of the political and
administrative studies department at the University of Zimbabwe.

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Budget deficit shoots to $62 trillion

Zim Independent

            Dumisani Ndlela

            ZIMBABWE'S budget deficit ran into a massive $62 trillion or 60%
of gross domestic product (GDP) last year, way above the 2,9% or $3 trillion
announced by Finance minister Herbert Murerwa in his 2006 national budget in

            The disclosure, made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF),
is an embarrassing indictment on the government, which has vowed to continue
keeping the central bank's printing press running to curtail what President
Robert Mugabe describes as a threat of starvation to Zimbabwe's poor due to
the country's economic crisis.

            "This means much, much more inflation," independent economic
consultant, John Robertson, said yesterday.

            "There's no way the government can fund the budget deficit with
low savings; they are printing money."

            Businessdigest estimates Zimbabwe's GDP to be at $103,448
trillion based on calculations from Murerwa's budget statement for 2006.

            Much of the deficit had been through the central bank's
quasi-fiscal operations, the IMF director for External Affairs, Thomas
Dawson, revealed last week.

            Responding to an online question from the Zimbabwe Independent
during his press briefing on Friday, Dawson denied that the $21 trillion
printed by the government to raise foreign cash for debt repayments to the
IMF had been an underlying cause to the country's inflationary woes.

            "The reality is that inflation in Zimbabwe has been driven
mainly by quasi-fiscal activities of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe," Dawson
said, maintaining that the government's own deficit projections did not
reflect the true picture of the country's deficit problem.

            "A truer picture of the public deficit is provided by the
consolidated deficit of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and central government,
which is estimated to have reached nearly 60% of GDP in 2005, up from 27% of
GDP in 2004," Dawson said.

            Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor, Gideon Gono, last month
made a rare admission that the central bank had printed a whooping $21
trillion to purchase United States dollars for repayment of IMF arrears to
starve off the imminent expulsion of the country's membership to the Bretton
Woods institution.

            On Wednesday, Gono said grain import ha chewed up US$135
trillion or $13 trillion at the ruling exchange rate.

            The government says it last year encountered a number of
unbudgeted expenditure requirements, part of which had to be met through
money printing.

            Zimbabwe is currently facing its worst economic crisis since
independence in 1980, characterized by fuel, food and foreign currency

            The RBZ expects inflation, which reached 613,2% year-on-year for
January, to peak at between 700% and 800% this month.

            But independent analysts said an overwhelming crisis
precipitated by shortages could see inflation touching levels beyond the 1
000% point.

            Government profligacy has over the years been blamed for stoking
inflationary pressure in the economy through uncontrolled budget deficits.

            Murerwa last year said expenditure management for the government
had been difficult as line ministries and government departments struggled
to contain escalating costs of goods and services due to high levels of

            However, revenue performance had been positive, with collections
surpassing budgeted levels.

            Murerwa said a positive revenue out-turn coupled with revised
budget expenditure targets had culminated into a significantly reduced
budget deficit out-turn of $3 trillion in 2005.

            "As a percentage of GDP, this would imply a budget deficit of
2,9%. This compares well with the revised deficit target of $6 trillion or
8,6% of GDP (in earlier forecasts)," Murerwa said.

            But Dawson said: "The government deficit that is reported at
some 3% of GDP in 2005 is only a small part of the picture."

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Mujuru's rise no end to domestic violence

Zim Independent

            By Denford Magora

            WOMEN in Zimbabwe today are no better off than they were at the
height of colonial oppression. This is despite the noises made by President
Robert Mugabe and his party on the appointment of Joice Mujuru as

            To this day, women are still victims of brutal and shocking
violence in their own homes. Rapes are being reported almost as a daily
occurrence in the media and nothing concrete is being done except the
mouthing of platitudes and catch-phrases.

            Donor money is also being pounced on with little to show for it
on the ground. True, we still have excellent organisations and initiatives
like the Musasa Project but their city-centric approach - perhaps a product
of limited funding - means that they are only scratching the surface of the

            The difficulties facing our female population, in other words,
have not and will not be made better by the appointment of a female
vice-president or even president.

            Ask any Zimbabwean women and they will tell you about a police
force that still uses the phrases "civil matter" and "domestic dispute".

            When the domestic dispute finally escalates and ends in murder
or rape, what do we get? "Police have urged people to settle their disputes
amicably and not resort to violence." It would be laughable were it not so

            The truth of the matter is that this government, as with
everything else, is paying lip service to the empowerment of women. Our
society is still one in which a chauvinist feels very much at ease.

            Take the case of the woman who was beaten to death recently by
her male relatives. Villagers who witnessed the incident did not bother
reporting the matter to the police. Her ordeal only came to light when it
was too late and that is why she is dead.

            There are other silent cases in which husbands and fathers are
bludgeoning women in their own homes. Most of the cases are settled through
"family courts" whose only judgement is usually to tell the woman not to
give up on her family and to "stick it out". Some of these women end up
committing suicide as the only way out.

            Presented with these facts, there is no option but to conclude
that our society has failed. It has failed our womenfolk and, as a result,
discredited government pronouncements on empowering women.

            For, what use is empowering a woman to start a business when her
husband or brother or father can destroy that business in a heartbeat? What
use is promoting a woman to a position of authority when she is not free in
her own home? Yes, we may protect her financial assets and material
security, but what use is that when we are failing to protect her life in
her own home?

            In countries that are serious about gender equality, the police
are given resources to tackle these problems. For instance, we should have
specially trained gender police whose job it is to deal with cases of
domestic violence.
            Their training will teach them to identify powder kegs before
they explode. They would also be linked to well-publicised help lines. They
will work hand-in-hand with shelters and will have the power to detain
abusive spouses and relatives overnight in order to allow women to escape to

            On the other hand, all those women sitting in parliament should
prove their usefulness and push for legislation that makes examples of these
abusive men. Women's organisations would also be emboldened by the enactment
of these laws.

            With enough resources, they could, for instance, name and shame
abusive husbands and relatives. They would be able to publish not only their
names but also even their pictures and pin them up on every available tree
and lamppost. The current environment does not make this possible and it is
the government that should shoulder the blame.

            It is inevitable, I suppose, that this should be so. Our
government has been preoccupied with consolidating power for so long that
other concerns have suffered. Even before land reform, Zanu PF was intent on
creating a de facto one-party state and women only featured when their
formidable voting power was needed. Otherwise, traditional and oppressive
mentalities were allowed to run riot in our society.

            It is time that women's organisations in this country used the
power that their base has. They have more voting power than men or the
youths. They are better at organisation and mobilisation.

            Instead of using these powers to prop up a system that ignores
them, they should make it impossible for any government to look the other
way. They have the power and they should use it. They should not be led into
believing the nonsense that their empowerment will fall in their laps from
the government, which, as it happens, is also dominated by men, some of whom
are known wife-beaters and chauvinists.

            Despite talk of democracy and suchlike, men, who are the ones
holding the levers of power at the moment, will not willingly let their
power be eroded. Women have to take their freedom inch by inch, fighting
tooth and nail. But if, as is happening now, women allow themselves to be
silenced with sweets like children, no one is going to ever rise up on their
behalf. Their destiny lies only in their hands.

            The appointment of a woman vice-president will not stop spousal
abuse. It will not make every woman feel safe in her own home.

            It will not make men gain a sudden respect for the rights of
their wives and sisters. If anything, some of them actually go out of their
way to prove that as men they will remain in charge, no matter how high
women rise in their jobs.

            Chauvinistic men who have to report to women at work will go and
take their frustrations out on their wives back home. They know they will
get away with it because of the way gender issues are handled by the
authorities. It is time for it to stop. And it is only the women themselves
who can stop it.

            * Denford Magora is a Harare-based marketing executive.

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Grubby patina of ethnicity

Zim Independent

            Candid Comment with Joram Nyathi

            WE have in recent months been subjected to attacks by people who
allege biased reporting by the Zimbabwe Independent since divisions surfaced
in the MDC. We have been accused of favouring Gibson Sibanda's camp against
Morgan Tsvangirai's.

            All sorts of ethnic conspiracy theories have been trotted out
regarding our staff and ownership. One crazy fellow even claimed Independent
editor Vincent Kahiya was Ndebele!

            The accusations take many forms, like saying we give more
coverage to Sibanda's (now Arthur Mutambara's) camp or that we write as if
we think the party's constitution is everything.

            These are the so-called democrats who want to exercise power
arbitrarily despite their accusations against President Mugabe. Our cardinal
sin is that the company's executive chairman Trevor Ncube last March wrote
an article critical of the MDC's performance. It had lost momentum and
become atrophied, he said. That was well before the split. But the vitriolic
response suggests that newspaper publishers, like the Prince of Wales,
should not express personal views on national issues.

            Mutambara's decision to join fractious party on Sibanda's camp
only added fuel to a simmering ethnic rage. Our lead story on Friday read
"Mutambara unsettles Tsvangirai". One fellow, calling himself Shumba,
substituted Welshman's name for Mutambara's and said we should move our
offices to Bulawayo because "you support Ncube".
            He said Mutambara was "nothing" to unsettle Tsvangirai who he
claimed is supported by a majority of the people. "Nothing" was used as an
epithet, enriched with the spiteful resentment of one who felt insulted that
Mutambara had spurned their overtures and opted to join the "wrong" camp.

            He has betrayed the "majority" tribe, he has lost the cause.The
bitterness is palpable all round, from columnists to political commentators
to politicians who still can't believe what has got into the young professor's
head. We had writers last week trying to use moral bribery to say Mutambara
was forgetting that Tsvangirai as ZCTU secretary-general had in 1987
supported SRC leaders when they were detained by police.

            In fact, if Mutambara had made the "right" choice, I have no
doubt there would be no questions asked about his NASA and MIT links. Given
his patriotic address in Bulawayo on land reform, the liberation struggle,
imperialists and sovereignty, he was a sure candidate for national

            But for that stain, the fatal stigma of a wrong tribal leaning
that catapulted him to the pinnacle of the MDC from nothingness, he may
suffer for a long time to come. There are no two fronts in Zimbabwe's fight
for democracy and Mutambara dared the gods.

            That's how parochial and tribal the people aspiring to national
office and their opinion-makers are. Mutambara will have to be more than an
ordinary man to withstand the barrage of attacks and let his decision abide.
If you ask these guys to put their views on paper they slink away and prefer
the darkness of anonymity.

            Instead of confronting the tribal cancer eating at their heart,
they pretend that Mutambara is being scrutinised for his suspected links to
the CIA and other imperialist agents. We have in Zimbabwe political
amphibians who slip in and out of Zanu PF and the MDC with astonishing
frequency using surnames and language as convenient tunnels. Some even carry
the cards of both parties to suit the weather. There are no guiding
principles about switching allegiance so long as there is political or
financial capital to be made.

            Amid the chaos, spare a thought for the downtrodden urban masses
who have been abandoned to their own devices as the political leaders fight
for the Holy Grail that is State House. Nobody talks about food shortages,
council rates driving the poor into ever greater poverty, escalating water
and electricity charges, skyrocketing urban commuters fares and prices of
basic commodities that the majority can't afford. It's all about how we can
seize power.

            What I find most disconcerting in attacks directed at us is the
insinuation that we support a particular camp in the MDC for ethnic reasons
against principle. This is most unfortunate because it does not help advance
the debate on why the MDC was formed and how it can help shape the future of
this country.

            We are instead being dragged into personality issues of why
Welshman Ncube, and not Morgan Tsvangirai, was given a farm. Are all those
who got farms since 2000 going to lose them then? If not, why or who is more
Zimbabwean to deserve a farm while others can't?

            My view is that it is ill-advised of either camp to commend us
for doing a good job when we attack government and Zanu PF and then attacks
us the moment we point out the warts in the MDC. The implication of such
comments is that our attacks are gratuitous, not a response to real issues
of corruption, the brutalities of Operation Murambatsvina and lack of
productivity on farms. But our mission is to report the affairs of this
country with integrity using the information at our disposal, allowing for
the normal human limitations and biases. We firmly believe in the principle
that it is our Zimbabwe "right or wrong" but reject the opportunistic
corollary that "my president can do no wrong". Zimbabwe is permanent.
Leaders come and go. And they must if they can't deliver. There are popes in

            Why should we mortgage the destiny of this country to leaders
who are content to squander opportunities looking forward to the past
instead of the future?

            It is a paradox that we are facing more intolerance from the
democrats than from the dictatorship that we are all sworn to fight. It is
even more dismaying to have to contemplate the possibility that the
draconian media laws that the Zanu PF government has enacted may find
practical application in narrow-minded politicians who see themselves as
instruments of divine intervention to save Zimbabwe. Hence the postulate
that they can do no wrong, or in the event of such an aberration, it should
not be pointed out lest we distract from the grand mission.

            We are in other words being asked to perform for the opposition
MDC the same obsequious role that the state media does for Zanu PF. It is my
sincere hope that those who purport to be fighting for democracy in Zimbabwe
will allow us to perform our duty without undue interference. We will not
allow ourselves to operate like a suborned media institution merely to
please a few individuals fighting for political office.

            That tribe and not merit is the biggest asset to the presidency
only shows how shameful and primitive our politics are. It's a mockery of
the human intellect.

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Manufacturing survey mirrors economic gloom

Zim Independent

            Shakeman Mugari

            THE findings of the manufacturing sector survey released last
week illustrate that far from turning around, the economy continues to sink.
            The manufacturing industry is likely to continue plummeting
unless there is a policy shift by both government and the central bank to
address fundamental issues militating against recovery in the sector.
            Analysts say the report compiled by the Confederation of
Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) mirrors the decline of other key sectors like
agriculture, tourism and exports.
            The report said the manufacturing sector was continuing to
collapse because of government's policy flip-flops, foreign currency
shortages, power outages and raw material shortages.
            Capacity utilisation in industry, the report said, had hit rock
bottom as the crisis continues to push hundreds of companies out of
business, leaving millions jobless.
            It said only 13% of the companies in the sector were operating
at above 75% capacity due to foreign currency shortages.
            The bulk of the companies are operating below capacity while
others could close down any time soon.
            "Overall, the fact that only 13% of the responding companies are
operating at over 75% capacity means that most companies are unable to
meaningfully cover their costs and utilise their standing capacity," it
            Apart from the foreign currency and raw materials shortages,
most companies are reeling from the slump in demand caused by inflation
which has eroded consumers' disposable income, it said.
            At least "42,3% of responding firms indicated that low effective
demand was a significant negative factor on capacity utilisation".
            The report noted that the plunge in capacity utilisation had
forced 42% of the workforce out of their jobs.
            It also revealed a dip in business confidence with most business
people indicating that they are disillusioned by the current state of
            It said business people did not believe that government's
turnaround would achieve any meaningful results in the near future. Although
the report is based on a sample of companies, the survey offers an
independent insight into the state of this key sector of the economy.
            It is a reflection of the market sentiments of the economic
situation, economists say. The report said the majority of business managers
in Zimbabwe did not believe that their economic fortunes would improve any
time soon.
            It said 49% thought the economy would not recover "in the
time-scale that we had provided. The main reason was that they did not think
there was anything currently taking place or likely to take place in the
foreseeable future that would significantly change the economic fortunes of
Zimbabwe by 2010."
            Only 16% of the business managers thought the turnaround would
be achieved in the next two years, the report said.
            Business confidence, it said, was at its lowest with most
managers more pessimistic about their future than they were in 2000.
            Only 9% of the business executives remain optimistic about the
future of their businesses in Zimbabwe.
            In 2000, when the cracks were beginning to widen in the economic
edifice, about 50% of business managers were optimistic that the situation
would change for the better.
            The report further warns that the downward spiral will persist
unless there is a policy shift in government.
            "It is therefore clear that we are beginning to lose the
momentum of the turnaround process and we need to formulate and implement
policies that will inspire our industry players to start looking forward."
            Business people also blamed the government's command policies
for their demise saying this made the business environment unpredictable.
            "There seems to be a lack of congruency and intentions between
government policies and the industry's perceptions. In addition, industry is
concerned as they cannot keep pace with the rate of change of policies on
fundamental issues.
            "They will either 'sink or swim' together. The government
policies are currently viewed with scepticism and disbelief," it said.
            Like other reports on Zimbabwe's economy, the state of
manufacturing report warned that there would be no turnaround in the sector
or the economy as a whole unless the agricultural sector is revived.
            Analysts say the crumbling manufacturing sector - one of the key
pillars of the economy - is emblematic of the broader economic collapse.
            Economist Blessing Sakupwanya said the decline in the
manufacturing sector was closely linked to the collapse of agriculture which
used to supply 40% of raw materials.
            "Unless and until agriculture is revived, there won't be any
improvement in the manufacturing sector," Sakupwanya said.
            The unfortunate reality is that agriculture itself remains in
the doldrums due to government's botched policies on land.
            Government has allowed fresh farm invasions and corruption to
continue to scuttle production in the sector. Agricultural production is
likely to slump further due to input shortages.
            Independent estimates are already showing that this year is
likely to be no better than last year. Analysts say agricultural production
will be subdued despite the good rains due to late delivery of inputs such
as fertiliser, chemicals and seed.
            "The collapse of agriculture means less foreign currency, which
in turn affects its ability to supply manufacturing with raw materials
resulting in low production," said Sakupwanya.
            He said low production would result in reduced foreign currency
earnings which would impact on the whole economy.
            For its part the government regards doling out money as the
solution to problems in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Faced
with rampant company closures, the government and the central bank launched
the Productive Sector Fund which has however failed to halt the collapse.
            The $5 trillion splashed on the manufacturing sector has not
stopped companies from closing shop.
            Sakupwanya said the problems companies faced had nothing to do
with lack of the Zimbabwean dollar but foreign currency which government
cannot provide at the
            "What companies need is foreign currency and Zimbabwe does not
have that at the moment. In terms of foreign currency, the government is
broke. Giving money to distressed companies will not help them."
            But other analysts say the problem is even bigger than foreign
currency shortages. At the core of the crisis, analyst say, is the inherent
lack of political will and government's obsession with command economic
policies which are hurting all sectors.
            The price controls which government promised to abolish during
last year's budget are still in place. It is currently involved in bitter
fight with bakers over bread prices.

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Ministers dodge questions in parliament

Zim Independent

            Clemence Manyukwe

            PARLIAMENTARY backbenchers are getting frustrated as they wonder
at how Zimbabwean ministers have perfected the art of dodging questions
posed by MPs.
            Ministers either choose to attend to other business or simply
walk out of the chamber until the question on the Order Paper is deferred to
another date without a guarantee that the query will receive attention.
Other ministers delegate colleagues to apologise on their behalf for the
            Cuthbert Masara was among guests in the public gallery at
Parliament House on a Wednesday - a day reserved for the House of Assembly's
question and answer session - at the end of October 2004.
            Having narrowly escaped death at the Marondera Agricultural Show
when soldiers used live ammunition at a mock military drill, he had come to
hear answers on what really went wrong and the action the army had taken on
the culprits.
            Questions posed by MDC MP Giles Mutsekwa, a retired army major,
had been on the Order Paper for three weeks. Shortly before the question was
asked Masara watched in disbelief as Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi left
the chamber for the dining hall.
            Because he was out of the chamber, the question was deferred to
the following week. Conveniently, the minister emerged shortly afterwards
when a report by the Parliamentary Privileges Committee which saw former
Chimanimani MP Roy Bennett being sent to jail was presented.
            Since October 2005, Mutsekwa has been trying to get an answer
from Sekeramayi on the alleged security the government is providing to DRC
president Joseph Kabila.
            Up to now, the question has not been answered.
            Mutsekwa is not the only legislator from the opposition or
ruling party who has waited for months with his questions going unanswered
by government ministers.
            Parliament's question-and-answer session generally reveals how a
minister is versed with issues under his or her portfolio, judging by the
way he or she tackles the issues raised.
            In some cases, the responses reflect how government is
accountable for its actions. But since the emergence of a strong opposition
in 2000 many ministers have literally been caught napping by probing
questions asked by the backbenchers.
            They have responded by adopting a casual approach to
parliamentary business to avoid thorny issues.
            Mutsekwa believes that the appointment of non-constituency
ministers has contributed to this as ministers pay allegiance to the person
who appoints them, not the people they are supposed to serve.
            For the past six years the problem of absentee politicians, some
of whom show so much zeal during campaigns for polls by turning up at every
political meeting or rally has continued unabated.
            Those who turn up for parliamentary sessions have a generally
halfhearted approach to the business of the House as they either skirt
questions or provide no satisfactory explanations for legitimate concerns.
            One is reminded of a hollow answer by Education minister Aeneas
Chigwedere in May 2004 when asked if he had any powers to close schools
during his war with private institutions over fees.
            Chigwedere said: "We did not close any schools but we prevented
them from opening. We said you raised fees without the ministry's authority
against the provision of the Education Act."
            When Zanu PF and the MDC were engaged in talks, Patrick
Chinamasa, then the ruling party's secretary for legal affairs, confirmed
there was dialogue, but refused to say what progress had been made. He told
legislators party representatives would report to their parties.
            Zimbabweans were only told by South African President Thabo
Mbeki last month that the two sides at one time actually came up with a
draft constitution.
            This week MDC chief whip Innocent Gonese blamed the appointment
method of the ministers for their failure to respect business of the House.
            Gonese said if ministers were appointed after approval of the
legislature like in some countries, they would take the business of the
legislature seriously. He said ministers know that failure to do so would
see them failing to get approval the next time.
            Gonese said apart from being censured, there is no penalty for
ministers who abscond.
            "In Zimbabwe ministers are appointed by the executive and not by
parliament," said Gonese. "If there was a constitutional provision that
required ministers to get two-thirds approval of all sitting MPs, they would
take business of the House seriously knowing that their continued tenure
depended on performance."
            The Mutare Central MP has previously expressed concern over
absenteeism by ministers.
            Zanu PF chief whip Joram Gumbo said as far as he was concerned,
there was no problem of ministers not turning up for parliamentary sessions.
He said the absent ministers would be attending to important business.
            Gumbo's claim is however a nullity as ministers can submit
written answers if they are going away and must be absent.
            Gumbo said that ministries who did not have deputies were the
most affected since the deputies could answer the questions on their behalf.
            "We are so responsible we know what to do, but we have many
things to attend to. You attend to some things and you miss others," said
            He said MPs as well were absent from parliament and "we never
have a full house".
            Gumbo said if ministers were continuously absent, he liaised
with Chinamasa to compel the ministers to attend parliament.
            Except for being censured he did not think that there was any
need to penalise ministers as the rules stipulate that any member who is
absent for 21 consecutive days is dismissed.
            Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma referred all questions to
Chinamasa who said if such issues were brought to him or the Speaker of the
House of Assembly they would talk to the individual concerned.
            He said there was no penalty for absenteeism.
            "There is no penalty. If it is brought to our attention we talk
to the ministers. The ministers would have good reasons," Chinamasa said.

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Zim Independent

            Turning wishful thinking into paradigm shift

            WE have often commented on the requirement for all state
journalists to insert the word "illegal" before "sanctions" in their copy.
This is despite the fact that any sanctions in force against Zimbabwe's
ruling junta are approved by the respective parliaments of those countries -
or Congress in the case of the United States - and therefore adhere to both
national and international requirements.

            The new Swedish ambassador Sten Rylander was patiently and
politely trying to explain this to a rather obtuse Caesar Zvayi on Saturday.
            "As a lawyer, I see you are a trained lawyer," Zvayi helpfully
observed. "At international law, is it legal for a bloc like the EU to
impose sanctions on Zimbabwe without the blessing of the UN?"
            It would be difficult to imagine Sweden sending as its
ambassador an untrained lawyer. But that aside, Rylander replied as follows:
"I think so. I think it was done on good grounds. We do not accept the
notion of our sanctions being illegal, we really don't. We take these
decisions ourselves and we are free to do so. The Cotonou Agreement makes
provision for such actions."

            So in other words the very treaty between the EU and African,
Caribbean and Pacific states which governs their collective relationship has
provision for such measures. And as the ambassador pointed out, removal of
those sanctions would be very easy if the Zimbabwe government improved its
behaviour. Sanctions would "go away in due course", he said, "when you have
a normal situation".
            But armed with this hint of goodwill, Zvayi managed to run
another story on Monday claiming that Rylander's unremarkable comments
constituted a "policy shift" by the EU. They represented a "clear departure"
from previous EU hard-line positions for illegal regime (change) in
            Something happened to the word "change" in Zvayi's copy
inadvertently rendering Zimbabwe an "illegal regime".
            We are sure Zvayi didn't mean that! But his attempt to detect a
change of position in the EU was then linked to remarks by US officials to
suggest a "paradigm shift" by everybody on Zimbabwe. The fact that the EU
was providing funds for the fight against HIV and Aids was adduced as
evidence of a softening of position. Even new Tory leader David Cameron was
brought into the act!

            As anybody following the diplomatic scene will tell you, all
this is wishful thinking. The EU and others have been happy to assist
Zimbabwe's fight against Aids for some years now. It is nothing new. What
Zvayi could have said but did not was that some EU states - not Sweden -
were openly sceptical of the efficacy of sanctions. Ask any French diplomat.
            But such is the pernicious nature of recent laws passed by
parliament - Rylander singled out the Constitutional Amendment 17 allowing
the government to confiscate passports - and the persistence of a culture of
political repression and subversion of the rule of law that even sympathetic
countries like France, always prepared to dish the British, have had matters
taken out of their hands.
            There is simply no evidence of that change which the Swedish
ambassador referred to. On Wednesday he issued a statement denying the said
"paradigm shift" claimed by Zvayi. If anything there has been a hardening of
attitudes in Europe. The US certainly won't entertain any relenting of
pressure on this regime and nothing Jendayi Frazer said suggests otherwise.
Now we hear even President Thabo Mbeki has given up on us.
            That Zvayi was able to find a silver lining to this particularly
dark cloud only shows that the state media will seize on anything to suggest
Zimbabwe under its present regime has a future.

            Arthur Mutambara's acceptance speech was by any definition a
tour de force covering all the salient issues confronting us. He, and fellow
ex-SRC president Gift Nyandoro, are understandably keen to throw off the
"British-puppets" straitjacket which Zanu PF has attempted to foist on the
party and to proclaim the MDC's nationalist credentials.
            The British government reneged on the Lancaster House agreement,
Mutambara claimed, while white farmers were guilty of resisting land reform.
            He didn't mention the £44 million that was disbursed from 1980
to 1996 for land redistribution or what happened to the 1998 donors'
conference plan. You would have thought that after six years in which
commercial farmers have been attacked and forced off the land - often with
the collaboration of law-enforcement officers - and with the handful
remaining under threat, that Mutambara would think of something more helpful
to say. He did, in fairness, propose "a democratic and participatory
framework that seeks to achieve equitable, transparent, just, and
economically efficient distribution and use of land".
            This, he said, "must have emphasis on productivity, food
security, self-sufficiency, and collateral value of land".

            But he clearly feels the need to advertise his nationalist
credentials in an era when such claims have little popular appeal, largely
because they have been so badly abused by the ruling party.
            "We are Zimbabweans first, whether we call ourselves MDC or
what, and we are not puppets of the British," Nyandoro told the Sunday Mail.
            We know that. But if he were to go on the streets of Harare or
Bulawayo and ask people if they agreed that "ideological redefinition" was
needed, as he suggests, they would shake their heads in disbelief.
            We have moved on from there. But not King Arthur and his Nitwits
of the SRC Round Table. Having been away on other crusades a while, they are
locked in the mantras of yesteryear and very soon the people will tell them
so. The Holy Grail no longer lies in anti-imperialist rhetoric.
            But Muckraker doesn't want to appear too harsh. King Arthur has
brought a welcome fresh breeze to the stagnant atmosphere of Zimbabwean
politics. We shall see what the other faction's congress produces.

            Government newspapers on Sunday led with President Mugabe's
remarks to youths on the occasion of his 82nd birthday.
            "I appeal to our people to rediscover their lost cultural values
and moral standards," he said in Mutare. "The incidence of HIV and Aids
should constantly awaken us to the need for strict moral behaviour."
            We would add to these wise words the need for our youths to shun
predatory elders who fool around with their secretaries!

            We don't know whether it is true or not. There are reports that
government has withdrawn two farms from former Mashonaland West governor
Peter Chanetsa.
            The Sunday Mail reports that Chanetsa is one of the people
alleged to own more than one farm against government policy.
            For all that gesture is supposed to signal, one must ask why it
took so long for the government to act. Several land audits that have been
carried out in the past have shown that there are many chefs who are not
only multiple farm owners but are underutilising them as well.
            Why Chanetsa? The age old cliché is that his days are numbered.
When Zanu PF has used you beyond your productive life, it spits you out like
you were never a comrade.

            Meanwhile, we were touched to read that the flamboyant Philip
Chiyangwa has been expelled from his beloved party. He lost the chairmanship
of Mashonaland West during his controversial allegations of being one of a
team of senior party officials who sold state secrets to a foreign power.
            Readers will recall Chiyangwa's famous dictum for those who want
to get rich: join Zanu PF. Presumably he now wants to get poor. There is
consolation though, if wallowing in poverty in multitudes is any such
consolation, we hear the purge is going to be massive.

            We enjoyed the story of the MDC congress in Bulawayo at the
weekend. There were blunders upon blunders. Delegates from outside Bulawayo
didn't know where the party's offices were. So they were found loitering in
the city much on Friday and had to sleep in the open.
            Come Saturday and food quickly ran out. Gibson Sibanda was
forced to apologise. They had underestimated the turnout, perhaps due to
lack of self-confidence about their support.
            The answer came from the third blunder by Sibanda himself. His
prepared speech had a number of pages missing and he ended it dramatically
with ".these are the ideals that distinguish us from opponents ." These same
people want to run the country yet they cannot run a congress!

            There was an interesting story on Page 6 of the Sunday Mail
titled "Ministers' children shun local varsities". The first question is
whether it is the children or the parents who make the choice. We let the
subs blame it on the children but the story bit the kernel.
            Deputy Education minister Sikhanyiso Ndhlovu insists we still
have the best education. He advised the reporter to ask those who had
children overseas why. One cabinet minister boasted that there were better
prospects outside Zimbabwe, rubbing it in by telling us two of his children
were offered employment before they finished their studies.
            Moreover, he bragged, his position gave him the right contacts
outside which enabled him to secure scholarships for his children who are
currently working overseas. "I can't force them to come back as there are no
right opportunities for them now," cried the minister hopelessly.
            These are the same fellows who miss no opportunity to debase our
standards or to make sure tertiary education is beyond the reach of the
ordinary man. Talk of forked-tongued patriots! So they allow their own
offspring to become imperialist stooges while they lord it over us to be
hungry patriots.

            A reader has sent the write-up below in celebration of RBZ
governor Gideon Gono and his team:
            "Permit me sir, to express my admiration for our central bank.
It's team's enterprise, innovation and quick thinking continue to set new
standards of excellence. Most recently, the IMF thought they had us in a
tight corner but with the wizardry akin to that of Thierry Henry, we are
away and laughing. When in doubt, print! Inspired, I have become determined
to emulate their exploits.
            "Never impressed with my personal academic achievements, I chose
to extrapolate the principles of their more recent success to this area
first. A brief visit to the office photocopier later, I am now the proud
owner of nine degrees. I am open to offers from any local political parties
in search of new perspectives.
            "I am next focusing my attention on feeding the hungry within
our borders. If I can convince the Minister of Agriculture to make not one
but three aerial surveys with adequate photography, I am convinced that
there is a way to treble our national agricultural output in one season. I
am nearly feverish with excitement at the potential for success with this
and future projects."
            Gives you food for thought.

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Wantend: unit to winch us out of this quagmire

Zim Independent


            PROFESSOR Arthur Mutambara, elected to head an MDC faction last
weekend, has entered a political minefield in which he has to be
nimble-footed to avoid the inherent hazards associated with active politics
in this country.

            Mutambara's new team spoke of the need for an ideological
redefinition among Zimbabweans. His charm offensive saw him attacking the
British for reneging on the Lancaster House agreement. He also opened up on
white commercial farmers for resisting land reform.

            Not many among his peers at the high table expected this dated
discourse from the good professor who could quickly find himself a hostage
to fortune.

            Already, he is a target of savage attacks from foes in the
Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC which has not only dismissed him as a non-event,
but also sees the faction he now leads as hirelings of the Zanu PF

            The government-controlled media over the weekend was quick to
draw parallels between Mutambara's sentiments with those of President Robert
Mugabe on land, sovereignty and relations with the West.

            While the government press this week fired their opening salvoes
at Mutambara, portraying him as an appendage of the West, the professor
stands to suffer more damage to his political career if he receives the
tacit blessing of the ruling order which sees Tsvangirai as the real enemy.

            Zanu PF will obviously seek to cast doubts in the minds of those
who were beginning to warm up to the new leader. He cannot avoid this tide
of criticism because it comes with the territory he is now occupying, but
his survival in politics depends on what tag sticks.

            Currently, there are a number of them. He is portrayed in some
circles as the Shona face of a Ndebele-dominated faction. He is regarded as
an overgrown student leader trying his hand at national politics.

            There are some who like to think that Mutambara is a Zanu PF
plant brought in to read the last rites of a flailing opposition movement.
He is also seen as a CIA agent because of his links to NASA.

            All these tags could be dismissed as spiteful nonsense aimed at
achieving partisan ends. But a painful fact that Mutambara must live with is
that like Tsvangirai, he remains the leader of an MDC faction. It is
important for him to create his own image and use that to market his ideas.
This could be an insuperable task as long as the party remains divided and
open to manipulation by Zanu PF government functionaries.
            Put simply, the opposition in Zimbabwe is no stronger because of
the entry of Mutambara into the political fray as long as there is no unity
in the MDC.

            The Tsvangirai camp, by virtue of a High Court ruling last year,
would like to regard itself as the genuine MDC. Last weekend this faction's
spokesman Nelson Chamisa rather sarcastically put out a statement to welcome
the Mutambara-led faction "to the turbulent political scene in Zimbabwe as
we continue our struggle to dislodge the Zanu PF dictatorship".

            He advised the grouping "to urgently look for a new name so that
they are not confused with the Movement for Democratic Change founded by the
working people of this country led by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions".

            He concluded his statement by saying: "The struggle that we have
is about removing a dictatorship and resolving the crisis of governance in
our country in order to usher in a new Zimbabwe and a new beginning governed
by a people-driven democratic national constitution. The people's project is

            Not at the moment. The public are inclined to say "a pox on both
your houses".

            Ken Saro Wiwa's view, from another African context, aptly
captures the state of the opposition project at the moment: "The transition
has been described as a train, and is said to be on course. I disagree.

            The train is rusty and stands in the station; its route is
strewn with danger, the passengers in the train are suffering and hungry,
the majority of passengers and their goods are not on board."

            That's where we are right now. Stuck in the station. And without
unity, Mutambara and his redundant rhetoric will only compound the crisis.

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Sauce for the goose and the gander

Zim Independent

The Eric Bloch Column

By Eric Bloch

WITH inflation again surging upwards, concurrently with ever greater numbers
in Zimbabwe becoming unemployed, the hardships afflicting the Zimbabwean
population are intensifying exponentially.

Whilst there are numerous causes of those hardships, the most pronounced is
undoubtedly hyperinflation.  It is so great that more than 80% of the
populace are battling to survive on incomes below the Poverty Datum Line
(PDL), and more than half of that populace suffers under-nourishment and
malnutrition as their incomes are lower than the Food Datum Line (FDL).

As the adversities increase, government and the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe
(CCZ), and the state-controlled media, strive vigorously to identify
appropriate scapegoats upon whom they can attribute blame for the runaway

Unhesitatingly, they point their accusatory fingers at private sector

They repeatedly allege that Zimbabwean industry is exploitationist and
engaged in endless profiteering.  Similarly, they attack the wholesalers and
retailers with like allegations.

However, they demonstrate a remarkable rectitude when parastatals and other
arms of government increase their charges.  They spew forth vitriol against
manufacturers who raise prices for their products,   and are scathing about
price reviews effected by retailers.   Whensoever any prices increase,   the
CCZ demands implementation of comprehensive  price controls,   disregarding
that such controls invariably result  in product shortages,   unavoidable
closures of business (with  consequential further unemployment,  and loss of
downstream economic activity),  and fuel black  market  trading, resulting
in even greater inflation.  But they remain silent when parastatals raise
their charges, and are similarly voiceless when government raises taxes or
increases other imposts.

And yet, not only are those parastatal charges and governmental dues major
direct contributants to inflation, they indirectly fuel yet further
inflation as private sector enterprises have no option but to revise prices
upwards in order to fund the  increases in their operating costs imposed by
the parastatals and by government.

Last month, Zesa revised many of its tariffs by as much as 73% in some
instances, and then only last week it announced that further increases
(approved by the regulatory authority) will be effected during the next
month,   by up to a further 200%.

Tel*One and Net*One have raised their charges during the last two months, in
many instances by 200%, and Zimpost has done likewise.   In less than a
year, the Airport departure tax charged by the Civil Aviation Authority of
Zimbabwe (CAAZ) has risen more than four-fold.  So too have many of the
charges of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management, very
negatively impacting upon Zimbabwe's greatly stressed tourism industry.

The state-controlled press has (in common with the independent press)
increased prices at least three times in the last six months.  Almost all,
if not all,   other parastatals have done likewise.

In reality, parastatals must as unavoidably increase prices and charges as
applies to the private sector, for they are impacted upon by the ravages of
inflation as greatly as are the private sector industries and businesses.

They too have to give salary and wage increases,   access foreign currency
at changing rates of exchange,   and pay more for their operational inputs.
But in an endeavour to deflect blame for the inflationary environment from
itself,   government focuses its accusatory bile upon the private sector,
disregarding that its enterprises are doing the same that it finds
distasteful and unacceptable in the private sector.  And government's
behaviour in regard to the unavoidable price increases of commerce and
industry  is aligned with repeated, spurious allegations against any
business that discontinues operations.   Regularly, after such occurrences,
government contends that the sole motivation of closure of the business will
have been to undermine the economy and disable the government.

The mind boggles at the thought that private enterprise can be so desirous
of destroying the economy, and of disabling government, that it will commit
suicide, and subject owners to immense losses and poverty.  But ministers in
government recurrently claim that the closed businesses did not need to
close, and "threaten" that it will expropriate any such businesses.

In practice, there is only one significant difference in the operational
modes of the private sector and the parastatals.  That is that the former,
driven by the impacts of competition,   seeks to minimise price increases by
maximising productivity as far as it is able to do so, and by increasing
production efficiencies and overhead controls.

In contradistinction,   many of the parastatals have very little regard for
such measures, and steadfastly resort to price increases to cover their
rising costs.

However,   that does not deter government or the CCZ from castigating the
private sector, whilst refraining from any comment, let alone criticism, of
the public sector enterprises. Very evidently, they do not accept the
longstanding maxim that that which is sauce for the goose, must also be
sauce for the gander.

The only body to have acknowledged that the public sector enterprises are,
in the main, ineffectually operated, and are millstones around the neck of
the economy, is the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

In a supplement to the Fourth Quarter 2005  Monetary Policy  Review
Statement,  the RBZ contends that "the major  challenge facing the
parastatals..has been  lax corporate governance practices, characterised by
lack of transparency and  meaningful capital investment, weak financial
controls and systems, poor policy guidance, implementation,  and business
culture, failure to produce audited financial  statements, and inadequate
staffing levels".

The supplement continues with some very telling and damning observations,

* High staff turnover, and low staff morale; and

* Board members/councillors, who are political appointees, have tended to
lack certain necessary technical expertise required for prudent policy
making; and most of them "are into entities to pursue their own political
and self-interest and may not necessarily add any value to the running of
the entities".

Management of debt is poor, as evidenced by huge mismatches between
creditors and debtors.

A particularly relevant comment by the RBZ was that "if local authorities
(and, by implication, parastatals) cover up for their inefficiencies by
hiking tariffs,   this will impact negatively on inflation".

The RBZ emphasised the need "to underscore the inextricable link between
parastatals and local authorities and inflation", and stated that "a buoyant
parastatal and local authorities sector will dampen inflationary pressure".

Instead of berating Zimbabwean industry and the distributive sector,
government needs to assist and facilitate attaining greater operational
efficiencies and enhanced utilisation of productive capacity concurrently
with sorting out the morass that is the characteristic of many of the
parastatals, and create measures to stimulate competition.

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Staying ahead

Zim Independent

Projects Editor's Memo

Iden Wetherell

OVER the past few weeks readers of the Zimbabwe Independent and Standard
will have noticed a number of changes to our editorial pages. Today sees the
introduction of a new front-page masthead for this newspaper to be followed
by a new-look Standard on Sunday.

We have introduced the changes over a period of time both to determine what
works best "live", as it were, and to gauge the views of readers.

Readers are, all over the world, customarily hostile to changes to their
favourite newspapers, researchers say. They prefer to stick with what they
know. Editors, on the other hand, like to change their page formats now and
again. This is called rebranding - giving a newspaper a new definition in
keeping with changing times.

The Independent first appeared in May 1996, almost 10 years ago. That was
before Google, e-Bay, Amazon or Playstations. 3G sounded like the name of a
local firm of lawyers. Although that first production was on better quality
newsprint because we could comfortably afford to use imported paper in those
days, all the pictures were in black and

That gradually changed as colour was introduced and other design changes
were made on an ad hoc basis leading to the product you are familiar with

But we felt that approaching our 10th anniversary we needed to present a
bold fresh look to our reading public that conveys the gravitas of the news
and views carried inside as befits our role as one of the country's few
remaining independent publications. The Standard will follow on Sunday with
a brighter profile.

We hope the new look, including the fish-eagle banner of the Independent,
appeals to you. A good newspaper should be eagle-eyed wth sharp talons! Our
thanks go to Big Media Ltd which provided the consultancy role in our
transformation, although I should quickly add that we take responsibility
for the final product.

Anton Harber, former editor of the Mail & Guardian and now Caxton Professor
of Media Studies at Witwatersrand University, who is a partner in Big Media,
kindly agreed to deliver the keynote address at our rebranding ceremony at a
local hotel last night.

The M&G, our sister paper now owned by Trevor Ncube, provides a fine example
of how much a small weekly can achieve in facing down threats from an
overbearing regime (in the 1980s) and continues to hold new rulers to
account today.

Change brings opportunity and only by adapting can newspapers avoid becoming
the next exhibit in the communications hall of fame, media software
executive Briggs Kilborne has said. Editors increasingly understand the
challenge: Change or die.

Gone are the days when editors said "publish and be damned", World
Association of Newspapers (WAN) First Vice-President Gavin O'Reilly told the
International Advertising Association's 39th World Congress in Beijing just
over a year ago.

"Today's editors are acutely commercial, inventive, creative and
ever-responsive to new product development and change."

Newspapers deliver reach and influence, O'Reilly pointed out. That is true
of us at the Independent and Standard where the national democratic deficit
means the reading public trust the word of a free newspaper more than a
politician. This is as it should be. Politicians dissemble; newspapers do
their best to tell it like it is.

We face enormous obstacles in a media environment categorised by press
watchdogs as one of the least free in the world. But to survive in that
hostile climate we must not only continue to speak out and hold our rulers
to account, we must also provide added value to our products on a regular

Given the burden of escalating printing costs, that is a formidable
challenge. But today's edition of the Independent and Sunday's edition of
the Standard demonstrate the determination of our newspapers to remain key
players in the Zimbabwean newspaper market. We recently acquired Munn
Marketing which has vast experience in newspaper distribution.

We must not forget here the role of the Internet as a platform for our

The Independent was the first Zimbabwean newspaper on the Net in 1996
quickly followed by the Standard in 1997.

Our new-look website (, I am sure, will
continue to host the huge following already established in the diaspora.
People like and trust our publications and we have an obligation to work
hard to retain that trust and keep ahead on a rapidly changing media market.

In a recent survey in Japan, WAN reports, consumers evaluated various media
and said newspapers were more accurate, had broader, more credible content,
more useful information for daily life, and possessed more memorable and
lasting content.

That remains our goal today.

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