Zimbabwe weekly update

Posted on October 15, 2009 | Category: Politics; Business, Sport

www.zimbabwedemocracynow.com

Week Ending 13th October 2009

Business

South Africa’s largest food retailer, Shoprite, said it is no longer
pursuing investment opportunities in Zimbabwe, citing political and economic
“uncertainty.” Shoprite/Checkers planned to buy OK Bazaars, Zimbabwe’s
second largest supermarket chain, despite the recent designation of the
Meikles/TM supermarkets Group by Zimbabwe government interests.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe froze two of NestlĂ©’s bank accounts after the
Swiss multinational bowed to global pressure last week and said it would
stop sourcing milk from a farm owned by Grace Mugabe, President Robert
Mugabe’s wife. The company’s accounts were later freed, but some see it as a
warning shot to the company by Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
(RBZ) Gideon Gono.

President Mugabe stated that Government has cherry-picked two investors to
take over the exploitation of the controversial Chiadzwa Diamond Fields in a
‘joint venture’ with the Ministry of Mines. Meanwhile Justice Charles Hungwe
two weeks ago delivered a landmark judgement confirming Africa Consolidated
Resources (ACR)’s right to claims in the mining area.

Barclays Bank introduced ATM withdrawals for owners of Visa credit cards.
The facility will assist tourists.

Government

Zimbabwe is still one of the worst governed countries in Africa, according
to a report by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. The 2009 Ibrahim Index of
Governance ranked Zimbabwe 51 out of all the 53 African countries, beating
only Chad and Somalia respectively. The rankings are based on the 2007/2008
period, prior to the formation of the unity government.

Wildlife conservancies are at risk after the government adopted a new,
controversial, land ‘reform’ policy aimed at ‘resettling’ the wildlife
sector, as the countrywide rush to grab any remaining commercially viable
land continues.

Economy

Zimbabwe’s finance minister Tendai Biti said on Monday that he would quit if
he were asked to reinstate the local dollar, which he scuttled in order to
halt hyper-inflation. He said talks on the possible return of the Zimbabwe
dollar should only start at the end of next year.

The finance minister also said that he will not authorise the use of $500
million in IMF funds until the after the national budget is finalised,
presented and approved in November.

Sanctions

The US and the UK showed skepticism last week following Mugabe’s overture
for better relations, stating that he first needs to honour the Global
Political Agreement (GPA). Mugabe said at the opening of parliament that he
was prepared to re-engage the West, calling an end to sanctions against
Zimbabwe.

Education

Around 8000 teachers who fled election violence last year and only returned
to work in 2009 have gone months without pay as punishment for their alleged
support of the MDC. Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) Secretary
General Raymond Majonwe said in an interview last week that he believed the
aim was to frustrate the teachers and show up the MDC minister of education,
sport and culture David Coltart. “It’s political,” said Majongwe. “We are
aggrieved because 5 000 of the 8 000 teachers who have not been paid are our
members. This is why they are being victimized.”

Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) workers went on strike last
week demanding that the lowest paid employee’s salary be increased from
US$115 to US$400. With the public examinations looming, Zimsec is urging the
government to address the workers’ concerns.

A recent survey by PTUZ revealed that up to 75 percent of the 300,000
children who could sit their O and A Level examinations in November had
failed to register because of the exam fees. Students learning in rural
areas and on farm schools are the worst affected, with those coming from
poor urban areas accounting for a substantial amount of the victims, The
number of students who could not afford to write their examinations this
year was “the highest in the history of the country” said a PTUZ statement.

Ten Zimbabwean students at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa have
been kicked out of a (taxpayer-funded) Presidential Scholarship programme,
for allegedly supporting the MDC. Robert Mugabe gained a BA degree,
specializing in education, from Fort Hare in 1951.

Legal

Several top officials and Mugabe loyalists being sued for torture will not
receive legal assistance from the state. The officials are being sued by
seventeen human rights activists, including Jestina Mukoko. All were
acquitted of terrorism charges after being abducted, tortured and
incarcerated for months. The defendants, who include the police chief and
security and defense ministers, will face the charges (worth $500 million in
damages) on their own. It seems even the party can see their actions are
indefensible.

Two important cases will commence this week in Mutare and Harare. Deputy
Agriculture Minister Designate Roy Bennett, who was arrested in February as
he prepared to leave for a holiday in South Africa, faces trial for
allegedly being in illegal possession of weapons and for allegedly
contravening immigration laws. The state seems to have no evidence but is
trying to further delay proceedings by indicting Bennett for trial in the
High Court. Meanwhile in Harare, leading human rights lawyer Alec
Muchadehama is standing trial on Wednesday for alleged contempt of court.

Cholera Warning

Health experts and aid agencies have repeated warnings of a possible cholera
resurgence in Zimbabwe, blaming the current water and sanitation problems in
the country. “The circumstances that led to the cholera outbreak [last year]
are still there today,” said Farid Abdulkadir, International Federation of
the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) disaster management
coordinator, at a meeting on regional water integration held in Randburg,
South Africa. Nine new confirmed cases of the disease were reported last
week in Musikavanhi district of the Manicaland province.

Commercial Farming Sector

The European Union is providing 15.4 million euros to aid small-scale
Zimbabwean farmers. The aid, in the form of seed and fertiliser, aims to
boost grain production and is set to benefit 176,000 households. “This
programme is part of a wider EC policy aiming at moving this country from
food aid to food security,” said Xavier Marchal, head of the European
Commission in Zimbabwe. The aid is part of a $74 million fund created by
donors, which include the World Bank and Britain’s Department for
International Development. The fund is expected to help produce about
450,000 tons of the staple maize crop and meet a quarter of Zimbabwe’s
annual requirements.

The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany has written to the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs demanding a halt to the grab of white farmer Charles
Lock’s farm by Brigadier Mujaji. The German Embassy warned that the grab of
the property, Karori farm was illegal as the property is protected a
German-Zimbabwean Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement.

Ben Freeth, a white Zimbabwean whose farm was burnt down in August, traveled
to Washington D.C. last week to urge the Obama administration to put
pressure on the Zimbabwe government to stop the seizure of the last
remaining white farms. “The United States is the biggest bilateral donor to
Zimbabwe and it’s really important that they put pressure on the government
to ensure the court judgment is respected,” he said. In November last year
the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal ordered the
Government of Zimbabwe to allow 75 white commercial farmers to stay on their
land but the seizure of protected farms and ongoing harassment has
continued.

The European Union (EU) has offered to fund the proposed Land Audit.

Media

Mugabe’s Information Minister Webster Shamu appointed eight former senior
military officials to six boards of government-controlled media
organizations, a move that the Media Institute of Southern Africa has
condemned as the “militarization of the media.” Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai said that the new boards would have to be revised, as he and his
deputy, Arthur Mutambara, had not been consulted.

While it stalls the appointment of the Media Commission as the new licensing
body, government warned Trevor Ncube, owner of the Mail and Guardian and the
Zimbabwe Independent, not to launch his new Zimbabwean daily newspaper,
Newsday, without a licence. The government recently launched two new
publications without licences.

Robert Mugabe and a large entourage turned up in Geneva to attend an
International Telecommunications Union showcase and mystified delegates with
a speech condemning the use of radio as a channel for ‘obnoxious regime
change agendas’.

Politics

Party leader and Prime Minister in the GPA, Morgan Tsvangirai, embarked on a
series of ‘public consultations’ regarding whether the people wanted the
party to stay in the GPA. No feedback has yet emerged, Tsvangirai instead
telling rallies to expect ‘free and fair elections’ in two years’ time.

The Vice-Presidential succession is not yet settled but the Zanu-PF
Matabeleland caucus nominated one of their own: Zanu PF party chairman John
Nkomo, to take over the late Joseph Mskika’s slot at the top. Nkomo is a
former member of Zapu in Matabeleland, as was Msika. But the Mashonaland
caucus is said to be backing Defence Minister Emerson Mnangagwa for the job.
As the Minister of the Interior in the eighties, Mnangagwa was the
mastermind of the Matabeleland Gukurahundi killings in which over 20 000
people are estimated to have died.

A damning audit of the country’s voter’s roll was issued by the Research and
Advocacy Unit (RAU). The report revealed that around 75 000 people over 100
years of age were still registered, and many duplications existed. Worse, in
some constituencies, the number of votes cast in the 2008 elections were
more than double the number of registered voters. The Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC) has refused to release the detailed results of these polls.

The MDC has dropped from its constitution a clause limiting the party
president’s terms in office, thus extending Morgan Tsvangirai’s possible
tenure to beyond 2011.

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