Posted on January 16, 2010 | Category: Politics; Business, Sport
This is the first update for the New Year and covers the period from December 16 to January 13.
- Inter-party talks between the coalition partners will resume January 16. The MDC on Friday Jan. 8 again announced it would not pull out of the unity government, saying any differences will be resolved. But on Tuesday Jan. 11, MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said that any further farm invasions by Zanu-PF would cause his party to consider withdrawing.
- Southern African Development Community (SADC) ministers said on Friday they were unhappy with the slow pace of the inter-party talks. Mozambican Foreign Affairs Minister Oldemiro Baloi said they hope the negotiations will conclude soon.
- The Commissioner of Police blocked Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai from touring police stations around the country in December. Tsvangirai intended to visit police posts to meet officers, assess their work conditions and hear their concerns.
- Jonathan Moyo allegedly organised a secret meeting in Gweru to discuss strategies to form a new breakaway political party, to be led by Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. Moyo described the story as “fiction.”
- The European Union (EU) next month will meet to revise targeted sanctions and travel restrictions on President Robert Mugabe and other Zanu-PF officials. The revision of the sanctions list will be based on the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
- Zimbabwean civil servants are demanding an increase in salary from US$155 a month to US$500, threatening to go on strike if the government refuses an increase.
- The more than 10,000 unemployed youths who were recruited last year when Zanu-PF needed foot soldiers to stop the then opposition MDC from penetrating the rural areas are still being paid US$150 a month. Their role at this point, according to one of the loitering youths, is to “mobilize Zanu-PF supporters”.
- Gold production rose 35 percent to 4.2 tonnes last year, despite erratic power supplies. This was up from 3.1 tonnes in 2008. In 1999, Zimbabwe produced 27.7 tonnes.
- Energy Minister Elias Mudzuri on Monday said he ordered ZESA, the country’s power utility, to stop exporting power to Namibia since the Hwange power station was not working properly. ZESA is providing Namibia with electricity to help settle a US$40 million loan to refurbish Hwange power station.
- ZESA has signed a US$8 million dollar deal with the Botswana Power Company to refurbish a shutdown thermal power plant in Bulawayo and ease power cuts in the country. Zimbabwe will export power to Botswana in return.
- Zimbabwe’s parliament is expected to approve the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) with South Africa when it resumes sitting next month. Investment Promotion Minister Elton Mangoma said both Houses of Parliament would ratify the agreement, which was signed in Harare on Nov. 27 last year.
- A top Nestle official visited Zimbabwe this week as the Swiss food giant resumed production after shutting down its plant in Harare in December. The visit, which was labeled as ‘routine,’ coincided with the re-opening of the plant. Nestle suspended operations at its Harare factory after two of its managers were taken for questioning by the police. Controversy raged last year following revelations that Nestle was buying milk from Gushungo Dairy, located on a commercial farm in the fertile Mazowe district “acquired” by Grace Mugabe.
- Construction of a multi-million dollar dairy produce processing plant is reported to be underway at Gushungo Estates. The ban on sales of Gushongo milk at Nestle is believed to have prompted Mrs. Mugabe to construct the plant.
- Foreign investors can own up to 100 percent shareholding of their companies, depending on the merit of their proposals, a Zimbabwean cabinet minister said last week.
- Zimbabwe’s war veterans say they are entitled to a 20 percent share of any resource in the country because of the part they played in the liberation struggle, a Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLVA) official said. He also decried those who masquerade as war veterans.
- The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a London-based think-tank, expressed misgivings last week about the credibility of some of the economic programmes presented by the unity government. The think-tank said detailed and credible projections are needed.
- The Zimbabwe government last week was forced to suspend the controversial auction of 300,000 carats of rough diamonds from the Marange field in the Chiadzwa district by Mbada Diamonds.
- Mbada is a joint operation between the government’s mining arm, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, and two South African companies, Grandwell Holdings and Core Mining. African Consolidated Resources (ACR) legally owns the rights to mine the lucrative field but has been prevented from doing so.
- ACR advised Interpol of the proposed auction and warned that any diamond sales from Marange would be classified as stolen goods.
- Human rights organisations have pushed for a ban on international sales due to gross human rights violations perpetrated against civilians by soldiers at the field. More than 200 miners are believed to have been killed during 2008.The diamonds do not hold Kimberley Process (KP) certification as Mbada failed to meet the stipulated conditions.
- International trade watchdog Global Witness on Friday Jan. 8 commended the cancellation of the auction, but warned that the country must show commitment to cleaning up its diamond sector. Global Witness also said it did not believe statements by mines minister Obert Mpofu that soldiers and police had withdrawn from the fields in November. Instead, they said it is likely the military has only withdrawn from two small areas.
- Chiadzwa communal area villagers are resisting government efforts to relocate 1,800 families to Arda-Transau, 100km to the west, in order to exploit the diamond fields.
- Mugabe has allegedly mortgaged diamonds from Marange to buy a new multi-million dollar Presidential helicopter, a Russian-made Mi6 transport helicopter delivered in Nov.
- Senior judge Rita Makarau, who heads the High Court, said Monday the judiciary expects the three principals of the coalition government to lead by example and uphold the rule of law. She also decried the shortage of judges in the country and urged the government to increase funding for the judiciary.
- Members of Zimbabwe’s constitutional outreach team began training this week before being deployed across the country to collect people’s views on the document. The public consultation will last about three months, followed by the actual drafting and referendum by October.
- The treason trial of Deputy Agriculture Minister (designate) Roy Bennett (MDC-T) resumed at the Harare High Court on Tuesday following a six-week break. The key state witness, Peter Hitschmann, took the stand first and rebutted much of the state’s case. He denied ever meeting Bennett and accused the police of creating a conspiracy.
- Attorney General Johannes Tomana, who is personally leading the State case against Bennett, then applied to impeach Hitschmann. Justice Chinembiri Bhunu will make a determination Wednesday whether the impeachment procedure against Hitschmann can proceed.
- Zimbabwe’s remaining white farmers say the ongoing farm invasions and continued human and property rights abuses by senior Zanu-PF officials are impacting seriously on food security and are keeping foreign investors away from the country.
- A further five South African farmers in the east of Zimbabwe are to be evicted this week, following an alleged order by Land Reform Minister Didymus Mutasa to get rid of the remaining white farmers in the area.
- South African civil rights movement AfriForum won a court bid to sue the Zimbabwean government over its “cruel” and “revengeful” take-overs of South African-owned farms in Zimbabwe. On February 23, AfriForum will approach the court to force Zimbabwe and South Africa to register and recognize the SADC Tribunal ruling on land reform.
- Malawi has sold and exported fertilizer to Zimbabwe after local companies failed to produce sufficient due to a lack of raw materials. Zimbabwe still owes Malawi $100 million for its purchase of maize from the country three years ago.
- Farmers nationwide have experienced a shortage of Ammonium Nitrate fertiliser, a development that is likely to affect their yield.
- Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Tanzania, retired Major General Edzai Chimonyo, has invaded a banana plantation in Burma Valley near Mutare. The plantation is owned by a Dutch and Malaysian company and is protected by a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA), a fact Chimonyo has refused to acknowledge.
- The Zimbabwe government has warned resettled farmers who are subletting their farms to former white commercial farmers that they risked losing their land. This follows reports that farmers, who benefited under the land reform programme, lacking the resources to utilize the farms, were now making arrangements with former owners.
- The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has made US$14 million in grants available to 52,000 Zimbabwean farmers and agri-businesses to increase production and raise incomes. The grants, which include vouchers for agricultural inputs and training, will be distributed through seven non-governmental organisations.
- Land invaders physically attacked a farming family in Rusape on Tuesday. This follows the eviction of three farming families in the area in the last three weeks.
- Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson’s documentary film, “Mugabe and the White African”, the story of commercial farmers Mike Campbell and Ben Freeth, who took their case to the SADC Tribunal in Windhoek, won Best Documentary at the British Independent Film Awards. Shortlisted (Final 15) for the Oscars, it is showing in London and Edinburgh this month and has received excellent reviews, eg: “. Harrowing, unsparing, incensing and often, as an example of courage beyond the call, inspiring.”
- The MDC has condemned the government and the Attorney General’s office for failing to respond to a comprehensive report it submitted to the Attorney General naming more than 200 MDC supporters who were murdered by known Zanu-PF activists in the country’s 2008 presidential run-off election.
- Education minister David Coltart wants to set up 20 academic centres of excellence this year to cater for disadvantaged children who will receive full scholarships.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported another death from cholera in the Midlands province, bringing the number of deaths to six since September last year. Meanwhile at least three cholera cases have been confirmed in Kadoma (Mashonaland West province) while 10 other suspected cases are still being investigated.
- A measles outbreak has affected at least 18 districts, with 869 cases reported countrywide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Zimbabwe Health Ministry said at least 41 people have died of the disease, many of them children, since the outbreak began last month.
- Zimbabwe police have been recruited to try to force a religious sect in the Manicaland province to have their children vaccinated against measles. Members of the sect have been locking their sick children in huts or hiding them in the hills to avoid vaccination.
- The National Aids Council (NAC), widely condemned for holding onto funds collected through the Aids Levy while thousands of people in need of life-prolonging drugs die prematurely, has bought antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) worth US$1,8 million. NAC also bought other equipment and support materials such as CD4 cell count machines and HIV test kits.
- The government plans to increase the number of people on ARVs to 300 000 this year, up from 180 000.
- UK based protest group Zimbabwe Vigil is urging the British government to stop sending developmental aid to Zimbabwe until the GPA is fully implemented.
- Iran has said it is ready to offer humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe in times of need and to develop relations between the two nations.
- A new book launched by the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) scrutinises the role of the Zimbabwe media in covering the violent 2008 presidential run-off election. MMPZ head Andrew Moyse said he hoped it would provide a significant contribution to the national debate on press freedom.
- Zimbabwean soccer fans will be unable to watch the 2010 African Cup of Nations after the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) announced that it could not afford the US$6.5 million broadcasting fee required by the tournament’s broadcast rights holder.
- Immigration officials at the Beitbridge border post are arresting an average of 80 people a day, mostly Zimbabweans, for using fake South African passports.
- New funding from the Dutch government will support the humanitarian activities of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) which assisted 314,000 Zimbabweans at the Beitbridge centre between 2006 and 2009 after they were deported from SA. IOM said that another 57,000 Zimbabwean migrants were assisted between June 2008 and June 2009 at a similar centre it operates at the Plumtree border post with Botswana.
- An estimated four million Zimbabweans in the Diaspora will be given a chance to contribute to Zimbabwe’s constitutional making process.
- Zimbabwe war veterans living near the Humani Estates in Chiredzi District are poisoning the food and water of rhinos from a nearby game reserve to trap the rhinos and sell the horns to South African dealers. Cattle and other wild and domestic animals are also dying as a result of drinking and feeding off the poisoned sources.
- The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) announced that it would spend US$3 million on training key personnel ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup to equip them with skills in customer service.
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