Tuesday, November 15, 2011

De Beers Retail Arm Says Will Avoid Zimbabwe's Marange Diamonds

The Marange fields have been mired in controversy since the military took over operations from African Consolidated Resources in 2006 with rights defenders saying the army perpetrated abuses on ordinary people, killing some in the process

Forevermark, the high-quality diamond retail arm of diamond giant De Beers, says it will not sell any diamonds from the controversial Marange fields in eastern Zimbabwe citing inferior quality.

De Beers and Harare are currently embroiled in a war of words over the diamond giant's activities in Marange between 2000 and 2005. Harare alleges that De Beers siphoned rough stones worth millions of dollars while telling government it was just prospecting.

But De Beers denies the charges saying its operations in Marange were above board and they left after realizing the diamonds were not up to their standards.

Speaking at the launch of the exclusive brand in Johannesburg, South Africa at the weekend chief executive Stephen Lussier said Marange diamonds were generally too small and low in quality for the brand to sell.

He added that Forevermark’s selection process goes well beyond adherence to the minimal standards of the Kimberley Process, which recently gave Harare permission to sell Marange diamonds on the international markets after a three year stalemate in the diamond watchdog group.
Lussier said today’s consumers are now more interested in the source of their luxury purchases.

“The Forevermark carries a guarantee that the diamonds used for our products have contributed positively to communities, the environment and supply chains along the way," said Lussier.

“In a diversifying and maturing industry, consumers seek more from their luxury purchases. Not only do they demand value for money, but there is increasing interest in the source of their purchase and the journey it has traveled."

He added that less than one percent of the world’s diamonds are eligible to be branded Forevermark.

The Marange fields have been mired in controversy since the military took over operations from African Consolidated Resources in 2006 with rights defenders saying the army perpetrated abuses on ordinary people, killing some in the process.

Studio 7 was unable to reach De Beers to check if the diamond giant’s other operations would handle Marange diamonds.

Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said Harare is not surprised by Forevermark’s statement.

He repeated his accusations that De Beers had already unlawfully benefited from Marange diamonds during the 10 years the company held prospective rights for the fields.

Diamond activist Farai Maguwu of the Centre for Research and Development in Mutare said for as long as there’s no consensus amongst the governing parties in Harare over Marange, the world would find it difficult to accept Marange diamonds.

Research Director Allan Martin of Partnership Africa Canada commented that Forevermark has done the right thing, adding more international companies could follow suit.

Zimbabwe to have no electricity for another 4 years

Published: November 15, 2011

(Harare)Zimbabwe which has struggled with electricity supply in recent years, is to yet brace up for a gruelling additional 4 years without adequate supply of electricity resulting in little or no electricity for many areas as load sheddings’ frequency is increased, Zesa’s chief executive officer Engineer Josh Chifamba revealed yesterday.
The reasons for the shortages are still to be made fully known with ZESA at present blaming what it termed ‘an array of challenges among them vandalism that destroys property worth US$810 000 per month’.
Last year in June, ZimEye revealed that power outages would continue into 2014 as ZESA was struggling to raise a whooping US$125 million needed to repair the outdated Hwange Power Station generators, with US$8 billion needed for the country to restore optimum power production levels.

Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company’s systems development manager Ikhupuleng Dube told a business forum in Harare on Thursday that ZESA needs US$125 million to repair Hwange thermal power station adding that Zimbabweans should brace for more power outages till 2014 because of the problem.

ZESA power lines

Zesa chief executive officer Engineer Josh Chifamba said the challenges that include a huge debt overhang, low installed capacity and general dip in the availability of power in the region will see the power utility load-shedding to share the limited resources.
Eng Chifamba was giving oral evidence before a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy
The committee, which was chaired by Uzumba MP Cde Simba Mudarikwa (Zanu-PF), wanted to know the challenges faced by Zesa. Eng Chifamba said the recent tariff increase, coupled with new projects currently being implemented both at Hwange and Kariba Power Station should be a source of hope for improved electricity supply in the next three years.
“When are we going to see improvement? Obviously what Honourable Members and the rest of the country are expecting to hear is the time when we will not be load shedding.
“That time is not very close, the time we need to commission new projects is about three years.”
He said two more projects are being implemented at Hwange and Kariba.

“At Hwange, we will be putting two extra machines to give us 600 Megawatts and Kariba 300 MW, that’s 900 MW, we expect to finish Kariba in 2015 and Hwange 2016,” he said.

Eng Chifamba said the completion of these projects would not see loading shedding easing.

“When that happens, it will alleviate our situation but we will still not be out of the woods.”

He said Botswana was currently working on a new project and Zesa hopes to tap into it when it is completed.

The deal was, however, subject to the two countries agreeing terms.

Eng Chifamba said consumer debt had been reduced from US$450 million to US$427 million owing to payment arrangement Zesa has entered with customers.

The delay in approving a cost reflective structure has seen Zesa failing to repair and maintain equipment while affecting operations.
The Zesa boss implored legislators to come up with a legal instrument that would punish consumers who continue to use old bulbs instead of energy savers once new bulbs have been introduced.

On tariffs, Eng Chifamba said the approved structures though coming late had gone a long way in stabilising operations.
“The tariffs are meant to address these challenges. It will simply allow us to operate our business normally,” he said.
It was critical, said Eng Chifamba, for stakeholders to realise that electricity was not cheap.

He said the price of coal has also threatened the viability of their business.

Eng Chifamba called for a good operating environment conducive to draw investors.

“We need all forms of stability in the country,” he said.

On independent power producers, Eng Chifamba dismissed indications that they were blocking them.

He said Zesa wished to see more stakeholders coming in to assist them deliver electricity

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

PARLIAMENTARIANS want to be exempted from paying Zesa utility bills

PARLIAMENTARIANS want to be exempted from paying Zesa utility bills saying they cannot afford the tariffs amid serious fears of disconnections.

Zesa has however, stood firm saying the request was untenable as it would result in consumers subsiding the legislators.

Mberengwa East MP, Cde Makhosini Hlongwane (Zanu-PF), said the power utility should consider either a full or a partial exemption for legislators in light of their poor remuneration.

He said this during a pre-budget seminar for parliamentarians in Victoria Falls.

"Can MPs have an exemption, even a partial exemption from paying electricity? If that is not done, most of them might suffer the embarrassment of having their power disconnected," he said, drawing applause from fellow legislators.

Zesa Holdings chief executive officer Engineer Josh Chifamba who was a participant on a topic "Measures to Address National Energy," shot down the proposal.

"We do not have that dispensation.

"Tariffs should be cost reflective. When we make that exemption, there have to be transparent otherwise the poor people in high density suburbs might end subsiding the rich in Borrowdale," he said.

Eng Chifamba said legislators might probably consider approaching Finance Minister Tendai Biti with their plight and discuss how Treasury could assist them.

Uzumba MP, Cde Simba Mudarikwa (Zanu-PF), proposed that Zesa debit the money owed by the Grain Marketing Board to cover for unpaid farmers' bills since both of them were State entities.

Eng Chifamba dismissed the proposal since Zesa has its own balance sheet.

Energy and Power Development Deputy Minister Hubert Nyanhongo said there was nothing Zesa could do to assist those consumers who had made advance payments for their electricity during the Zimbabwe dollar era but were not credited when the country switched to the multi-currency system.

Gokwe MP, Cde Dorothy Mangami (Zanu-PF), had complained that several people especially farmers had made advance payments covering almost a year but were not credited in the United States dollar terms.

"I want to say tough luck. We don't have replacement in terms of those who had deposited their Zim dollar in advance.

"When we dollarised we lost out everything in Zim dollar, so tough luck for those people," Deputy Minister Nyanhongo said.

On load shedding, Eng Chifamba said there was nothing the power utility could do to avert it until there is sufficient power generation.

He said one way of dealing with load-shedding and billing challenges was the impending pre-paid system.
The Zesa boss was however, quick to say they would be levying 10 percent of money paid for those owing Zesa prior to the commencement of the pre-paid system

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Zimbabwe's Mugabe Threatens Swiss Holdings in 'Reciprocity' for Visa Denials

Swiss companies in Zimbabwe include food giant Nestlé, which temporarily shut down a Harare processing plant in December 2009 due to pressure brought when it stopped buying milk from a Mugabe-owned dairy
Ntungamili Nkomo
News Updated: 8:06 UTC Monday 31 October 2011 RSS Feed 31 October 2011

Zimbabwe's Mugabe Threatens Swiss Holdings in 'Reciprocity' for Visa Denials

Although Mr. Mugabe had received a visa, he canceled the trip and headed to Singapore for treatment of what credible reports say is metastatic prostate cancer.

Arriving home at Harare International Airport late Sunday, Mr. Mugabe told journalists he was saddened by the Swiss visa denials, adding, “now they are showing that they are vicious and we will reciprocate because they have properties here. We are not without means to reciprocate.”

Mugabe, 87, brushed aside lingering concerns about his health saying he is fit.

Swiss companies operating in Zimbabwe include food giant NestlĂ©, which temporarily shut down a Harare milk processing plant in December 2009 amid threats from ZANU-PF after it stopped buying milk from Grace Mugabe’s Gushongo Dairy Farm.

The Swiss embassy in Harare refused to comment.

Switzerland imposed sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and hundreds of ZANU-PF officials in 2002, accusing them of human rights abuses and ballot-rigging.

Economic analyst Walter Nsununguli Mbongolwane commented that Mr. Mugabe’s threats could handicap economic growth by scaring away investors. "When they decide to seize Swiss companies, they will hide behind indigenization,"he said, referring to the ZANU-PF-inspired drive to claim a controlling black stake in foreign enterprises.

Political analyst Bhekilizwe Ndlovu told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that Mugabe’s threats do not bode well for economic recovery.

Zimbabwe Government Principals Block Payment of Legislator Arrears

October 2011

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara have barred payment of back allowances for members of Parliament saying the state of government finances does not permit it.

Sources said the three unity government principals said such allowances, which in some cases amounted to US$40,000, will only be paid going forward.

The Standard newspaper said angry lawmakers nearly manhandled ZANU-PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo and his counterparts in the two Movement for Democratic Change formations - Innocent Gonese and Edward Mkhosi - when they announced the decision.

The unity government principals did not specify a reason for blocking the payments, but sources said it was due to a lack of funds. The three ordered Parliament to pay only US$75 per sitting to the members beginning Tuesday, November 1.

Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga said Parliament had completed calculating outstanding allowances last week and was preparing to pay them.

Independent political commentator George Mkhwanazi said legislators should be paid what is due to them as cabinet ministers have received hefty travel allowances.