Saturday, September 22, 2012

Zimbabwe: Settling Scores Under Guise of Indigenisation

MEDIA, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu last week gave what he said was his final warning to the private media for criticising President Robert Mugabe.
"There is no need of attacking the president or the leadership for no reason," Shamu said. "This is an abuse of the freedom that has been given to them.
"We will work together with the Zimbabwe Media Commission to revoke those licences because we cannot watch while the country's leadership is assaulted," he warned.
It seems Shamu's self-righteous indignation is unhelpful considering we have heard no complaints from him when the state-controlled media goes into overdrive in its coverage of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's love life and other things.
The Saturday Herald and Sunday Mail should have carried X-rated content warnings considering the obscene torrent they spewed on Tsvangirai. Without doubt Nathaniel Manheru and Jonathan Moyo's mudslinging will have given H-Metro scribes a good run for their money.
So much for "family" newspapers!
Most of what they wrote cannot be repeated in the private media lest the Zimbabwe Media Commission comes knocking. Indeed some animals are more equal than others.
Meanwhile, it seems Zanu PF central committee member and former Chitungwiza executive mayor Joseph Macheka has been downgraded from a comrade to a mere "mister" after giving away his daughter, Elizabeth, to Tsvangirai on Saturday.
Before that, the Sunday Mail and other state-controlled media prefixed Macheka's name with "Cde". All this changed on Saturday, with the Sunday Mail settling for the less revolutionary title of "Mr" Macheka.
That's the way it is now.
There is no end in sight to the wrangle pitting Tsvangirai and his ex-lover Locardia Karimatsenga-Tembo. Despite Tsvangirai's earlier claims that he never paid bride price for Locardia, a video showing what looked like marriage negotiations between the Tembo and Tsvangirai families suggests otherwise.
This week Lorcadia took a dig at "playboy" Tsvangirai, saying she is still pursuing her US$15 000 a month maintenance bid and insisting she remains the PM's wife until he officially divorces her.
Conspiracy theories aside, the premier got himself in a morass for which only he should shoulder the blame.
Even bunga bunga maestro, former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi would be green with envy at Tsvangirai's "sexcapades" as alleged by his ex-lovers.
Clearly, Tsvangirai has not learned any lessons from the days of Ari Ben-Menashe where it became manifest he was under surveillance from state agents wherever he goes.
Muckraker was amused by Zanu PF apologists who opted to take the moral high ground over Tsvangirai's love saga. No women's rights groups, "analysts" whined, have condemned Tsvangirai's actions. Curiously, some notorious wife-bashers and womanisers also joined the fray crying louder than the bereaved.
Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere has made another about turn, this time saying Chinese companies involved in agriculture are immune from the indigenisation law that requires foreign-owned firms to cede 51% of their shareholding.
According to the Standard, Kasukuwere said the companies had made "cash injections and this is the kind of investment that I want and I don't apologise".
Yet Kasukuwere has been shouting himself hoarse saying even investors from countries with friendly relations with Zimbabwe will not be exempted from disposing majority shareholding to locals.
"The Act will be implemented without fear or favour," Kasukuwere said in August in response to Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono's call for a more flexible approach to indigenising the banking sector.
"Where foreign investors bring in clear long-term benefits to the country, a reasonable degree of flexibility ought to be exercised in allowing investors to hold at least in the initial stages, majority shareholding so as to deliberately accord them escalated dividends that enable them to plough back their initial investments outlays," Gono had said.
Gono has accused Kasukuwere of arbitrarily applying the indigenisation law.
But Kasukuwere hit back at Gono's "profane language" declaring: "Individual views should remain so, but the law of the land should remain supreme."
Now Kasukuwere is singing a different tune. He has decided to exempt Chinese companies because "they have brought in millions of dollars, (and) sub-contracted our small-scale farmers in this country".
The millions of dollars invested and jobs created by other foreign companies are inconsequential in Kasukuwere's book. Undeterred by this glaring case of double standards, Kasukuwere took another opportunity to threaten foreign-owned banks.
"If they are thinking that one day they will get out of this problem, then they are like ostriches hiding their heads in the sand thinking that nobody is seeing them," he said.
"Can Barclays Bank tell me how many farmers they have supported? Can Standard Bank tell me how many farmers they have supported?" Kasukuwere wanted to know.
Maybe it's because the farmers have leases, not title deeds, which are not bankable and have led to banks like Agribank hitting hard times after politicians masquerading as farmers defaulted on their loan repayments.
Kasukuwere's crusade against foreign-owned banks is relentless despite being a significant shareholder in the ill-fated Genesis Investment Bank before its demise. He now wants to mastermind the failure of the entire financial sector by indigenising banks when most of the institutions are already under the control of locals.
Said Kasukuwere before Genesis went bust: "Here is a company (Genesis) which has gone under not because of mismanagement, but purely because of sanctions."
He recently declared that "foreign banks whose parentage in any case continues to attack and affect our people with illegal sanctions cannot be defended by any logical Zimbabwean".
So it is all about fixing the West for the "illegal" sanctions then, not applying the law.
Developing countries have been urged to unite and speak with one voice in order to be heard in a world dominated by the West which invests heavily in its propaganda machinery, ZBC reports.
This was said by China's Director of the Information Office of the State Council, Hu we Ping at the closing ceremony of a seminar for media officers from Zimbabwe in Beijing.
Only last year, the United States poured in excess of US$10 billion in its mouthpiece, Voice of America, to "drown" voices of the majority poor in the world, Hu said.
Does he not mean it the other way round considering listeners run away from such archaic and partisan broadcasters as ZBC to tune in to the so-called "pirate" radio stations which offer an alternative to Zanu PF propaganda?
Ironically Chinese radio jamming equipment is used to drown out the "pirate" radio stations' signal.
The fallout over President Robert Mugabe's comment on Jamaicans continued unabated in the island nation. The Jamaican Observer opined that Mugabe's tirade against Jamaican men might have been stirred by comments made in July by former Jamaican Prime Minister P J Patterson.
Patterson, who bestowed the honorary Order of Jamaica title on Mugabe in 1996, made some not so flattering remarks about Mugabe and his government in response to questions by journalists.
The former premier made the trip to Zimbabwe with reggae superstar Bob Marley for the Independence celebrations in 1980. He was recently asked to give his opinion on Mugabe.
"We feel, certainly the rest of the world that has supported Zimbabwe all along in the struggle, we would wish that even at this late hour we would see some sort of shift back towards the fundamental principles of freedom, particularly for the press, and respect for the judicial process," Patterson said.
Patterson also spoke about allegations Mugabe had rigged the 2002 presidential elections which brought about Zimbabwe's 12-month suspension from the Commonwealth. Harare then pulled out of the grouping after refusing to accept its decision to maintain an indefinite suspension.
The former Jamaican prime minister chaired that meeting in the Nigerian capital Abuja in December 2003.
"We actually were doing everything to afford Zimbabwe some opportunity of getting back in line with the principles that govern membership of the Commonwealth. We were very disappointed, quite frankly, that President Mugabe chose not to respond to our overtures," he said.
According to the Observer, Jamaica is now awaiting a clarification or apology from Mugabe for broad-brush criticism of Jamaican men.
The Zimbabwe Development Party (ZDP), of the elections-should-be-held-this-year without-a-new-constitution fame, has sent a letter to South African President Jacob Zuma imploring him to end the impasse between the parties in the GNU.
Fronted by Kissnot Mukwazhi, the ZDP sent a lengthy but typo-ridden letter asking Zuma to "help us to stop gossiping, (and) cooking stories about each other".
"We don't want in strongest terms bombs to enhance power transfer," the ZDP asserted.
"This is not a call for interference to our home affair, but a call to help your needy small brother Zimbabwe to be economically, political and socially stabilise."
The ZDP also asks Zuma to help Zimbabwe become "a member of the gold Brick just like yours", referring to the acronym Brics; an association of leading emerging economies comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
They go on to appeal for Zuma to remind his "counterparty (sic) our President Cde RG Mugabe that he has done a lot of good to us as his children as Zimbabweans, but his further stay in power will erode more of our independency (sic) gain".
With such poor communication skills, Mukwazhi can kiss any chances of being taken seriously goodbye!
Finally The Zimbabwean reports that President Robert Mugabe has urged the nation to embrace Western music. Speaking at the official opening of the Research and Intellectual Expo where he also made the now infamous Jamaica comments Mugabe said:"I was watching TV and saw people in DRC having an orchestra while here we still like to play our marimbas. But we used to have such music here and I remember very well that I was a conductor of an orchestra during my school days."
That surely cannot be a vote of confidence for the rump-shaking Mbare Chimurenga Choir or the Born Free Crew. Clearly the president expects better and we hope Cdes Shamu and Amos Mahendere have taken a cue.
And when the president says orchestra he is not referring to Alick Macheso's Orchestra Mberikwazvo!

Zimbabwe: Country Under Pressure Over IMF Debt

GOVERNMENT will today come under increasing pressure to settle its debt with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) amid indications three countries, including Sudan, Somalia and Zimbabwe, as at June-end owed the international financial institution Special Drawing Rights (SDR)1,3 billion (US$2,007 billion at the rate of SDR1:US$1,54228 yesterday) in overdue arrears collectively.
The IMF will meet authorities today to discuss the Zimbabwe situation at a time when Harare's cooperation on policies with the Bretton Woods institution has weakened.
The IMF says three members Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe remain in protracted arrears to the fund. Somalia and Sudan have accumulated arrears dating back to the mid-1980s, accounting for 18% and 76% of the total US$2 billion arrears, respectively. Zimbabwe, which has been in arrears to the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT) since February 2001, accounts for the remaining 6%.
The IMF executive board reviewed Zimbabwe's overdue financial obligations to the PRGT in September 2011 and subsequently in April this year.
It said Zimbabwe's cooperation with the fund on policies had weakened. The board said the authorities must align the execution of the 2012 budget with realistic revenue forecasts in order to return to a path towards medium-term fiscal and external sustainability and to increase economic resilience to shocks by improving expenditure management, further strengthening financial sector prudential regulations and their enforcement and improving the business climate.
The directors underscored the importance of refraining from incurring non-concessional liabilities, including using SDR resources, to prevent the further exacerbation of debt distress and unsustainable widening of external imbalances.
They also emphasised the need to demonstrate the capacity and commitments to implement strengthened policies under an IMF staff-monitored programme, including continuing timely data reporting, adopting remedial measures to resolve irregularities in employment practices, controlling the payroll, improving transparency in diamond revenues and taking additional actions to reduce financial sector risks.
An IMF report Review of the Fund's Strategy on Overdue Financial Obligations released last week shows that by June-end, Zimbabwe owed the IMF's PRGT SDR85,9 million (US$132,6 million). Most of the debt overdue to the PRGT facility is held by Sudan and Somalia who owe SDR983,3 million (US$1,5 billion) and SDR233,1 million (US$359,3), respectively.
Although the IMF noted a slight reduction in Zimbabwe's arrears, it said the country has a poor record of repayment. The report, prepared by directors from the IMF's finance, legal and policy strategy departments, also stresses the urgency of Zimbabwe settling its outstanding arrears.
"Zimbabwe's arrears to the PRGT have declined slightly. Cooperation with the fund on payments remains poor and Zimbabwe was strongly encouraged to make regular and timely payments to the fund and to increase them as the payment capacity improves," it said.
Minister of Finance Tendai Biti said yesterday Treasury, IMF and World Bank officials would meet today to discuss the situation. Biti held a video conference call on Wednesday with IMF officials to discuss the issue.
"Zimbabwe is not in arrears with the IMF. Zimbabwe owes money to the IMF, the World Bank and other creditors. We are up to date with our payments to the IMF," Biti said.
"The Ministry of Finance is in intense discussions with the IMF and the World Bank and we going to have a meeting with them tomorrow. We are going have another one next month."
Apart from its US$132,6 million IMF debt at June-end, Zimbabwe also owed SDR614,6 million (US$947,9million) to the World Bank and SDR376,2 million (US$580,2 million) to the African Development Bank.
The IMF says Zimbabwe could be eligible for debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, but Harare has refused to accept HIPC approach, claiming it would be used to interfere in internal affairs.
As an alternative, the Ministry of Finance launched the Zimbabwe: Accelerated Arrears Clearance, Debt and Development Strategy in March this year, a plan detailing how the country intends to pay off its liabilities through a combination of debt relief and concessional loans or grants from its development partners. Zimbabwe's total debt is currently US$10,7 billion.
On re-engagement with the IMF, Biti said Zimbabwe does not have the means to settle its debt and alternative sources would have to be found. "Zimbabwe does not have the capacity to pay off the IMF from its own resources.
In this regard, the country will need to request cooperating partners for a concessional bridging loan or a grant to settle arrears to the fund," he said.
"Clearance of Extended Credit Facility arrears will unlock new financing arrangements from the IMF, within the context of a fund-supported financial arrangement, which will then be used to repay the bridging loan obtained from the co-operating partners."
The IMF said Zimbabwe would need international assistance, but the country must find ways of resolving problems of ghost workers on the payroll, opaqueness in diamond revenues and taking effective steps to minimise exposing the financial sector to systemic risks.
"Zimbabwe faces an unsustainable debt situation, and may at some point need comprehensive debt relief from the international community," it said.