President Emmerson Mnangagwa has appointed Fortune Chasi as the new Energy Minister with immediate effect.

Chasi replaces Jorum Gumbo with signs the latter was being demoted for reasons that could be linked to his continued failure to remedy the current fuel crisis across the country.

Gumbo has been appointed Presidential Affairs Minister of State in charge of Implementing and Monitoring.

He leaves the portfolio in a mess after having failed to solve the country’s worst fuel crisis in more than a decade.

During his tenure as energy minister, Gumbo often blamed the central bank for failure to avail adequate foreign currency to import the precious liquid and in some instances, blaming the fuel shortages on what he felt was panic buying of fuel by motorists.

On the other hand, Chasi leaves the Transport Ministry amid rumours he was not on talking terms with his boss Biggie Matiza.

Chasi is Zanu PF MP for Mazowe South constituency and was once justice deputy minister under former President Robert Mugabe.

 

Credit: NewZimbabwe

Zimbabwe has started rolling power cuts lasting up to eight hours that will also hit mines, a schedule from the state power utility showed on Monday, after reduced output at both the largest hydro plant and ageing coal-fired generators.

The power cuts will add to mounting public anger against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government as Zimbabweans grapple with an economic crisis that has seen shortages of U.S. dollars, fuel, food and medicines as well as soaring inflation that is eroding earnings and savings.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) said power cuts, known locally as load shedding, would start on Monday and will last up to eight hours during morning and evening peak periods.

"The power shortfall is being managed through load shedding in order to balance the power supply available and the demand," ZETDC said in a public notice.

Isaac Kwesu, chief executive of Chamber of Mines, which groups Zimbabwe’s biggest mining companies, did not answer his mobile phone when contacted for comment.

Mining accounts for more than three-quarters of Zimbabwe’s export earnings and any power cuts in the sector will affect production and exports.

In the past, some of the big mines, including platinum and gold producers, have resorted to directly importing electricity from neighbouring countries like Mozambique and South Africa.

Zimbabwe last experienced its worst power shortages in 2016 following a devastating drought.

The southern African nation, which is producing 969 MW daily against peak demand of 2,100 MW, is entering its peak winter power demand season, which will increase electricity consumption.

Minister of Energy and Power Development Joram Gumbo was quoted by a local newspaper saying he would travel to Mozambique this week to try to agree an electricity supply deal with that country’s power utility Hydro Cahora Bassa.

 

Zimbabwe's government has reacted swiftly and ordered bread-makers to reverse a 50% bread price hike that had been effected.

Information, Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told journalists at a post-Cabinet press briefing that government had frowned at the increase that she said suggested a sinister agenda to "dampen the mood of the nation" ahead of independence celebrations.

"The Minister of Industry and Commerce presented to Cabinet a letter by the Bakers Association of Zimbabwe, stating their intention to immediately hike the price of bread without any recourse to consultations with the Government as is the normal procedure," Mutsvangwa said.

Bakers increased the price of a loaf of bread from RTGS$2 to RTGS$3 early Tuesday following a decision by government to increase the price of grains by 70 percent last week.

Cabinet according to Mutsvangwa believed the increase had ulterior motives.

"Of particular concern to Cabinet also is the timing of the planned price increase, which is coming exactly two days before the national Independence celebrations. Such a move, whether by design or otherwise, certainly has the effect of dampening the mood of the nation.

"Furthermore, the unilateral action does not bode well to ongoing efforts by Government to engage in dialogue with all stakeholders, business included, with a view to creating a stable environment where businesses can compete and thrive," the government spokesperson said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa according to Mutsvangwa remained open to discussions on a possible solution to the crisis.

"It can be recalled that on 29 October 2018, His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa met with business leaders at State House where he stated that Government has an open door policy and stands ready for any engagement and consultations in order to ensure that the economy stabilises.

"As such, unilateral price hikes, particularly on basic commodities that our people cannot do without is not in consonance with the spirit of mutual engagement that Government is encouraging," she said.

Then the order: "Cabinet, therefore, calls on the Bakers Association of Zimbabwe to defer the planned hike in the price of bread in order to allow the normal mutual consultations to take place.

"The consultations are aimed at facilitating a clearer understanding of the issues of concern and to explore solutions thereto."

According to Mutsvangwa government also released 20 million litres of fuel into the market to ease crippling shortages that have seen the continuation of queues.

 

SourceNew Zimbabwe

It is in South Africa's interest to see a thriving and stable Zimbabwe. A collapse of its neighbour's economy would probably see an influx of legal and illegal migrants into South Africa – a situation that could fuel xenophobia and further strain service delivery.

Yet there has been a bewildering contrast between South Africa's messages of solidarity and its inaction where it matters. On the one hand, President Cyril Ramaphosa's government has maintained its support for President Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration. South Africa was the first to congratulate him on his electoral victory in August 2018. This has been followed by spirited calls for the unconditional lifting of sanctions and restrictive measures placed on Zimbabwe nearly two decades ago.

On the other hand, South Africa has come short of providing what Mnangagwa urgently needs: a financial bailout. The just-ended Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission session – the third since the inaugural session in 2016 – might have put paid to the many rumours that South Africa would provide Zimbabwe with a much-needed cash injection. Instead, it ended with a joint communiqué that reads more like a political statement of solidarity with little in terms of relief for its cash-strapped neighbour.

Established during the tenure of former presidents Robert Mugabe and Jacob Zuma, the commission has been little more than an annual symbolic gesture of friendship between the two. Ramaphosa's team sent ahead of the Bi-National Commission engaged in robust meetings with key players in the private and public sectors presumably to try to establish how South Africa could help its beleaguered neighbour.

While the decision to not bail Zimbabwe out is probably based on practical economic calculations, the anti-sanctions rhetoric is a different matter. A cursory view of the anti-sanctions call might lead one to the conclusion that lifting sanctions would grant Zimbabwe access to lines of credit from the international market and thereby ameliorate its currency crisis.

However, considerations for South Africa are as much political as they are economic. Sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Western countries relate to the blatant human rights abuses of the Mugabe regime. South Africa's anti-sanctions position could also be interpreted as a general stance – shared by the wider Southern African Development Corporation (SADC) region – against sanctions in general.

The ‘sanctions must fall' mantra should be seen as a distraction from the economic mismanagement of the past three decades. Even Mnangagwa has said the ZANU-PF government shouldn't use sanctions as an excuse for the country's economic woes.

So why has South Africa taken up the ‘sanctions must fall' mantra while staying silent on the human rights abuses, killing of protesters and a heavy-handed clampdown on civic space during the January fuel hike protests?

South Africa is wary of being perceived as aligning with the West, especially the United States (US). The US government has been vocal and forthright against the Mnangagwa regime's use of force against protesters to the extent of renewing sanctions for another year.

Offering the Zimbabwe government unqualified support becomes an opportunity for South Africa to demonstrate its international foreign policy independence and to shore up against "invasive" Western neo-colonial tendencies.

At the same time, well aware of the depth of Zimbabwe's economic and currency crises, South Africa knows that giving bilateral aid of $1.2-billion wouldn't necessarily stabilise its neighbour's economy. Without addressing the enduring currency crisis, any bailout would be sucked into an economic black hole just to have Zimbabwe requiring more. The shortage of hard currency only begets more shortages.

The Zimbabwean government needs foreign currency for consumer goods, including for the procurement of fuel and wheat, as well as to service debt, which the finance minister estimates to be around $16bn.

The recently introduced interbank foreign currency trading system has so far not been able to address the foreign currency shortage. The real-time gross settlement (RTGS) dollar continues a steady depreciation against the US dollar from the 1:2.5 at its introduction to 1:3 in six weeks.

Worse, the floating of the RTGS dollar has not engendered confidence in the monetary system. On the black market, the RTGS dollar continues to plummet weekly and inflation is on the rise. Prices of basic commodities such as bread have risen steeply. There is still no guarantee against arbitrage and policy somersaulting from the cornered government.

Further, a bailout would put South Africa in an invidious position. South Africa is itself in the throes of economic stagnation emerging from sluggish growth of 0.8% in 2018. The country's unemployment rate is currently hovering above 25% – one of the highest in the world.

The recent worsening of power cuts only plays into an already volatile domestic situation. Any talk of bailing Zimbabwe out would probably elicit a backlash from the restive population already prone to xenophobic tendencies towards citizens from neighbouring states. The African National Congress can ill afford to antagonise citizens any more in an election year.

Strong parallels can be drawn with the situation in South America where South Africa has been supporting Nicolás Maduro Moros's government in Venezuela against the machinations of the US's Donald Trump administration.

While the matter forming the basis of the Zimbabwe crisis is different from Venezuela, the geopolitical script plays out in the same way. South Africa is choosing the course of solidarity with the "besieged".

As Zimbabwe's economic and political situation continues to teeter on the verge of chaos its southern neighbour seems to be taking a considered approach to the crisis. The dilemma for SA is that without a cash infusion, the economic crisis will worsen, and a worsening economic situation will probably result in more protest and civil unrest. The Mnangagwa administration has already shown itself only too eager to approach protest with force and brutality.

This pushes South Africa further into an unenviable choice between principle, as enshrined in its Constitution, and the realities of geopolitics. It remains to be seen for how long South Africa will give Zimbabwe a palliative response before the wheels come off. 

 

Ringisai Chikohomero is a researcher, Peace Operations and Peace Building Programme, Pretoria

 

Source:ISS Today

 

President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government, has begun registering former commercial white farmers who lost their land under the chaotic land redistribution exercise.

In a statement Sunday, the Ministry of Lands said it was identifying and registering former white farm owners who want to participate in the interim advance payments scheme. The scheme according to the statement is targeting those "in distress."

The programme is being coordinated by Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) and the Compensations Steering Committee (CSS) representing former farm owners according to the statement.

"The ad-hoc Compensation Working Group, comprising government officials and the representatives of former farm owners, is currently working towards the compensation and establishing the compensation quantum figure for farm improvements based on an agreed method of valuation," the Ministry headed by former Air Force chief Perrance Shiri said.

The statement added that the latest move reflected government's commitment to settling its side of the bargain.

"Given the significant progress made to-date, it is anticipated that this comprehensive farm improvements valuation will be completed by end of May 2019.

"Reflecting government's commitment to compensate former farm owners, for farm improvements and recognising that a larger number of farmers are still to be compensated government allocated RTGS$53 million in the 2019 National Budget for interim advance payments," said the statement published in the State media.

"These interim advance payments will be made to former farm owners affected by the land reform programme and who are in financial distress."

In a separate statement the CFU said it has developed a form which applicants will complete. The form according to the statement does not jeopardise future claims for full compensation.

"As this is a limited fund, it is hoped that those who are not in financial distress do not take up the offer so as maximise the effect on others not so fortunate," said CFU.

"Whether you take it up or not, does not alter your rights to be compensated in any way, except that what you receive now will be deducted from your final computation."

In his inauguration speech in 2017 President Emmerson Mnangagwa, promised to compensate over 4000 former white farmers whose land was forcibly taken away under the fast track land reform program. While the former farm owners have been demanding full compensation, government has passed a law that provides for payment in respect of developments only.

 

Credit: New Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwean government has brought back the Chinese to the Chiadzwa diamond fields, three years after former President Robert Mugabe drove them out on allegations of looting.

Chinese-owned Anjin was expelled by government on February 22 2016, along with Mbada Diamonds, on grounds that their special grant licences had expired. Prior to that, Mugabe had accused them of massive leakages and smuggling the gems out of the country. Now under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Anjin and Russian diamond mining company Alrosa will spearhead the government’s target of raising at least US$400 million in revenue by the end of 2019.

They will form partnerships with the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC). “Anjin, which used to operate in the area, is now back on the ground. We expect that it will commence production, at the latest, by end of May. We are looking at it being a significant producer in that regard,” said mines and mining development minister Winston Chitando.

The Russians and Chinese – Zimbabwe’s “all weather friends”, key to the Mnangagwa administration – take up the diamond fields after neighbouring Botswana passed on an offer tabled by Harare.

As part of Zimbabwe and Botswana’s bi-national relations, Harare initially tabled an offer that would have seen Botswana give Zimbabwe a US$500 million loan facility – which is a US$100m more than the year-end revenue target. In return, Botswana would mine diamonds from Chiadzwa.

However, Botswana said that due to budgetary constraints, Gaborone would not be able to support the proposed Diamond Backed Loan facility.

Since the diamond find in 2005, it had been expected and targeted that the mineral would revive Zimbabwe’s ailing economy that was under targeted sanctions owing to human rights abuses and disbanding of the rule of law. However, the local community was only left with unfulfilled promises and human rights watch organisations accuse the government of using the diamond revenue to prop up the regime.

 

(Source, Sunday Times)

The Ministry of Energy has blocked a plan by South African-owned Mining, Oil and Gas Services Company (MOGS) to construct a US$1 billion 550-kilometre fuel pipeline from Beira to Harare, arguing that the sector is oversubscribed and has no space for new players, an official has confirmed.

Zimbabwe's fuel sector, often described as opaque, is dominated by Sakunda Holdings which is owned by businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei. The company also has interests in Puma, which is owned by Glencore and Trafigura

According to government sources, MOGS' bid to build a second fuel pipeline collapsed at a meeting held in December last year where the Ministry of Energy reportedly proposed a new fuel pipeline from Namibia to service the southern parts of the country.

Tagwirei, whose company controls the Beira to Harare pipeline that supplies Zimbabwe with most of its fuel, is allegedly blocking the construction of the second pipeline that is earmarked to go as far as Botswana.

Sakunda recently invested US$11 million into the refurbishment of the Beira-Feruka oil pipeline, and is jointly running the pipeline with the National Oil Infrastructure Company (Noic) as it recoups its investment.

Sakunda has enjoyed a monopoly over the pipeline, a move that has drawn the ire of other players.

MOGS, which has the backing of President Emmerson Mnangagwa's advisor Chris Mutsvangwa, has been pushing for a deal to build a second pipeline but some politicians have been reportedly blocking it.

Mutsvangwa, who has been vocal about dismantling Sakunda's monopoly in the fuel sector, approached Mnangagwa with a proposal to have MOGS build a second pipeline. The presidential adviser has been actively promoting the MOGS deal alongside former MDC legislator Eddie Cross.

In the meeting held in December, MOGS representatives were told that Zimbabwe was already getting sufficient fuel supplies through the existing pipeline, therefore there was no need to build another pipeline.

Speaking to the Zimbabwe Independent, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy, Gloria Magombo, expressed government's reluctance to allow a new player into the fuel sector.

"So far, government is satisfied with the manner that Noic has operated the pipelines. There are no plans to bring other players to run the existing pipeline other than Noic," said Magombo.

While government argues that the pipeline is run by Noic, Sakunda has enjoyed a monopoly over the strategic facility.

Magombo was unavailable for further comment on Sakunda's monopoly over the pipeline although she had promised to respond. Energy Minister Joram Gumbo's phone was being answered by his aide who said he was busy. The MOGS deal was initially tabled in 2009, but failed to take off due to resistance from former president Robert Mugabe.

Tagwirei was also in partnership with Mugabe's son-in-law Simba Chikore in the controversial Dema Power Plant project which was producing electricity through diesel-powered generators for sale to Zesa at exorbitant prices in 2017. Zesa was making advance payment for the electricity.

MOGS proposed to construct a pipeline with capacity to move 500 million litres of fuel in the country compared to the 110 million litres supplied through the Sakunda-controlled facility.

MOGS was also promising Zimbabwe six months' steady supply of fuel and to provide government with foreign currency to assist in stabilising the economy.

Magombo said government had received numerous unsolicited proposals from potential investors in the energy sector.

"Besides MOGS, government received numerous unsolicited proposals from other investors who also wanted to invest in the fuel infrastructure. In all the instances, discussions are held in confidence and neither party can disclose such discussions without the express authority of the other," said Magombo.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba last year said there were no laws impeding new players from venturing into the fuel sector, saying the only way to stop Sakunda's monopoly was to get a new player.

The pipeline from Beira to Mutare is owned by a Mozambican company, Companhia do Pipeline Mozambique (CPMZ), while Zimbabwe pays for the use of the pipeline up to Feruka.

The second part of the pipeline, which runs from Feruka to Harare, is owned by the Petrozim Line (Pvt) Ltd (PZL), a company 100% owned by the government.

Zimbabwe has endured crippling fuel shortages which are likely to be worsened by the devastating Cyclone Idai which has reportedly destroyed port facilities and fuel pump infrastructure in Beira.

 

Source: Zimbabwe Independent

Zimbabwe will scrap a law that denies foreign platinum mining companies control of their operations in the country, the mines minister said on Thursday.

Foreign platinum and diamond miners have been restricted to only 49 percent ownership of their Zimbabwe operations by the black economic empowerment law introduced during Robert Mugabe’s rule. The law was aimed at increasing black Zimbabweans’ stake in the mining sector, but foreign investors said its implementation was often murky and open to abuse.

Zimbabwe holds the world’s second-largest known platinum reserves behind South Africa.

Asked to confirm a Bloomberg report that Zimbabwe will scrap the black empowerment rules for platinum, Winston Chitando told Reuters in a WhatsApp message: “Confirmed. It’s part of continued review of (the) Zimbabwe is open for business mantra.”

On when the amendments will be brought to parliament, Chitando said that dates would be announced soon.

Chitando, who is in Washington with Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube scouting for investment in Zimbabwe, did not respond when asked whether the changes will be extended to the diamond sector.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa is keen to revive the mining sector after years of reticence from foreign investors during Mugabe’s rule.

Investor interest in Zimbabwe’s underexplored resources has improved more recently, however. Australia’s Arcadia Resources is setting up a lithium mine while privately owned Karo Resources signed a $4.2 billion deal to set up a platinum mine and refinery and revived a Russian joint venture for a big platinum project near Harare.

Among existing operations, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum have assets in Zimbabwe while Sibanye-Stillwater has a joint venture mine with Implats.

Although no foreign platinum company had been forced to cede control, investors said the empowerment law added to the country’s political risk profile.

The finance minister has said that Zimbabwe attracted $8 billion into mining last year alone and that projects are expected to take off in the next three years.

 

- Reuters

The government of Zimbabwe under President Emmerson Mnangagwa has failed to bring about political and economic changes needed to improve the country’s reputation, the State Department said on Thursday.

The comments relate to President Donald Trump’s decision this week to extend by one year U.S. sanctions that target more than 100 entities and individuals in Zimbabwe, including Mnangagwa.

“We believe that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has yet to implement the political and economic overhaul required to improve the country’s reputation with the community of nations, and with the United States,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.

“The actions of the targeted individuals continue to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes,” he said, adding that there were ongoing concerns in the United States over human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa has called for U.S. sanctions to be lifted against the ZANU-PF ruling party, top military figures and some government-owned firms. The sanctions were imposed during long-time rule of former president Robert Mugabe.

Washington has called on Mnangagwa to change Zimbabwe’s laws restricting media freedom and allowing protests.

 

- Reuters

Zimbabwean and South African officials will meet next week, as preparations for the visit by South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa to his northern neighbours gather momentum.

President Ramaphosa will visit Zimbabwe on March 12 for the Third session of the two countries' Bi-National Commission (BNC), and Zimbabwe's Ambassador to South Africa Mr David Hamadziripi said yesterday that preparations for the visit were underway in both Harare and Pretoria.

The two countries held their last BNC in October 2017 and the visit by President Ramaphosa will give a lift to the already existing strong bilateral relations.

"We are going to have meetings with relevant South African officials next week to prepare for the BNC," he said.

"It is important to note that the BNC, which last met in Pretoria in October 2017, will review co-operation across the board.

"We expect issues around trade and investment, energy, transport, health, security and defence among others to be the major talking points." 

He said one of the major issues expected to dominate the discussions was the establishment of a One Stop Border Post (OSBP) at Beitbridge. Under the concept travellers will be cleared once for passage into either country as opposed to the present situation where travellers have to queue twice at either side of the border to complete the same processes, which slows down the movement of cargo and human traffic.

Zimbabwe and South Africa enjoy cordial relations dating back to the days of their struggle for liberation. There is also likely to be a strong geopolitical flair as South Africa, the most influential neighbour and Africa's strongest economy, will likely throw weight behind Zimbabwe on the back of external pressures against the country, notably regarding illegal sanctions imposed on the country by the West.

Last week, the 28-member European Union bloc reviewed its restrictive measures on Zimbabwe, which was but a small token amid opposition to the embargo from progressive forces.

South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu this week revealed that South Africa remained ready to help Zimbabwe, underscoring that the regional giant had a strong interest in having Zimbabwe as a peaceful and prosperous neighbour. She said of sanctions against Zimbabwe was central to this and that sanctions would feature in the discussions between Presidents Mnangagwa and Ramaphosa. President Ramaphosa has been a strident anti-Zimbabwe sanctions campaigner himself.

Last month, he took the campaign to the 49th edition of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, where he publicly called for the lifting of the embargo. Last year, he also called on the European Union (EU) to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe during the 7th South Africa-European Union Summit in Brussels, Belgium, where they discussed a number of issues around trade, climate change, women's rights among other global issues.

The EU and the United States of America maintain sanctions on Zimbabwe, with the EU having progressively loosened the measures. The US remains adamant, tying the punishment of Zimbabwe and Zanu-PF to give an advantage to the opposition MDC-Alliance.

 

- Bulawayo24

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