Zimbabwe’s Steward Bank has suspended payments to the pay-TV subsidiary of South Africa’s Naspers, citing unavailability of foreign currency, in a sign that dollar shortages are worsening in the southern African nation.

Local banks have been forced to limit withdrawals due to cash shortages while importers face long delays in paying for goods they bring in, forcing some businesses to buy dollars on the parallel market. Steward Bank, a unit of mobile telephony operator Econet Wireless, said in a statement that it was suspending payments to Multichoice, Africa’s largest pay-TV company, which is popular in Zimbabwe.

“To assist in effective allocation of foreign currency reserves at this critical time, we would like to advise that with immediate effect, the bank has suspended DStv (digital satellite televison) payments for all account classes (except premium),” the bank said.

Last year in May, the central bank set priorities for imports, imposed limits on cash withdrawals and introduced a bond note currency in a bid to ease the acute shortage of money. The International Monetary Fund in a report on Friday estimated that between $600-800 million was in circulation in Zimbabwe. Economic analysts say most of the money was outside the official bank sector.

Most Zimbabweans, who still vividly remember the 500 billion percent hyperinflation that wiped out their savings and pensions in 2008, are holding on to U.S. dollars as a store of value, worsening the currency shortages.

 

- Reuters

THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) claims bond notes are now being sold in Botswana, bringing to four the number of Sadc countries where bond notes are reportedly on sale.

Initially, the central bank had claimed bond notes were being sold in Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa. At the recently-ended three-day Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) annual congress in Victoria Falls last week, RBZ official, Azvinandawa Saburi told guests the central bank would work with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) to try and stop the sale of bond notes across the border.

"Now, on the issue of bond notes being in Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique and so on, I think, as the RBZ, we are monetary authorities, who have to work with other bodies who have responsibility [at borders]," he said.

"So we will certainly talk to them and advise them on how probably they can handle this issue. On this, I would also want to add this is about the currency, the United States dollar is the most widely used currency. "So everyone in the world, everyone who is exporting and so on, is looking for those United States dollars, which is why people play all these shenanigans.

"But, the bottom line is that we are going to work with the Zimra to say that when people are going out they should not take bond notes." 

So far, RBZ claims, the sale of bond notes is in neighbouring countries' border towns. The sale of bond notes was first confirmed in May in Manga, a town just outside Beira in Mozambique, which is close to the Mutare border.

Last month, Livingstone in Zambia and Park Station in Johannesburg, South Africa were also confirmed as points of sale of bond notes. "Another critical issue arising from this lack of confidence is externalisation of both the United States dollar and bond notes," ZNCC Manicaland vice-president, Kenneth Saruchera said.

"You would be surprised that bond notes are being externalised. In Mutare, if you just get across the border at that trading area in Manga, you will find heaps of bond notes. "Bond notes are very popular with the Mozambicans because they want to use this to shop in Zimbabwe so both the United States dollar and the bond notes are being externalised."

RBZ says there are $160 million worth of bond notes in circulation, with the Afreximbank facility of $200 million backing the surrogate currency expected to be extended. When they were introduced, the central bank governor John Mangudya said bond notes would not be externalised.

 

Credit: Newsday Zimbabwe

Large carnivores are in decline all over the world. Threats like persecution and loss of both prey and habitat are key contributors. The planet’s top biodiversity hotspots have already lost around 90% of their primary (undisturbed) vegetation, driven by factors like growth of infrastructure, agriculture and the removal of natural resources.

These are some of the key factors that have caused the number of wild lions across the globe to fall by over 40% in the past two decades, and have resulted in a decline in the number of cheetahs of 50% over the past forty years.

In Zimbabwe cheetahs depended heavily on private land, but the amount of private land has been reduced by 90% over the last 17 years. This loss has been caused by factors like the country’s land reform programme, which was set out to redress the historical imbalances in land tenure resulting from colonial practices. Under the programme, land previously owned privately by large-scale commercial white farmers was distributed to black Zimbabweans.

But it’s becoming clear that privately owned land plays an extremely important role in conservation, as state owned conservation areas alone aren’t enough to keep large species out of danger. A major problem is that the land reform programme was implemented in a chaotic way. This meant that no consideration was given to how to manage the wildlife that had previously lived in the area. The result was a dramatic fall in the number of carnivores.

Until 2000, 34% of land in Zimbabwe was privately owned, 13% was state owned conservation and forestry areas, and 42% was communal land. The remainder of that was made up of old resettlement areas, state farms and urban developments. Private land supported 80% of Zimbabwe’s cheetahs. But since 2000, 90% of this privately owned land is thought to have been resettled. Large numbers of subsistence farmers – making enough for their homes but not enough to sell – now occupy these farm spaces.

In instituting the land reform programme, the survival of the species that depended on privately owned land was pitted against the needs of the people to survive off the land. This is a widespread problem, not one confined to Zimbabwe. But the solution could lie in how land reform is planned. Instead of replacing successful wildlife areas with subsistence farming, keeping the wildlife while allowing more people to benefit economically could hold the key.

What we found

We recorded animal tracks across 1000 km of unpaved roads on private land that had been resettled, and on adjacent private land that had not yet been resettled. Our aim was to understand how carnivore numbers had been affected by the resettlement process. This research allowed us to draw estimates.

Our studies showed that large carnivores (weighing more than 19 kg) such as African wild dogs had high densities on private land. On neighbouring land that had been part of the same conservancy but had now been resettled, we found no signs of cheetahs, leopard, lion, African wild dog, or brown hyenas. We did however find very few tracks from spotted hyenas.

Similar trends were also evident for all other mammals studied, from baboons to giraffes.

If these trends are representative on a national scale, our models estimated that carnivore populations have declined steeply since 2000 due to land reform. We predicted that the number of cheetahs in Zimbabwe dropped to approximately 120 individuals. A subsequent nationwide interview survey estimated that only 150-170 cheetahs remain across national parks, private land and communal areas. This represents a fall of 85%, thought to be largely due to land reform.

A leopard carries a wire snare around its waist. Sam Williams

The low abundance of wild mammals on resettled land appeared to be linked to the high density of people that now occupy the land. People have cleared the natural vegetation to grow crops and graze livestock, causing habitat loss, fragmentation, and loss of prey for the carnivores.

Bush meat poaching was also rife on private land close to resettled areas. Between 2001 and 2009 over 4,000 poachers captured and over 84,000 snares removed in one conservancy.

Land reform didn’t just affect the wildlife. We found that farmers on resettled land, reported levels of cattle predation by large carnivores that were three times greater than that of farmers on neighbouring communal land. This was despite resettlement farmers working harder to reduce predation by taking measures like kraaling (enclosing) their cattle at night or herding their animals during the day.

Lessons learned

As land reform programmes progress in other countries, what lessons can be learnt from Zimbabwe’s experiences?

By planning resettlement schemes carefully as opposed to allowing them to develop haphazardly, authorities could focus resettlement in areas of greater agricultural potential. At the same time, it’s important to maintain connectivity within wildlife populations.

Using fencing that cannot be used to make snares could help. Strands of straight fencing wire is often stolen and used for snaring, but other fencing wire materials such as square mesh cannot be easily made into the loops used by poachers.

Importantly, land reform doesn’t have to mean changing land use. Land reform initiatives should maintain wildlife as a land use where it’s suitable, while diversifying land ownership. Leasing resettled land back to the former owners could also benefit wildlife while also retaining expertise and generating more income for a broader array of people than switching to subsistence farming.

The hope is that integrating community members as stewards of the land and helping them to benefit financially from wildlife, could encourage them to protect rather than poach animals. This will create durable solutions to the land issue.

Sam Williams, Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, Durham University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Low cost carrier, Fastjet says it will increase the number of flights on its Harare-Johannesburg route to three per day from July 1 in response to high demand.

Fastjet, which has been operating a single flight per day on the route, will also introduce an additional flight on the Harare-Victoria Falls “in response to strong passenger demand,” marketing manager, Faith Chaitezvi said.

“On its route between Harare and Johannesburg, fastjet Zimbabwe will now offer up to three daily return flights,” said Chaitezvi in a statement. “This represents an addition of 12 flights per week on this strategic route between the two cities, providing passengers added flexibility to manage their diaries – a particularly important consideration for business travellers who travel this route frequently.

Due to seasonal demand, fastjet Zimbabwe has also added a fifth weekly flight on Mondays between 17 July and 11 September on its route between Harare and Victoria Falls.”

The Harare-Johannesburg route is a cash cow, with South African Airways also having multiple daily flights. Other airlines that ply the route include British Airways through its Comair unit, Air Zimbabwe and the new privately owned Rainbow Airlines, which plies the route three times a week.

 

- The Source

Grain deliveries to the Grain Marketing Board for the 2016/17 farming season have doubled to 60,000 tonnes compared to the corresponding period, an official told The Source on Thursday.

Farmers started delivering to the GMB in April.

GMB vice chairman, Basilio Sandumo told The Source during a tour of GMB facilities at Aspindale in Harare by members of parliament that grain deliveries have been affected with high moisture content.

“So far we have received 60,000 tonnes of maize which is double the prior season deliveries and we are expecting it to be higher as we reach peak period in July. I believe that by then the moisture content will be low,” said Sandumo.

Zimbabwe this week banned maize imports to protect local farmers after producing enough to meet demand. The country is expecting to harvest more than two million tonnes of grain, more than enough to meet the country’s demand estimated at 1,8 million tonnes, just a year after a drought in the left over four million people in need of food aid.

The GMB is paying $390 per tonne for white maize.

Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture and Mechanisation, Secretary for Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Mr Ringson Chitsiko, said the GMB should urgently ensure the silos are functional. GMB requires at least $50 million to repair the storage facilities that are crumbling due to years of neglect.

The quality of grain depends on the state of storage facilities so it is imperative for the GMB to ensure it has the best storage facilities. Work on rehabilitating these facilities should start immediately so that it is completed before farmers start delivering the maize to the various depots throughout the country.

GMB is responsible for the storage of strategic grain reserves and relies on Treasury for resources to ensure that the storage facilities are in good state.

Government should therefore prioritise the allocation of resources to the GMB to fund the repair of the nine storage facilities before harvesting starts. It should not allow a situation whereby GMB fails to provide adequate storage facilities for the delivered maize thereby compromising quality.

South Africa has halted poultry imports from Zimbabwe after a recent outbreak of highly contagious avian influenza at a farm in the neighbouring country, the government said.

The Department of Agriculture said although South Africa imports "very little" poultry products from Zimbabwe, it had "suspended all trade in live poultry, meat and table eggs" from its northern neighbour and had stepped up surveillance. "We have heightened inspections of all consignments, including all private and public vehicles at all our ports of entry, especially in and out of Zimbabwe," said the department in a statement.

Zimbabwean authorities at the weekend said they had placed a privately-owned farm under quarantine after the outbreak killed 7 000 birds.

Another 140 000 birds were culled to prevent the spread from the farm situated on the outskirts of Harare. Zimbabwe identified the strain as H5N8, a highly pathogenic and lethal virus to poultry. South African poultry producers fear that more than 140 million chickens would be at risk if the virus spreads across the border.

Mozambique and Botswana imposed poultry import bans early this week.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Botswana government said the "import of domesticated and wild birds, their products ... and poultry feed from Zimbabwe is banned with immediate effect" and cancelled all poultry import permits.

Mozambique announced the ban on Monday, according to local media.

 

- AFP

Clothing retail chain Edgars Stores’ profit-after-tax nearly trebled to $1 million in the year-to-date, from $35,000 last year and 200 percent above budget due to lower costs.

In a trading update at the group’s annual general meeting on Wednesday in Bulawayo, Edgars managing director, Linda Masterson, said the business is performing within forecast. “We made (an operating) loss of $1.4 million compared to a $3 million loss last year. This is largely due to the positive impact of the cost cutting measures embarked on by the business in 2016,” she said.

Consolidated turnover increased by 1,6 percent compared to the same period last year while retail sales as at May 31 were two percent higher.

“We would have done better if we did not have late store inputs. We expect June to be a strong trading month as we are now in a better stock position than we have been for some time,” said Masterson.

Gross margin decreased to 44 percent compared to 46 percent recorded in the same period last year, attributable to deliberate “right pricing” in the Edgars chain and sales mix variances. The factory loss reduced from $350,000 in F2016 to $208,000 in the period.

With effect from this month, Carousel is trading as a division of Edgars Stores Limited, simplifying structures from a tax point of view, she said. April year-to-date earnings before Interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was 36 percent better than budget.

Finance costs YTD are 22 percent below last year due to reduced borrowings and good cash flow from operations and at 2.7 percent of turnover to date. Current debtors stood at 68.4 percent (Jet) and 66 percent (Edgars) at the end of April.

The number of accounts at end April were 255 080, with 63 percent being active compared 69 percent recorded last year in the same period. She said overlay product income is trending downwards due to customers opting out and policies lapsing due to the 2015/16 job losses and cash challenges. Total borrowings stood at $5.3 million, of which $2 million is payable within 3 months and the balance is payable by April 2018, she said.

In the period under review, no new stores have been opened.

“We are currently revamping Stanley House, First Street Harare. This will be completed in August. Following that we will be converting the Edgars Rusape Branch to a Jet store. We will also revamp the Edgars Gweru store as soon as funds permit as it is in dire need of a revamp,” she said. Going forward, Masterson said they will continue to closely monitor the trading environment and review targets accordingly. - The Source

Barclays will sell shares worth $2.83 billion in Barclays Africa Group, the bank said on Thursday, increasing the size of the planned stake sale due to investor appetite and marking a completion of its planned sell down.

In Zimbabwe, the bank signed a binding agreement to sell off its majority ownership of the local unit to Malawi-based First Merchant Bank according to several media reports.

“A binding agreement was signed between Barclays Plc and FMB in London on Tuesday while an application for regulatory approval was made to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (on Wednesday),” the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported on Thursday.

FMB, which has banking assets in Botswana, Mozambique, and Zambia, would own 42 percent of Barclays Bank Zimbabwe, while Barclays Plc will retain 10 percent and workers getting the remaining 15 percent, the report added. The Zimbabwe unit, along with Barclays Bank Egypt sit outside Barclays Africa Group. The British bank said it would sell 286 million shares in Barclays Africa or 33.7 percent, with South African pension fund Public Investment Corporation acting as an anchor investor.

The shares will be priced at 132 rand a share, raising an aggregate 2.2 billion pounds, the bank said, leaving it with a residual 15 percent stake once it places 12.7 million shares in a black economic empowerment scheme.

The bank said in March it would sell most of its 62.3 percent stake in Barclays Africa Group to focus more on the United States and Britain markets. Barclays is partly relying on funds raised from the sale to meet capital requirements that were identified as a concern by the Bank of England in a November “stress test” aimed at gauging its ability to withstand financial shocks.

South Africa’s finance minister has approved the deal, ABSA Bank, which forms the bulk of Barclays Africa Group said on Wednesday.

Barclays will pay its African subsidiary 765 million pounds to cover the costs of the separation, the bank said in a separate statement, confirming an announcement in February. It will also contribute around 110 million pounds towards the establishment of a broad based black economic empowerment scheme.

 

– Reuters/The Source

Zimbabwe’s visa regime is among Africa’s most restrictive, after it was rated number 21 on the Visa Openness Index out of 54 countries on the continent.

Zimbabwe’s visa regime has three categories, namely A- in which citizens from selected countries are exempt from visa requirements, B – where citizens of the targeted countries apply for visas on arrival and C, where those falling in the group are required to apply for a visa while still in their home country.

The report by the African Development Bank (AfDB) measures how open African countries are when it comes to visas by looking at what they ask of citizens from other African countries when they travel. The report was also done in collaboration with the African Union Commission and the World Economic Forum measures.

According to the report, Zimbabwe at number 21 is tied with Zambia with a score of 0.433 points and in terms of visa openness by category Zimbabwe is ranked number 17 on No Visa, number 8 on Visa on arrival and 29 on Visa’s required.

South Africa is one of over 54% of African countries whose borders are not open to fellow Africans travelling from another country and therefore require a visa before they can enter. The more liberal or relaxed a country’s visa policy for travelers is, the more visa open they are. Data on visa openness was collected between September 2016 and January 2017. 

The data found that Seychelles is the only country that is visa free for all Africans, and therefore ranked highest on the Africa Visa Openness Index. South Africa ranked 34th on the index, up one spot from 35th in 2016, as we provide visa-free entry to 14 countries and require a visa before entry from 40. While Africa has 55 countries, the report only features 54 countries recognised by the African Union. 

Western Sahara is the least visa-open country as it requires a visa from travelers from all 54 countries on the continent. East Africa is the most visa-open region, while North-Africa is the least open.
Visa-openness is important building a bigger, more integrated market to promote greater stability and attract investment, according to the report.

“African countries are on average becoming more open to each other, with indications that travel within the continent is becoming easier. Africans currently don’t need a visa to travel to more countries than previously and they need visas to travel to fewer countries, ” it states.

Four countries moved into the top 20 most visa-open states on the index and over a third of countries put in place efforts to offer more liberal visa policies. At the same time, more countries announced specific measures to improve their visa regimes going forward.

Twenty-one of 55 African countries have moved upwards in rank on the index since 2015. Forty-seven countries have improved or maintained their visa openness scores. “When we started this work, only five African countries offered liberal access [visa-free or visa upon arrival entry] to all Africans. We are making progress, but need to accelerate the pace. For countries who have either visa-free or visa-on-arrival policies you can see the positive impact on the number of visitors to those countries. Over time, you’ll also see it in the trade figures,” said Acha Leke, Director, McKinsey and Company and member of the WEF Global Agenda Council on Africa.

See the full report on African Development Bank (AfDB) Group website.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe last week officially launched the start of work on the dualisation of the Harare-Beitbridge highway for $984 million.

The highway is Zimbabwe’s busiest and most economically significant, it is part of the North-South Corridor that directly links landlocked Zimbabwe and Zambia with access to the Indian Ocean ports of Durban and Richards Bay in South Africa.

Mugabe called the rehabilitation ‘a game changer’ with a multiplier effect for the economy. “This ground breaking ceremony is a major breakthrough as Zimbabwe forges ahead with the implementation of ZimAsset, our economic blueprint since 2013,” said Mugabe in Chirumanzu, central Zimbabwe.

Austrian contractor Geiger International was last year awarded the tender for the 580 kilometres road, which will be built under a Build-Operate-Transfer model.

Transport minister Joram Gumbo, however, said government signed a memorandum of understanding for the contract with Geiger International (GI) in 2012 but the absence of a legal framework until 2016 delayed the deal. This is despite the deal being officially announced in June last year, when government named GI and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) as the tender winners for the Harare-Beitbridge and Harare-Chirundu roads.

GI vice-president Eric Geiger said the negotiations for the deal had taken six years, ‘punctuated by tenders and legal issues. “Geiger International has mobilised resources for the design and construction of the road and will be responsible for collecting maintaining the toll gates during the concession period,through a company in which government will have shares,” said Geiger.

“Proceeds from toll operations will be used to meet operating costs, loan repayments, interest, dividend payments to investors, and shareholders including the government. At the end of the concession period, Geiger will hand over the road to government, which would have to be responsible for its maintenance. Actual work on the road will start after three months if the designs are approved, he said.

Local companies will participate in the construction project to the tune of 40 percent of contract value. The project is expected to take up to 3 years under the terms of the contract. Geiger said the government had guaranteed the safety of its investment. The road was the beginning of more business deals with government, with more to follow, he added. Gumbo said more toll gates will be added on the route as Geiger seeks to recoup their investment.

Negotiations for the loan to fund the Harare-Chirundu road are not yet complete, Gumbo added.

 

- The Source

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