Zimbabwe’s state power transmission company has invited bids for the construction of 500 megawatts (MW) of solar power plants as part of a drive to increase its use of renewable energy and end power cuts.

The southern African nation since last year has endured cuts, known locally as load shedding, lasting up to 18 hours after a devastating drought reduced dam levels at its hydro plant while ageing thermal stations constantly break down.

Supplies have improved since the country entered a coronavirus lockdown at the end of March, forcing industry to close.

Zimbabwe also paid off arrears to South African power supplier Eskom, guaranteeing supplies of up to 400MW daily.

Zimbabwe is currently producing 987MW of electricity daily.

“The Zimbabwe Electricity and Distribution Company (ZETDC) is intending to contract 500MW of PV solar plants of varying capacities at different identified strategic locations,” the company said in a public notice.

ZETDC said solar power would help mitigate against climate change-induced risks and reduce imports, saving scarce foreign currency.

Zimbabwe’s largest hydro station Kariba has a capacity of 1,050MW but is only producing 600MW due to low water levels.

 

- Reuters

Mukuru has launched Mukuru Groceries – a service that will give South African based customers the ability to send groceries to their families and communities back home in Zimbabwe.

Customers can place orders for a basket of groceries that include 21 staples such as Mealie Meal, cooking oil, sugar, salt, rice, etc. To facilitate ease of use, this service is available via USSD and Whatsapp. For existing customers, Mukuru Groceries will not require them to register for the service, they can simply create orders via USSD and WhatsApp, making it as easy and affordable to send groceries home via Mukuru as it is to send money.

“We have listened carefully to what our customers are asking for, and we have innovated and added to our service offering to make sure that Zimbabwean families receive the resources and support that they so desperately need right now,” says Andy Jury, CEO, Mukuru. “By leveraging our strong partnerships and network in the region, along with our extensive infrastructure, we are able to introduce and quickly implement new services such as Mukuru Groceries. We plan to provide these types of innovations to other African markets in the near future.”

“In addition to price fluctuations for basic goods, people also face the uncertainty of whether certain goods will be available - as many Zimbabwean retailers have struggled to replenish stock,” adds Jury. “By enabling South Africa-based workers to pay for a pre-agreed basket of goods for families in Zimbabwe, we are removing these uncertainties and providing families with peace of mind during this immensely tough period.”

Zimbabwe on Thursday received 60,000kg (60 tonnes) in freshly-printed higher denomination bond notes, which the central bank says will go into circulation at the end of the month.

The RBZ announced last week that Z$10 and Z$20 bond notes were being printed to complement the Z$2 and $5 notes which have become valueless as the inflation-hit currency continues its side.

ZimLive has established that the new notes were delivered to Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Thursday morning by a Boeing 747-48EF(SCD) cargo plane which flew out of Leipzig in Germany.

The aircraft, registration TF-AMU, is owned by Air Atlanta Icelandic of Iceland.

A source told this website that the plane disgorged 60,000kg of bank notes.

The RBZ has previously refused to disclose where the bond notes are printed, while bond coins are known to be minted in South Africa.

Based on where the plane originated, it is highly likely the bank notes were printed by the Leipzig division of Giesecke & Devrient, a Munich-headquartered company which has a history of doing business with Rhodesia and its successor state Zimbabwe going back to 1965.

Giesecke & Devrient stopped printing Zimbabwean banknotes in 2008 after an "official request" from the German government. The company said in a statement at the time that its decision was "a reaction to the political tension in Zimbabwe, which is mounting significantly rather than easing as expected, and takes account of the critical evaluation by the international community, German government and general public."

It would appear the company has re-opened its Zimbabwe account.

The state-run Sunday Mail newspaper reported last week that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has approved the introduction of Z$10 and Z$20 banknotes worth close to Z$600 million "to increase physical money supply and curb cash shortages."

Currently, the RBZ says Z$1.4 billion in cash is circulating, and the higher denominated notes will increase this to about Z$2 billion.

Zimbabwe has Z$2 and Z$5 notes, and Z$1 and Z$2 coins, in circulation which make cash transactions cumbersome, with small transactions now requiring the carrying of huge wads of notes due to inflation which jumped to 676.39 percent year-on-year in March.

Cash shortages have triggered long queues at banks and a thriving illegal forex market where premiums of up to 40 percent are charged to convert money held in the bank into cash.

In addition, cash shortages have led to the creation of a multi-tier pricing system, where prices of a single product differ depending on the customer's mode of payment.

Eddie Cross, a member of the RBZ's Monetary Policy Committee, said banks will be required to exchange their electronic balances for physical cash to ensure that no new money is created.

"We're moving cautiously because we don't want to disturb the monetary balance and we're insisting that banks pay for the currency when they draw it so that there's no money creation," Cross said.

"We're now taking steps to start implementing that. We started in September last year when we had about Z$500 million worth of notes in circulation and now we have between Z$1.3 billion and Z$1.4 billion notes. This will take it up to Z$2 billion. Our target is Z$3 billion, which amounts to about 10 percent of our money supply."

Zimbabwe is grappling with its worst economic crisis in a decade, marked by shortages of foreign exchange, medicines and cash as frustration over President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government grows.

Zimbabwe reintroduced its currency, the Zimbabwe dollar, last June, ending a decade of dollarisation. But with no foreign or gold reserves to back it up, its value has plunged while inflation has soared as Zimbabweans fear a return to the 2008 hyperinflation period which forced the country to abandon the Zimbabwe dollar.

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, in the letter to the International Monetary Fund dated April 2, warned that the country is headed for a health and economic "catastrophe" from the coronavirus pandemic because its debt arrears mean it cannot access foreign lenders.

Lenders like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank stopped lending to Zimbabwe in 1999 after the country defaulted on its debt repayments.

That has led the government to resort to domestic borrowing and money-printing to finance the budget deficit, pushing inflation to the second highest in the world.

Two weeks ago, Mnangagwa promised a US$720 million stimulus package for distressed companies, but did not say where the money would come from.

Ncube said cumulatively, Zimbabwe's economy could contract by between 15 percent and 20 percent during 2019 and 2020, warning that this is a "massive contraction with very serious social consequences."

Former finance minister Tendai Biti last week claimed Zimbabwe was so broke it was failing to pay its workers, and was creating fictitious money.

"The regime is broke and broke in absolute terms. The coffers are empty and they are generating salaries through the RTGS ponzi scheme. To date, Treasury has not disbursed social protection payments to the ministry of social services. Tobacco sales have had a poor start and donors are not coming on board," the MDC Alliance deputy president said.

 

Read More: Zimlive

Some hard-pressed residents in Harare have resorted to sharing face masks in desperate attempts to comply with a government directive for citizens to wear protective clothing as part of measures to avoid the spread of Covid-19.

Following the directive, Zimbabwean supermarkets, transporters and other public places are barring those without masks from accessing their facilities.

In terms of new health regulations, anyone found in public without a face mask faces up to one-year imprisonment or a $500 fine. For fear of falling foul of the law, some locals now share masks in order to access supermarkets.

A Harare resident said government should assist some poor locals with the protective material.

"Some people are sharing face masks to travel to places where they are required to wear them. 

"We need free face masks from the government because we are at great risk of the Covid-19 pandemic," said one Harare resident.

However, some creative locals have turned old clothing into home-made masks.

"I have no money to buy face masks. In fact, I do not even have anything to eat with my children.

"I have cut this T-shirt so that we do not get into trouble with the law when we go out," said one Debra Moyo, a resident of Mabvuku high density suburb.

Taking advantage of the requirement, some people are now in the business of picking some used face masks from dumpsites and reselling them to desperate and unsuspecting locals at prices they can afford.

Disposable masks are meant to be used once and be discarded.

 
 

Credit: New Zimbabwe

Econet Wireless hiked data prices by up to 225 percent overnight Tuesday – sparking anger from hard-up Zimbabweans.

The increase in data costs could not have come at a worse time for Econet customers who are in the middle of a coronavirus-induced lockdown that has forced many to conduct business online, including universities and private schools.

There was no explanation for the sharp price increase, but in a letter to its suppliers on April 20, Econet said it was experiencing "difficult trading conditions" occasioned by a "harsh economic environment and the compounded effects of the Covid-19 pandemic."

"As Econet, we operate in a regulated industry where our tariffs are significantly trailing the upward movement in our operational costs, threatening the viability of our business," wrote Econet chief supply chain officer, Sharon Marufu, in the memo.

"We, therefore, need to take drastic measures now to safeguard the business and ensure we remain viable so that we are able to continue offering our services to our customers and to retain our suppliers."

Ironically, Econet was asking its suppliers to slash their prices by 20 percent. The suppliers targeted in the memo included companies providing fuel, trucks, shop space for Econet's retail outlets, and land for base stations.

Zimbabweans reacted with anger to the latest increase on social media, and the hashtag #EconetMustFall was trending on Tuesday morning.

"Everyone is depending on data for work and school and you just chock-slam us with a Z$1,300. Nonsense. Adjust down," one Econet customer wrote on Twitter, quoting the new price of the monthly ‘Private Wifi' which went up from Z$400 for 25GB.

"Lack of serious competition enables Econet to do as they please. The barriers to entry in the telecommunications industry means that we are doomed for a long, long while as consumers and we can't do anything about it," added Paul Nyabando on Twitter.

The popular Private Wifi bundle also sees 50GB go up to Z$2,000 – more than a third of a doctor's salary.

Econet customers also complained that the price increase was effected before midnight, between 10 and 11PM – denying many a chance to buy data at the old prices.

Last month, the Zimbabwe government agreed with bakers, millers and other businesses to cut the prices of basic goods, including bread and sugar, to levels before the country entered a coronavirus lockdown on March 30 amid soaring inflation.

Annual inflation has hit 676.39 percent, one of the highest rates in the world, as a currency that was re-introduced last year weakens amid acute shortages of foreign currency, food and hospitals short of medicines.

Vice President Kembo Mohadi said price increases seen since March 30 were "speculative and unjustified."

Mobile phone companies are regulated by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ), which must approve any price increase.

 

Credit: Zimlive

The Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) has described as unfair the steep prices that some private health facilities are charging individuals for COVID-19 tests.

Investigations by NewZimbabwe.com showed that some private medical health centres were demanding up to US$25 per person for a COVID-19 test.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week extended the lockdown by a further 14-days but allowed industry and commerce to resume operations while complying with set health guidelines to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Some of the guidelines include tests for the coronavirus for all employees returning to work, wearing of face masks by all people in public spaces, and maintenance of social distancing.

However, taking advantage of the new government guidelines, some health facilities with testing machines have steeply hiked their prices, a move which has been strongly condemned by CWGH director, Itai Rusike as most of the test kits were donated equipment.

"Zimbabwe's poorly resourced COVID-19 response is inevitably shifting the burden to the most vulnerable and precarious people, households and businesses," he said.

Rusike also described as draconian, the rule to force people to wear face masks when they leave their homes. The government has announced a 12-month prison sentence for anyone caught in public without a face mask.

The CWGH director said the public and other stakeholders should not be mere bystanders when the government was announcing COVID-19 decisions.

"They need to be informed about the decisions and make sense of how to implement them, to plan for the pandemic and its impact on their own lives and work.

"So for the general public in Zimbabwe to have trust and support for any strategy for the next phases of the COVID-19 response, calls for a multi-sector taskforce to engage stakeholder and community representatives through genuinely open deliberative processes," he said.

Rusike said the government's decision on measures taken on the lockdown should have explicitly addressed how different interests and risks were being balanced.

Contacted for a comment, Health Ministry secretary, Agnes Mahomva said she could not make a comment as she was in a meeting.

 

Credit: New Zimbabwe

Zimbabweans and other African Nationals based in South Africa face being elbowed out of that country after authorities adopted a nationalistic policy to favour locals on jobs, an official said.

Million of South Africans face losing jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak and last week President Ramaphosa announced a R500 billion package to bail out industry and protect jobs.

South African Finance minister, Tito Mboweni, at the weekend, was quoted as having said his government would only provide financial support to companies that would lean towards a new unwritten employment policy that favours more nationals as compared to foreigners.

Mboweni was quoted as saying: “The proportion of South Africans working in a restaurant must be greater than that of non-South Africans… The new economy after lockdown must prioritise South Africans, but this must not discriminate against non-South Africans either.”

He reportedly added: “We will assist those who show a willingness to hire staff from SA… Every spaza shop must be licensed to operate, must have a bank account and registered for tax and open itself up for health inspections from the Department of Health.”

The statement, analysts noted, could become a catalyst for a new round of xenophobic attacks.

In a statement to the NewsDay, Constance Chemwayi, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said Mboweni’s statement was a reflection of the new policy thrust that Zimbabwe’s neighbours could take going forward, adding there could be need to utilise communication channels available to the two governments to settle the issue in the event disturbances broke out in South Africa over jobs.

“The South African minister (Mboweni) mooted the policy trajectory that his government might use,” she said.

“The Ministry (of Foreign Affairs in Zimbabwe) would fully respect the policy position that the government of South Africa would adopt. Every country has the sovereign right to take measures they deem necessary.

“Our two countries and governments enjoy excellent relations and we have mechanisms and channels to discuss matters of mutual interest to our two countries,” she added.

Chemwayi said Zimbabwe was ready to ensure its nationals were safe in the event xenophobic attacks recurred.

“However, in the event that xenophobia attacks ensue, the government of Zimbabwe; through our embassy in South Africa will ensure that the interests of Zimbabweans in South Africa are protected,” Chemwayi added.

In an interview from his base in South Africa late yesterday, Bongani Mkhwananzi, the spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa said Mboweni’s statement could “cause a lot of problems.”

“The minister might have spoken too soon and let the cat out of the bag on an issue that is sensitive. We believe this statement might create a lot of problems for our people (Zimbabweans) who are here in South Africa.

“As a matter of fact, the hotel and catering industry here is in the hands of mostly Zimbabweans. This is because they can adapt to very difficult situations which include strict regulations, low pay, and many other issues.

“There are a lot of exploitative mechanisms that are at play here in South Africa and we wonder whether the locals will be able to withstand the situation, according to the minister’s declaration,” Mkhwananzi said.

 

Credit– News Day

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Sunday extended a lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus by two weeks, but will allow mining companies to get back to work.

Mnangagwa said the lockdown would continue because the country had not yet met conditions set down by the World Health Organization to lift the measures.

Three people have died from the virus out of the 25 confirmed infected in the southern African country, but health experts expect the figures to rise once authorities ramp up testing.

“It has been a very hard decision that my government has had to take reluctantly,” Mnangagwa said in a live television broadcast.

Mnangagwa said the government would allow mining companies, which generate the most foreign currency, to resume full operations while manufacturers would work at limited capacity. Mining companies operating in Zimbabwe include local operations of Impala Platinum Holdings and Anglo American Platinum.

Zimbabwe began a 21-day lockdown on March 30, which has confined most people to their homes. But in poor townships, people are venturing out in search of staples like maize meal, leading to long queues at the shops.

The lockdown has left many citizens without an income and food at a time the country is grappling with the worst economic crisis in a decade, marked by shortages of foreign exchange, food and medicines.

In the capital Harare, city council officials, with the help of police and soldiers, were on Sunday tearing down illegal market stalls used by informal traders in townships.

The move was strongly criticised by citizens in the country where more than 80% of the working population have no formal jobs and eke a living from informal markets.

City authorities defended the move saying it was necessary to restore order in the city and that informal traders would be relocated to new and better facilities.

 

Reuters

Zimbabwe's Government has started disbursing money to vulnerable groups that were affected by the 21-day lockdown, with the first beneficiaries in Harare and Bulawayo receiving their payouts yesterday.

The Ministry of Women's Affairs and Small and Medium Enterprise Development has availed a database of 129 000 SMEs to be considered for the Government bailout.

This was said by Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima during yesterday's post Cabinet briefing.

"We have other databases of those who are marginally food insecure with almost 3,5 million people, but we have to look at the neediest out of those so that we can reach the one million whom we have budgeted for and the disbursement are already underway," he said.

In a separate interview, Prof Mavima's deputy, Lovemore Matuke said payouts for beneficiaries from other provinces will be ready by tomorrow.

Government has availed $600 million through Treasury to cushion vulnerable households whose sources of income were largely affected by the 21-day national lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19, while a separate package was being worked on to cushion SMEs and vendors.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube announced the facility two weeks ago.

Government said it would ensure the beneficiaries were not charged transactional costs when cashing out.

It recently said it would continue to implement selected priority programmes and projects to sustain the economy, but more resources would be channelled towards saving lives.

Further, the two percent intermediated money transfer tax (IMTT), which is ring-fenced for social protection and capital development projects, will be channelled towards Covid-19 related mitigatory expenditures.

Government has also availed a number of tax incentives for production and importation of essential drugs and health related capital equipment, as well as other medical supplies.

Treasury has suspended duty and tax on various goods and services related to testing, protection, sterilisation and other medical consumables to boost the country's state of preparedness against Covid-19.

 

Source: The Herald

The COVID-19 pandemic has left Zimbabwe in an extremely difficult situation. As of early April, the number of infections and deaths from the pandemic appeared low, although the available data isn’t necessarily reliable.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a 21-day lockdown which began on 30 March, in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The decree ordered all citizens to stay at home, “except in respect of essential movements related to seeking health services, the purchase of food”, or carrying out responsibilities that are in the critical services sectors.

Other measures include the shutting down of public markets in the informal sector, except those that sell food.

None of this will be easy to implement in Zimbabwe.

The country has an economic profile similar to that of many developing countries. The difference is that its informal sector makes up a much higher percentage of the overall economy. According to a 2018 International Monetary Fund report, Zimbabwe’s informal economy is the largest in Africa, and second only to Bolivia in the world. The sector accounts for at least 60% of all of Zimbabwe’s economic activity.

In addition to the usual problems faced by countries with large informal economies, including poor governance and low tax revenues, Zimbabwe has an added set of problems: its economy is broken.

To implement the nationwide lockdown Mnangagwa is likely to have to inflict further damage to an already extremely fragile economy.

The president did not announce a stimulus financial package to cushion business from the impact of the lockdown. This might result in the total collapse of some businesses.

Fragile economy

Zimbabwe’s economy has been shrinking since 2000, triggered by the government’s controversial land re-distribution programme of that year. The violent programme wreaked havoc on agriculture, which was then the mainstay of the Zimbabwean economy.

This was compounded by subsequent sanctions imposed by the West in response to the seizures of white-owned farms and land.

Around 6 million Zimbabweans – about 34% of the population – live in extreme poverty.

The IMF recently gave a very bleak assessment, saying that the country’s economy had contracted by 7.5% in 2019. It put the inflation rate at over 500%, meaning that the country was heading back to the traumatic hyper-inflation era of 2007/8, when inflation peaked at an official 231 million percent.

The IMF report shows that Zimbabwe’s economy performed the worst in sub-Saharan Africa in 2019. Its prognosis is disheartening, showing that if

…governance, and corruption challenges, entrenched vested interests, and enforcement of the rule of law, (were not observed) then…there is little prospect of a major improvement to Zimbabwe’s economic and financial challenges in the short to medium term ….

The dire economic situation is further worsened by the fact that the country is suffering its worst hunger crisis in a decade, largely due to an ongoing drought that started last year. The shortage of essential foods, such as the staple maize meal, often results in stampedes at the few markets where they can still be found.

Zimbabwe’s informal sector

Two decades of economic turmoil have seen Zimbabwe’s formal economic sector shrinking significantly. For example, manufacturing, clothing and textile industries have almost totally collapsed, with factories reduced to dilapidated shells.

The consequence is that the informal sector has grown exponentially. It’s estimated that a staggering 90% of Zimbabwe’s working population is employed in this sector.

I have been doing research on Zimbabwe’s informal sector for the last 12 years. I have found that it sustains many families’ livelihoods, even though the majority of participants in the sector live from hand to mouth as petty traders. This reality that confronts Zimbabwe’s informal economy is corroborated by research by the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe.

In addition, almost everyone who is employed in the formal economy augments their income through informal sector activities such as cross-border trading.

Reliable numbers are hard to come by, but a very high number of Zimbabweans eke out a living in this sector, or rely on it for food, clothing, fuel, local currency and forex.

Stern test

The lockdown in Zimbabwe is going to provide a stern test for its informal economy, which is the country’s dominant economy. Most traders are subsistence traders and are already mired in extreme poverty. The jury is out on the extent to which they will observe the lockdown.

The government should immediately put in place a stimulus package that can cushion the informal economy.

Otherwise, a lot of livelihoods are going to be destroyed. The ramifications for the country and the whole region, especially neighbouring South Africa, will be grim.


Read more: Zimbabwe’s deepening crisis: time for second government of national unity? The Conversation


Tapiwa Chagonda, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Johannesburg

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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