Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday laid the foundation stone for huge new parliament to be built with Chinese funds outside the capital Harare.
The imposing circular complex will be built over 32 months by the Shanghai Construction group at Mount Hampden, 18 kilometres north-west of Harare, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation reported. Officials say the current colonial-era parliamentary building in the city centre is too small to accommodate lawmakers.
Mnangagwa said at the ceremony that China had provided a "grant, not a loan, to build a new parliament", without giving a figure.
"Other facilities like banks, hotels will be built around this place," Mnangagwa said adding that a "modern, smart city" was planned.
Mnangagwa took over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe who was ousted by the military in November 2017.
He has vowed to revive Zimbabwe's economy that has been in ruins for nearly two decades.
China has funded and provided loans for many infrastructure projects across Africa in recent years, ranging from roads and power plants to sports stadiums and government institutions.
Critics say China's increasing sway over the continent undermines democracy and sovereignty.
Econet group founder and executive chairman Strive Masiyiwa has found himself at the centre of a social media storm after appearing to back President Emmerson Mnangagwa and calling for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe.
Masiyiwa recently told continental broadcaster CNBC Africa that Western sanctions against Harare, now in place for some 20 years, should be lifted, noting that the country could not move forward with its hands shackled behind its back.
Further, he suggested that, President Mnangagwa was sincere in his much-touted efforts to open up the democratic space Zimbabwe and turn around the country's stricken economy.
Mnangagwa assumed leadership of the country after a military coup last November and strengthened his hold on power in bitterly disputed circumstances in the July 30 elections.
After the vote the military moved into central Harare to beat back opposition protestors and six people lost their lives in the resultant clashes.
Masiyiwa's apparent backing for Mnangagwa was therefore certain to anger the opposition, and it did.
Commenting on Twitter, MDC politician and former education minister David Colart challenged the self-exiled tycoon to return home if he was so confident about Mnangagwa's regime.
Masiyiwa has not returned to Zimbabwe in close to 20 years after being hounded out by the former Robert Mugabe regime.
Former high education minister Jonathan Moyo - also a political exile - was also unimpressed, telling Masiyiwa to "must shut up if he does not want people to disagree with him!"
Masiyiwa took to his preferred Facebook platform to hit back, saying the sanctions had adversely impacted his companies' ability to raise funding through international loans.
He added; "Intimidation and threats have never affected me.
"I stood up to Mugabe when most of those issuing threats by Twitter were either in diapers, or hiding, or even simply minding their own business."
Source: New Zimbabwe
Harare City Council and its parking unit, City Parking, have embarked on a $2 million programme of installing surveillance cameras at traffic lights in the central business district (CBD) to deal with congestion and traffic offenders. The cameras will help identify traffic offenders, especially those who impede the smooth flow of traffic.
It is also envisaged that the cameras will assist police in identifying those who commit various crimes in the CBD. City Parking, which has been financing the marking of roads and parking bays, will also adopt Julius Nyerere Way with a view of beautifying it.
In an interview during a tour of some of the roads, which were being marked, Harare chief engineer of works George Munyonga said the installation of the gadgets was 70 percent complete.
"This programme which we are undertaking of marking the road signs and beautifying the streets is a first step of the project that we are working on with City Parking. We are going to be installing monitoring and enforcement cameras at all intersections and along all routes so that any traffic violations, which are to the detriment of good traffic movement, will be dealt with," he said.
"Controllers will just ticket offenders. On the installation process we are around 70 percent and it will be monitored in a control room at the Harare Parkade so all roads within the central business district will be monitored.
"All intersections within the CBD will be monitored. All parking spaces within the CBD will be monitored."
He said they were targeting to recoup their $2 million investment from traffic offenders within a year.
Eng Munyonga said City Parking was in the process of equipping the control room, putting up the servers and the next phase, which constitutes 10 percent, would involve the mounting of the cameras and making sure the traffic system is linked to the technology.
"We would also want to link the system with Zinara and Central vehicle Registry so that we can follow up on those issued with tickets," he said.
City Parking marketing manager Mr Francis Mandaza said the initiative was part of the Mayors' 100-day plan.
"We are embarking on massive road markings. We are doing both lane marking and bay marking.
"We have started with Julius Nyerere Way. We are going to Cameron Street and from there we will go to Chinhoyi Street and Mbuya Nehanda Street. These efforts are meant to try to contribute to the success of the Mayors 100 Day plan," he said.
"Apart from the road markings, we have also adopted Julius Nyerere Island from Second Street down to Kenneth Kaunda for beatification."
The City and City parking are using thermoplastic paint, which is more durable.
Credit: The Herald
The Zimbabwe government has with immediate effect partially suspended regulations banning imports to allow the general public to bring in goods without licenses in abid to address the shortages of basic commodities and ease pressure on demand for foreign currency on the central bank.
The southern African country is in the throes of a dollar shortages while the move to seperate United States dollar denominated accounts from locally funded accounts led to an increase in foreign currency demand in the black market and a spike in prices.
In 2016, the government banned a range of products from the import list to protect the local industry under SI64, which was later replaced by the SI122 of 2017. The ban is seen hitting the local manufacturers hard, despite government maintaining duty on the imports.
Among the 31 commodities which can now be imported without licenses and limit on quantities into the country is cement, bottled water, sugar, flour, coffee creamers, fertilizers,
cooking oil, body creams, crude soya bean oil, animal oils, cereals, packaging materials, cheese and pizza base.
Addressing a press conference after a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the partial lifting of the ban was meant to ensure availability of of basic commodities ahead of the festive season and ease demand on foreign currency.
“Accordingly as a way forward, Cabinet resolved .. that the minister of Industry and Commerce temporarily amends Statutory Instrument 122 of 2017 to allow both companies and individuals with offshore funds and free funds to import specified basic commodities currently in short supply pending the return to normalcy in buying patterns of the public and adequate restocking by manufacturers,” she said.
Mutsvangwa said anyone with free funds could import the goods.
The SI 64 has helped the country save $2 billion according to reports.
- The Source
The World Bank and IMF have endorsed Zimbabwe’s plan to clear more than $2 billion in foreign arrears, the finance minister said, adding that the lenders had also backed his two-year economic recovery programme.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised to revive the struggling economy, pay foreign debts that the country has defaulted on since 1999 and end Zimbabwe’s international pariah status gained under Robert Mugabe’s near four-decade rule.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, who is attending the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings in Bali, Indonesia, said in a statement his plans to clear the arrears to the World Bank, African Development Bank and European Investment Bank had been accepted.
“All the cooperating partners and creditors present uniformly expressed their support for Zimbabwe and its arrears clearance Road Map,” Ncube said. He did not give details and none of the creditors had an immediate comment.
The lenders and Western donors urged Ncube to “judiciously” implement his two-year economic recovery programme announced last Friday, the statement said.
Ncube’s plan will see cuts in government spending and its wage bill, and privatisation of loss-making state-owned firms.
Zimbabwe, which adopted the U.S. dollar after hyperinflation left its own currency worthless in 2009, is gripped by acute shortages of cash dollars. Prices of basic goods and medicines have risen in the last few days.
At the heart of its economic problems is a $17 billion domestic and foreign debt, a $1.8 billion trade deficit that has worsened dollar shortages and lack of confidence in the ruling party by citizens still traumatised by hyperinflation.
Prices of basic goods, medicines and drugs, building materials and public taxis have risen by at least 50 percent in the last week.
The economic crunch is increasing political tension after a July vote that was supposed to lay the foundation for Zimbabwe’s recovery was instead followed by turmoil that left six people dead after an army crackdown.
The latest crisis was triggered by fiscal and monetary changes announced on Oct. 1, including a 2 percent tax on money transfers and separation of cash dollars and foreign inflows from bond notes and electronic dollars, that caused the collapse of the surrogate currency on the black market.
When the changes were announced, $100 in bond notes was worth $49 cash dollars but was worth only $26 on Wednesday.
In a separate statement, Ncube said the bond note and electronic dollars would remain officially pegged at 1:1 to the U.S. dollar as the government seeks to protect people’s savings.
He said the government would also gazette rules protecting foreign dollar inflows to ensure the money was not taken by the central bank or government, good news for mines outraged by the U.S. dollar shortages.
On Wednesday, some shops and restaurants, including the local franchise of fast-food chain KFC had closed their outlets because some suppliers of goods and medicines were demanding cash dollars. – Reuters
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube says the government is committed to preserving the value of electronic balances at the current rate of exchange of 1 to 1, in order “to protect people’s savings.”
“Government recognise concerns surrounding RTGS deposits, and we commit to preserve the value of these balances on the current rate of exchange of 1 to 1, in order to protect people’s savings,” Ncube said in a statement on Wednesday after some business started demanding payment in US dollars only while some retailers have suspended sales as the value of the electronic dollars and the surrogate bond note currency have plunged on the black market.
Zimbabwe abandoned its hyperinflation ravaged currency in 2009 and adopted a basket of multi-currencies anchored on the US dollar, but gripped by acute shortages of cash dollars since 2016.
Last week, the central bank brought back foreign currency accounts (FCAs) to separate local electronic transfers and foreign inflows and US dollars, leading to a panic in the market.
Ncube said there was a “need for an orderly currency reform programme that will be followed when the economic fundamentals” and that the multi-currency system will continue.
“This system entails that foreign exchange earners are not prejudiced of their regulatory foreign exchange receipts and that those who do not earn foreign exchange have access to foreign exchange through the banking system as is per the current policy of foreign exchange management system. In parallel, the Reserve Bank shall continue to maintain adequate resources for the import of essential commodities,” he said.
He said apart from the $500 million Nostro Deposit Protection Guarantee from Afreximbank, he was also “reinforcing Nostro foreign currency accounts with a statutory instrument to guarantee that these are private deposits, and neither the Reserve Bank nor government has any access to them.”
- The Source
United Arab Emirates-based global satellite operator, Yahsat on Monday launched its flagship satellite broadband service YahClick in partnership local ISP, Dandemutande in a move that could lower prices of data by as much as 70 percent.
The cost of data is an emotive issue in the region, notably in Zimbabwe and South Africa where it sparked off the #DataMustFall.
A recent report by Ecobank showed that Zimbabwe has the second most expensive mobile data in sub-Saharan Africa after Equatorial Guinea at $25 for one gigabyte
Yahsat is a subsidiary of Mubadala, the investment vehicle of the United Arab Emirates government and already operates in most African countries, including Nigeria, South Africa, Angola and Zambia.
Kevin Viret, Yasat’s director business development for Africa said, with internet penetration still at 52 percent, Zimbabwe had potential for growth
“We have 50 percent more power than the traditional satellite. The African continent doesn’t suffer from the lack of broadband or internet connectivity but it suffers from lack of a quality service that’s reliable and cost effective,” he said.
YahClick uses the Ka-band powered by high throughput satellite spot beam technology on which Yahsat rides on to provide high performance broadband.
Viret said the company’s technologies will allow the country to enjoy fast internet at affordable rates.
Dandemutande chief executive, Never Ncube said the cheapest package has been pegged at $33 for 5 gig of data.
- The Source
The toxic presidency of Mugabe may be over, but the new Zimbabwean government of Emmerson Mnangagwa must quickly make some hard foreign policy decisions if it is to change the country’s fortunes.
For so far no major foreign power has undertaken to relieve in any significant way the country’s economic distress. Although election observer reports have been guardedly and conditionally – almost grudgingly – accepting of the election results, the question marks raised and, particularly, the totally unnecessary violence unleashed against protesters in the wake of the election have made all governments shy of offering full endorsement of the regime.
What this has meant is that foreign investor confidence, while not discouraged entirely, is very slow to assume the kind of mass and speed of movement the economy needs. The IMF has spoken of some negotiated relief, but only under a “reform package”. The Chinese also feel that they do not want to put good money after bad. Previous loans have not been repaid and, although rumours of seizing Zimbabwean institutional assets as collateral have been swiftly denied, it is no secret that the Chinese are not best pleased with Zimbabwe’s approach to fiscal responsibility.
The Zimbabweans seem not to have noticed that, increasingly, Chinese liquidity is made available through Chinese banks. They may or may not be state-owned – but it is not the state that makes a benefaction; it is a bank that makes a loan. And banks stay in business by realising the returns from a loan. As it is, liquidity has been either misused, misappropriated, or used simply to balance books that otherwise would be parlously unbalanced.
Although the Americans have lowered the tone of their criticisms of the government, the softly-softly approach cannot hide the strict conditionality they seek. This resides in guarantees of future electoral conduct, but also essentially the desecuritisation of the ZANU-PF machine. In a word, the problem is Constantino Chiwenga, the former defence forces chief, now vice-president, who has a strong influence within the military – but, no matter what the Americans want, he is going nowhere fast, and he will not sacrifice his deep influence within the military.
The Europeans have lifted the huge majority of their sanctions, but the outgoing European representative has been critical of both the election and the violence that followed. This leaves the British as a key player.
Catriona Laing, the British ambassador to Zimbabwe, is being promoted to the High Commissionership in Nigeria, and it is no secret she laid much of her prestige and credibility on the line in seeking to persuade Whitehall that Mnangagwa was a credible figure. This of course should be seen in the context that Grace Mugabe certainly was not. But it signals nevertheless that the days of British antipathy towards a ZANU-PF government have gone.
Laing’s successor as the new British ambassador will be, not a diplomatic figure with foreign office experience, but someone with huge experience in development assistance. Melanie Robinson will not be in the mould of Laing, nor of her predecessors, Deborah Bronnert and Mark Canning. She will need to be dealt with differently by the Zimbabwean government and the ZANU-PF apparatus. Whereas her predecessors were often perceived as political actors, Robinson is purely a development technocrat.
But, despite the obviously signalled change in emphasis, the British now have no money left to give. Brexit will compound that. All the British can do is throw their weight behind the IMF and encourage corporations to invest in Zimbabwe – but the British weight cannot, in itself, counteract US and EU reluctance to give a full green light to investment in Zimbabwe.
Russia would like to make some inroads in Zimbabwe, but has earmarked no sizeable funds for doing so.
All eyes on reform
In short, almost everyone is looking towards reform. What happens domestically will impact the success or otherwise of foreign policy. As for foreign policy pure and proper, Zimbabwe has not been properly represented by top-flight ambassadors for some time. There had been only an acting Zimbabwean ambassador in the UK for almost three years, from 2015-18, and agreement to appoint a substantive ambassador was long delayed because the nominee, Ray Nahulukula, had received land seized from a white farmer. The finally agreed ambassador is Christian Katsande. The minister of lands, Perence Shiri, has now begun talking of some kind of compensation for white farmers who had lands seized, but no plans can be laid because there are no funds for compensation of any sort.
So it all comes down to money. The Mugabe years from 1997, when the economy began to tank, a process that was hurled into accelerated overdrive with the farm seizures in 2000, were years of mismanagement and accumulation without the reinvestment and circulation of capital. It was the era of the oligarchs. A lot of the funds that wound up at their disposal was used for consumption. If now these “fat cats” are somehow involved in foreign policy negotiations, particularly to do with economic and financial diplomacy, there will be no credibility on the Zimbabwean side.
I conclude with a story of one of my visits to Beijing some years ago. Chinese officials showed me their figures on the Zimbabwean economy. I looked at them and said, “So you know it’s a basket case?” “Yes,” was the reply. “But we continue to show solidarity.” But it is clear those days have now faded into memory. Fine words will now not be enough for diplomacy. Everyone wants actions.