Friday, March 20, 2009

Zimbabwe News Update: Envoys Press West to Engage Nation

Envoys press West to engage Zim

Herald Reporters

Portugal yesterday urged the European Union to re-engage Zimbabwe while the Japanese ambassador has recommended that his country lifts travel bans on Harare as Denmark pledged to look into how it can assist with civil servants’ salaries.

Portuguese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Joao Da Camara said the EU should re-engage Zimbabwe in the wake of the formation of the inclusive Government.

Mr Da Camara said the inclusive Government presented an opportunity for the normalisation of relations.

Speaking to journalists after paying a courtesy call on Vice President Joice Mujuru at her Munhumutapa Offices in Harare yesterday, Mr Da Camara pledged to strengthen relations between Harare and Lisbon.

"This is a good opportunity for us as Portugal and the EU to engage with Zimbabwe. We have to have a process of re-engagement. If this process of re-engagement is successful, all measures will be lifted and we will have normal relations," Mr Da Camara said.

Japanese Ambassador Mr Koichi Morita, who also met Vice President Mujuru, said he had urged his government to lift the travel warning on Zimbabwe because the country was a safe tourist destination.

"I recommended to my government to ease the travel advisory so that more tourists can come to Zimbabwe," he said.

Mr Morita said despite the lingering circumspection about the political situation in the country within some circles, he would tell the true Zimbabwean story to the Japanese.

"There is scepticism in the donor community and I need to report back to my home country on the correct situation," he said.

The Japanese and Portuguese ambassadors pledged to strengthen relations between Zimbabwe and their countries.

The EU imposed illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 while Japan advised its citizens against visiting the country in April last year, claiming Zimbabwe was a security risk.

The move led to a significant fall in the number of Japanese tourist arrivals, prejudicing the country of more than US$7 million in revenue.

Danish Minister of Development Co-operation Ms Ulla Tornaes completed her three-day visit to Zimbabwe yesterday saying Copenhagen would look into how it can assist Harare pay its civil service salary bill.

She was speaking at a meeting with Finance Minister Tendai Biti.

Ms Tornaes said the way the inclusive Government was working on the turnaround of the economy gave ground for optimism.

"I am very impressed by the way the new inclusive Government is addressing the issue of the economy and I am very impressed by the way the Minister of Finance described how the new inclusive Government will bring this country back on track in terms of the economy," she said.

Ms Tornaes, who flew out of the country yesterday afternoon, said her government would look at Zimbabwe’s economic plans and the reviewed budget presented to Parliament on Wednesday.

"I am ready to consider how we can find new ways we can find some sources of finance, for example, financing the salaries for civil servants," she said.

"I will go back home to see where the country (Denmark) would help in paying salaries for the civil servants."

Minister Biti said Ms Tornaes’ visit was a bold and brave decision as there were a number of issues that were being raised by other Western countries.

"There are still questions being raised by critics and sceptics, issues that we can resolve ourselves. There are issues that are still outstanding, but there are things that are being done by the Government that show that this Government is in motion," he said.

He said the visit by the Danish minister was also a sign of confidence, adding that he hoped that this would be the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship.

The Danish minister later met Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Herbert Murerwa and discussed reports of fresh farm occupations.

"We discussed the issue of the land and we are concerned especially after the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement signed by the two governments.

"We are hopeful that the new Government would find a solution to the land issue," she said.

Minister Murerwa, however, dismissed reports of new farm occupations.

"There are no new invasions, but there are people who have been given offer letters and are trying to get access to their pieces of land," he said.

He said Government was cognisant of the fact that some farms were covered by BIPPAs.

Minister Murerwa said Government would also pay compensation to former commercial farmers for the improvements on the farms.

"We have had constraints of resources to compensate the farmers and we would like to pay them when the situation improves," he said.

He reiterated that the land reform programme was irreversible, saying the exercise would continue so that all Zimbabweans benefit.

Ms Tornaes, who was in the country on three-day visit, also met the Speaker of the House of Assembly Lovemore Moyo.

On Wednesday she met the chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee for the month of March, Economic Planning Minister Elton Mangoma.

JOMIC monitors the implementation of the broad-based agreement between Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations.

Zimbabwe says in talks with West on sanctions

Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:15am GMT
By Nelson Banya

HARARE, March 19 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe is talking to the United States and European Union over the repeal of sanctions, according to an economic policy document, the first sign the new government may be gaining the confidence of Western powers.

The document released on Thursday by the unity government said political reforms demanded by Western donors were a crucial part of an emergency recovery plan to ease hyper-inflation and widespread shortages of food and fuel.

The Short-term Emergency Recovery Programme forecast that inflation would fall to 10 percent by the end of 2009 -- from over 230 million at last count -- due to the use of multiple foreign currencies in the country.

The government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai faces the daunting task of rebuilding Zimbabwe's shattered economy after years of hyperinflation and decline.

While Western powers would prefer that Mugabe step down, they have indicated they can help the country recover as long as a democratic government is in place.

Western donors and foreign investors crucial to rebuilding Zimbabwe want political and economic reforms, such as reversing nationalisation plans, before they will pour in cash.

"The key priority areas are ... political and governance issues, namely the constitution and the constitution-making processes, the media and media reforms, legislation reforms intended at strengthening governance and accountability and (the) rule of law ...," said the document.

It said the plan would require funding in excess of $5 billion, mostly from donors. Mugabe will officially launch the recovery plan later on Thursday.

The document said Zimbabwe had started talking to the United States, EU, IMF and World Bank over the removal of sanctions.

"In this regard, discussions have already started with the EU, European Commission, World Bank, IMF, and the (African Development Bank) AfDB with the objective of removing the above sanctions and measures...," the document said.

The United States and EU have put in place targeted sanctions against certain individuals close to Mugabe and some Zimbabwean companies.

The policy document also warned against continued invasions and takeovers of mainly white-owned farms, saying offenders could be arrested.

Thousands of white farmers have fled Zimbabwe since land seizures began in 2000, a policy that Mugabe's critics say helped destroy the economy.

The country's farmers' union said some white farmers were still being forced off their land or being prosecuted for refusing to leave.

The document said the government wanted to promote confidence and investment in farming. "The inclusive government will uphold the rule of law as well as enforce law," it said.

New economic plan launched

Business Editor Victoria Ruzvidzo
Zimbabwe Herald

Govt determined to overcome challenges: President THE inclusive Government is determined to overcome prevailing socio-economic challenges as demonstrated by the launch of the Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme (STERP) meant to restore economic growth and stability, President Mugabe has said.

The new economic programme, launched in Harare yesterday, reflects the implementation of part of the broad-based agreement which seeks to addresses issues of economic stabilisation and national healing.

Speaking yesterday at the launch ceremony in Harare attended by representatives of all stakeholders, President Mugabe said it was now incumbent upon Zimbabweans to direct their energy towards socio-economic reconstruction programmes.

"As a nation, and at all levels, we should move away from expending our energies and resources by engaging in unproductive, divisive and destructive activities and devote ourselves to constructive and beneficial socio-economic reconstruction programmes that will create national wealth and uplift the living standards of our people.

"STERP has, thus, been designed as a short-term plan that will enable us as a nation to direct our energies and resources to exclusively developmental issues affecting the lives of our people," President Mugabe said.

The new economic plan will be in force between now and December as it lays the basis for a more comprehensive economic framework which will succeed it.

STERP recognised the revival of productive sectors such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, trade and tourism, which President Mugabe said had been devastated by sanctions.

These would be resuscitated through the removal of price controls, easing foreign currency surrender requirements and improving the supply of power, water, transport and communication, among other strategies.

President Mugabe made a passionate plea to external partners to assist Zimbabwe in ensuring successful implementation of the programme.

"The successful implementation of STERP will indeed require substantial amounts of resources from our fiscus. We hope these will be forthcoming.

"We also wish to appeal to all those countries which wish us to succeed to support our national endeavour to turn around our economy.

"So I, on behalf of the inclusive Government and the people of Zimbabwe, say: ‘Friends of Zimbabwe, please come to our aid’."

In the same vein, he implored the European Union and the United States to lift the economic sanctions which he described as inhuman, cruel and unwarranted.

"Sadc and the African Union have, in support of our inclusive Government’s economic stabilisation and recovery efforts, already strongly called for the removal of these sanctions. We, thus, repeat our loud call for their immediate removal."

He challenged the business community to desist from profiteering, a tendency that detracts from noble Government initiatives.

Government, he said, respects a responsible private sector that seeks to produce adequate goods and services for domestic and foreign markets at affordable and competitive prices.

Labour also has a critical role to play through increased productivity and "refraining from destructive industrial activities, as well as negotiations for reasonable wage and salary adjustments, should surely be the guiding principles of our labour unions".

Explaining the major highlights of the new economic programme, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said STERP was motivated by the need to get the economy back on track as quickly as possible.

"We need to take Zimbabwe out of the current rut and move it forward," he said.

Key priority areas are political and governance issues under which aspects such as the crafting of a new Constitution, observance of the rule of law and media reform would fall.

Under social protection, focus would be on food and humanitarian assistance, education, health and strategic targeted vulnerable groups.

Stabilisation measures would include restoring the value of the local currency, increasing capacity use in all sectors of the economy and ensuring adequate availability of food, fuel and electricity, among other things.

Minister Biti said under agriculture, a land audit would be conducted while interventions would be made to ensure security of tenure for those allocated land. This would help farmers access funding.

"We want to make sure that land is not dead capital."

Other sectors of the economy would also be accorded due attention.

Acting Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe said it was important that STERP be implemented aggressively while Deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara challenged Zimbabweans to take ownership of the programme.

"Ask not what other nations can do, but what Zimbabweans can do for themselves," he said.

Japan donates water treatment chemicals

Herald Reporter

JAPAN yesterday gave more than 400 tonnes of water treatment chemicals worth US$1,5 million to Harare City Council.

The chemicals were given through a Unicef grant funded by Japan in December last year.

Japanese ambassador Mr Koichi Morita handed over the 427,5 tonnes of granular aluminium sulphate to Morton Jaffray Plant superintendent Mr Oliver Nyanguwo. Granular aluminium sulphate is the main chemical used for water purification.

Speaking at the handover ceremony, Mr Morita said the gift was in support of the efforts to reduce cholera in Zimbabwe caused largely by people using untreated water.

Tsvangirai crash crying for probe

By Political & Features Editor Mabasa Sasa
Zimbabwe Herald

BUDDHISTS are largely known for viewing life as a constant search for higher levels of truth and reality.

Of course, such a viewpoint cannot be confined to a single socio-religious set of beliefs because indeed, all humanity is in a virtually never-ending quest to determine what "truth" and "reality" are; where they begin and where they end.

It is that line that divides truth from untruth that most people keenly look out for.

For them, life is essentially Manichean. There is true and false, good and bad, black and white.

Such people tend to have an uncomplicated view of the world around them. Things are so simple and straight forward that for many of them, a huge chunk of their lives is spent not thinking because there really is nothing to think about.

But life is not so straight forward.

The line between what is true and what is false is quite often not a bold marker that is easily identifiable.

Pepetela, in his classic tribute to Africa’s liberation struggle "Mayombe" wrote "truth" is not a yellow line cutting through the forest green.

All too often, "truth" is a yellow line cutting across the yellow of the desert.

Unfortunately for people who are always after a higher level of truth and a deeper conceptualisation of reality, life is usually complicated and frustrating.

For them there is no real rest.

They are constantly asking "why" and "how" because nothing really is as simple as it often appears at first glance.

They tend to be troublemakers and suffer many untold personal agonies because they keep asking questions and refuse to swallow what they are told to be the ultimate truth or reality.

But it is their obstinacy that has provided the prime ingredient for the progress humanity has made in the various fields of the physical and social sciences over the centuries.

Such people are what might be called a necessary nuisance for without them we run the risk of becoming cosy with a lower level of truth and a shallow conception of reality.

They kick us out of our comfort zone and force us to look closer at the world around us.

But not everyone is happy with the questions that these people ask.

In fact, great thinkers like Socrates were sentenced to death because they sought to understand beyond the Manichean’s view of the world.

Today, much like the Charles Dickens character in "Great Expectations", those uncomfortable with people like Socrates cynically say, "Ask no questions and you will be told no lies."

And so in our modern world, we should not ask why America’s great democracy only caters for two political parties or why your little brother looks like Mr Zuze from down the road.

We also should not ask any questions about the accident that claimed the life of the Prime Minister’s wife Susan Tsvangirai.

In the view of people like Bornwell Chakaodza, the issue is closed to debate and no questions should be asked.

Nothing should be said about any possible links between Western-funded and Western-owned organisations that are all somehow involved in what is turning out to be a convoluted saga.

Yesterday, Bornwell penned a piece for the Financial Gazette in which he had a go at anyone and everyone who has asked questions about what really happened on the fateful evening of March 6.

It would appear that for people like Bornwell, who are not accustomed to asking difficult and seemingly unpopular questions, an accident is an accident just like black is black and white is white.

Is this because the Americans and the British have declared in their towering wisdom that it indeed was an accident plain and simple?

Is it because people like Bornwell are not comfortable when confronted by others who believe in a search for a higher level of truth and a deeper conception of reality?

Is it because Bornwell cannot afford to ask any questions now that this former Zanu-PF functionary has found new found robes as a "consultant" who does a lot of work for NGOs that are funded by the same Usaid that is involved in the whole sorry mess.

Whatever it is, the people of Zimbabwe have a right to know whether or not undue influences resulted in Susan Tsvangirai’s death.

The people of this country have a right to demand of the Americans and British why they are acting so jumpy and issuing contradictory statements.

Why did the US Embassy here try to distance itself from a truck which everyone knows they own?

Is Bornwell, allegedly a fully trained journalist, not troubled by the fact that the Americans are disclaiming ownership of the death truck when the license plates clearly demonstrate that this is a US Embassy vehicle?

Does he not care to know how it got to be registered as a US Embassy vehicle when the Americans say they do not own it?

And somehow this former editor of a national paper does not find anything disconcerting about the conflicting statements from the Americans being sandwiched by a declaration from the British that this is a "genuine" accident.

We are confronted here by someone who is uninterested with the details of who hired the driver of the car that killed the Prime Minister’s wife, who has been paying him and who is paying for his lawyer.

It would be presumptuous to say that a driver cannot afford the services of a lawyer from Atherstone and Cook considering that the NGO community has access to lines of financing that the Zimbabwean Government does not.

So maybe the driver is paying the stout fees Atherstone and Cook ask for, or maybe someone is paying for him.

If it is the latter, the people deserve to know who it is and why.

Is it not in the national interest to interrogate the roles of the different players whose names have cropped up since the accident?

Would it be unreasonable for anyone to want to know who/what Crown Agents and John Snow International are?

After all, these are the people who are said to be the contractors that the US Embassy is subtly shifting all responsibility on.

Bornwell has a problem with The Herald positing the possible link between a creature called the Commercial Farmers’ Union and the animal called John Snow International.

For him, there is not substance because The Herald is trying to establish a relationship between the two on the foundation of a shared business premises in Marlborough.

But surely, questions are bound to be asked when one of the reported contractors in the form of John Snow International shares the same business address as a man who works for CFU and was among the first to hear about the accident.

That man, Gideon Stephanus Theron is the vice president of the CFU whose building the reported contractor works from.

Theron arrived at the accident scene before the police did and was found filming the wreckage and its surroundings.

He is said to have stood on the under-carriage of the over-turned Toyota Land Cruiser and done things that we would all like to know.

And it is not just The Herald that is interested by this link because Theron was indeed arrested by the police on Wednesday, a day before Bornwell’s piece appeared in the Financial Gazette.

Bornwell does not see any reason why anyone should question this CFU links as embodied in Theron, Hendrick O’Neill and the building in Marlborough that they share with John Snow International.

What is puzzling is that Bornwell did not appear interested in the private media throwing around irresponsible claims of an attempt on the Prime Minister’s life by "securocrats" opposed to the inclusive government.

To him it is not a problem that the American media carried claims by an unnamed MDC-T official making veiled insinuations that President Mugabe was involved because Zanu-PF has a history of "suspicious accidents".

For him the story starts and ends with America and Britain declaring that it was a genuine accident and so no more questions should be asked.

Asking these questions, in Bornwell’s views, mean that The Herald is "after the CFU".

Instead he sees in this a connection between President Mugabe’s alleged claim at his recent birthday celebrations that all white farmers should vacate the land.

For the record, President Mugabe said all farmers issued with notices of acquisition in accordance with the law must comply with said law.

By writing such statements, Bornwell is indulging in the kind of "lies, half-truths, distortions and exaggerations" that he so happily accuses The Herald of engaging in.

The questions being asked about the accident are not to foment and fan the spread of conspiracy theories.

It is a search for a higher level of truth and a deeper conception of reality than the one Bornwell would rather ensconce himself in.

At the end of the day these queries should leave Zimbabwe in better stead to understand what transpired on March 6.

Should the answers to these questions lead to an answer indicating a genuine accident, well then that is fair and fine and will save us a lot of headaches.

If the questions uncover something else more sinister, then that will be another matter.

For all we know, the questions could simply reveal that the Americans and British sunk into a good old-fashioned panic when it emerged that they were more involved in this tragedy than anyone else and so they issued their suspicion raising statements.

Either way, the quest for the higher levels of truth in a matter as important as this one should not in anyway be impeded by the likes of Bornwell who are content to perch themselves on the lower rungs of reality.

British, Americans behaving suspiciously

EDITOR — At first I was one of those who rushed to dismiss Tsholotsho North Member of the House of Assembly Professor Jonathan Moyo’s call for a probe into the activities of the United States Agency for International Development because I could not see any connection between the shooting of Air Marshal Perrance Shiri and the Tsvangirai tragedy.

Questions raised by Prof Moyo compel us to consider the possibility that the British and the Americans are behaving rather suspiciously about the accident.

For the American Embassy to disown the truck and the driver was not only silly but also alarming.

Why did the British Foreign Office rush to declare that the accident was genuine when they are so far away?

Perhaps the Prime Minister’s speech to Parliament shocked the enemies of the inclusive Government outside the country.

Kurauone Chihwayi.

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