Monday, December 31, 2018

Let’s Remain Focused, Says President Mnangagwa
01 JAN, 2019 - 00:01
Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
Zimbabwe Herald

Zimbabweans should train their focus on building the economy and achieving sustainable recovery in the New Year, President Mnangagwa has said.

The Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, said following elections held in the mid-year, attending to the economy and improving the livelihoods and general welfare of the people would be prioritised.

In his 2019 New Year message which was also aired on ZTV yesterday, President Mnangagwa acknowledged challenges faced in 2018, but noted that Zimbabwe showed signs of economic recovery on which it would build on.

“We have risen to the challenges, in every instance drawing from our inner inventiveness and broad, collective unit,” said President Mnangagwa.

“Already, we see strong signs of recovery and growth, which the transient challenges we came across this year, appeared to bedim. Still we need to do more, and to remain singularly focused more than ever before.

“With elections now behind us, the time has now come to refocus on improving our economy in order to improve livelihoods and the general welfare for our citizens. We must draw our sense of unity and purpose, indeed on our political maturity, in order to move ahead.”

In rebuilding the economy, the President said more effort should be committed towards modernising agriculture and industries whose recovery was already underway.

President Mnangagwa said better technologies were also key to the development of the economy.

“Focused on getting the macro-economic environment stable once more, in order to make it supportive of the sustainable recovery we all yearn for,” said the President.

“That means intensifying fiscal consolidation through a raft of measures and adjustments which we are determined to see through.

“Focused on mustering greater support for our agriculture, so we remain a food secure nation and so that our industry continues to have enough raw materials for more activity. We remain hopeful that the predicted El Nino-induced drought will not be as severe, or that if it is so, that our water reservoirs and growing irrigation capacity will offset it.

“Focused on mobilising more and more resources and better technologies for modernising our industries whose recovery is already underway. We need to manufacture more and better, to export more and trade competitively so we create more and better jobs for our youths.

“Focused on stimulating higher production in our mines, as well as opening new mining projects, so our abundant mineral deposits become huge wealth that lift us all. We have to increase output across a whole range of minerals we have in the country, while expanding both domestic and foreign investments for greater value addition and beneficiation to the mineral wealth we have. That way we earn more from our depletable mineral resources.”

President Mnangagwa said several infrastructural projects were already underway while housing projects were on the cards as the Second Republic doubled efforts to transform the lives of the people.

He said concerted efforts should also be directed towards revitalising the country’s tourism sector and re-engagements with other nations.

Said President Mnangagwa: “Focused on rehabilitating, modernising and expanding all our infrastructures, to support and anticipate greater economic activity in the country. Already work on our major highways has begun, with more projects on rail planned in the year about to begin. Projects in the energy sector are steaming well ahead, all the time taking our nation nearer and closer the goal of energy self-sufficiency.

“More housing projects and related infrastructures are planned for the coming year. Budgetary provisions on decentralisation and devolution will see more and more dispersed yet nationally focused economic activity at the local level as envisaged by our Constitution.

“Focused on doing more and better in our services sector, where tourism, among other service activities continues to grow and increase our earnings. This vital sub-sector will be stimulated through the rehabilitation of the Robert Mugabe International Airport by new far reaching decisions we will take on operationalizing our open skies policy and of course through developing new tourism products for more markets. We dare not to slacken on this low-hanging fruit.”

President Mnangagwa challenged institutions of higher learning to produce graduates responsive to industry requirements.

Said President Mnangagwa: “I thus urge all of us to rally behind our Government so we realise our national goals. I eagerly look forward to meeting and interacting with you more in the New Year, which I am confident will be better and more prosperous.”

As people returned from the festive holidays, President Mnangagwa urged the motoring public to respect traffic regulations to avoid unnecessary loss of life.
Zimbabwe Approaches 2019 with Optimism
Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Herald

Zimbabweans yesterday expressed optimism for the year 2019, saying all indications pointed to a better year whose fortunes would be underpinned by a shared national vision.

Opinion leaders such as politicians, the clergy and businesspeople said it was everyone’s responsibility to ensure the year was prosperous through hard work and national engagement.

They described 2018 as subdued owing to economic challenges facing many people, but said they remained hopeful of better prospects this year.

Zanu-pf secretary for Information and Publicity Cde Simon Khaya-Moyo said 2019 is going to be positive because Government had put in place all necessary measures for a turnaround.

He however, bemoaned the prolonged dry spell saying the country needed rains for its national objectives like Command Agriculture to succeed.

“Obviously we are on the right course. We have just concluded our National People’s Conference where we made resolutions that affected the generality of people. The resolutions were people-centred. The economy will improve, no doubt about that,” said Cde Khaya-Moyo.

“His Excellency President Mnangagwa has described the challenges as labour pains, there will be joy after that. But we are obviously worried about the rainfall pattern, we hope the rains will come so that our Command Agriculture gets into full swing.”

MDC-Alliance president Mr Nelson Chamisa said the coming year must be for engagement.

“God willing, 2019 must be about national engagement and turnaround. The year of nation-building, peace-building and an economic rescue programme. We must fix all our national challenges together as a people. Zimbabwe must return to being a leading nation.

“Together we are the answer to our own problems. Our problems are platforms and opportunities for us to shine and be the jewel of Africa,” said Mr Chamisa.

United Family International Church (UFIC) spokesperson, Pastor Prime Kufa said the prospects for 2019 were going to be determined by Zimbabweans, both as individuals and collectively.

“I will rebase my comments on what our leader, Prophet Makandiwa has always said. Years never change but it is the people who need to change on what we did wrong. The day January 1, 2019 is not different from any other day. So it is not about the year but about the people. It is us who make it better, God always want the best for us,” said Pastor Kufa.

Outgoing Anglican leader for Harare province, Bishop Chad Gandiya said 2019 was a promising year.

“We should never despair despite our challenges as a nation. We should continue working together for the common good,” said Bishop Gandiya.

Zimbabwe Amalgamated Churches Council patron Mr Jimayi Muduviri implored Zimbabweans to remain united.

“While we appreciate the economic and social challenges that we face as the children of God, we believe that with God all things are possible for he is the one who anointed President Mnangagwa to lead us into the Promised Land.

“We commit the year ahead to God and believe through his Grace we shall overcome, for there is nothing that true servants of God cannot do under his guidance,” he said.

Mr Muduvuri said as ZACC they believe that President Mnangagwa is the man who will lead Zimbabwe’s economic revival and the country great again.

He called for unity of purpose in reviving the country’s economy.

Some economists have called on national unity as the fundamental step on which to begin the process of dealing with the economic crisis this year.

Harare economic analyst Dr Godfrey Kanyenze, said the economic situation impeding business currently is something that requires co-operation at all levels.

“Everything is up to us, the issues the President highlighted recently such as the move to deal with corruption and to stabilise the macro-economy are the basics to development. As Zimbabweans, unity brings logical cohesion, we should set aside the differences that divide us and have national dialogue,” he said.

Dr Kanyenze emphasized that unity of purpose for a developing country such as Zimbabwe is what made countries like China to be what they are today.

Another economic analyst, Dr Mthokozisi Nkosi, concurred with Dr Kanyedze on national cohesion.

“We have done a lot on fiscal policy, what we now require is serious implementation. The prospects of investment are there but there is no unity, a house that is divided cannot attract investment therefore let there be less division and more unity so that we focus on the real challenge,” said Dr Nkosi.

National Business Council of Zimbabwe president Mr Langton Mabhanga said the economic situation requires the input of an emergency stakeholders’ think-tank.

He asserted that the economy situation requires people to join hands and work together urgently.
DRC Election: Internet Shut Down After Presidential Vote
 01 JAN, 2019 - 01:01 

KINSHASA. -The Internet has been shut down in key cities in the Democratic Republic of Congo a day after the presidential election.

Opposition candidate Martin Fayulu’s campaign team accused the government of ordering the shutdown to avoid broadcasting their candidate’s “overwhelming victory”.

Telecoms minister Emery Okundji said he was unaware of the situation. Observers have complained of widespread irregularities during the poll.

Counting is under way for the vote, but provisional results are not expected until 6 January.

The electoral commission said voting could not take place in the eastern cities of Beni and Butembo because of a deadly Ebola outbreak in the region. Voting was also called off in the western city of Yumbi because of insecurity there.

Earlier, DRC main competitors were claiming victory as vote count continued. Any disputed outcome could lead to a repeat of the violence that followed the 2006 and 2011 elections and a wider security breakdown, particularly along Congo’s borders with Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, where dozens of armed militia are active.

Vital Kamerhe, the campaign manager to opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi, said early counting showed Tshisekedi and the other main opposition candidate Martin Fayulu neck-and-neck in the lead, both with over 40 percent of the vote.

The election is a first-past-the-post system with no run-off.

The current President, Joseph Kabila, is stepping down after 17 years in office. He has promised DR Congo’s first orderly transfer of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

The run-up to the poll was hit by controversy over the exclusion of some 1.26 million out of an electorate of nearly 40 million from voting.

Nehemie Mwilanya, President Kabila’s chief of staff and a member of Shadary’s campaign, told a news conference on Monday morning that he was confident Shadary had won, although he did not provide specific figures.

“For us, victory is certain,” Mwilanya said.

Fayulu’s camp has not yet provided specific numbers but Fayulu said late on Sunday that Shadary’s camp was “dreaming” if it thought it was going to win.

The most recent opinion poll before the election, released by New York University’s Congo Research Group on Friday, showed Fayulu, a former Exxon Mobil manager, leading the race on 47 percent.

Tshisekedi had 24 percent and Shadary 19 percent.

The first partial results are expected from the national electoral commission (CENI) on Tuesday.

Election day was mostly peaceful despite several violent incidents, including an altercation at a polling place in eastern Congo in which at least three people were killed.

More than 1.2 million Congolese were also unable to vote in three opposition strongholds, where the CENI cancelled the poll last week, citing an ongoing Ebola outbreak and ethnic violence.

However, in the Ebola hotspot of Beni, an opposition stronghold, residents staged a mock presidential election to show the authorities a decision to postpone the vote there due to health fears was unfounded.

– BBC/Reuters/HR
Bangladesh PM Says ‘Conscience is Clear’ as Opposition Claims Election Rigged
01 JAN, 2019 - 01:01

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh's founder, won a historic fourth term with a landslide victory in Sunday's election that the opposition claimed was rigged. - AFP

DHAKA. – Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday rejected calls for a new vote after being declared landslide winner in an election marred by deadly violence that the opposition slammed as “farcical” and rigged.

Hasina’s ruling Awami League party and its allies won 288 seats in the 300-seat parliament, with the main opposition securing only six seats.

Hasina, who gets a record fourth term, swept aside opposition protests over clashes between rival supporters that left at least 17 dead and allegations of ballot box stuffing and intimidation.

“The election was totally free and independent. There is no doubt about it,” the 71-year-old Hasina said.

“I have nothing to hide. Whatever I do I do it for the country. My conscience is clear,” she added in comments to reporters.

Hasina insisted she had no desire “to remain in power” and that voters had backed her party because of Bangladesh’s economic growth during her decade-long rule.

The opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) said it had been the target of a crackdown for months leading up to Sunday’s poll and called for a rerun.

“We are demanding that a fresh election is held under a neutral government as early as possible,” alliance leader Kamal Hossain told reporters.

Election authorities said they had not received a single complaint against the vote and that there was “no scope to hold a fresh one”.

Hasina has been lauded for boosting economic growth in the poor South Asian nation and for welcoming Rohingya refugees fleeing a military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar.

But critics accuse her of authoritarianism. Arch-rival and BNP leader Khaleda Zia was jailed for 17 years this year on graft charges that her party said were politically motivated.

Deadly violence that blighted the election campaign spilled over into voting day, even though authorities deployed 600,000 security forces across the country.

Thirteen people were killed in clashes between Awami League and BNP supporters, police said. Three people were shot and killed by police who said they were protecting polling booths. An auxiliary police member was also killed by armed opposition activists, according to officials.

Police have now confirmed 21 deaths during the election campaign and voting day.

The opposition alliance accused Hasina’s party of stuffing ballot boxes and using other illegal means to fix the result.

BNP spokesman Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal said there were “irregularities” in 221 of the 300 seats.

One voter, Atiar Rahman, said he was beaten by ruling party activists in the central district of Narayanganj.

“They told me not to bother, ‘We’ll cast your vote on your behalf’,” he told AFP.

The opposition said the unrest was stirred up to deter voters but the election commission reported 80 percent turnout.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first international leader to call and congratulate Hasina, the Bangladesh leader’s press secretary said.

China’s President Xi Jinping also greeted her with Beijing’s envoy handing over “congratulatory messages”.

Experts say Hasina’s victory will be sullied by accusations that she hamstrung opponents.

“This result might affect our democratic system and might also damage state institutions,” Sakhawat Hussain, a former election commissioner, told AFP.

The opposition claims some 21,000 of its activists were detained during the campaign, crushing its ability to mobilise support.

Thirty-five of its candidates were arrested over what they said were trumped-up charges or disqualified from running by courts, which Hasina’s opponents say are government controlled.

The leadership of Bangladesh has alternated between Hasina and Zia, allies-turned-foes, over the last three decades.

Hasina’s victory secures her third consecutive term in office, and fourth overall.

A daughter of Bangladesh’s first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Hasina was gifted victory in the 2014 election when the BNP boycotted the vote claiming it was not free and fair.

Rights groups have since accused her administration of stifling freedom of speech by toughening a draconian anti-press law and the enforced disappearance of dissenters.

Hasina rejects accusations of authoritarianism but analysts say she feared young voters would support the BNP.

Her government was criticised this year for its heavy handling of weeks of major student protests that brought Dhaka to a standstill.

– AFP
Kim Jong-un Warns of Change in Direction on Denuclearization
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said he is committed to denuclearisation, but warned he will change course if the US continues its sanctions.

He made the remarks during his closely-watched annual New Year's address.

Last year's speech set the country on an unprecedented path of international diplomacy with South Korea and the US.

Mr Kim met US President Donald Trump to discuss denuclearisation in June 2018 but with few results so far.

Last year's rapprochement came after a turbulent 2017 marked by North Korea testing missiles that could reach the US mainland and an escalation in rhetoric between Pyongyang and Washington with both sides trading insults and threats of nuclear destruction.

The annual New Year's address is a tradition Mr Kim picked up from his grandfather, founder of the communist country, Kim Il-sung.

The speech is aimed primarily at a domestic audience and like previous year focused largely on the economy, but international observers scan every line for clues to Pyongyang's international agenda as well.

In this year's speech, broadcast on state television early on Tuesday, Mr Kim said "if the US does not keep its promise made in front of the whole world... and insists on sanctions and pressures on our republic, we may be left with no choice but to consider a new way to safeguard our sovereignty and interests".

The BBC's Laura Bicker in Seoul says this could mean that North Korea is waiting for the US to act in 2019 and unless it does, the current pause on nuclear weapons testing could be over.

North Korea is subject to various sets of United Nations Security Council sanctions related to its banned nuclear and ballistic missile weapons programmes.

Mr Kim said that North Korea had already pledged not to make, use or spread nuclear weapons and had taken concrete steps to implement this.

He also said he was ready to meet Mr Trump again at any time.

"The tone was what many had expected," Oliver Hotham of news site NK News, told the BBC.

"In all, a speech that boosts his standing at home on key issues while sending a conciliatory but firm message to the US, all while continuing to woo Seoul with the prospects of renewed cooperation."

It was in last year's New Year's message that Mr Kim announced North Korea would take part in the Winter Olympics hosted by the South, which led to a thaw in relations.

After a flurry of diplomatic activity, in April Kim Jong-un met South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a summit at the inter-Korean border.

This was a historic moment in June, but Kim and Trump have grown further apart since
They met another two times after that but the most historic summit of 2018 was the North Korean leader's meeting with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

In what was the first time a North Korean leader met a sitting US president, the two signed a vaguely phrased agreement to improve ties and work towards denuclearisation.

Since the Trump-Kim summit though, less progress has been made than at least optimists had been hoping for.

While the North has stopped missile and nuclear testing, there's been little indication that Pyongyang is working towards complete and verifiable denuclearisation as the US has called upon it to do.

The North has dismantled some testing facilities but there are allegations it is continuing its weapons programme.

President Trump has said he expects a second summit to take place as early as February but there has been no confirmation yet.

There are also plans for Kim Jong-un to travel to the South's capital Seoul for another inter-Korean summit but again, those plans have not been confirmed yet.
DPRK Supreme Leader Has Photo Session with Activists in Agricultural Field
Kim Jong Un, Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army, met the participants in the 4th National Meeting of Activists in Agricultural Field and had a photo session with them.

When Kim Jong Un arrived at the venue of the photo session, all the participants enthusiastically welcomed him.

He highly praised the agricultural workers, rural junior officials and scientists and technicians for having displayed patriotism with pure conscience to bring about rich harvest on the fields of the socialist country, cherishing the behests of President Kim Il Sung and Chairman Kim Jong Il who worked heart and soul to solve the food problem of the people, walking on farm roads all their lives.

He warmly encouraged those who have received the title of Labor Hero, the highest honor of the DPRK citizen, for their vanguard role in the drive for implementing the Party's farming-first policy, saying that he would meet them again after reaping richer harvest next year.

He had a photo session with the participants, expressing expectation and belief that the participants in the meeting would conduct a dynamic campaign for the increased grain production throughout the country by ceaselessly increasing the number of high-yield farms, work-teams and sub-workteams and the ranks of high-yield farmers, bearing deep in mind the intention of the Party Central Committee which set the agricultural front as the major thrust in the building of an economic giant.

Present there were senior Party and government officials including Choe Ryong Hae, Pak Pong Ju, Ro Tu Chol, Pak Thae Dok, Kim Nung O, Ko In Ho, Ri Chol Man and Kwak Pom Gi, and the chairpersons of the provincial party committees.
Open Questionnaire to Human Rights Schemers Issued
The Korea Association for Human Rights Studies on December 30 raised an open questionnaire, in which it said that this year 2018 has witnessed a great change in the world political trend and, in particular, warm wind of peace swept the Korean peninsula and the region, drawing the public attention.

The questionnaire said that the world has undergone amazing changes, but only the US and its followers remain unchanged in their mean and stupid ambition to stifle the DPRK.

Shortly ago, the US and its followers at a full-dress session of the United Nations General Assembly fabricated another "resolution on human rights in north Korea" malignantly slandering the dignity and system of the DPRK while letting out abuses like "extensive and serious violation of human rights" and "probe into responsibility", it noted.

The association, on behalf of the Korean people and conscience of mankind, made the following questions to the US and its vassal forces hell-bent on turning black into white and the UN playing a role of rubber stamp for the US against the international justice and impartiality:

1. Is there any country on the earth like the DPRK where the people fully enjoy political freedom and democratic rights as masters of society?

We'd like to ask if you have ever heard of such political terms as politics based on the people-first doctrine and politics of respecting and loving the people and the motto of prioritizing the interests of the people, holding them absolute and making selfless, devoted efforts for the good of people.

2. Can you pick out any country like the DPRK that has no jobless person and vagabond?

We'd like to ask if you, bat-blinds, have no nerve to believe that there is the country unique on this planet, where all the working people are living a creative working life to their heart’s content, free from unemployment and worry about job.

3. Can you imagine such social policies of the DPRK for its people as free education, free medical care and free provision of dwelling houses from the state?

There are many countries in the world, but the DPRK is the one and only country where the state builds dwelling houses and provides them to the people free of charge and ordinary people like workers, farmers, teachers, researchers and office workers move into splendid houses in Ryomyong Street, Mirae Scientists Street and other streets without paying even a penny. Perhaps, all of you are so fearful that homeless people sleeping curled up in subways and waiting rooms in New York and Washington may know such a fairytale story that was already materialized in the DPRK.

4. Have you ever heard about the country where all the members of society are trained to be highly civilized and creative beings under the slogan of making all the people well versed in science and technology?

Fin-de-siecle ways of life like misanthropy, contempt, violence, pornography and corruption afflict the sound souls and bodies of people, driving them into the abyss of ignorance, in the US and other Western countries. Those countries had better understand where they live in, the sunny world or the dark world and the civilized world or the barbarous world, before talking about someone's performance of "human rights".

5. Can you pinpoint any land of human love, except the DPRK, in the world map?

The US had better work hard to clean its dirty face before slandering others.

6. It is just the time for the US-led hostile forces and the UN to throw away the old drum of "human rights" racket against the DPRK, isn't it?

Why does the US fail to give up the old prejudice and hostility even after the publication of the DPRK-US joint statement in Singapore?

Until when will the UN go with the ill fame of American empire's puppet, bereft of international justice and impartiality, resorting to anti-DPRK "human rights" racket, little short of state-sponsored political terrorism?

Falsity gives in to truth and darkness to brightness.

Nothing can cover up the brilliant reality of the DPRK where the people enjoy genuine rights at the highest level as the real masters of the state and society and no one on earth can block the bright path ahead of the DPRK, no matter how rampant all sorts of lies, deceptions, tricks and plots are in the world.
DPRK National Meeting Held
A national meeting took place at the April 25 House of Culture on December 29 to mark the 7th anniversary of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un's assumption of the supreme commandership of the Korean People’s Army.

It was attended by Choe Ryong Hae, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, vice-chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK and vice-chairman of the WPK Central Committee; leading officials of the Party and the government, including Kim Phyong Hae, Thae Jong Su, Choe Pu Il, Jong Kyong Thaek, Ri Man Gon and Kim Nung O; leading officials of armed forces organs, including Ri Myong Su, Kim Su Gil, Ri Yong Gil and No Kwang Chol; officials of the army and society who distinguished themselves in implementing the Party policy; officials of the Party and armed forces, ministries and national agencies, service persons of the Korean People's Army and the Korean People's Internal Security Forces, teachers and students of Mangyongdae Revolutionary School and officials and working people of institutions, factories and enterprises in Pyongyang.

Army General Kim Su Gil, alternate member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and director of the General Political Bureau of the KPA, made a report.

The reporter pointed out that it is a great revolutionary event to be specially recorded in the history of building the Juche-based army and the history of the country to hold Kim Jong Un, a peerlessly great man, at the helm of the revolutionary forces, in accordance with the unanimous will and wish of all the people and service personnel.

Thanks to his assumption of the supreme commandership of the KPA, the issue of carrying forward the leadership over the army, which is of great significance in carrying forward and accomplishing the revolutionary cause of Juche, was successfully settled and a sure guarantee for firmly preserving the nature and character of the KPA as the revolutionary armed forces of the WPK and giving steady continuity to the history and traditions of victory was provided, he noted, and went on:

The past seven years in which the KPA has worked hard under Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un were great days that witnessed the further development of the KPA into revolutionary armed forces of the WPK and a decisive turn in the building of the Juche-based army.

The world history of army-building never knows such an iron-willed brilliant commander, great hero and peerlessly great man as Kim Jong Un who set an example of the century in building the revolutionary armed forces and performed the exploits for the country and the revolution in a short span of time.

The KPA, the revolutionary armed forces of the WPK, will as ever serve as strong muscle for creditably safeguarding the security of the socialist country and the well-being of the people and preserving peace in the Korean peninsula and the rest of the world.

He called for working hard for the building of a socialist power, the victory of national reunification and the accomplishment of the revolutionary cause of Juche under the guidance of the Supreme Leader.
DPRK Year of Devotion for People
Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un is leading the general onward march of the Korean people to build a socialist power.

2018 is a year of his devotion for the sake of his people.

In his New Year Address he set the slogan “Let us launch a revolutionary general offensive to achieve fresh victory on all fronts of building a powerful socialist country!” and put forward important tasks to raise the overall strength of the country to a new stage of development by launching an all-people general offensive.

Early in January, he gave field guidance at the State Academy of Sciences.

As there are the foundation of the independent national economy, the reliable sci-tech personnel and their high intelligence, there is no insurmountable obstacle for us, he said, adding that it is the steadfast determination and will of the Workers’ Party of Korea to open up the broad avenue for the building of a socialist power and hasten the final victory by dint of science and technology.

In January and February, he visited renovated Pyongyang Teachers Training College, Pyongyang Pharmaceutical Factory and Pyongyang Trolley Bus Factory and guided the trial run of a prototype trolley bus.

At the Third Plenary Meeting of the Seventh WPK Central Committee held in April, he put forward a new strategic line on concentrating all efforts on socialist economic construction.

He said that the immediate targets for the implementation of the new strategic line are to put production on track at all industrial establishments and gather rich harvests in all agricultural fields during the period of the five-year strategy for the development of the national economy, thus making the people's laughter resound far and wide across the country. He stressed that all units and sectors should build their capacity for self-development in a constant manner and bring about an upsurge and leap forward in production, upholding the slogan of self-reliance and self-sufficiency and relying on science and technology.

He visited the completed Koam-Tapchon railway, the newly-built Pyongyang Taedonggang Fish Restaurant and the Station for Stocking Lake Yonphung with Fishes, and the Theatre for the Samjiyon Orchestra before its opening, expressing his pleasure over the fact that another wealth for the good of the people has been provided.

July and August this year were the period of blazing sunlight, scorching heat and high humidity unprecedented in the country’s records of meteorological observation.

In July he visited over 20 units in North Phyongan Province, Ryanggang Province, North Hamgyong Province and Kangwon Province, including Sinuiju Textile Mill, Samjiyon Potato Farina Factory, Orangchon Power Station under construction and Kangwon Provincial Tree Nursery.

One day in August when an abnormal high temperature was at its height, he was informed of the fact that a prototype trolley bus and tramcar were made and visited the factories despite the scorching heat. Noting that the vehicles were made very well and that he was more pleased, all the more thankful and happy as all of them were domestically made, he highly appreciated their perfectness. Expressing his emotion welling up in his mind, he said today he felt very cheerful as if he had plucked a star from the sky, and that how many such pleasant days would be in a year. And he continued his guidance trips to Samchon Catfish Farm, Kumsanpho Fish Pickling Factory, Sindo County of North Phyongan Province, hot spring area in Yangdok County of South Phyongan Province, and Myohyangsan Medical Appliances Factory.

In September, he visited Kim Chaek University of Technology to congratulate its lecturers and researchers on its 70th founding anniversary and had a photo session with them.

With a grand plan to turn Samjiyon County, the first village under Mt Paektu, into the people’s fairyland, he himself became the designer, constructor and builder, and visited the county three times this year to learn about the state of its construction and encouraged all builders to perform greater feats.

Inspecting the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area under construction three times, he called for building it into a people’s paradise that would be compared to nothing and thus demonstrating to the whole world the fighting mettle in the era of the Workers’ Party, the nation’s development potentials and the Korean-style developing speed.

He continued his inspection tours ceaselessly, from the north to the east and central areas and again to the east and north areas, even in November and December.

His guidance trips throughout the year represent his great devotion to hold in reverence the Korean people whom the great leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il brought up and entrusted to him as he upholds the leaders in the highest esteem, with ceaseless thinking and painstaking efforts for the prosperity of the country and a pure conscience and thus ensure that they enjoy a happy life to their heart’s content with nothing to envy in the world.

The Korean people are now turning out as one in the drive to build a socialist power with a single mind to keep pace with their Supreme Leader on his forced march and advance along the road he indicated.
A Year of Great Significance in Korea’s Reunification
This year, which witnessed epochal events to be specially recorded in the history for improvement of inter-Korean relations, is a year of great significance when a new heyday was unfolded on the Korean peninsula in the drive for independent reunification and national unity.

As of the end of last year, a touch-and-go situation, in which a war may break out any moment, prevailed in the peninsula. The international community expressed its anxiety and apprehension, claiming that the outbreak of a war on the Korean peninsula will be escalated into a world war as it is located at the point of strategic importance in the Asia-Pacific and big powers are interlocked with each other for their own interests there.

But, the reality went just in the opposite direction. In his New Year Address in 2018 Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un clarified that he would open the doors to anyone from south Korea, including the ruling party and opposition parties, organizations and individual personages of all backgrounds, for dialogue, contact and travel, if they sincerely wish national concord and unity.

Accordingly, inter-Korean high-level talks were held to be followed by the successful opening of the 23rd Winter Olympic Games in south Korea.

A climate for dialogue, reconciliation and d├ętente, not for confrontation, began to pervade the Korean peninsula.

Kim Jong Un met members of the delegation of the south Korean president’s special envoy on their visit to Pyongyang on March 5. He said that the Winter Olympics served as a very important occasion in demonstrating the spirit and prestige of the Korean nation at home and abroad and providing an atmosphere favourable to reconciliation, unity and dialogue between the north and south. He repeatedly affirmed that it is the DPRK’s consistent and principled stand and his firm will to vigorously advance the north-south relations and write a new history of national reunification by the concerted efforts of the Korean nation before the eyes of the world.

Thanks to his steadfast patriotic will for reunification and bold decision, the third inter-Korean summit meeting and talks were held at Panmunjom on April 27 and the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula was adopted there.

The historic Panmunjom Declaration won warm welcome and unreserved support from the fellow countrymen as it reflected the firm viewpoint and stand, iron nerve and confidence to solve the reunification issue by the Korean nation itself, its master.

On May 26, Panmunjom witnessed the fourth meeting and talks between the top leaders of the north and the south 29 days after the April summit. Technical contacts in various fields were made between the north and the south, the reunion of separated families and relatives was realized and north-south military talks and the work of setting up a joint liaison office made good headway.

The fifth Pyongyang summit in September incited the Korean nation to be ablaze with ecstasy and joy. Through the adoption of the September Pyongyang Joint Declaration and the subsequent practical measures for its implementation, all the fellow countrymen came to see the thrilling reality moving towards a bright future of independent reunification, peace and prosperity.

When Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un climbed up Mt Paektu, the sacred mountain of the Korean nation, together with south Korean President Moon Jae In after the successful fifth Pyongyang summit, all the Koreans hardened their confidence that the north and the south are one nation with the same blood vessel.

A radical change was also brought about in the DPRK-US relations, along with the rapid development of inter-Korean relations.

DPRK-US summit meeting and talks took place in Singapore on June 12, drawing enthusiastic support and welcome from around the world. In-depth discussions were made about the need to establish afresh the DPRK-US relations and build a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean peninsula.

The world media and experts unanimously commented as follows: His Excellency Kim Jong Un is steering the trend of the times for ensuring peace on the Korean peninsula and in the region and realizing Korea’s reunification. His plan and initiative to open up a new era of peace and prosperity is now enjoying full support from the international community. The cause of Korea’s reunification will surely be accomplished under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, the world-renowned statesman and peerlessly great man.

The changes of situation on the peninsula and north-south relations clearly prove that ensuring peace on the Korean peninsula and beyond and achieving the independent reunification of the country are the desire of all the fellow countrymen and the irreversible trend of the times.
DPRK Supreme Commander and Soldiers
Kim Jong Un, Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, spares nothing for soldiers, saying that they are his dear sons and daughters who establish the ties of blood with him and his comrades and comrades-in-arms who share the same intention and destiny with him.

He inspected an island-defending unit of the KPA at the hottest spot in the southwest front in August Juche 101 (2012). Officials tried to prevent him from going there as the sea route to the island was so dangerous. But he brushed off their persuasion and went there aboard a small 27-hp wooden ship, noting that he should go where the soldiers are even if the place is very dangerous and that the Supreme Commander exists for them.

After going round various places of the unit, he said to the accompanying officials that they should take good care of the soldiers lest they should feel hankering for the land and, in particular, pay close attention to ensuring that they always lead optimistic and militant life in military service. And he took measures to solve the problems for the supply of electric power, fresh water and firewood, specifying the ways to solving the problem of electricity for the soldiers’ leisure activities by means of wind power, solar energy and biogas.

During his another visit to the unit, he made the rounds of its barrack, dining hall, wash-cum-bath room, greenhouse and animal shed to take parental care of their living.

In mid-October Juche 102 (2013), he was informed of a report that some sailors of the KPA Navy died a heroic death while performing their combat duty. He took steps to find out all their corpses and hold a grand funeral. And he visited their tomb to lay a flower before it and paid a tribute to the memory of the fallen soldiers. Looking round their tombstone one by one, he could hardly repress his feeling of bitterness, saying that their photos inscribed on the stone have been well depicted and that they seemed to get up to see him in delight.

After going round the tomb for a while, he said: There must be the owner of a grave. I will become the owner of their tomb. All of them are my comrades-in-arms and comrades.

Thanks to his parental affection and deep trust, the KPA is building up into the vanguard of defending the leader unto death and the invincible armed force.

Today the Korean people significantly celebrate the 7th anniversary of his appointment as the Supreme Commander of the KPA.
Putin: The World Underestimates Danger of Nuclear War
On December 20, Russian President Putin started his 14th, large press conference. Interestingly, on December 20 Russia marks the Day of the Security Officer, which has been commonly known in Russia as the "Chekist Day" ('Chekist' is a Russian colloquialism for 'KGB officer'). After the press conference, Putin will attend a gala evening dedicated to this date.

A record number of journalists - more than 1,700 people - were accredited for the press conference.

Traditionally, Putin started the press conference with a brief report about the economic situation in Russia. The president said that Russia's GDP grew by 1.7 percent over the year. The real level of wages was growing, while the inflation rate remained on an acceptable level. As of 2018, it will exceed the target level of 4 percent and will make up 4.1-4.2 percent. The unemployment level in the country decreased to 4.8 percent having thus set an all-time low, Putin said. Life expectancy in the Russian Federation in 2018 increased to 72.9 years compared to 72.7 years last year.

The budget surplus of the Russian Federation in 2018 will make up 2.1 percent of GDP.

Putin stressed that Russia needs a breakthrough, a leap into the new technological order. This requires resources, which the government and the administration are looking for.

Answering a question of whether the Russian economy is stagnating, Putin said that the government did not rely on "mechanical" calculations in its forecasts. The government plans a growth of three  percent by 2021. Fluctuations are possible, but it is important to enter another league of economies, Putin said, adding that Russia's goal is to become the fifth economy in the world.

Speaking about the work of the Russian government, Putin said that he was "generally pleased" with the work that the Russian government conducts under the chairmanship of Dmitry Medvedev.
According to the head of state, the budget surplus of 2.1 percent of GDP is a good indicator of the work of the government.

Answering the question of whether the fiscal burden on Russian people was too high and how it could be related to the policy of the government that raises VAT, housing and utility tariffs for people and imposes a tax on self-employed individuals, Putin said that in many countries VAT makes up 20% (Russia is raising VAT from 18 to 20 percent from January 1, 2019).

Putin said that the change in the VAT rate was necessary to reduce oil and gas budget deficit. He said that during the recent economic crises, Russia was forced to spend petrodollars, which led to an increase in the oil and gas deficit. It became possible to reduce it to 6.6 percent.

Answering a question about fears of a new global military conflict, a global nuclear disaster and a world war, Putin noted that the world was underestimating the danger of a nuclear war during the recent years. The danger of such a scenario in the world is being obscured, which may lead to the death of human civilisation and even the whole planet, President Putin said. In the West, there is an idea of using low yield nuclear weapons, but the use of such weapons can lead to a global catastrophe, the Russian leader stressed.

Answering a question about unnecessary conflicts between authorities and representatives of the younger generation, about dispersing rap concerts, banning young people from participating in rallies, Putin said that young people make the foundation of today's and future Russia.

Yet, there are different kinds of young people, he said. He referred to the story of young paratroopers, who were fighting to death with hordes of terrorists. "Out of several dozen, only six of them remained, and they were fighting against two thousand militants," said Putin making a reference to the feat of 90 paratroopers from Pskov, who engaged in a battle with 2,500 Chechen terrorists near the village of Ulus-Kert in 2000.

In addition to young military men, there are a lot of young volunteers and people who are engaged in search and rescue activities. "Those people make the stronghold of today and the future of Russia," Putin said, adding that "there are also talented musicians."

He then condemned the drug propaganda in rap songs. "Do we want to degrade? In no way this should be encouraged. At the same time, one should counteract differently here," he said. Therefore, the Russian president considers the arrests of rap singers and the abortion of their concerts unnecessary, since such conflicts are counterproductive.

"Yet, there is nothing good in the fact that they use foul language in their songs - but let them sing so," Putin noted. "Art does not exist to indulge sordid values," he added.

Speaking about the state of affairs in Ukraine, attempts to solve political problems of the Donbass by force are doomed to failure, Vladimir Putin said when answering a question from a correspondent of Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, who asked the Russian president how much money Russia spends on the Donbass, whose people Russia treats like slaves.

"Attempts to solve political issues with the help of force, and we can see that this is exactly what the Ukrainian authorities have been doing for several years, are doomed to failure. It must be understood," Putin said.

Putin also said that Russian-Ukrainian relations are not going to go back to normal until there were Russophobes in power in Ukraine.

"As long as there are Russophobes in power in Kiev, who do not understand what the interests of their own people are, an abnormal situation like this will continue regardless of who is in power in the Kremlin," Putin said.

At the same time, Russia is interested in peace and prosperity in Ukraine, as Ukraine remains one of the largest economic partners of the Russian Federation. The trade turnover between Russia and Ukraine has increased compared to 2017. "This is not strange, because it is a natural connection, and these natural connections will someday make their presence felt," he added.

Russia will continue providing humanitarian and other assistance to people living in the Donbass. "We really provide humanitarian, other type of assistance and support to people who live in this territory. We are doing it so that they do not get crushed, torn and eaten there. And we will do it further," said the head of state.

It was not Russia, but the Ukrainian authorities that set up the blockade between the Donbass and the rest of Ukraine. "It is them, who shell the people, whom they consider their own citizens. Every day people get killed there - civilian people," Putin said.

Maria Butina, a Russian citizen, who was arrested in the USA, was not executing any tasks for the Russian authorities, no matter what she may say.  Therefore, there are no grounds for accusations against Butina in the United States, Putin said. "They force her to confess, but I do not really understand what she can confess there, because she was not fulfilling any assignments of the state bodies of Russia, and I can responsibly declare this to you, no matter what she's saying there under the influence of threats of imprisonment for 12-15 years," said Putin. "I don't understand why they jailed her. There is simply no reason for it," Putin added.

Speaking about the detention of foreign citizens in the United States, Putin said that Moscow would not be acting on an "eye for an eye" principle to subsequently exchange prisoners.

Speaking about the case of Skripal poisoning, Putin said that there was nothing to comment on - Skripal and his daughter are alive, but the media hype does not subside. Thus, the Skripal case is only a pretext for an attack on Moscow, Putin said. "If there had been no Skripals, they would have come up with something else just to contain the development of Russia as a competitor," Putin said.

At the same time, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead, but no one introduces sanctions, the Russian president recalled, pointing out the policy of double standards in the West.

The Russian president believes that the Russian economy has adapted itself to international sanctions. Generally, Russia has always been living under sanctions which the West impose on Russia at the time when Russia's power and international influence grows. The West has lost the Russian market, and the number of jobs in the West has declined. The unemployment level in Russia is only 4.8 percent, while in EU countries, for example, in Spain, it reaches 15 percent, he said. Moreover, restrictions forced the Russians to think different in many areas. The share of transport engineering currently makes up more than 90 percent, while sales to the foreign market have increased.

Answering a question about growing nostalgia for the times of the USSR among the Russians, President Vladimir Putin said that he considered the restoration of socialism in Russia impossible.

"I think it is impossible," he said. "A profound change in society excludes the restoration of socialism ... this is impossible," the president added.

Speaking about elements of socialism that can and even need to be restored, Putin noted the equitable distribution of resources, the aspiration to reduce the level of poverty to a minimum, ensure medical and educational services to people on acceptable conditions. "We are carrying out such policies now. This is what our national projects aim to," Putin said.

With regard to the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, Putin said that the United States withdraws troops from Afghanistan every year. The withdrawal of US troops from Syria, is not yet visible either, he noted.

Putin said that there was no need for US troops to be present in Syria. "Let us not forget that the presence of US troops in Syria is illegitimate. The UN Security Council had not confirmed the presence of US troops in Syria. It is only the decision of the UN Security Council or the invitation from the legitimate government of Syria that can make the presence of a foreign military contingent in Syria legal," Putin added.

Vladimir Putin agreed with Donald Trump who said that the United States contributed to the destruction of terrorists in Syria. "I agree with Donald here," he said but recalled that Russia had taken immense efforts to destroy terrorists.

"Despite all discrepancies, there's still quite a constructive dialogue between our specialists, our military men and special services to resolve acute problems in the struggle against terrorism in Syria," Putin said.

See more at http://www.pravdareport.com/russia/kremlin/20-12-2018/142128-putin_war-0/
Turkey Deploys 50 Tanks to Border with Syria — TV
World December 29, 2018, 14:54 UTC+3

The Turkish General Staff is preparing for a new military operation in Syria

MOSCOW, December 29. /TASS/. The Turkish General Staff has deployed about 50 tanks to the Syrian border amid the preparation for a new military operation in Syria, TV channel Haberturk reported on Saturday.

The tanks were deployed yesterday morning under the command of the 20th armored brigade in the city of Sanliurfa. The equipment was deployed from Hatay Province. It was reported that in the future military equipment will be located directly on the Syrian border.

During the last several weeks Ankara has been reinforcing garrisons and army units with armored and support vehicles and artillery weapons. It is linked to the preparation for a new military operation of Turkey in Syria in the Manbij area, which entered its active stage following US President Donald Trump's declaration of the upcoming withdrawal of the American forces from Syria. Manbij is one of the largest Kurdish centers in eastern Syria, and Ankara believes that Kurds should leave it and give the city to the Arab population of the country.

The Kurdish troops tried to refrain from direct confrontation with the Syrian government and did not support the opposition, demanding autonomy. The Kurds found themselves in isolation facing the threat of the Turkish invasion and addressed Damascus for help on Friday, suggesting that the army should occupy the regions in Manbij controlled by them. The Syrian General Staff reported on Friday that the government forces entered Manbij, but the Turkish side did not comment on this information.

On December 12, the Turkish president reported the intention to start an operation in the coming days against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and the Democratic Union, which Ankara considers to be the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. Before that, Turkey already held two military operations on Syrian territory: Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch, as a result of which a buffer zone of security was created between the bordering cities of Azaz and Jarabulus, and the Afrin region, which is populated by Kurds, was occupied.

More:
http://tass.com/world/1038523
Syrian Soldier Killed in Shelling by Militants — Russian Reconciliation Center
World December 30, 2018, 23:06 UTC+3

A Syrian soldier was killed in the settlement of Kemel in Syria's Latakia governorate

MOSCOW, December 30. /TASS/. A Syrian servicemen was killed in a shelling by militants operating in the Idlib de-escalation zone, chief of the Russian Center for reconciliation of the conflicting sides in Syria Sergei Solomatin said on Sunday.

"One Syrian soldier was killed in the settlement of Kermel in the Latakia governorate which came under shelling by militants operating in the Idlib de-escalation zone," he said.

According to Solomatin, work is continued to amnesty people dodging military service. Thus, as of today, as many as 21,701 people have been amnestied, he added.

During the day, officers of the Russian reconciliation center conducted a humanitarian operation and delivered a total of 2.2 tonnes of food products to the settlement of Mazlum in the Deir ez-Zor governorate.

Solomatin also said that refugees continue to return to Syria. The Russian reconciliation center is helping to ensure operation of ten checkpoints. "As of December 29, 2018, as many as 213,362 people have returned to Syria," he reported.

Apart from that, he said that the Russian reconciliation center continues efforts to restore infrastructure facilities and create conditions for the return of refugees. "As of December 29, 2018, as many as 30,943 residential houses, 718 educational and 124 medical facilities have been restored, and a total of 955 kilometers of motorways have been repaired," he noted.

The Russian reconciliation center continues to fulfill assigned tasks after the completion of the military campaign in Syria. The center’s officers regularly travel around the country's liberated areas to assess the humanitarian situation. The main efforts of the Russian military are now focused on assistance to the refugees returning to their homes.

More:
http://tass.com/world/1038665
Militants Continue to Shell Settlements in Three Syrian Regions
December 29, 2018, 5:31 UTC+3

The Russian reconciliation center said militants operating in the Idlib de-escalation zone shelled settlements in Syria's Aleppo, Hama and Latakia governorates in the past day

MOSCOW, December 28. /TASS/. Several settlements in Syria's Aleppo, Hama and Latakia governorates, as well as in Aleppo’s neighborhoods, came under fire by militants operating in the Idlib de-escalation zone, chief of the Russian Center for reconciliation of the conflicting sides Sergei Solomatin said on Friday.

"During the day, shelling attacks by militants were reported from the settlements of Akch Baer, Darh Abu-Assad and Mamukhiya in the Latakia governorate; the settlements of Herbet Marin, Tell Marak and Zellaqiyat in the Hama governorate; the settlement of Mgaret Marza in the Aleppo governorate; and Aleppo’s Suqqari neighborhood and a northwestern suburb," Solomatin said.

According to the chief of the Russian reconciliation center, work is continued to amnesty people dodging military service. Thus, by now, as many as 21,387 people have been amnestied, he added.

Over the past day, officers of the Russian reconciliation center conducted a humanitarian operation delivering food products to the settlement of Sheikh Misqin in the Daraa governorate.

Apart from that, efforts are continued to restore infrastructure facilities and create conditions for the return of refugees. "As of December 27, 2018, as many as 30,932 residential houses, 714 educational and 122 medical facilities have been restored, and a total of 953 kilometers of motorways have been repaired," he noted.

The Russian reconciliation center continues to fulfill assigned tasks after the completion of the military campaign in Syria. The center’s officers regularly travel around the country's liberated areas to assess the humanitarian situation. The main efforts of the Russian military are now focused on assistance to the refugees returning to their homes.

More:
http://tass.com/world/1038436
Withdrawal of US Forces from Syria May Unveil Coalition's Military Crimes — Source
December 29, 2018, 9:41 UTC+3

The source noted that Raqqa has not been cleared from mines yet and thousands of bodies remain under the city debris

MOSCOW, December 29. /TASS/. The withdrawal of the US army from Syria may shed light on the military crimes committed by the coalition under the "fight" against the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, outlawed in Russia), a military-diplomatic source told journalists on Saturday.

"The upcoming withdrawal of the American military from Syria may unveil multiple military crimes committed by the international coalition during the so-called fight against the ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a former name of the IS - TASS)," the source said. It chiefly concerns Raqqa, "which was turned into a ghost city after the carpet bombing carried out by the coalition’s aviation," he said.

The source pointed out that now the US, the UK and France state the inadmissibility of holding surgical operations against militants from the extremist group Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia) in Idlib to avoid the sufferings of the civil population of this governorate. "That said, during the operation to liberate Raqqa, where the ISIL openly used civil residents as a shield, Washington, London and Paris sent their aviation there that just dropped bombs on the city’s residential quarters," he said.

The source noted that Raqqa has not been cleared from mines yet and thousands of bodies remain under the city debris. Outbreaks of infectious diseases are being registered in the city, which are killing civilians, including children.

Militants became active in the Al-Tanf area, which is controlled by the US: they are trying to penetrate to Damascus and Jordan, the source said. He also informed that the terrorists are burning the bodies of refugees from the Rukban camp who died because they did not receive humanitarian help.

"Both the Syrian government and international humanitarian and human rights organizations will have to long and thoroughly deal with all this and other ‘heritage’ left after the illegal American presence in Syria," the source said.

The withdrawal of the US forces

On December 19, US President Donald Trump declared the decision to start the pullout of the American forces from Syria. He explained it by the defeat of the IS in Syria, which was the only reason why the US forces were there. The withdrawal of the army of more than 2,000 may take 60 to 100 days, according to American officials.

More:
http://tass.com/world/1038469

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Corruption Worsens Fuel Shortages in Zimbabwe
31 DEC, 2018 - 00:12
Africa Moyo
Business Reporter

Unscrupulous fuel attendants and dealers have compounded a critical fuel supply situation that was caused by limited foreign currency reserves in the first place, investigations by The Herald show. Fuel dealers and their service station employees are said to connive not to release all the fuel they get to the motoring public in order to sell it either to friends or to extort bribes from desperate motorists or to sell it on the black market at inflated prices through third parties.

Amounts far higher than the technically required tank reserves are kept either for prepaid customers, US dollar buyers only or foreign embassies, The Herald discovered.

Motorists who are prepared to pay a few extra dollars cash can fill their vehicle tanks.

Most service stations limit amounts per customer to $40 or $50.

Week long investigations by The Herald revealed fuel attendants and managers at most service stations demand up to $15 cash kickbacks for a full tank.

Fuel attendants were also accused of giving preference to “loyal” customers who are allowed to fill jerry-cans and 220-litre metal drums, something the Government has warned against.

At times, fuel suddenly runs out without any explanation given to queuing motorists.

The practices were corroborated by motorists from different parts of the country.

They implored Government agencies like the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) and police to do random spot checks at service stations to expose the rot.

“It is amazing that workers at (named service station) near Parliament Building say their pump is affected by hot weather and malfunctions but at night you see one or two cars fuelling,” said a motorist, who identified himself as Mr Mafarachose.

The same service station at Westgate in Harare, is said to rank among the worst performers, with its employees openly asking for bribes from motorists.

During the investigations, this reporter witnessed first hand some of the assertions by motorists as he sought to buy fuel at major service stations around Harare.

Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo and Zera Acting CEO Mr Eddington Mazambani confirmed getting reports of corruption and other irregular behaviour by fuel dealers.

Mr Mazambani however said it was difficult to prove an irregularity if a fuel service station claimed they were holding it for pre-paid customers.

Minister Gumbo said; “We have heard of those reports but all that is dealt with by Zera and not the ministry. Call Mazambani; he is in charge of such issues. But Government policy is that fuel must be sold to everyone, including those with Bond notes and other payment platforms as announced by the Finance Minister (Professor Mthuli Ncube).

“Prof Ncube said it’s 1:1 (the value of Bond notes to the US dollar) and that is the money we are using at the moment. So no other policy has been made, only that people are mischievous and are rating the Bond (notes), causing unnecessary price disparities.”

Some service stations with obscure brand name openly demand between US$1 and US$1.05 per litre in cash, while Zuva Groombridge sells in foreign currency using Master cards.

A fuel station at Musanhi Bus Company accepts Bonds notes only.

All this happens on the back of most of the major fuel dealers receiving foreign currency at 1:1 with the Bond note for fuel procurement. Some are said to be so brazen that they have taken the hard currency to trade on the black market instead of purchasing fuel.

Minister Gumbo has stated repeatedly that there are sufficient fuel stocks in the country but can’t be drawn down due to lack of foreign currency. This has created room for rent-seeking behaviour by those with access to fuel or foreign currency.

Dr Gumbo said Zera and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) were on the ground looking out for unscrupulous fuel traders.

“Zera and the ZRP are on the ground; they are going around the country checking at service stations to assess the quantum of fuel available and if it is not being sold, they discipline the service station concerned,” he said.

Mr Mazambani confirmed receiving similar complaints.

“We have received similar complaints and we have been investigating them as and when they are made. It has been found that most service stations will be holding and selling fuel to pre-paid and account holders,” he said.

“There has been no evidence to date of fuel being withheld for customers who have paid bribes,” he said.

He said Zera would continue to monitor all fuel sites and investigate “any malpractices in the sector”.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president Mr Denford Mutashu said he had been to some service stations in Graniteside, Harare, which refused to sell him fuel claiming it was reserved for prepaid customers yet some motorists just ahead of him had paid using the point of sale machine.

“You will see a person arriving at a service station, they swipe and get a full tank and they will also have their plastic containers (not even jerry-cans) filled. But when you get to the pump they tell you the client has an account with them,” said Mr Mutashu.

“I think fuel is a national product which is procured through money put together by Government through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe so there should not be any entitlement, especially in a period of shortages like this,” he said.

“We should remove all those impediments and fuel must be accessed by anyone who arrives at a service station otherwise all those services where complaints are coming from should not be given allocations until they reform,” he said.

He said only fuel dealers with the “national interest at heart, who sell unconditionally”, should be allocated foreign currency.

Mutare police recently apprehended five illegal fuel dealers and recovered 2 000 litres of diesel and petrol, which had allegedly been corruptly obtained from service stations.

Police in the border city are now targeting service station managers to clamp down on the vice.

Reports also suggested a manager at a major service station in Zengeza 4, Chitungwiza, was recently forced to serve clients on his own amid corruption allegations against his subordinates.

Zuva CEO Mr Bethwell Gumbo could not comment as the was not picking up his mobile phone while Total Zimbabwe managing director Mr Ronan Bescond’s mobile was unreachable.

Meanwhile, some service stations refuse to sell fuel in areas with high temperatures claiming “it is unsafe” to do so.

However, motorists are later told that fuel has run out even when they never saw it being sold.

Mr Mazambani said cases of service stations failing to sell fuel because of temperatures depended on the “type of pumps used” and the distance from the suction to the discharge point.

He said sites with “suction type pumps” are vulnerable to vapour lock during very hot weather while those with submersible pumps are not affected.
Elections, Land Reform Could Impact South Africa Property in 2019
29 DEC, 2018 - 00:12 

JOHANNESBURG. – An election year – which South Africa will see in 2019 – is always an interesting one for the property market, says Bruce Swain, CEO of Leapfrog Property Group.

According to Swain, this is because elections signal uncertainty, which generally sees a reluctance by buyers to commit.

“Uncertainty tends to evoke unease, and purchasing a property is a big decision (and investment), which needs to be coupled with confidence. This may seem elusive when the political future of a country is unclear,” Swain said in a statement.

“The closer we get to the election, the more obvious the general sentiment around the favourability of investments will become.”

The question of land expropriation would be a further factor, he added.

“There is definitely still some concern around this issue, which means buyers are cautious and sellers are sometimes over-eager,” said Swain.

“At no point has government indicated that it would be pushing through a policy in which residential homes would be seized, and (government has said) any land reform measures would not be at the expense of the economy, national security and food production.”

Although Swain acknowledges there is a chance that certain categories of land could be expropriated, he says the approach at Leapfrog is that, as far as residential property is concerned, its message is “business as usual”.

Swain said that what happens in the property market is often a reflection of what’s happening in the country at large – politically, economically and socially.

“With the country just recently emerging from a technical recession, market movements continue to be slow,” he said.

“Currently we’re seeing residential property that is well priced because of a lower demand, which is good news for buyers, while serious sellers will likely be forced to err on the side of conservative when it comes to establishing their selling price.”

In his view, it’s likely that the demand for property in sectional title and security estates will continue to grow in 2019.

“New sectional title units are often more affordable than freehold properties, and thus an easier way to enter the property market,” said Swain.

… as 86% of top SA executives would move abroad – survey

Over the past three years, there has been a consistent year-on-year increase in the number of professionals who would consider leaving the country, according to Advaita Naidoo, chief operations officer at executive search firm Jack Hammer.

In 2018, 86 percent of top SA executives polled in the latest Jack Hammer Executive Report indicated that they would take seriously an offer to move abroad.

The results show that the percentage of executives willing to relocate abroad has significantly jumped from 47 percent in 2016 and 78 percent in 2017.

“Unfortunately, this also bodes ill for transformation, as 49 percent of those interested in relocating to ‘greener pastures’ were black respondents,” says Naidoo. In her view, this trend – of senior professionals from all backgrounds who are willing to consider a future outside of the country – is likely to persist in coming years.

“This presents a substantial challenge for companies wanting to secure the best leaders, particularly given the economic challenges which further impact an organisation’s ability to lure and secure top talent,” she says.

According to Naidoo, South African managers are held in high regard internationally and have a reputation for being hard workers.

“So, we have an unfortunate situation, where the number of top professionals committed to a career future in SA is diminishing, while the demand for their expertise is not,” she adds.

“In times of difficulty, it is more important than ever to convince professionals with a strong track record that despite the current climate, your organisation will continue to offer opportunities worth staying for.”

Although there is not much an organisation can do to retain valuable employees whose reasons for leaving are based on socio-economic-political concerns about the future, they are not completely powerless.

Naidoo says if things are going really well for someone professionally, and the company is acknowledging them with career opportunities and financial rewards, the inclination to look abroad might be a little less enticing.

– Fin24
Ebola: Patients Flee After Holding Center Attacked
 29 DEC, 2018 - 00:12

KINSHASA. – Patients being monitored as possible Ebola patients fled a camp in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday after it was attacked by demonstrators protesting further delays to the country’s election, the health ministry said.

Around 20 patients fled the centre during the incident, at a holding centre in the Beni region, the epicentre of this latest outbreak of the highly infectious and potentially fatal disease.

The incident followed the announcement that elections planned for Sunday in the region had once again been postponed because of local unrest, as well as the Ebola outbreak.

At least three tents were ransacked on the edge of the site, run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and a heavy police presence was patrolling the site after the incident, an AFP correspondent noted.

“Of 24 patients, 17 had tested negative (for Ebola) once. They had to be tested a second time before being discharged,” said a health ministry spokesperson.

“Four of them went home. Three other suspected cases were in too serious a case to flee,” the spokeswoman added.

But some of the demonstrators went into contaminated zones of the camp, according to one aid worker.

“The demonstrators wanted to attack the transit centre” and burned some of the tents, the health ministry said.

Kinshasa declared the Ebola epidemic in August 2018 and it has already claimed 356 lives. That has generated concern that the disease could spread to other major towns in the region, such as Goma and Kisangani and even neighbouring Uganda.

Many local people have been reluctant to be vaccinated and others have resisted the idea of secure burials for victims of the disease.

The city and region of Beni has also been the target of deadly attacks on civilians by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group blamed for hundreds of killings since 2014.

On Wednesday, the country’s electoral commission cited the unrest in the region and the Ebola outbreak as the reasons it was further postponing national elections there.

However the vote will continue to take place in the rest of the country as scheduled on December 30, and the next president will be sworn in on January 18, the commission said.

– AFP
2 Dead at Presidential Election Polling Station in DRC: Media
Xinhua
2018/12/31 10:16:32

Two people were killed in a disturbance between voters and police at a polling station in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Sunday, local media reported.

The incident took place on the polling day of the presidential election at a polling station at Lurhala Primary School in the eastern province of South-Kivu, said a media report.

According to testimonies collected by the local press, a man suspected of being an agent of the CENI (electoral body of the DRC) came in the day to force voters to vote for the ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, creating scuffles.

A police officer deployed to secure the poll then fired on the voters he thought were out of control, killing one of the voters on the spot. In anger, the crowd beated the policeman to death. The unrest also left two injured.

The organization of the presidential election in the DRC has experienced several obstacles, including late opening of polling stations, absence of electoral lists, various malfunctions of voting machines, etc.

After slipping his ballot into the ballot box on Sunday morning, incumbent President Joseph Kabila said that "our people remain determined to overcome the challenges of the poll, together we write our own history."

The Congolese will know the successor to Kabila on Jan. 15 with the publication of the final results.
Presidential Election Kicks Off in DR Congo
Xinhua
2018/12/30 17:16:11

Voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo cast their ballots on Sunday in an election vital to the future of the central African country.

The election, which comes after repeated delays, will produce a successor to President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, and is deemed decisive for a peaceful transfer of power.

Polling stations opened early Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) in the capital Kinshasa. Voters arrived amid a heavy rain that had started two hours ago.

President Kabila and presidential candidates were among the first to vote at a booth in the Gombe commune in Kinshasa. After casting his ballot, Kabila said that despite the rain, "Our people remain determined to overcome the challenges of these elections, together we are writing our own story."

The candidate from the ruling coalition to replace Kabila, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, said he was "confident" about winning the election after casting his ballot.

"I am happy that everything is happening in peace in the whole country and here in Kinshasa. As a candidate of the majority, I am confident of my victory in this election," said Shadary, a former interior minister and currently the permanent secretary of the People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD).

There is concern over the credibility of the election following some organizational problems and a government decision to exclude some 1.2 million voters in three cities due to a deadly Ebola virus outbreak and security reasons.
Security Council Calls for Free, Fair Elections in Guinea-Bissau
Xinhua
2018/12/28 11:14:04

The UN Security Council on Thursday urged political actors in Guinea-Bissau to demonstrate renewed good faith to hold "free and fair" elections for the country to break the cycle of instability.

In a statement, the Security Council expressed "regret" that the country did not hold elections as planned on Nov. 18 and voiced "deep concern" over preparations for the polls rescheduled for March 10, 2019.

Holding "genuinely free and fair" elections on the revised date across the small West African nation is vital to preserving the "still fragile gains" in the path to stability in the country, said the statement.

"Legislative elections are a fundamental step in resuming sustainable and nationally owned reforms and should take place prior to the presidential elections foreseen in 2019," it added.

In the statement, the council recalled the implementation of the October 2016 Conakry Agreement, the primary framework for a peaceful resolution of the political crisis in the country, noting its importance to ensure political stability and build sustainable peace in Guinea-Bissau.

The council commended the country's defense and security forces for their "continued non-interference" in the politics of Guinea-Bissau, and strongly urged them to continue in that vein.

The statement followed a briefing last week by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye-Brook Zerihoun and Brazilian Ambassador to the UN Mauro Vieira on the developments in Guinea-Bissau.