Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Zimbabwe News Bulletin: Govt, Business Agree on Prices; Poll Will Be Free and Fair; Security Prepared For Violence

Govt, business agree on prices

Business Reporter

GOVERNMENT and the business community yesterday agreed that business should stick to prices set by the National Incomes and Pricing Commission.

"We agreed that whatever is approved by the NIPC is authentic and should apply always," said Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Mr Callisto Jokonya.

Mr Jokonya was speaking at a news conference at CZI offices after a meeting convened by the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, to seek an explanation from business on the recent spate of price increases.

"Our meeting with Government was cordial and it left both parties with no doubt that business, especially formal business, was complying with NIPC prices.

"Manufacturers are producing goods and making deliveries to retailers, but people are buying those goods and selling them above NIPC set prices and we do not have control over that.

"For instance, the NIPC approved the price of bread at about $10,5 million but it is being sold on the informal market at a price of $25 million, that we have no control over.

"We urge Government to use law enforcement agents to deal with the situation because they have the capacity and mandate to do so.

"We are aware that there are challenges in satisfying demand and we are working at addressing these.

"We urge all those manufacturers with raw materials to continue producing and distributing their products through the normal and credible channels," he said.

CZI members, Mr Jokonya said, were guided by a code of ethics and anyone caught on the wrong side of that code would have their membership revoked.

Asked about the fate of senior managers who were arrested after their companies were found overcharging, Mr Jokonya said CZI would only take action when their cases have been concluded at the courts.

The CZI chief said the industrial representative body would take a sober approach and engage the Government on the issue of the arrest of managers.

"As a law-abiding organisation, CZI is calling upon its members to comply with the laws of Zimbabwe, including the respect of and adherence to officially approved pricing of commodities by both the manufacturing and retailing sectors.

"We are fully conscious of and sensitive to the needs of our clientele, our valued customers, our Government and the general Zimbabwean populace.

"CZI will remain persistent in its engagement strategy with all stakeholders for the good of the economy and we remain positive that relations between Government and the business community will develop into mutual trust and confidence for the benefit of our country," he said.

President Mugabe has been warning businesses against unjustifiable price increases.

On Monday, he told a rally in Hwange that the Government and business would meet yesterday to discuss prices.

‘Political climate augurs well for free, fair polls’

Herald Reporters

Observer teams to Saturday’s joint presidential, parliamentary and council elections have expressed confidence the polls will be free and fair contrary to claims by the opposition and their Western backers that they will be rigged.

The Sadc Electoral Commissions Forum yesterday said it was convinced the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was adequately prepared to conduct free and fair elections.

The Pan African Parliament said the mood in the country and Zimbabwe’s preparedness for the weekend elections was a sign that the continent was moving in the right direction towards democracy and political maturity.

The Sadc Electoral Observer team — made up of observers from Sadc member states — has also pronounced that the environment in Zimbabwe was conducive for free and fair elections.

Speaking on the sidelines of the group’s meeting with stakeholders in Harare yesterday, Sadc ECF head Reverend Felix Mokobi said the regional elections body was impressed with preparations put in place by ZEC for a free, fair and transparent election.

"We have had wide consultations with other observer missions who have been in the country earlier, ZEC, political parties, independent candidates and other stakeholders. We are sure that the country and ZEC have put (in place) everything necessary for a free, fair and transparent election," he said.

"We have also witnessed the contesting parties, including independent candidates, campaigning peacefully and they seem to be quite ready for the elections.

"The peace observed so far tells that this could be a free and fair election.

"We have, however, heard reports that the country is not ready to conduct elections but these (reports) have not been substantiated by tangible proof," he said.

Established in July 1998, the ECF is a club of electoral commissions from Sadc countries, which run elections in their respective states.

The forum seeks to strengthen co-operation and support among member countries on electoral issues and democracy building, promote conditions conducive to free, fair and transparent elections in Sadc countries while promoting democracy as a political system of responsible and accountable governance through elections.

Rev Mokobi dismissed reports that elections in Zimbabwe would not be free and fair saying it was unfortunate that some countries were pre-judging the election results before the process has been finalised.

"We cannot operate that way. We (observers) have to see what happens on March 29 and all should be able to produce their reports.

"We also have to understand why there are some countries and groups that are coming up with such pre-judged reports," he said.

He said the ECF observer mission was in Zimbabwe to see to it that ZEC was ready for the elections and working according to international standards on the holding of free, fair and transparent elections.

The Pan African Parliament Election Observer mission said it has been encouraged by the situation prevailing in
Zimbabwe ahead of the elections.

The mission’s chairperson, Mr Marwick Khumalo, said stakeholders, who include opposition parties and civic society whom they had met, acknowledged that there had been an improvement in the political environment compared to previous elections.

In an interview, Mr Khumalo said although it was premature to comment on the freeness and fairness of the weekend polls, there has been political tolerance among political players and candidates.

"It wouldn’t be right for now to enter into that territory of whether the elections would be free and fair. What we have seen and heard so far is that although there have been challenges, an overall assessment is that the observer mission remains encouraged by the democratic mood prevailing in the country up to this point," said Mr Khumalo, who chairs the Southern Africa PAP.

"The mood is definitely not negative but positive, so we hope the situation will get better and better."

He said although political parties and civic society raised several concerns, they were in agreement that Government had opened up on all players to access the media.

"They acknowledged that they are being allowed to flight their advertisements on radio and television, something that used not to happen in the past," he said.

In a separate interview with New Ziana, Mr Khumalo said: "After what Africa witnessed in Kenya, we are very much encouraged by the pre-poll situation in Zimbabwe.

"The mood is good and it brings hope to the continent that we are moving in the right direction."

He said all the stakeholders that the team had met since its arrival on Saturday had expressed satisfaction at Zimbabwe’s preparedness to hold the polls.

The mission has met the Morgan Tsvangirai MDC faction, Zanu-PF, representatives of independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni, National Constitutional Assembly chairman Dr Lovemore Madhuku and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network.

Yesterday they met Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairman Justice George Chiweshe, who responded to several concerns raised by the political parties.

Mr Khumalo said complaints raised by political parties and civic society included the number of ballot papers which parties felt were more than the number of registered voters.

Justice Chiweshe told the PAP that the printing of more ballot papers than the number of registered voters was strategic as they did not want to run into shortages on polling day.

The opposition had also complained about the coverage given to Zanu-PF presidential candidate President Mugabe as they felt that he was enjoying more coverage than them.

"That complaint is a bit technical because how do you draw the line or the difference because he is still the sitting President and the Head of Government. He is a newsmaker and it is important that people balance these competing interests," said Mr Khumalo.

He said a final statement on the conduct of elections would be released on April 1.

PAP is a new body the African Union created three years ago to monitor and observe elections on the continent.

Its first mission was in Kenya where more than 1 000 civilians lost their lives in post-election violence.

Britain, the European Union and the United States have been on a campaign to discredit the elections.

They have already condemned the electoral process in Zimbabwe way before elections have been conducted.

The opposition has of late joined the fray making allegations of irregularities, which they have failed to substantiate when asked to do so by observer teams.

‘Security agents ready for violence’

Herald Reporter

THE Minister of State for National Security in the President’s Office, Cde Didymus Mutasa, has assured the nation that security agencies are ready to deal with any acts of violence that might arise after Saturday’s elections.

In an interview in Headlands, Rusape, where he held a rally, Cde Mutasa described as mischievous utterances by Morgan Tsvangirai branding any results not in his favour as "fraudulent".

"It is a very mischievous statement. Why is he then going for an election if he would not accept the results? Why is he preparing the MDC not to accept the results?" he said.

"Tsvangirai needs to behave better. We are not warning him, but we are saying we are ready to preserve law and order."

Addressing a rally at Nemaire School in Headlands where he is contesting, Cde Mutasa criticised Simba Makoni for rebelling against Zanu-PF.

He said Makoni never expressed interest in standing as a Zanu PF presidential candidate at the ruling party’s December 2007 Extraordinary Congress.

Cde Mutasa said Makoni was a failure.

"What has made him fail in all those years he has been in office? If he has failed during his years with us, what will make him succeed as a president? He was Zanu-PF’s secretary for economic affairs and he failed while in that office. What guarantee is there that he will turn around the fortunes of this country?"

He said Manicaland Province was saddened by Makoni’s decision to contest President Mugabe at a crucial time in the history of the revolution.

Cde Mutasa supported Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s view that President Mugabe should remain in office until he has resolved Zimbabwe’s problems.

"I read in newspapers that Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi has said we should not trouble President Mugabe with elections. He said vaMugabe should remain in power until he dies. Ndidzotsika dzedu dzechivanhu.

"Vana Mambo Makoni makavavhotera kangani? Vanogara variMambo kusvika vafa."

Cde Mutasa is confident that he will win the Headlands constituency.

Meanwhile, businessman and farmer Mr Temba Mliswa has pledged to assist the people of Headlands with maize and fertilizers.

This followed concerns of hunger by the people in the constituency.

Mr Mliswa pledged 15 tonnes of maize, 30 tonnes of Compound D fertilizer and 15 tonnes of Compound C for tobacco farmers.

"I am expecting 2 000 tonnes of maize from my farm and I will give you some."

British pilot nabbed while doing MDC work

Herald Reporter-Sapa

Police yesterday arrested a British pilot after landing at Charles Prince Airport in Harare while doing work for the MDC Tsvangirai faction.

Chief police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena last night said he would issue a statement today over the arrest of South Africa-based pilot Brent Smythe and the subsequent impounding of the helicopter he was flying.

Britain has on several occasions openly admitted to funding the MDC, first at its formation through the Westminster Foundation and recently through the Law Society of Zimbabwe and civic organisations.

MDC faction leader Morgan Tsvangirai recently wrote on the website of the Wall Street Journal that his party would return to white farmers land allocated to black Zimbabweans under Government’s land reforms.

He described the land acquisition and resettlement programme as illegal, which analysts said was meant to please his party’s Western backers.

"It is interesting that soon after Tsvangirai’s article in the Wall Street Journal, a helicopter flown by a British is sent to prop up his campaign," an analyst said last night.

South African media reports, quoting Smythe’s employer, said he was arrested shortly before he was due to transport Tsvangirai on his campaign trail ahead of elections on Saturday.

However, a Reuters report said Smythe was delivering campaign material for the MDC when he was arrested at the Charles Prince with two other MDC officials — Jameson Timba and Garikai Chuma.

Sapa news agency, quoting Wessel van den Bergh, chief executive officer of ATS Aviation Services, said Smythe was being detained at Harare Central Police Station.

Van den Bergh said Smythe was due to fly Tsvangirai to various constituencies over the next two days and was expecting to take off at 7am yesterday.

Smythe’s family were informed of the situation and the company had been informed that he was unharmed.

The helicopter was by last night still at Charles Prince Airport. — Herald Reporter/Sapa.

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