Monday, February 09, 2009

Zimbabwe News Update: Country Free to Use Rand

‘Zim free to use rand’

Herald Reporter

SOUTH African President Cde Kgalema Motlanthe says Zimbabwe can adopt the rand as its standard currency in order to address the prevailing economic challenges and to assist the inclusive Government.

Inclusive Govt deserves our support: Motlanthe
In an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday, President Motlanthe, who is also Sadc chairman, said Zimbabwe was free to engage the Reserve Bank of South Africa on the matter.

"We have to help them so that the coalition Government works," he said, adding: "It may be practical for them to enter into an arrangement with the Reserve Bank here and allow the rand to become common currency."

Zimbabwe adopted a multiple-currency trading system last week where the rand, the US dollar and Botswana pula operate as legal tender alongside the Zimbabwe dollar.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono, however, said the move was not tantamount to dollarisation.

Presenting his Monetary Policy Statement, dubbed "Turning Our Difficulties Into Opportunities — Exports, Forex, Exports", on Monday last week, Dr Gono said the multiple-currency trading system was meant to liberalise the economy.

‘This is a tailor-made strategic intervention that is meant to bring convenience to the general public, as well as supporting productive efficiencies, whilst at the same time preserving the sovereign Zimbabwe dollar by giving it company among other currencies of choice, which is the essence of multi-currencying," he said.

A base exchange rate of Z$2 to the South African rand and Z$20 to the US dollar also came into effect on Monday last week.

The revaluation of the dollar and the new dual pricing framework are aimed at helping shore up the domestic currency.

The pricing formulae would be based on the inter-bank market-determined exchange rate.

Dr Gono said even in the face of the current economic and political difficulties confronting the economy, the Zimbabwe dollar "ought to remain and must remain the nation’s currency, so as to safeguard our national identity and sovereignty".

There was no immediate comment from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe last night on President Motlanthe’s offer.

Bill sent to President for signing

Herald Reporter

PARLIAMENT has forwarded Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 19) Bill to the Office of the President and Cabinet for assent by Cde Mugabe ahead of the swearing-in of the Prime Minister-designate and his two deputies tomorrow.

Prime Minister-designate Mr Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputies, MDC leader Professor Arthur Mutambara and MDC-T deputy head Ms Thokozani Khupe, are set to be sworn in tomorrow as the country’s three main political parties move towards the full implementation of the broad-based agreement signed on September 15 last year.

The Bill sailed through the House of Assembly and Senate last Thursday with legislators from Zanu-PF, MDC-T and MDC, along with an independent, unanimously endorsing it.

In an interview yesterday, Parliament spokesperson Retired Major Edward Mbewe confirmed the Bill had gone through all the processes at the two Houses and had been forwarded to the President’s Office.

"As we all know, the Bill sailed through both Houses and the Clerk of Parliament has finished all the processes required and has forwarded it to the relevant authorities," he said.

Principal Director in the Ministry of Information and Publicity Dr Sylvester Maunganidze said after the passing of the Bill in Parliament and completion of the necessary documentation, it would then await President Mugabe’s signature to become an Act of Parliament.

"The Bill was passed in Parliament and, as you well know, nothing else is done until President Mugabe assents to it. You will then be advised accordingly," he said.

When a Bill is passed in Parliament, both Houses, through the Speaker of the House of Assembly and the President of Senate, would then prepare certificates through the Clerk of Parliament for President Mugabe to append his signature for it to become law.

The passing of Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 19) Bill, which seeks to give legal effect to the framework of the inclusive Government, effectively sealed the second step towards the formation of the inclusive Government.

This followed the setting up of the tripartite Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee that will monitor the implementation of the broad-based agreement.

Parliament is today set to debate the National Security Council Bill, which seeks to establish a statutory body that will take over the functions of the Joint Operations Command.

The National Security Council was established in 1999 through a presidential decree and was operating as an administrative body, but the Bill seeks to make it a statutory institution.

Tomorrow’s swearing-in of the Prime Minister and his deputies precedes the appointment and swearing-in of Cabinet ministers to complete the formation of the new inclusive Government by the three parliamentary parties.

The new Government is expected to be fully constituted on Friday, February 13.

Zim gets US$11m humanitarian aid

Herald Reporter

The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund has allocated Zimbabwe US$11 million in humanitarian aid.

The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr John Holmes, announced the aid package last week in which 14 countries, including Zimbabwe, were allocated a total of US$75 million to boost humanitarian response.

The 14 countries are faced with food shortages, diseases and conflict.

The funds will be granted to UN humanitarian agencies and the International Organisation for Migration, and through them to partner organisations, including non-governmental organisations, to support humanitarian projects in the affected countries.

Countries were selected to receive grants based on an analysis of the funding levels of their aid programmes, the severity of the humanitarian needs, security and other constraints on aid delivery.

Humanitarian actors in Zimbabwe received the largest single allocation of US$11 million.

Agencies working in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ethiopia and Somalia will receive allocations of US$10 million per country. Humanitarian agencies in Yemen will receive US$5 million, as will humanitarian partners in Colombia and Haiti.

Meanwhile, programmes in Burundi and Niger will receive US$4 million, and Myanmar US$3 million. Humanitarian actors in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, and Eritrea will each receive US$2 million.

This is the first round of allocations from the Central Emergency Response Fund’s window for under-funded emergencies in 2009.

The second round will be in July. In 2008, a total of US$128 million was allocated to under-funded emergencies.

The Central Emergency Response Fund is bankrolled by voluntary contributions from member states, non-governmental organisations, local governments, the private sector and individual donors.

The fund was established in 2006 to help agencies respond rapidly to new or deteriorating humanitarian situations. It is administered by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Harare teachers return to work

Herald Reporter

TEACHERS reported for duty in Harare yesterday following an ultimatum by Government last week that absentees will be replaced.

Schools opened on January 27 but teachers — mostly at former Group B and council schools — had not been reporting for duty demanding payment of their salaries in foreign currency.

When The Herald visited a number of the schools in Harare yesterday, lessons were underway with headmasters, students and parents confirming that teachers had resumed work.

"Almost all of them have reported for work today. This follows a plea by Government urging parents to chip in with assistance towards their welfare," said Dzivaresekwa 6 Council Primary School headmaster, only identified as Mr Mudzingwa.

Pupils interviewed at the school confirmed that teachers reported for duty and conducted lessons.

Mr Mudzingwa, however, said the teachers had given school authorities a two-week ultimatum within which to address their concerns that included bus fare and money for their upkeep.

The school has applied for permission to charge US$60 per term in fees, part of which would be given to teachers as incentives.

At Kuwadzana 8 Primary School, teachers were conducting lessons.

The teachers reported for duty after parents agreed to pay US$5 (per parent) every month as an incentive.

At Kuwadzana High School, Budiriro 5 Primary School, Mukai High School in Highfield, Ellis Robins High in Mabelreign, Dzivaresekwa 4 Primary School, Glen View 8 Primary School and Glen View 2 Primary School, teachers reported for duty and students confirmed that they conducted lessons after parents offered incentives.

However, some students at Ellis Robins claimed to have been chased away from school for non-payment of fees.

"We were chased away for not paying the US$80 per term fee," one of the pupils said.

The schools were demanding fees in foreign currency whose amounts varied from school to school.

For example, Kuwadzana 8 Council Primary School has pegged fees at US$65 per term and parents were seen paying while Budiriro 5 Council Primary School is demanding US$30.

Reasons for the discrepancy could not be immediately established.

The Secretary for Education, Sport and Culture, Dr Stephen Mahere, last week said teachers who did not report for duty by yesterday would be replaced.

He said their vacancies would be filled by student teachers on teaching practice, retired teachers and temporary teachers.Dr Mahere said Government was aware of their grievances and was doing everything possible to address them.

MDC-T should come clean on sanctions

EDITOR — Everyone in this country and in many other countries is looking forward to the inclusive Government that our major political parties have agreed to form.

It has been a long road and, at one point, I am sure I would be right to say, many of us thought that this thing would never get off the ground.

Despite all the odds, it appears to be finally happening.

But in the midst of all this euphoria, would I be amiss to say that the people have been missing something that could ultimately be crucial to the success of the inclusive Government?

While the private media and the western world have over-extended themselves in pointing out MDC-T’s grievances and demands, no one has thought of Zanu-PF’s one demand.

It is only one issue, but it has a serious bearing on how this whole thing turns out.

That is the issue of sanctions.

It is fair and fine to talk about MDC-T’s and Morgan Tsvangirai’s complaints, but this important matter of sanctions has to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

The fact is sanctions have devastated this country to the point where we have problems with what should be simple matters, like the cholera outbreak.

Understandably, MDC-T and its supporters claim that they cannot do anything about the sanctions because they are not the ones who imposed them.

But, sincerely speaking in the interest of this country, the opposition played a leading role in the imposition of the economic embargo that has seen Zimbabwe fail to access money from multilateral financial institutions to which the country is a bona fide member.

No matter how well-meaning the inclusive Government may be, it will find that it cannot function properly as long as these sanctions — both declared and undeclared — are in place and affecting the economy in the way that they are right now.

MDC-T could soon find that Zanu-PF is neither politicking nor engaging in electoral propaganda when it said the sanctions are hurting this economy.

As far as I remember, the agreement signed last year binds Zanu-PF, MDC-T and MDC to denounce sanctions.

From my own reckoning thus far, Zanu-PF and MDC have done so on a number of occasions, but we are yet to hear anything from the party that will give us a Prime Minister very soon.

For the sake of the nation, I urge all the parties to treat this aspect of the agreement with the same seriousness that they have given to the other aspects that have created a Prime Minister’s post and reserved seats in Cabinet for the opposition.

While MDC-T did not impose the sanctions, they certainly know that they can talk to their friends in the West to lift them so that the people of Zimbabwe can once again access the balance of payments support that is critical to most, if not all, developing countries.

If the West refuses, at least we will all know that we are on the same side and are all genuinely concerned about the welfare of the people of this country.

My only plea to all our politicians and all those non-governmental organisations and other political players involved in Zimbabwe is to actively lobby for the lifting of the sanctions.

In the absence of this, all efforts at economic recovery might amount to nothing.

Marko Moyo.

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