Sunday, October 31, 2010

Zimbabwe News Update: EU Accepts Envoy; Farmers Awarded Grant; Meeting Fuel Needs

EU accepts Zim envoy

By Tinashe Farawo
Zimbabwe Herald

The European Union will not interfere with President Mugabe’s redeployment of ambassadors because the matter is internal, the recently appointed EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Aldo Dell’Ariccia, has said.

In an interview last week, Mr Dell’Ariccia said the posting of diplomats should be left to individual sovereign states.

“This is a reflection of internal matters, which must be dealt with internally,” said Mr Dell’ Ariccia shortly after making his contribution on the sanctions on Zimbabwe debate organised by a local NGO.

In his contribution, Mr Dell’Ariccia said the EU would continue engaging Zimbabwe because it was strategic to the bloc’s economic interests.

Early last month, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai wrote letters to the UN, EU and South Africa demanding the expulsion of some recently redeployed diplomats in those countries.

South Africa did not respond to PM Tsvangirai’s letter.

MDC secretary-general Professor Welshman Ncube yesterday said problems could not be solved by writing letters to foreigners or addressing rallies.

“Yes, there are problems but they cannot be solved in the media or by writing letters to foreigners but through negotiations,” he said.

Prof Ncube distanced his party from the letters written to EU and SA.

“We do not subscribe to those letters written to various international bodies and governments because we believe in dialogue,” he said.

A fortnight ago, the United Nations dismissed the MDC-T leader’s plea for the world body not to recognise the deployment of Ambassador Chitsaka Chipaziwa as Zimbabwe’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York.

UN deputy spokesperson Mr Farham Haq brushed aside PM Tsvangirai’s letter, arguing Ambassador Chipaziwa was properly accredited.

“The appointment of an ambassador is an internal matter for a member state which is to be decided upon in accordance with the provisions of its own domestic law.

“Ambassador Chipaziwa was properly accredited as Permanent Representative of the Republic of Zimbabwe to the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 28 June 2010.

“We will be bound by the letter of his accreditation until advised otherwise by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he said.

Mr Dell’Ariccia’s statement last week put to rest the debate on whether diplomats redeployed by President Mugabe should be accepted by those countries or not.

Speaking after Tuesday’s debate, political analyst Dr Tafataona Mahoso said it was shocking that the PM (Tsvangirai) still thought outsiders could solve the country’s internal problems.

“I find it quite offensive when the PM still thinks that our erstwhile enemies are our saviours, yet they have proved beyond any reasonable doubt that they don’t wish us well,” he said.

PM Tsvangirai also came under fire from his partners in the inclusive Government for trying to rope in foreigners in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.

President Mugabe last month said PM Tsvangi-rai’s letters to the UN and other countries on the issue of ambassadors were mere politicking and “absolutely nonsensical,” pointing out that all due processes had been followed.

The President in May reassigned several serving diplomats in line with the Constitution.

A2 farmers must shun handouts

Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald

WE want to commend the Government for coming up with the US$30 million farming inputs scheme for communal and small-scale farmers.

Communal farmers, in particular, have traditionally produced the bulk of the country’s staple food, maize and, as such, they deserve all the support that can be mobilised for production.

We believe that if there is any group of farmers that should be supported, it is communal farmers for they have proved over the years that they genuinely need the support and that when given the inputs, such as fertiliser and seed, they always put them to productive use.

While Government’s support for the communal, old resettlement, A1 and small-scale farmers has been hailed as positive contribution to achieving food security, there has been an outcry among some A2 farmers who feel Government should have come up with a similar scheme for them.

We, however, tend to disagree with that as we strongly believe that A2 farmers are in the business of farming and, as such, should not depend on Government handouts. A2 farmers are in business, like any other people in other sectors, and should thus approach banks for loans to finance their operations.

They should be able to craft bankable proposals and cash-flow projections to borrow money for productive purposes. A2 farmers should be that group of people that is deemed to have the capacity in terms of financial resources to fund their production and should not expect much by way of support from the Government.

We believe the outcry from some of the A2 farmers is misplaced as, using the property and machinery they have, they can easily get funding from financial institutions.

Some commercial banks are extending loans to A2 farmers and instead of wailing these farmers should take advantage of the window the banks have opened for them. They need to show proof of their offer letters and the ability to repay the loans. They must also provide collateral security, which most of them indicated they possessed upon being given the farms.

Most A2 farmers indicated they had resources to enable them to stand on their own, without depending heavily on the Government. We wonder where that capacity has suddenly vanished to for them to clamour, like communal farmers, for inputs support.

It would have made sense to demand Government support in the absence of a borrowing window from banks. We believe serious farmers will always take farming as a business and approach banks for funding.

Those who have been doing well in the previous seasons can always invest in the business.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with the Government, if it so wishes, funding A2 farmers but we want to discourage A2 farmers from sitting on their laurels in the hope their operations would be funded by the Government.

The farmers must go out of their way to seek their own funding and when they make a profit to always remember to set aside a certain percentage to fund farming operations and in the process move away from being dependent on the Government.

We hope to see A2 farmers making a beeline to the banks to get money to finance their production and boost food security.

Zim can ‘grow’ its own fuel

By Garikai Chengu

ZIMBABWE’S agrarian revolution is proving to be a resounding success on several fronts, not least the extent to which it is promoting economic independence.

In order to achieve energy independence Zimbabwe must embark on yet another agrarian revolution, this time fuelled by ethanol.

Ethanol is a clean-burning motor fuel that is produced from renewable sources such as sugar cane. Ethanol can be blended with petrol or diesel, effectively allowing Zimbabwe to “grow” some of its own fuel.

Currently, Zimbabwe does not blend ethanol in its fuel nor does the nation have legislation that regulates and promotes the investment, production, marketing, and use of ethanol.

However, such legislation would unlock several enormous benefits of ethanol use for the nation, namely: energy independence, rural development and job creation and finally combating climate change.

The importance of Zimbabwe weaning itself off dependence on foreign oil is highlighted by, firstly, the fact that Zimbabwe is a non-oil producing country with comparatively high costs of importing oil due to its landlocked nature.

Secondly, the foreseeable persistent increase in prevailing international oil prices means that the nation will have to spend more of its scarce foreign exchange resources to obtain the same amount of fuel, putting pressure on the country’s balance of payments position.

By ensuring that ethanol constitutes up to 25 percent of transport fuel, Zimbabwe can reduce its dependence on foreign oil and lower exposure to the price volatility of the international oil market.

The production and use of ethanol would benefit the economy on all levels — local, provincial and national. From the metropolitan areas where drivers would fill up with a domestically produced fuel, to the local communities where the crops are grown and processed, Zimbabwean-made ethanol shall help propel the economy.

A prime example of how ethanol production can benefit local communities, by promoting rural development and creating employment, is the ongoing construction of the biggest ethanol plant in Africa in Chipinge.

By March 2011, the billion dollar ethanol project will produce 100 million litres of ethanol per annum, which is about 20 percent of the country’s total fuel requirements.

Ethanol holds the promise of contributing to rural development by creating jobs in feedstock production, biofuel manufacture and the transport and distribution of feedstock and products. In fact, the ethanol plant in Chipinge will employ over 7 000 people.

Ten thousand hectares has also been set aside for local farmers to be contracted to grow sugar-cane.

Quite aside from ethanol’s contribution to energy independence and rural development, Government should throw its weight behind ethanol as a means of combating climate change.

By signing the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement connected to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Zimbabwe has committed to reduce fossil fuel use, thereby reducing carbon emissions and helping to curb climate change and global warming.

In this respect, biofuels like ethanol have one enormous, overwhelming plus-point, which is that they are carbon-neutral.

When fossil fuels, oil, gas or coal are burned in cars or power stations, they add to the net amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas, which is the main cause of global warming.

The carbon they release is new to the atmosphere, because it has been buried deep within the earth for millions of years. On the other hand, when biofuels like ethanol are burned, they are only releasing the carbon dioxide which was absorbed from the atmosphere by the crops used to produce them as they grew. Biofuels are therefore classed as a renewable energy source.

Despite the fact that ethanol is home-grown, clean and renewable, Government only approved a draft energy policy for the first time in 2008 since achieving independence in 1980. However, Government is still yet to formulate a comprehensive policy on ethanol.

Government must draft comprehensive legislation that regulates and promotes the investment, production, marketing and use of ethanol. The absence of firm mandates or incentives has slowed any meaningful development of the biofuels sector.

The legislation must create incentives around two main areas: the use of ethanol and its production.

Regarding ethanol use, the legislation should provide various levels of exemption from motor fuel excise taxes for blenders and a mandatory fuel blend of, say, 25 percent ethanol and 75 percent petrol for filling stations.

Concerning ethanol production, the legislation should create incentives designed to encourage development of production facilities including: income tax credits for small ethanol producers, direct financing or guaranteed loans for capital construction, and direct subsidies for production.

Government should have no difficulty creating such generous incentives for the ethanol industry because ethanol is just about the only renewable-energy initiative that will have broad political support.

Nationalists would love it because it offers the possibility that Zimbabwe may wean itself off dependence on foreign oil. Farmers would love it because it would provide a new source of subsidy.

The automotive industry would love it, because it reckons that switching to a green fuel will take the global warming heat off cars.

The national oil industry would love it because the use of ethanol as a fuel additive means it is business as usual, at least for the time being.

Politicians will certainly love it because by subsidising ethanol they can please all those constituencies.

Besides, in all likelihood taxpayers won’t seem to notice that they are footing the bill.

But what they will notice is a cheaper, clean-burning, renewable energy source that will see us switch from dwindling foreign oil wells to boundless fields of crops to satisfy our energy needs. —
Garikai Chengu is a Researcher at Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He can be contacted at The views expressed herein are solely those of Garikai Chengu.

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