Thursday, December 25, 2014

Zimbabwe Facing Economic Challenges: Govt Staggers Civil Servants’ Bonuses
Zimbabwe Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
December 25, 2014
Bulawayo Bureau
Zimbabwe Herald

A MAJORITY of civil servants who did not receive their bonuses last month will get them before the end of the month while the rest will get them staggered up to the end of January, a Cabinet Minister has said.

Public Service Minister Prisca Mupfumira on Tuesday said due to cash flow challenges, Government could not pay all the bonuses at once as promised.

Civil servants, however, said they were not aware of the development and expressed anger at their employer, saying they were being forced to adjust their budgets once again.

The Government last week shifted bonus dates from this week to the first week of January.

“Due to low cash inflows being experienced at Treasury, we realised that we could no longer pay the outstanding bonuses at once. Government then resolved that it would pay all its workers’ December salaries before Christmas and then stagger the bonuses for those who are yet to get them,” said Minister Mupfumira.

“Half of the workers will get their bonuses at the end of December, while the rest will get theirs at the end of January next year. I want to appeal to the workers to bear with the Government. I also want to assure them that they will definitely get their bonuses.”

The bonuses were initially staggered between November and December, with the uniformed forces receiving their 13th cheques last month.

Apex Council president Richard Gundane said Government workers were not aware of the development: “We’re disturbed by the development as it is the latest in a chapter of promises that have not been met. Colleagues in the uniformed forces received their bonuses last month and we thought it was only fair for the rest of the civil servants to get theirs as promised by the Government,” said Gundane.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Little Christmas cheer, but there is hope

December 25, 2014
Opinion & Analysis
Zimbabwe Herald

After a busy year, which saw great changes on both the political and business sphere in Zimbabwe, together with the rest of the world we celebrate the festive season. It has been a hard year for the economy and even worse for the workers. There is not much to celebrate although we have noted over the past few days that many families have gone out of their way to bring a cheer into this day.

Clothing and grocery shops have been teeming with customers, but things could be better.

Gross Domestic Product growth has slowed and downward revisions were made during the course of the year on key sectors.

Aggregate demand fell to its lowest as both manufacturers and consumers were constrained by tight liquidity conditions. Food inflation was mostly in the negative for the year as customers stuck to just buying the basics. Profitability for companies decreased while the majority reported losses.

More than 5 000 companies closed affecting about 55 443 employees, some went into judicial management while some are facing liquidation.

The “not in a hurry” attitude of regulatory approvals was the order of the day.

However, the economy has shown resilience and even in the hardships, a new normal has emerged which is being driven by the informal economy. Going forward, it is laudable that Government expressed its desire to tap into this and to formalise such operations into the mainstream economy.

For the economy as a whole, what is still lacking is key stimulus to address the macro-economic challenges. What Zimbabwe needs is a cocktail of good fiscal and monetary policies in addition to local and foreign investment to jump start the economy.

To stimulate local investments, the Government’s fiscal policy should address savings and to increase savings, the cash strapped Government should lower taxes. In order to improve Foreign Direct Investment inflows, Government should address the ease of doing business issues and Indigenous and Economic Empowerment laws and regulation.

The fact that an insignificant amount of the 2015 National Budget was allocated to capital expenditure means joblessness and economic stagnation is set to continue.

Capital projects spur economic growth and increase employment levels and thus increase demands of goods and services, the result is stimulating economic growth. Support this with favourable investment policies and you have an economy firing on four cylinders. Given the current internal economic situation Zimbabwe faces, this was the supposed direction Government should have taken.

It is, however, heartening that Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa has already indicated that Government will next year pronounce new business policies aimed at relaxing indigenisation laws and promoting Foreign Direct Investment.

The measures agreed to by Cabinet to revive industry such as the transformation of the National Incomes and Pricing Commission into the National Competitiveness Commission (NCC) that will look at the operating environment, monitor the cost drivers and advise on measures to be taken to address emerging challenges, are definitely destined to ensure that the economy gets back on the rails in the New Year.

However, such measures should be further buttressed by the continuous re-engagement of the international community that has already starting to bear fruit with the likes of the World Bank pledging to contribute to a fund for the reconstruction of the country.

The potential is there we just need to continue doing and saying the right things.

Indigenisation to stay: Mushohwe

December 24, 2014
Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter
Zimbabwe Herald

Government will not be swayed from its indigenisation policy on the pretext that the law is chasing investors away, newly appointed Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Chris Mushohwe said yesterday. He said the Government would remain guided by the law in the implementation of its indigenisation and economic empowerment programmes.

Minister Mushohwe made the remarks at a meeting with leaders from various youth sectors in Harare yesterday.

This comes as Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the weekend said Government would early next year review the country’s indigenisation policies in a bid to promote foreign direct investment.

Acting President Mnangagwa told businesspeople who paid him a courtesy call at his farm in Kwekwe at the weekend that Government would also get rid of bureaucratic regulations that inconvenienced prospective investors.

Minister Mushohwe said soon after his appointment to the current portfolio, some sections of the media had bombarded him with questions on whether the 51 percent to 49 percent indigenous and foreign ownership respectively would be revised to attract FDI.

“In fact they (foreigners) are very lucky that they get 49 percent,” said Minister Mushohwe.

“In fact, 49 percent is the maximum and 51 percent is the minimum. So it’s not cast in concrete that it’s 49 percent, it can be one percent because it’s the maximum and 51 percent can be 99 percent because it’s the minimum.

“This tendency of threatening each other saying foreign direct investment won’t be available is not true. We are a sovereign State. We welcome FDI, we welcome foreigners to come into our country to invest on our terms.

“Whoever doubts that claiming that they are Zimbabwean, I want to see them. It has to be on our terms.”

Under the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, foreign-owned firms with a minimum threshold of US$500 000 are to cede 51 percent shareholding to indigenous Zimbabweans.

Minister Mushohwe said it was Zimbabwe’s prerogative to spell out shareholding structure of foreign-owned firms.

He said the capital that foreigners brought to start businesses in Zimbabwe could not be valued more than the resources that they extracted.

Minister Mushohwe said he had also demanded officials in his ministry to avail to him a list of all indigenous Zimbabweans who were said to have bought majority shareholding in foreign-owned firms in line with the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.

“So I requested my directors to give me a list of indigenous people who were empowered so that we see their names to avoid a situation where we keep empowering the same person who is said to have capital to buy shares from several companies,” the Minister said.

“And we must get to a point where we will say why is the same person buying shares from every company and why are all the white businesspeople choosing the same person to partner them?

“You have the right to know who are those people who have been empowered who are said to be more than 1 000 whom we don’t know.

“In terms of this (national) Constitution, the Zanu-PF constitution and in terms of indigenisation and economic empowerment policies, it must be broad-based empowerment and broad-based does not talk about one person or a group of people. Who are they? Zimbabwe is bigger than one person or a group of people,” said Minister Mushohwe.

The meeting was attended by several youth leaders from business, Zanu-PF, Zimbabwe Youth Council, students and junior parliament and council.

Zanu-PF Politburo member for Youth Affairs, Cde Pupurai Togarepi, said the party would be glad to work with youths from all sectors as long as they believed in taking the revolution forward.

Letter from Africa: Zimbabwe's season of no cheer?

BBC World News

In our series of letters from African journalists, film-maker and columnist Farai Sevenzo says that it is not only the rainy season that is dampening people's spirits in Zimbabwe in the run-up to Christmas.

The rains are the topic of discussion all over southern Africa at the moment - they cannot be avoided.

The rivers are bursting, the potholes are growing under the weight of the downpours and the long-suffering clients of the Harare Municipality are relieved to be filling containers with God-sent rain instead of relying on the suspect water which flows fully tanned from their taps.

The massive amounts of fresh water though have not brought fresh sparkle to the festive season in Harare.

Bonuses dried up

The rains arrived soon after the ruling Zanu-PF party of President Robert Mugabe had confirmed him as their presidential candidate for 2017 - by which time he will be just six years shy of being the same age as the 1917 Russian Revolution.

And the farmers who would ordinarily rejoice at the arrival of the rains are few on the ground and pressed for cash.

Christmas bonuses have all but dried up, and the finance minister told the nation back in November's budget that up to 4,600 companies had closed down since the Zanu-PF victory of 2013, with the loss of 60,000 jobs.

Civil servants, the bedrock of the working force, find their salaries unable to meet the cost of living and there is a government scramble each month to pay them at all.

The Grain Marketing Board, responsible for feeding the nation, is to ask its 3,600 employees to go on compulsory fortnightly unpaid leave each month starting in January 2015.

It has not paid its workers for the past four months and owes farmers who delivered grain a year ago some $37m (£23.6m).

The Harare City Council made some of its executives redundant last month because they could no longer meet the high salaries, but paid several of them up to $500,000 each in golden handshakes.

These are disheartening figures in the season of good cheer, and it shows in the faces of the crowds milling around the rain-soaked shopping centres with half-empty shopping baskets containing only the basics.

The economy, to be blunt, is precariously balanced over a precipice even with the introduction of the US greenback as the currency of choice back in 2009.

There is a sickening disparity of fortunes between the haves and the have-nots.

Harare now boasts a Jaguar and Land Rover showroom, the roads are clogged with four-wheel drives of every make, Bentleys negotiate potholes behind taxis, while the very poor sell grilled maize or piles of tomatoes by mud-soaked roads for a few sweat-stained dollars.

It is a minor miracle then that Santa Claus has not been necklaced in these parts for being a capitalist imperialist hoodwinking the masses to spend for this one day in December, when there is no money available.

There is a whole government drive to promote the most incredible mineral find in Zimbabwe's history, known as Zim Asset, which stands for "Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation".

But the plan to cash in on the platinum, diamonds and gold spewing out from the earth remains uncoordinated, with allegations that mineral wealth is being concentrated in the hands of top officials rather than the coffers of the nation's treasury.

Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin

Those of you who may have caught the headlines from Zimbabwe's capital will know by now that the country has two new vice-presidents and that there have been many political machinations under way.

The president has fired several of his top lieutenants, including his popular deputy Joyce Mujuru, and appointed his chief security man Emmerson Mnangagwa as his number two.

We could at this point reach for some Russian Revolution analogies and say Mr Mugabe's Lenin got rid of his Trotsky and appointed his Stalin, but the only analogy that really holds true is that revolutions are capable of eating their own.

President Mugabe's speeches have been about treason, treachery and witches, and his voice increasingly appears to be coming from a ventriloquist as time and age takes its toll.

In the run-up to the congress, Grace Mugabe made uncompromising attacks on her husband's perceived enemies, sowing the demise of Mrs Mujuru and up to 20 top officials thought to have sympathised with her.

In tactics Zanu-PF once reserved for the opposition, mobs harassed these high-level figures, there were allegations of armed abductions; nomination papers were sabotaged or prevented from reaching officials on time, the party constitution was ignored.

Such a "bloodbath" - in the words of the local press's melodramatic reportage - was about power and life after Robert Mugabe. The economy and the immediate problems of survival for the many took a back seat at the congress.

The ruling party's politburo jostled for positions, sharp elbows being deployed before the congress , which turned out, in the words of one disgruntled Zanu-PF member, to have been nothing but a "praise and worship show" for the ageing leader.

The name Mugabe is as widely known throughout Africa for the sheer presence of its owner's personality, his defiant streak, his extraordinary longevity. Throughout the rest of the world it is a synonym for far less flattering denotations of the excesses of Africa's autocratic leaders.

Some alleged that the dispatching of Mrs Mujuru was a "bedroom coup" organised by the first lady in preparation for life after Robert Mugabe.

So what will happen to the so-called "first family" when its head falls away to join the ancestors?

Will the new leaders respect them?

Will they be allowed to keep their enormous lands and wealth?

These are the questions, many suggest, which compelled the first lady to enter the ring to succeed Mr Mugabe.

She has settled for chairperson of the Zanu-PF Women's League for now with Mr Mnangagwa, the silent securocrat, the last man standing in a bare-knuckle fight that is without precedent in the party's 48-year history.

It has been theatre for Machiavelli lovers.

The first family, it turns out, is holidaying in Singapore this Christmas, but for most people it has become a time to hold on to American currency, to remind themselves that, come January, the problems of jobs, food and school fees will once again take centre stage in a nation that always seems to be waiting for divine intervention.

And the future is not written in print or stone, it is as fluid as the rains.

The purged politicians have disappeared from the media space, but it was left to the deposed vice-president to sum up the nation's mood when she emerged after the congress like a battered and jilted lover.

"Life," Mrs Mujuru said, "goes on."

Parirenyatwa alerts nation on cholera

December 24, 2014
Diana Nherera Herald Reporter

Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa has urged the nation to be on high alert for cholera as the rainy season starts. He said although there had not been any cholera cases recently, his ministry wanted people to be on high alert during the rainy season. Cholera cases often spike during the rainy season due to poor sanitation and dirty wet conditions.

“Although there have not been any cholera cases that have been recorded, the Ministry of Health and Child Care still alerts the nation of the disease as we are in the rainy season.

“This is because during this time there is a lot of rain and dirt because of poor sanitation,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.

The worst cholera outbreaks in Zimbabwe were recorded in 2008 and 2009, which were also attributed to poor sanitation and poor water infrastructure.

The outbreak left hundreds of people dead in some parts of Harare.

Other causes of cholera include refuse that has not been collected, burst sewers that are not attended to and the unavailability of running water.

Cholera is caused by a bacteria called vibro cholerae and it spreads by eating food or drinking water that is contaminated and is characterised by heavy watery diarrhoea.

Other symptoms are intense thirst, little or no urine, dry skin and mouth, absence of tears. If the symptoms are left untreated, they can lead to death.

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