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Zimbabwe’s Mugabe is gone, but political kow-towing still abounds

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Politics

HARARE (Reuters) – Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule may be over, but a culture of political fawning by the Zimbabwean state media and fear of those in authority still flourishes.

The Herald newspaper and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation – state and ruling ZANU-PF party mouthpieces – routinely heaped lavish praise on the 93-year-old Mugabe and his wife Grace in sycophantic articles and commentaries.

With the sudden change of guard, Zimbabwe’s official media is having a hard time shaking off old habits and is now tailoring its eulogies to fit Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s successor.

State radio intersperses programmes with martial music from the war of independence in honour of Mnangagwa’s war veteran allies and the army.

One morning talk show host spoke glowingly on Tuesday of seeing the presidential motorcade at 0645 GMT. This, he said, signalled the new leader was keeping his word to hit the ground running.

“The president is showing the way so get to work on time,” he said.

Mnangagwa, 75, a close Mugabe ally for several decades, took power after the military takeover on Nov. 15 following a succession battle that split the ruling ZANU-PF party.

“Comrade Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, (is) a true son of the soil who sacrificed his entire life to serving Zibmabwe as evidenced by the role he played in the liberation struggle as well as after independence up to this day. We are blessed to have you as our leader,” an advertisement by the ministry for women affairs, gender and community development gushed in the Herald.

 

PERSONALITY CULTS

Not all within the ruling party are comfortable with the trend though.

Justice Wadyajena, a Mnangagwa admirer and outspoken ZANU-PF parliamentarian, reminded his Twitter followers of the dangers of personality cults.

“Those falling all over each other pledging loyalty to President ED are just brutes playing meek,” Wadyajena wrote, referring to Mnangagwa by the initials of his first and middle names.

“If you really are principled, there’s no reason to bootlick, your conduct should speak for itself. We’ve seen the danger of personalizing governance and gatekeeping a NATIONAL FIGURE!!”

Mnangagwa, who served Mugabe loyally for 52 years, is expected to form a new cabinet this week. Zimbabweans are watching to see if he breaks with the past and names a broad-based government or selects figures from the Mugabe era’s old guard.

 

 

(By Emelia Sithole-Matarise. Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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Africa gets younger while key leaders age

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Politics

mugabe

The average age of Africans is 19.5 but many of its leaders rank among the world’s oldest.

Africa has the youngest population on earth, but many of the continent’s leaders rank among the world’s oldest.

In Africa, 200 million people are between the ages of 15 and 24 and the population of young people is expected to double by 2045. The average age of Africans is only 19.5.

The youthful population contrasts with many long-standing government leaders who are in their 70s, 80s and 90s.

Zimbabwe president is 92

The oldest is Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who at age 92 is the oldest leader in the world. Mugabe was elected to his seventh term as president in 2013. Second oldest is Beji Caid Essebsi, 89, who was elected president of Tunisia in 2014.

Cameroon’s president Paul Biya is 83. He has been in power as prime minister and then president for 40 years, making him the longest serving leader on the continent.

African leaders in their 70s include Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 79, president of Algeria since 1999; Alpha Condé, 78, president of Guinea since 2010; Manuel Pinto da Costa, 78, president of Sao Tome and Principe since 2011 (and previously from 1975 to 1991); Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 77, who became president of Liberia in 2006; Peter Mutharika, 75, president of Malawi since 2014; Jacob Zuma, 74, president of South Africa since 2009; and Yoweri Museveni, 71, who has been president of Uganda since 1986.

Average age is 78.5

In 2015, the average age of the ten oldest African leaders was 78.5, compared to 52 years of age for the world’s 10 most developed countries. U.S. President Barack Obama is 54, Chinese president Xi Jinping is 62, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is 61, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is 63.

Many African nations enacted term limits to prevent leaders from staying too long in office, but leaders both younger and older have sidestepped those laws in recent years.

For example, in Rwanda, voters last year extended the potential term of popular president Paul Kagame, 58, until 2034, dispensing with term limits that would have prevented him from running for re-election to a third term in 2017.

In 2005, Ugandan lawmakers changed the constitution, allowing President Yoweri Museveni to seek re-election in 2006 and 2011. Now 71, Museveni was re-elected again this year.

Burundi election protests

In Burundi, the re-election to a third term of president Pierre Nkurunziza, 52, sparked protests by those who said it went against the country’s limit of two five-year terms.

Not all of Africa’s long-serving presidents are old. Joseph Kabila, now 44, has been president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2001, when he took office after the president, his father, was assassinated. Kabila was elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2011.

An election is scheduled in November in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and term limits could prevent Kabila from running for another term. However, the government has suggested the election may be delayed because of logistical problems, sparking protests as the opposition charges Kabila is maneuvering for another term.

Leadership may be out of touch

David E. Kiwuwa, an associate professor of international studies at Princeton University, said the aging leadership is out of touch as the youth population grows.

“With the burgeoning youthful demography at the bottom, the political top is a disturbingly graying lot,” Kiwuwa said.

He said while some African leaders survive by intimidation, others command the loyalty or even reverence of the public because they have been in office for so long and are seen as “fathers of a nation.”

He said the dominance of aging leaders has prevented younger, more creative leaders from emerging even as Africa’s population has grown younger.

“Why is Africa saddled with leaders who ought to be enjoying their retirement in peace and quiet?” Kiwuwa asked.

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Mugabe looks to nationalize Zimbabwe’s diamond industry

Comments (5) Africa, Business, Featured

Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe’s longtime President, Robert Mugabe, has announced the state will seize all of the nation’s diamond mines.

Zimbabwe’s controversial President, Robert Mugabe, has announced a massive change to the country’s diamond mining industry, in that all assets will now be state owned. In a move that is a throwback to his socialist roots, Mugabe claims that foreign mining companies have profiteered for too long off one of the nation’s most valuable commodities and he will ensure that the nation now reaps the rewards from its diamonds.

Mugabe gave an interview in early March to the state broadcaster ZBC, during which he expressed his anger at what he sees as foreign companies plundering Zimbabwe for a precious, natural resource. Mugabe claimed that, in doing so, foreign companies made around $15 billion in profits, while Zimbabwe itself had only earned $2 billion in the same period of time and, as such, the diamond rich region of Marange would now be a “state monopoly”.

The Marange diamond fields were only discovered in 2006 but by 2013 they were producing an astonishing 16.9 million carats of diamonds, which is akin to 13% of the world’s rough diamond supply. However, this output has dropped significantly due to reluctance by companies to invest in deeper exploration. Industry group Kimberly Process states that in 2014 Zimbabwe’s diamond production was around 4.7 million carats.

While it is understandable that Mugabe may feel the country needs to earn a greater proportion of the wealth that the Marange region is host to, issues of corruption and internal theft are perhaps as large a problem as outside sources. As far back as 2012, South Africa’s former President Thabo Mbeki warned that Zimbabwe was losing much of its diamond wealth to a “predatory elite” within its own nation.

Illegality plagues Zimbabwe’s diamond industry

The NGO Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), which monitors conflict minerals in Africa, produced a damning report in 2012 that stated government ministers in Zimbabwe were the ones becoming rich off the back of stolen diamonds. Corruption and theft were so rife that the organization said, “The scale of illegality is mind-blowing” and the investigation named former mines minister Obert Mpofu as having amassed an unaccountable fortune since mining began. Mpofu was said to have been spending $20 million “mostly in cash” over a 3 year period.

If high level government figures are the very people denying the state treasury of its rightful income from Marange’s diamond mines, then will a state owned monopoly make much difference? While Mugabe has angrily pointed the finger of blame abroad, it remains to be seen whether those now in charge of the state’s new body, Zimbabwe Diamond Consolidated Company, can ensure that the profits from diamond minds find their way to the rightful government coffers.

What is certain is that the foreign companies who have been mining in Zimbabwe will not take Mugabe’s orders without a fight. China has developed closer trade agreements with Zimbabwe in recent years and the Chinese-run mining company Anjin Investments has already challenged Mugabe’s ruling at the High Court. The early indications are that the courts might well side with the mining companies as the largest mine, Mbada Diamonds, has already won its case at the High Court and been given full control of its assets.

Whether this is a ruling that Mugabe’s government will accept and adhere by is an entirely different question. While some voices have expressed concern over how this dispute could affect trade between China and Zimbabwe, Mugabe himself dismissed such worries, saying, “I don’t think it has affected any of our relations at all…I told President Xi Jinping that we were not getting much from the company, and we didn’t like it anymore in this country.”

Zimbabwe diamond mine

Zimbabwe diamond mine

Where does Zimbabwe’s diamond industry go from here?

If the government of Zimbabwe overcomes the legal challenges, maintaining the $1 billion worth of Chinese trade despite seizing Chinese interests, and eradicates the corruption that has plagued the mining industry thus far, then it would obviously earn considerably more money. However, these are a sequence of unlikely outcomes given the manner in which the move has come and given the history of the mining industry in Zimbabwe.

There is the additional concern that potential investors in other mining projects within the country could be put off by this recent announcement regarding diamonds. John Turner, head of the mining group at law firm Fasten Martineau says, “To the extent that private firms were looking at Zimbabwe thinking they were ahead of the curve, this may give them pause for though.”

Any concerns outside of Zimbabwe have not appeared to weaken the resolve of Mugabe or his government. They insist that the problem lies with theft from abroad and moreover that recent mining has actually been illegal, as the mining companies had not renewed their licenses.

Amid conflicting claims and ongoing lawsuits, who emerges as having control over the lucrative Marange diamond mines over the next few months will be of interest to many parties and people both in and outside of Zimbabwe.

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We can’t pay: Zimbabwe farmers resist compensating evicted white landowners

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s plan to win back international funding by paying compensation to white farmers forced off their land faces a major snag: the black farmers expected to stump up the cash say they don’t have it.

The new occupants working the land, many of who had few farming skills when they were resettled, say they can barely make ends meet, let alone pay an extra levy.

Their agricultural output is a fraction of the level seen before 2000, when President Robert Mugabe – saying he sought to correct colonial injustices – introduced land reforms which led to thousands of experienced white farmers being evicted.

They are also being hammered by Zimbabwe’s worst drought in a quarter of a century and toiling under a stagnating economy that has seen banks reluctant to lend and cheaper food imports from the likes of South Africa undermining their businesses.

“Are farmers able to pay? I will say no. Is the land being productive? I will say no again,” said Victor Matemadanda, secretary general of a group representing war veterans who led the land seizure drive in 2000 and are now farmers.

He told Reuters that many farmers could not even meet water and electricity bills and that it was the government’s obligation – not theirs – to pay the compensation.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union President Abdul Nyathi also said his members would not be able to pay compensation. “Most of the farmers face viability issues, the government will have to look at other ways of raising money,” he added.

Mugabe’s land reforms have led to about 5,000 white farmers being evicted from their land by his supporters and war veterans over the past 16 years, often violently. More than a dozen farmers have been killed.

The land seizures, along with allegations of vote-rigging and rights abuses – all denied by Mugabe – led to Zimbabwe being targeted by sanctions from Western donors. This compounded the economic plight of the country, which saw financing from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and African Development Bank frozen in 1999 after it defaulted on debts.

The IMF’s head of mission to Zimbabwe, Domenico Fanizza, said this month that improving fiscal discipline and re-engaging the international community should be priorities for Harare. He said this would “reduce the perceived country risk premium and unlock affordable financing for the government and private sector”.

 

DIVIDED OPINION

In an attempt to woo back international donors and lenders, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced a package of major reforms on March 9, including the farm measure and a big reduction in public-sector wages. He said it had the full backing of Mugabe.

The farm plan involves 300,000 families resettled on seized land paying an annual rent – based on the size of their farms – towards a compensation fund for those evicted.

If they are unable to pay, however, it could be a major setback for the government’s plans to shore up an economy that is stagnating after a deep recession in the decade to 2008, which slashed its output by nearly half, drove hundreds of thousands abroad in search of better paying jobs and has left the jobless rate at around 85 percent.

The finance ministry did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the ability of farmers to pay the levy.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya told Reuters that the farmers’ situation should improve once the government grants them 99-year leases on their land, which he said would make it easier for them to secure financing from banks and to pay rent towards the compensation fund.

All agricultural land in Zimbabwe is owned by the government and, at present, farmers have no legal claim on their farms – which they say has made banks reluctant to extend loans to buy fertilisers, seed and chemicals so they can raise output. But the government says it will imminently grant the leases.

“We are saying that the land should produce, but we also know what the constraints are to increase production,” said Mangudya. “That is why we need to finalise on the 99-year land lease agreements to make them bankable so that farmers have security of tenure. With that there is no reason why farmers should not be able to pay (rent).”

Mugabe’s land reform programme is a highly emotive issue, which has divided public opinion. Supporters say it has empowered blacks while opponents see it as a partisan process that left Zimbabwe struggling to feed itself.

“The land revolution was a necessity and if the economy was running very well farmers would be able to pay the rent,” said Matemadanda of the war veterans’ group. “The prevailing economic conditions do not allow.”

The land seizures have led to a steep fall in commercial agriculture output; yields for the staple maize have fallen to an average 0.5 tonnes percent per hectare from 8 tonnes in 2000 when white farmers worked the land.

Mugabe acknowledged the skills of evicted white farmers last week, saying they had helped neighbouring Zambia to produce excess maize, which Zimbabwe was now importing.

 

ELECTIONS

A treasury ministry circular said that compensation would be paid out of rent from black farmers who benefited from the seizures. Chinamasa has not said when farmers would be expected to start paying the rents, or at what level they would be set.

When announcing the measures, he said production on black-owned farms was “scandalously low” and that the economy was under siege from the drought.

The white Zimbabweans who accounted for the majority of those evicted will be compensated only for the improvements they made to the farms, while the foreign owners forced out will be paid full compensation for land and improvements, under the plan.

Chinamasa said Harare broke bilateral investment agreements with other countries when it seized farms owned by foreigners.

Tony Hawkins, professor of business studies at the University of Zimbabwe, said the government was “going through the motions to keep the IMF happy”.

“They probably want the international community to see that they are doing something,” he said. “I doubt they will press with this ahead of the elections,” he added, referring to the 2018 general election. Farmers are an important voting block for Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party.

Hundreds of evicted white Zimbabwean farmers are now farming in Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Nigeria, while others migrated to Europe, New Zealand and Australia.

Hendrik Olivier, director at the formerly white-dominated Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), said the government had not yet approached evicted farmers to discuss compensation, and also cast doubt on the plan’s viability.

The CFU, which once boasted 4,500 farmers who produced 90 percent of Zimbabwe’s export crops, including tobacco and horticulture produce until 2000, now only has 300 members.

“It’s a huge step forward, lets acknowledge that. In the past the government has said that it won’t pay compensation,” Olivier told Reuters.

“But if you are talking about new farmers paying a levy, that’s not gonna work, that’s not gonna pay our compensation.”

 

(By MacDonald Dzirutwe. Editing by James Macharia and Pravin Char)

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Zimbabwe needs up to 8% growth in next decade to revamp economy

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe needs an annual growth rate of up to 8 percent over the next 10 to 15 years to revamp its economy, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said on Thursday, in addition to other reforms agreed with an International Monetary Fund delegation.

On Wednesday, Chinamasa said President Robert Mugabe had agreed to major reforms, including compensation for evicted white farmers and a big reduction in public sector wages as the government tries to woo back international lenders.

Chinamasa said that new loans from international lenders will only come if the drought-stricken Southern African nation showed the capacity to introduce a raft of economic reforms.

“Any reform agenda is painful. The journey we have travelled has been difficult and will remain difficult,” Chinamasa told a forum discussing Zimbabwe’s future prospects.

Chinamasa and Reserve Bank governor John Mangudya are leading Zimbabwe’s re-engagement with international lenders and the finance minister has previously said he has had to overcome divisions within Mugabe’s cabinet to pursue that process.

Zimbabwe is trying to emerge from more than a decade of isolation that saw the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank freeze lending in 1999. Western powers imposed sanctions on Mugabe’s government over allegations of vote rigging and human rights abuses. Mugabe rejects the charges.

The IMF executive board will on May. 2 consider Harare’s plan to repay $1.8 billion in arrears. Chinamasa said he was seeking clear commitments from the IMF that clearing the arrears would trigger new financial aid.

“As I stand before you I am in buoyant spirits because I know that the measures that we are taking will exploit and realize the full potential of this country. We just need an uninterrupted process of reform,” said Chinamasa.

 

(Reporting by Macdonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia)

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Zimbabwe orders diamond mines shut, says not nationalising

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe ordered diamond mining firms to stop operations immediately on Monday and leave the Marange fields as their licences have expired but denied the government was seizing the mines.

The diamond fields in the east of Zimbabwe near Mozambique are mined by nine firms. Eight, including two Chinese-run companies, are joint ventures 50 percent owned by the government and the other one is wholly owned by the state.

“The JV companies neglected or failed to renew the special (mining) grants. Some expired as far back as 2010 and others in 2013,” Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa told reporters and executives from the mines in question.

“Since they no longer hold any titles, these companies were notified this morning to cease all mining activities with immediate effect,” he said, adding that Harare’s position was final and not negotiable.

Monday’s move follows months of wrangling between the mining companies and the government over its plans to merge the mines into one new entity to ensure efficiency and transparency, a proposal opposed by some of the firms.

Chidhakwa said the state-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) will now hold all the diamond claims in the country, but said the state was not nationalising the mines.

“We are not expropriating. Remember the concession that we are taking does not belong to the company … it vests in the state. We are not touching the equipment, the bulldozers, the excavators, everything that you have put up remains your assets,” Chidhakwa said.

The latest move by President Robert Mugabe’s government could further tarnish the country’s image as a risky investment destination, with investors already unnerved by Mugabe’s drive to force foreign-owned firms to sell majority shares to locals.

“We have created a very unstable and threatening investment environment, no matter which sector you invest in Zimbabwe you will be interfered with,” said economic consultant John Robertson.

Zimbabwe was the eighth largest diamond producer in the world with 4.7 million carats in 2014, according to industry group Kimberly Process. Last year, the government received $23 million in royalties and other fees from diamond mines, down from $84 million in 2014.

Chidhakwa gave the firms, including Chinese-run Anjin and Jinan, 90 days to remove their equipment and said company officials now required government approval to access the mines.

He said companies in Marange had not fulfilled their investment promises and refused to be part of a new ZCDC, which was part of the reason why the government had to cancel the expired licences.

Robert Mhlanga, chairman of the largest mine in Marange, Mbada Resources, declined immediate comment on the move.

 

(By MacDonald Dzirutwe. Editing by James Macharia and David Clarke)

 

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