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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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Zimbabwe’s economic situation “very difficult”: IMF mission chief

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s economic growth is threatened by high government spending, an untenable foreign exchange regime and inadequate reforms, a senior International Monetary Fund (IMF) official said.

Zimbabwe was once one of Africa’s most promising economies but suffered decades of decline as former President Robert Mugabe pursued policies that included the violent seizure of white-owned commercial farms and money-printing that led to hyperinflation.

Mugabe, 93, resigned on Tuesday after nearly four decades in power following pressure from the military, the ruling ZANU-PF party and the general population.

New ZANU-PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to be sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president on Friday.

Zimbabwe has not been able to borrow from international lenders since 1999 when it started defaulting on its debt, and has $1.75 billion rand in foreign arrears.

“The economic situation in Zimbabwe remains very difficult,” Gene Leon, IMF’s mission chief for Zimbabwe said in a statement to Reuters late on Wednesday.

“Immediate action is critical to reduce the deficit to a sustainable level, accelerate structural reforms, and re-engage with the international community to access much needed financial support.”

Leon said Zimbabwe should resolve arrears to the World Bank, African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank, among other reforms, for the IMF to consider future financing request from the country.

Zimbabwe should also be ready to implement strong macroeconomic policies and structural reforms to restore fiscal and debt sustainability, Leon said.

 

(Reporting by David Lawder in Washington and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo in Johannesburg; Editing by James Macharia)

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Cash-strapped Zimbabwe needs $274 million for 2018 election

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s election agency said on Tuesday it needs $274 million to finance next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections, in which President Robert Mugabe plans to contest aged 94.

Zimbabwe is suffering severe cash shortages and Mugabe’s government is struggling to pay its workers on time while many businesses can’t fund the imports they need.

But Rita Makarau, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson, told a parliamentary committee that she was confident the national treasury would make the money available.

“A consolidated budget requirement has since been submitted to treasury for funding in the sum of $274 million,” said Makarau, adding that a new voter register would be completed by December.

Mugabe, Africa’s oldest leader, has been in power since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980 and is bidding for another five-year term, his last allowed under the constitution.

Elections should be held not more than 30 days before Aug. 22, 2018 unless parliament elects to dissolve itself, which would trigger an early vote, the constitution states.

Last week, Zimbabwean police sprayed tear gas and fired water cannon at opposition supporters protesting against what they say is the slow pace of electoral reforms ahead of 2018 polls.

 

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Joe Brock)

 

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Loss-making Air Zimbabwe cuts half its workforce

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

HARARE (Reuters) – Loss-making Air Zimbabwe is cutting half of its 400 jobs as part of a restructuring plan meant to revive the ailing national carrier, Chairwoman Chipo Dyanda said on Wednesday.

Like most state-owned companies in the southern African country, Air Zimbabwe has been making losses for years due to mismanagement, high operating costs, old aircraft and equipment.

Dyanda told Reuters that Air Zimbabwe would cut 200 jobs in its fourth round of lay-offs in eight years.

“We were overstaffed by a lot and we are also trying to weed out people without the right qualifications,” Dyanda said.

“The retrenchment is meant to give space to the airline so that we can redeploy the money saved back into the company.”

Air Zimbabwe cut 300 jobs in August 2015 following cuts in 2009 and 2013, but has since rehired some of the workers.

President Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore was appointed chief operating officer last October, drawing accusations of nepotism from the opposition and critics of the government.

Dyanda said Air Zimbabwe required a ratio of 45 workers per aircraft. The airline currently flies four planes, which has forced Mugabe to at times hire private jets for his foreign travels.

“As part of the strategic plan, we would like to get more reliable planes and expand our routes,” Dyanda said, without giving details.

An official at Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Transport said the airline, which has debts of more than $300 million, is looking to lease aircraft from Malaysia.

 

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Ed Stoddard and Jason Neely)

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Zimbabwe looks to issue more ‘bond notes’ as cash shortages bite

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank is looking to increase the amount of domestic “bond notes” in circulation beyond an initial $200 million cap, its governor said on Wednesday, as the economy continues to grapple with shortages of U.S. dollars.

“We are in the process of negotiating those facilities and then we’ll come back to yourselves after we have made significant progress,” John Mangudya told reporters on the sidelines of a lecture at the University of Zimbabwe.

He declined to give any more details of the new currency issuance plans.

 

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Cropley)

 

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Zimbabwe bans grain imports after higher maize output

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe has banned grain imports to protect local farmers after producing enough to meet domestic demand, a government minister said on Tuesday, just a year after a devastating drought left more than 4 million people in need of food aid.

The southern African nation’s grain agency has also raised $200 million from the government and private sector to purchase maize from farmers, the Herald newspaper said.

The national treasury last week forecast output of the staple maize at 2.1 million tonnes this year, from 511,000 tonnes in 2016.

“It is true we have banned all grain imports because we have produced enough this year and also because we need to protect our local farmers,” Davis Mharapira, the deputy minister of agriculture said.

Mharapira said the Grain Marketing Board would pay $390 per tonne for white maize, almost triple the $143 for the September contract for white maize in South Africa, one of the countries from which Zimbabwe has previously imported maize.

The deputy minister said the higher price would encourage farmers to produce more maize while the import ban would make it impossible for dealers to buy the grain abroad and resell it at a higher price locally.

Zimbabwe has since 2001 been importing maize to meet domestic demand of 1.8 million tonnes, blamed in part on seizures of white-owned farms by the government of President Robert Mugabe that hit commercial agriculture production.

Mharapira said the national strategic grain reserve was holding 180,000 tonnes of maize, far below its targeted requirements of between 500,000 and 700,000 tonnes.

 

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Stoddard and Mark Potter)

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Simbarashe Mhuriro: Zimbabwe’s savy solar innovator

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

solar power in africa

Simbarashe Mhuriro and his company OurSun Energy Limited are creating an ambitious solar powered future for Zimbabwe.

A surge of innovation is electrifying Africa. A new wave of savvy, ambitious entrepreneurs with big ideas are pushing the envelope, and invigorating nations. Simbarashe Mhuriro, is one such person. Simba, as he likes to be known, is the 31 year old Executive Director of OurSun Energy in Zimbabwe. His firm has set out ambitious goals to bring wide scale renewable solar energy to Zimbabwe

Business beginnings

Simbarashe Mhuriro

Simbarashe Mhuriro

Simba grew up in Marondera, Zimbabwe, just 30 kilometers from the capital Harare.  He attended a local school and by all accounts had a normal childhood. He didn’t start his career as a business high flyer. Simba recalled how his first jobs were rather ordinary, and not particularly indicative of the career he has gone on to pursue. His early jobs included working as a school teacher and even as a disk jockey before becoming a hotel reservations agent.

He built upon his hospitality career and moved to Dubai after landing himself a job with hotel giant Emaar Hospitality Group. As he climbed the ladder, Simba rubbed shoulders with established business people from a variety of industries while gaining a sound understanding of the corporate world. In 2010, he decided that given his business skills and knowledge of Zimbabwe, he wanted to create his own firm.

Partnership and major solar plans for Zimbabwe

Simba found two seasoned business partners in Andrew Connelly and Honour Mkushi. The trio swiftly formed Oxygen Africa Ltd, a firm specializing in identifying opportunities and creating partnerships between foreign investors and projects in Zimbabwe. Originally the group focused on energy, mining and agriculture. However in 2012, Simba was introduced to Jo Hanns Dieter Trutschler, the principal of Meeco Group, a Swiss firm that creates solar energy projects in developing nations. Simba and Trutschler started to build a strong business relationship, with Trutschler tutoring the Zimbabwean on the workings of the solar energy sector. Simba said that this “literally got me hooked into solar, so I zoned in and said you know what, I have to get these guys to Zimbabwe with me.”

With Simba’s unique blend of business skills and Zimbabwean connections, and Meeco Group’s expertise in solar energy, a partnership was imminent. In 2014 the two groups formed the official joint venture OurSun Energy Limited.

Intensely passionate about OurSun’s program, Simba believes it can play a huge part in solving Zimbabwe’s energy issues. He explained why this is the case: “The Zimbabwean geographical situation is ideal for the implementation of solar energy and related applications such as energy storage, lighting or water pumping due to its level of radiation, one of the highest worldwide,”

While such a program seems ideal for Zimbabwe, the country is not known for being an easy place to do business. Bringing the myriad facets of OurSun’s program together has been no easy feat. Simba has been an instrumental facilitator responsible for dealing with authorities and regulation, identifying prospects, bringing in additional partners, managing imports, sourcing suppliers and overseeing the implementation of the projects.

Solar Energy stands to benefit Zimbabweans and their economy

OurSun aims to deliver 230MW of solar applications throughout Zimbabwe in the next ten years. The benefits of the scheme should be significant. In Simba’s words: “The main thrust for us is developing clean energy solutions for the well-being of the population, especially in remote and rural areas. They are the ones in urgent need of stable and reliable power.”

OurSun is also committed to seeing its schemes benefit the local economy. They are looking to maximize the amount of manufacturing, research and development and hiring that happens locally. The firm estimates that over 2,000 jobs will be created throughout the life-cycle of the scheme. Furthermore Simba has commented that the program represents a great opportunity to drive growth in the industry via the the “knowledge transfer” that will occur between OurSun and indigenous Zimbabweans, many of whom will be women and the young.

Tenacious individuals like Simba are essential to usher in change. Zimbabwe will enjoy the benefits of his conscientious work, and can be sure to see further contributions from this home-grown pioneer in the future.

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Zimbabwe: Abuzz with beekeeping

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

zimbabwe bees

More than 50,000 bee farms operate in the southern African nation, providing a cash crop and encouraging forest protection.

Beekeeping represents a win-win for Zimbabwe: It is a cash crop for thousands of struggling farmers and it encourages preservation of the nation’s depleted forestland.

The Beekeepers Association of Zimbabwe estimates there are more than 50,000 bee farms flourishing in the southern African country and the number is growing. Beekeeping has become profitable thanks to high consumer demand for honey as well as beeswax. Bees also pollinate crops, helping increase food production.

Beekeeping serves another important purpose: giving farmers a reason to preserve their woodlands. In Zimbabwe, forests have been ravaged by tobacco farmers who use wood to cure their crops and by high consumer demand for firewood fueled by the country’s frequent power outages.

Tobacco farmers cut down up to one fifth of Zimbabwe’s 800,000 acres of natural forest each year, according to the government forestry commission.

Programs provide training

Zimbabwe’s Department of Agricultural and Extension Services provides training for would-be beekeepers as do a variety of nonprofit organizations, including the European Union’s Forest Forces project and the Ruzivo Trust.

According to the Trust, beekeeping can add stability to farms that are highly dependent on abundant rainfall, which is no longer a given as climate change brings drought to the region. The Trust set up demonstration projects and used a “learning by doing” approach to train 100 families in Goromonzi. Most of the families combine beekeeping with growing crops and raising cattle.

One new beekeeper is Divas Matinyadze, who maintains about four dozen hives in a dense patch of forest near Mpudzi.

Matinyadze, who was trained by the government, was a successful farmer of cotton and maize before he switched to bees in 2014. He said he makes up to $60 per hive during each of two yearly honey harvests, enough to buy food for his family.

Drought threatens production

Isaac Mamboza, a beekeeper in the Chipinge district, said he was part of a group of 25 farmers who started a local beekeeping project with hives in the trees near a local dam.

“Beekeeping can help us protect our forests,” Mamboza said.

However, the burgeoning beekeeping industry faces threats from drought and from another insect that kills bees.

The current drought in the region has cut honey production.

As weather becomes more erratic with climate change, harvest from rain-fed agriculture is increasingly vulnerable.

This year, the drought has left more than 4.5 million Zimbabweans without enough to eat, according to the government. The country estimates it needs at least $1.6 billion to feed the country.

Matinyadze said he delayed his spring harvest because there was so little pollen, adding that his crops have sustained much more damage from the drought than his bee hives have.

“Pirate bee” strikes

Another major emerging threat is the “pirate bee,” an insect that invades the entrances of bee hives and kills the bees. This forces the bees to hibernate inside their hives, meaning they are not outside collecting nectar to produce honey.

The pirate bee or cuckoo bee, along with water shortages, have forced beekeepers to cut back from three to two harvests per year, according to Nyovani Ndlovu, a beekeeper in Lupane.

Several other insects, among them beetles and wasps, also hurt yields during the production of honey by infesting hives and forcing bees out.

Cliff Maunze, who heads a Forest Forces team, said beekeepers are upgrading their hives to use a sticky substance to trap the pirate bees and other predatory insects when they land on the hives. Maunze said the project also plans to plant gum trees to increase the density of forests where the bees forage.

Despite the challenges, experts see beekeeping as an important game changer for agriculture in many parts of the continent.

“Honey production presents enormous potential for achieving food security in Africa,” the Ruzivo Trust said.

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Global demand could boost lithium mining in Zimbabwe

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

lithium mining

Companies explore deposits, seek investment as worldwide demand grows for “white petroleum” to power rechargeable batteries.

As global demand for lithium skyrockets, Zimbabwe may increase production of the so-called “white petroleum’’ that powers rechargeable devices including telephones and automobiles.

Tesla’s plans to mass-produce its Model 3 battery-powered car have stoked worldwide demand. Tesla estimated its production target for electric cars alone – 500,000 vehicles by 2020 – could require as much lithium as is already currently being produced.

Zimbabwe, the fifth largest producer of lithium on the planet, could increase its share of a growing market.

Premier African Minerals has begun looking for partners to expand its Lithium and Tantalum mining operations at its Zulu Project in Zimbabwe.

Investors sought

George Roach, Premier’s chief executive officer, said preliminary talks were aimed at identifying parties who might be interested in supporting development.

Premier’s flagship mine is the RHA Tungsten Mine in Zimbabwe and the company has mineral projects across Africa.

Meanwhile, another company, Prospect Resources Ltd., has secured diamond-drilling services for its recently acquired Arcadia Lithium Project in Zimbabwe. The project has set a target of extracting up to 18 million tons of 3-5 percent lithium.

The company said it has raised $2 million of $16 million needed to fast-track exploration.

During intermittent production between 1954 and 1972, the Arcadia mine produced more than 15,000 tons of mixed ore that contained lithium. The mining operation, just 25 miles northeast of Harare, also produces eucryptite, petalite and feldspar.

Australia leads production

Zimbabwe is the world’s fifth largest producer of lithium after Australia, Chile, Argentina and China. Other major producers are Brazil, Portugal and the United States.

Zimbabwe produced 900 metric tons of lithium in 2015. By comparison, top-producer Australia accounted for 13,400 metric tons, Chile for 12,900 metric tons, Argentina for 3,800 metric tons and China for 2,200 metric tons.

The consulting firm Stormcrow Capital projects global demand will outstrip supply by 2023.

Such projections are driving investor interest in lithium, which was the only commodity to increase in price last year. The cost has skyrocketed to $6,400 per ton globally and reportedly to as much as $13,000 on some orders in China.

Zimbabwean mining struggles

Increased lithium production could be a boon for Zimbabwe’s struggling mining sector.

The Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe told a recent conference of mining executives that the sector is fragile because of low mineral prices on global markets.

The depressed prices, combined with liquidity challenges as well as power and capital shortages, have resulted in many mining companies struggling to break even.

The sector produces 10 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and 50 percent of its foreign direct investment and export earnings.

Toindepi Muganyi, president of the Chamber of Mines, told delegates at the Mining, Engineering and Transport conference that the sector had contracted by more than 2 percent for the second year in a row in 2015. Total mineral revenue dropped from $1.9 billion in 2014 to $1.86 billion 2015, he said.

Recovery forecast

In addition to interest in lithium, prices for gold, platinum and nickel were on the rise, Muganyi said, predicting a recovery this year.

The Zimbabwean government in 2014 announced plans to build a lithium processing facility, which could lead the way to manufacturing batteries in the country.

Valentine Vera, metallurgy director in Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Mines and Mining Development said the metal had the potential to drive the nation’s economic growth as global demand grew. However, Vera said the country would need to draw significant investment in order to increase production.

Zimbabwe is a mineral-rich nation with resources that include platinum, gold, nickel, copper, zinc, lead, limestone and phosphates. The country has the second-largest deposits of platinum in the world.

Exploration for lithium is also under way in Mali. Birimiam Limited, a multi-commodity exploration company has significant interests in lithium deposits as well as gold deposits in the West African nation.

Niger, Namibia, Senegal and Ivory Coast also have lithium deposits.

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Zimbabwe to import 250,000 tonnes of maize from Mexico

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

HARARE (Reuters) – Drought-hit Zimbabwean will import more than 250,000 tonnes of maize from Mexico to fill the shortfall caused by the severe drought sweeping through the southern Africa, the agriculture minister said on Thursday.

Joseph Made said Zimbabwe would also import the staple crop from neighbours South Africa and Zambia, as well as from the Ukraine but did not give precise figures for these imports.

“We anticipate anyway upwards of 250,000 tonnes will be coming from Mexico. The other maize will obviously be coming from Zambia as well some from South Africa and Ukraine,” Made told reporters.

An El Nino-induced drought has hit southern Africa, slashing the output of the staple maize crop.

Zimbabwe’s government previously said the drought forced it to cut the 2015 growth forecast to 1.5 percent from 3.2 percent, with the 2016 output unlikely to be any better.

The U.N. World Food Programme said earlier in June that output in Zimbabwe would fall below 60 percent of the five-year average of between 700,000 and 1 million tonnes.

 

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by James Macharia)

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