Mnangagwa’s first year in office marked by a “systematic and brutal crackdown on human rights”/FADZAYI MAHERE
In the Shona language, Nyamavhuvhu (August) signals the end of winter. The strong winds carry away the frost as they usher in the warmth of summer. With the silent strength of a new season, public discontent towards President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s failing socio-economic policies sweeps across Zimbabwe, manifesting itself through mounting displeasure and the growing threat of civil unrest.
Anti-riot police officers beat up a floored Mashumba (62) at the Harare Magistrates courtlast week.
On the streets of the capital, Harare, a middle-aged woman lies unconscious on the asphalt. An uncanny silence hangs in the air, punctuated only by the sound of water cannons patrolling the street and a sea of riot police conversing in hushed tones with each other. The blue-helmeted police, a signature of the Robert Mugabe era, march in straight lines through the central business district. Businesses are closed. Thick clouds of off-white teargas fill the sky. An old, grey-haired man who is left behind by the fleeing crowd is kicked in the ribs by two police officers and dragged by his side. A young man who tries to assist the stricken woman is arrested and bundled into a police truck. Elsewhere, Red Cross volunteers attend to an old woman who has suffered injuries to her head after being beaten.
The protesters had gathered on Friday to express their anger at Mnangagwa’s rule. People are increasingly dissatisfied with the impact of failing economic policies, a broken public health system, the soaring prices of basic goods and the collapse of public services. They had been waiting in preparation for a protest march organised by the Movement for Democratic Change at Africa Unity Square, a garden in the heart of Harare. In this same garden, just a few years ago, Itai Dzamara stood as a lone protester calling for Mugabe to go.
The protesters could not access the square because the police had cordoned it off. Instead, they congregated on a main road adjacent to the square, patiently awaiting the outcome of a court challenge mounted early that morning. The court challenge sought to overturn a police ban that had been instated using the notoriously repressive Public Order and Security Act at the 11th hour, the night before the planned demonstration.
Protesters chanted songs similar to those sung during the liberation struggle. They sat in the middle of the road, in an act of peaceful protest. As they sat, a wave of baton-wielding riot police charged at them in an attempt to disperse the growing crowd. Many, including older people and women, who could not run away as fast as the more youthful protesters, were badly beaten.
The violent police clampdown is just the latest action in a tale of unbroken state repression that continues from Mugabe’s era. In the aftermath of the July 2018 election, the military killed at least six civilians as it drove army tankers through the streets of Harare to quell a protest. Similarly, in January this year, the army fired live rounds at civilians in the wake of a protest against the rising cost of living. At least 12 civilians lost their lives. The perpetrators have yet to be indicted or held accountable for the loss of life, despite a theatrical commission of inquiry launched by Mnangagwa in a bid to repair his already crumbling international image.
Mnangagwa’s promise of change and reform, much lauded by the UK and Europe at the time of Mugabe’s ousting, has proven to be a mirage. It was argued by the UK and some in Europe that Zimbabwe needed a “strong man”, a Paul Kagame-type figure, to drive economic reforms. However, on this front too, Mnangagwa has failed amid several negative economic indicators: official statistics claim that annual inflation surged to 175.7% in June, although economists project that the real inflation rate is much higher than this. The government has since suspended the official publication of inflation statistics. There have been shortages of food and fuel. There has also been a return to acute, daily power cuts, which often last for 18 hours, with power returning in the dead of night.
The government’s mantra that “Zimbabwe is open for business” has proven to be a hollow epithet, as foreign direct investment remains extremely low and local businesses continue to close shop in the face of a confidence deficit. Corruption remains rampant with little commitment to deal with the perpetrators and recover the looted funds.
Only then can the winds of real change sweep across Zimbabwe.
• Fadzayi Mahere is a Zimbabwean lawyer and politician
More than two million people in Zimbabwe are facing starvation after a severe drought that affected food harvests, the World Food Programme said in a report. The UN food agency has launched a humanitarian appeal for US$331 million to assist those affected in the southern African nation.//CRIMSON TAZVINZWA/
The United Nations on Tuesday increased its aid appeal for Zimbabwe to $331.5 million to help it recover from drought that has driven millions to the brink of starvation as well as a cyclone that hit eastern regions earlier this year.
The El Nino-induced drought cut the maize harvest by half and is responsible for low water levels at the biggest hydro plant Kariba that has reduced power generation and triggered rolling power cuts.
The drought comes with Zimbabweans enduring the worst economic crisis in a decade – prices of staples such as sugar, cooking oil and rice have more than doubled since June, jacking up inflation to 175.66%.
While the response to Cyclone Idai continues, the government, UN, development partners, NGOs and civil society as well as the private sector, must not lose focus in supporting vulnerable drought affected communities with the provision of social services, particularly in meeting the urgently needed critical medical supplies,building and strengthening resilience.
The ongoing concerted drought relief, resilience and community asset building efforts by government, the UN, development partners, NGOs and communities have shown the way on the need to link humanitarian response and development programmes.
There is need to scale up these interventions to ensure communities bounce back better and stronger in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
David Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Programme, said 2.3 million people in rural Zimbabwe need emergency food aid now and the figure would increase to 5.5 million during the lean season up to March next year.
The government estimates another 2.2 million people in urban areas also require food aid, bringing the total to 7.7 million, more than half of the southern African nation’s population.
The $331.5 million would be used for food aid, provision of water and sanitation and cash handouts to stricken families.
“We are talking about people who truly are marching towards starvation if we are not here to help them,” Beasley told diplomats, aid agencies and government officials at the launch of Zimbabwe’s humanitarian appeal to international donors.
“We are facing a drought unlike any that we have seen in a long time. We don’t have the luxury of fiddling while Rome burns.”
The United Nations had previously appealed for $294 million but as the impact of the drought has spread, it needed more funding.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday declared the drought a national disaster.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube told the same meeting that the government was surprised by the impact of the drought on power generation.
Another government official told reporters earlier on Tuesday that Zimbabwe would import 400 MW of electricity from neighbouring South Africa’s Eskom after agreeing to make weekly payments of $890,000 to clear its debt.
This was after a treasury official said on Monday Zimbabwe would ramp up electricity imports over the next few weeks, potentially easing rolling power cuts, after agreeing to clear its debt to a regional power utility.
“The impact of weather goes beyond the vulnerable, it is affecting production in the manufacturing sector, agriculture and everywhere, and this is an impact again that was not anticipated,” Ncube said.
The hope and euphoria that greeted long-time leader Robert Mugabe’s departure after a coup in 2017 has gradually turned to despair as Mnangagwa has failed to revive the economy or usher in meaningful political reforms.
Amid rising discontent over the state of the economy, the main opposition party said it was planning street demonstrations next week to protest against the government’s handling of the economy.
Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Mark Heinrich
Zimbabwe introduces own currency Z$ dollar as the country’s sole legal tender last month, 10 years after ‘dollarisation’ , step towards relaunching the Zimbabwean dollar.
“The march towards full currency reform is part of our transitional stabilisation programme,” Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said in a video posted on Twitter.
“This move is really beginning to restore full monetary policy.”
Zimbabwe Business Forum; Victoria Falls
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced longtime leader Robert Mugabe after an army coup in November 2017, is trying to repair an economy ruined by hyperinflation and a long succession of failed economic interventions.
President Mnangagwa: It has always been clear that for our economy to truly take off, we need our own currency. My full statement is below;
President Mnangagwa commissioned Unit 7 and 8, which were constructed at a cost of $531 million by China’s Sinohydro, resulting in an additional 300MW into the national grid. The Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) has confirmed that the new project has resulted in the country generating above target and exporting the excess power to NamPower, Namibia’s power utility company.
In a statement, ZPC said it surpassed generating targets for the fourth quarter of 2018 by 32, 67 percent and Kariba Power Station contributed half of the power. Of the power from Kariba, five percent was imported to NamPower. According to the latest production updates, that translates to between 25 and 30 MW per day.
“A total of 2,694.92GWh of energy was achieved in the fourth quarter of 2018, against a target of 2,031.35GWh. The target for the period was therefore surpassed by 32.67 percent. Hwange also surpassed its quarterly target by nine percent due to deferment of Unit 3 major overhaul to 2019. From the energy supply balance, we observed that Kariba Power Station contributed the most energy with a 50 percent contribution to the total energy production, and five percent of it was exported to NamPower,” said ZPC in a power update.
Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Jorum Gumbo confirmed the exports and added that the country was positioning itself to become a major power exporter in the region and fill the gap of power shortages faced by neighbouring countries.
“Throughout the year last year it has not been bad, even now. We were exporting to NamPower and we were even managing without importing from Eskom (South Africa), which means it’s good. The electricity outages that were experienced in various parts of the country at times weren’t because of shortages, they were caused by faults mainly to do with vandalism of infrastructure and storms,” he said.
Dr Gumbo said the infrastructural development taking place in the energy sector, which entails expansion of the power stations as well as the various projects being undertaken by Independent Power Producers (IPPs) was likely to see the country exporting more power by 2030.
“The aim is that we want to reach a point that by 2030 we are aiming to be exporting power thus as a ministry we are working on getting solar energy on the national grid and putting in place a number of small hydro power stations such as the one we have earmarked at Tugwi-Mukosi to add power to the national grid,” he said.
Dr Gumbo said through power exports the country could rake the much needed foreign currency through exporting power in the region where the demand is high.
“The whole of Southern Africa can depend on us, if we complete our various projects. There’s a shortage of power, we are seeing South Africa doing a lot of electricity load-shedding. That means the market is there. For instance if projects like Batoka commence, we will be self sufficient as a country. The future is bright to enable us to export into the region as a country,” he said.
The proposed Batoka Gorge Hydroelectric Power Station is a 1 600 megawatts (MW) hydroelectric power station, planned to be on the Zambezi River across the international border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Dr Gumbo however, said the water levels in the Zambezi River have gone down and the situation was likely to impact negatively in the generation of power at Kariba hydro-power station.
“I think you are aware that water levels at the Zambezi are very low to the level that we want to ensure that it won’t disrupt our power generation, thus we will be managing our consumption. We are not getting enough inflows up the river in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the water level is becoming low and low,” he said.