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Bumper issue for Mugabe’s birthday

The February 21 issue of The Herald was a 44-page bumper issue including two eight-page supplements commemorating President Mugabe’s 84th birthday, according to the United States embassy.

It was replete with congratulatory messages, mostly from ministries and struggling parastatals.

In comparison, the previous day’s issue had only 24 pages.

The embassy said the government-owned Zimbabwe Newspapers had announced a reduction in the size of its newspapers due to a shortage of newsprint.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 08HARARE144, Zim Notes 02-22-2008

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

08HARARE144

2008-02-22 09:43

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO4555

RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0144/01 0530943

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

R 220943Z FEB 08

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2509

RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1856

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1787

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1913

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0492

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1190

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1547

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1969

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4400

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1040

RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000144

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S.HILL

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B.PITTMAN

TREASURY FOR J.RALYEA AND T.RAND

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND E.LOKEN

COMMERCE FOR BECKY ERKUL

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O.12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC PHUM ECON ZI

SUBJECT: Zim Notes 02-22-2008

 

 

1. The Embassy Harare Political/Economic Section began producing

Zim Notes in July, 2007 to present a perspective on current events

in Zimbabwe. Suggestions are always welcome. If you would like to

receive Zim Notes by email, as well, please contact Frances Chisholm

at chisholmfm@state.gov. Distribution is restricted to U.S.

government employees.

 

2. Price Movements-Exchange Rate and Selected products:

 

Parallel rate for cash soared to ZW$14million:US$1;

Bank transfer rate: Z$18million;

Official rate: ZW$$30,000:US$1

Sugar rose to Z$19million/2kg vs. controlled price of

Z$8million/2kg

Cooking oil steady at Z$20million/750ml vs. controlled price of

Z$9.3million/750ml

Petrol inched up to Z$12million/liter and diesel is steady at

Z$10million/liter vs. controlled price of Z$60,000/liter

 

—————————–

On the Political/Social Front

—————————–

 

3. Nomination Courts Meet for March 29 Elections… Nomination

courts met on February 15 to accept nominating petitions for the

March 29 elections. There are four candidates for president:

Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai, Simba Makoni, and a political

unknown, Langton Toungana. If no candidate receives more than 50

percent of the vote, a runoff will take place within 21 days of

March 29. There are 730 candidates for 210 House of Assembly Seats

and 60 Senate seats. (60 Senators are regularly elected; there are

33 additional Senators: 10 are provincial governors appointed by the

president, the president and deputy president of the Council of

Chiefs fill two positions, 16 are chiefs elected by special

provincial electoral colleges, and two are selected by the

president.) There are also 1,958 candidates for 57 rural councils

and 28 urban councils. Unlike the presidential election,

Parliamentary (Senate and House of Assembly) and rural and urban

council elections are decided by plurality.

 

4. The nominations revealed signs of potential trouble for

ZANU-PF… Several party members, including Finance Minister Samuel

Mumbengegwi, who were defeated in party primaries, registered as

ZANU-PF candidates to oppose the party’s official candidate. In

Matabeleland, several prominent party members thought to be covert

supporters of Makoni, including vice-president Joseph Msika, House

of Assembly president John Nkomo, and Dumiso Dabengwa did not

register as candidates. And about 70 individuals, presumably Makoni

supporters, registered as independent candidates.

 

5. Mugabe Celebrates 84th Birthday… The February 21 issue of The

Herald was a 44-page bumper issue including two eight-page

supplements commemorating President Mugabe’s 84th birthday and

replete with congratulatory messages, mostly from ministries and

struggling parastatals. In comparison, the previous day’s issue had

only 24 pages. Recently, government-owned Zimbabwe Newspapers

announced a reduction in the size of its newspapers due to a

shortage of newsprint.

 

6. On February 22, The Herald used an interview on the occasion of

Mugabe’s birthday as the basis of a banner headline, “President

blasts Makoni…calls him a political prostitute.”

 

7. ZANU-PF Youths Assault Members Of The Progressive Teachers’

Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ)… Nine PTUZ members were abducted in

Harare on February 19 while distributing fliers for their “Save our

Education” campaign. The teachers were taken inside the nearby

ZANU-PF provincial headquarters and assaulted by five unidentified

youths with clenched fists, iron rods, booted feet, and sticks. A

female teacher was reportedly stripped naked. The victims’

 

HARARE 00000144 002 OF 003

 

 

attorney, Tafadzwa Mugabe, told us the group was rescued by the

police after an anonymous call, but then charged with unlawfully

distributing fliers and placards in a public place. Some of the

victims have been discharged from hospital and they may not be

charged according to Mugabe. He said the police have apprehended

two of the five assailants.

 

8. VOA Correspondent Detained Covering Anglican Church Dispute…

Riot police detained VOA correspondent Fazila Mahommed on February

17 allegedly for failing to identify herself adequately while she

was covering developments at Harare’s Anglican Cathedral of St. Mary

and All Saints. She was later released after the police confiscated

her recorder.   The Cathedral is at the center of a vicious feud

between followers of former Bishop Nolbert Kunonga and Bishop

Sebastian Bakare. Kunonga, an ally of President Mugabe, lost his

priestly license after illegally separating from the Church in

December. The Anglican Province of Central Africa appointed Bakare

to replace him, and Kanonga promptly took the case to court.

Pending legal resolution, the High Court has ordered Kanonga to

share the Church premises with Bishop Sebastian Bakare. Violence

occurred on Sunday when Kanonga refused entry to Bakare and his

followers.

 

9. EU Renews Targeted Sanctions…   The EU has renewed sanctions

targeted against President Mugabe and his inner circle of government

ministers, family members, ZANU-PF members, and quasi-government

body heads until the 19th of February 2009. Key ruling-party figures

may not travel to Europe and are subject to an asset freeze.

 

————————–

Economic and Business News

————————–

 

10. Zimbabwe Dollar In Free Fall… The local currency continues

to fall precipitously on the parallel market on the back of

increased demand for foreign exchange. The Zimbabwe dollar has lost

over half its value in the past 10 days. The bank transfer rate has

shot as high as Z$20 million:US$ for large sums. The RBZ appears to

have re-entered the market in the search of foreign exchange to fund

vital imports and other expenditures. We foresee no letup in the

slide as export receipts fall far short of forex demand, and

external support is unavailable.

 

11. Official Inflation Figure Cracks 100,000 percent… For the

third time in three weeks the Central Statistical Office (CSO)

announced official inflation figures, once again breaking last

year’s pattern of silence on the cost of living. It reported a

year-on-year inflation rate for the month of January of 100,580.2

percent, up from the December rate of 66,212.3 percent.

 

12. Price Hikes Erode Incomes… The Herald reported this week

that the National Incomes and Pricing Commission (NIPC) has

increased prices of basic commodities by over 2,000 percent since

the New Year, but salaries have remained unchanged. Although

official figures are yet to be published, the Poverty Datum Line

(threshold for keeping a family of five afloat) is estimated at over

Z$300 million while the minimum monthly wage is still Z$35 million.

Most workers are earning less than Z$100 million a month, according

to the government newspaper.

 

13. Zimbabwe Registers Trade Deficit With U.S…. Zimbabwe slipped

into a trade deficit with the U.S. for the first time in a decade,

importing US$105.2 million and exporting US$71.8 million worth of

goods to the U.S. in 2007. Bilateral trade volume continued its

rising pattern of the past several years, increasing to US$177

million, up from US$98.3 million in 2003.

 

14. Grain Marketing Board (GMB) Ventures Into Dog Food… The

Financial Gazette reported that as millers battle to secure grain

from the GMB to produce Zimbabwe’s staple mealie meal (maize flour),

 

HARARE 00000144 003 OF 003

 

 

the parastatal has come up with “Doggy’s Delight,” a new maize-flour

based dog food for export to generate foreign exchange earnings.

 

15. Corrigendum… As sharply as prices are rising here, the

official price of a 10kg bag of mealie meal nevertheless rose “only”

to Z$9.6 million last week from Z$189,000 – not to Z$19.2 million as

we mistakenly reported in last week’s issue.

 

MCGEE

 

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