Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the reallocation was “illegal” while Chamisa threatened to quit if the action was not rescinded.
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COMMERCE FOR ROBERT TELCHIN
SUBJECT: ZIM NOTES 04-17-2009
Topics of the week:
- Outstanding Issues Still Outstanding...
- Communications Portfolio in Limbo...
- Constitutional Process Kicks Off...
- Joint Independence Day Celebrations Planned...
- MDC MPs Divided Over Cars...
- U.S. Lauded for Lifting Travel Warning...
- MDC MP Jailed for "Inciting Violence"...
- MPs Charged With Diverting Agriculture Inputs...
- Poverty Datum Line (PDL) Falls As Prices Continue To Drop...
- Econet Wireless Secures 3G Frequencies...
- Cholera and Election Violence's Toll on Tourism...
- Stable Food Security Situation...
- Cautious Optimism at Agribusiness Firm...
On the Political/Social Front
¶2. Outstanding Issues Still Outstanding... The inaugural meeting of
the Government Executive Committee, comprising President Robert
Mugabe and his two vice presidents and Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai and his two deputy prime ministers which was to discuss
outstanding issues-media, land invasions, appointments of governors
and permanent secretaries, the stripping of MDC minister Nelson
Chamisa's portfolios (see below), and Mugabe's failure to swear in
Roy Bennett as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture-took place on
Thursday and was adjourned without discussion of any of these
issues. ZANU-PF participants expressed uncertainty about what was
called for in the Inter-Party Agreement, and who had what authority.
At Tsvangirai's suggestion, three of the Agreement's negotiators,
Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube, and Patrick Chinamasa, will discuss the
Agreement and its mandates with the Committee on Monday.
¶3. Communications Portfolio in Limbo... The communications
portfolio of the Ministry of Information and Communications
Technology, headed by up-and-coming MDC minister Nelson Chamisa, was
suddenly reallocated by Mugabe's office to the Ministry of Transport
and Infrastructure Development, led by ZANU-PF minister Nicholas
Goche. While Chamisa and the MDC fight the reallocation, the
government mouthpiece The Herald has already begun referring to the
"Ministry of Transport, Communication, and Infrastructure
Development." Tsvangirai termed the move "illegal" and the MDC has
stated it will not accept it. Chamisa has threatened to quit if the
action is not rescinded. See Harare 321.
¶4. Constitutional Process Kicks Off... On April 12, the House of
Assembly announced the formation of a Parliamentary Select Committee
to direct the process to form a new Zimbabwean constitution.
Members are divided between the three political parties. The
committee chair-who may come from outside Parliament-has not yet
been chosen. Civil society groups quickly opposed the process,
arguing they are not adequately epresented. See Harare 323.
¶5. Joint Independence Day Celebrations Planned... For the first
time, MDC officials will join ZANU-PF at national Independence Day
celebrations on April 18. The main celebration will be led by
Qcelebrations on April 18. The main celebration will be led by
President Mugabe at the National Sports Stadium. Officials will not
wear party regalia.
¶6. MDC MPs Divided Over Cars... The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
distributed vehicles to MPs this week, despite protestations from
Prime Minister Tsvangirai that the RBZ should cease all quasi-fiscal
activities. Some MDC MPs reportedly accepted vehicles against the
MDC leadership's directive that no one should accept a vehicle from
HARARE 00000326 002 OF 003
the RBZ. The Independent reports that some MPs have declared this
"unfair" and have threatened to break away.
¶7. U.S. Lauded for Lifting Travel Warning... Given the improved
availability of basic food, fuel, and health care in Zimbabwe, on
April 8 the USG lifted the travel warning on Zimbabwe that was
issued on December 12, 2008. In a front page article in The Herald
on April 16, the newspaper inaccurately states that the travel
warning had been in place since 2002, making this big news that the
paper optimistically expects the lifting will "open the floodgates
for tourist arrivals."
¶8. MDC MP Jailed for "Inciting Violence"... MDC-T MP for Chipinge
East, Mathias Mlambo, was arrested on April 13, accused of inciting
violence at a funeral for an MDC member in his constituency on April
¶10. While Mlambo was at the graveside with the deceased's family,
an altercation broke out nearby when ZANU-PF supporters reportedly
taunted MDC supporters attending the funeral. When the MP went to
report the incident, police detained him and accused him of
provoking the violence. Mlambo has spent the week in jail, and a
Chipinge magistrate is set to rule on bail conditions on April 17.
Numerous MPs reporting incidents during election-related violence in
2008 were also arrested in similar fashion.
¶9. MPs Charged With Diverting Agriculture Inputs... Six MPs from
Masvingo province (5 MDC and 1 ZANU-PF moderate) are set to face
trial May 5 for allegedly diverting a total of maize seed and
fertilizer valued at near US$90,000.
On the Economic and Business Front
¶10. Poverty Datum Line (PDL) Falls As Prices Continue To Drop...
According to the Central Statistical Office, the PDL for a family of
five, which stood at US$552 in February 2009, fell to US$461 in
March in line with the general decline in prices of most food items.
Reputable independent estimates put the decline in Zimbabwe's
general price level in March as high as 19 percent for low-income
earners, who make up the vast majority of the population.
¶11. Econet Wireless Secures 3G Frequencies... According to the
operations manager of Zimbabwe's largest mobile network operator by
number of subscribers, Econet Wireless, the company has secured 3G
frequencies from the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory
Authority of Zimbabwe. How soon 3G will be available, however, is
uncertain, as the associated equipment, which has been idle over the
past three years, needs retesting before its deployment.
¶12. Cholera and Election Violence's Toll on Tourism... The Zimbabwe
Tourism Authority reported a 24 percent decline in tourism receipts
from US$365 million in 2007 to US$294 million in 2008. The fall is
attributed to a sharp decrease in tourist arrivals caused by
election-related violence, as well as the cholera outbreak in the
latter half of the year. Although violence and cholera are on the
wane, the renewed wave of farm invasions is likely to prevent the
Qwane, the renewed wave of farm invasions is likely to prevent the
tourism industry from realizing its full potential yet again in
¶13. Stable Food Security Situation... Zimbabwe's food security
situation remained stable and food supplies improved in March due to
the relaxation of restrictions on private sector trade and the
subsequent increase in private sector activity, according to the
March 2009 report of the Famine Early Warning Systems Network
(FEWSNet). Late summer harvests also improved household food
supplies in both urban and rural areas. See www.fews.net/zimbabwe.
Separately, a team from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in
Africa (AGRA), an organization chaired by former UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan, visited Harare last week and is looking to
initiate projects to improve food security for the 2010 harvest.
HARARE 00000326 003 OF 003
See Harare 306.
¶14. Cautious Optimism at Agribusiness Firm... CFI Holdings is
optimistic that, with the liberalization of grain importation, it
can up its capacity utilization from the current 20-25 percent level
to 60-70 percent, albeit pending an injection of US$5 million in
working capital. The manufacturer of animal feed, flour and maize
products stopped its grain outgrower scheme due to side marketing by
farmers and now relies on imports. With the increasing availability
of stock feed, the company's poultry division has started exporting
day-old chicks and hatching eggs to Europe.
Quote of the Week
¶15. "So for them (MDC-T), after calling for the imposition of
sanctions yesterday to go back to those same people and say 'remove
the sanctions' is difficult... They will have psychological
difficulties and we should help them get over it. With time they
will have summoned the courage to go to the same people and say we
don't need them anymore." -- President Robert Mugabe, in his annual
Independence Day interview with ZBC-TV. The Herald, Friday April