The youths said that discussions on jobs, education, and HIV/AIDS were constructive but when the conversation turned to national healing and the constitution, ZANU-PF youths became defensive, saying that there was no need to punish perpetrators of violence in 2008.
Tensions escalated between ZANU-PF and MDC youth. ZANU-PF Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and MDC-T Deputy Minister Thamsanqa Mahlangu tried to calm the 100-person crowd.
Riot police arrived to break up the fights. Some windows were broken, but no one was seriously injured.
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COMMERCE FOR ROBERT TELCHIN
SUBJECT: ZIM NOTES 04-09-2009
Topics of the week:
- Government Concludes Retreat...
- More Media Space?...
- Parliament Adjourns Until May...
- First Constitutional Deadline Approaching...
- Prison Wardens Arrested, Beaten, Released...
- Three Remaining Bombers Denied Bail by Chief Justice...
- National Healing Conference Turns Violent...
- Students Arrested While Protesting High Tuition...
- Bullish Outlook For Gold Though More Reforms Needed...
- Bearish on Nickel...
- Ban on Trade in Marange Diamonds...
- Prices of Basics Continue to Fall...
On the Political/Social Front
¶2. Government Concludes Retreat... All but two GOZ ministers
participated in a three-day retreat last weekend in Victoria Falls.
Ministers from both ZANU-PF and MDC told us the exercise had been
highly successful. Ministers divided ministries into five related
clusters and began drawing up 100-day plans.
¶3. More Media Space?... At the Victoria Falls retreat, Minister of
Justice Patrick Chinamasa announced that efforts should be made to
open media space. Separately, plans are being made to begin
publishing an independent daily newspaper and to start an
independent raio station. Members of the Media Commission,
contemplated by Amendment 19, are supposed to be appointed by the
end of the month. Whether any or all of this happens will be an
important benchmark in measuring the progress of the new
¶4. Parliament Adjourns Until May... Parliament announced it would
adjourn until May 12 due primarily to a lack of funds. MPs have not
been receiving their travel and housing allowances since Parliament
came back in session in January, forcing members to pay transport
and housing costs out of pocket. MPs have also not received their
vehicles-a traditional perk to allow MPs to travel between Harare
and their home districts-although Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono
offered MPs secondhand, central bank vehicles, leading Finance
Minister Tendai Biti to demand that Gono cease engaging in
"quasi-fiscal activities." See Harare 288.
¶5. First Constitutional Deadline Approaching... Under the terms of
last September's Inter-party Political Agreement, a Constitutional
Select Committee (CSC) must be set up by next week. Minister of
Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Eric Matinenga told us this
deadline would be met. Although Matinenga and the MDC had argued
that the Committee should be chaired by an independent
non-parliamentarian, it will be chaired by a member of Parliament.
The constitution making process has drawn criticism from civil
society members who argue that, despite assurances from Matinenga
that civil society would have input, the process is not being
¶6. Prison Wardens Arrested, Beaten, Released... Five prison
wardens were arrested on April 3 on charges of violating the
Official Secrets Act. The arrests appeared to come as retaliation
QOfficial Secrets Act. The arrests appeared to come as retaliation
for facilitating the filming of the damning SABC documentary on
Zimbabwean prisons, "Hell Hole." Four of the wardens were beaten by
police while in custody. After police searched their homes and
could not find evidence against them, three were released without
charge and two were released on bail on April 7 for unrelated
HARARE 00000310 002.2 OF 003
charges. "Hell Hole" proved so popular that SABC re-aired it this
¶7. Three Remaining Bombers Denied Bail by Chief Justice... On
April 6, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court denied bail to three
men (two MDC activists and a journalist) abducted late last year.
The men were seized and subsequently accused of involvement in the
bombing of police stations in 2008. Their lawyers have filed
another urgent application in the High Court to seek their release.
¶8. National Healing Conference Turns Violent... Fighting between
MDC and ZANU-PF youths broke out during a conference organized by
the Ministry of Youth, Development, Indigenization and Empowerment
at the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare. Youths in attendance told us
that discussions on jobs, education, and HIV/AIDS were constructive.
However, when the conversation turned to national healing and the
constitution, ZANU-PF youths became defensive, saying that there was
no need to punish perpetrators of violence in 2008. Tensions
escalated between ZANU-PF and MDC youth. ZANU-PF Minister Saviour
Kasukuwere and MDC-T Deputy Minister Thamsanqa Mahlangu tried to
calm the 100-person crowd. Riot police arrived to break up the
fights. Some windows were broken, but no one was seriously
¶9. Students Arrested While Protesting High Tuition... Seven
students were arrested at the National University of Science and
Technology (NUST) in Bulawayo on Monday, following a demonstration
over fees, and are still being detained at the central police
station. The group was arrested following accusations that they
stoned a car belonging to a visitor on campus during the
demonstration. The students deny the accusation and say they
protested peacefully against exorbitant fees that are beyond the
means of most parents. Last week the University of Zimbabwe failed
to open after over 70 percent of students failed to pay the fees
which are as high as US$800 per term for some courses.
On the Economic and Business Front
¶10. Bullish Outlook For Gold Though More Reforms Needed...
Following liberalization of the gold sector, producers believe that
output will rise substantially from the current level of around 200
kg/month to as high as 1,000 kg/month by the end of 2009. Most
major mines expect to be operational within three to six months
provided government continues to implement market-friendly policies
and amends the Gold Act in line with the recently announced price
and marketing reforms.
¶11. But Bearish on Nickel... The plunge in the world nickel price
forced Bindura Nickel Corporation (BNC) to place its nickel mines on
care and maintenance in late 2008 and its smelter and refinery on
the same regime last month. BNC has also shelved plans for a US$100
million investment in a third nickel mine in Zimbabwe. Nickel had
been one of Zimbabwe's top exports to the U.S.
Qbeen one of Zimbabwe's top exports to the U.S.
¶12. Ban on Trade in Marange Diamonds... The World Federation of
Diamond Bourses this week announced a ban by its 28 member countries
on trading in diamonds from Zimbabwe's disputed Marange/Chiadzwa
deposit. These fairly easily identifiable rough diamonds lack
Kimberley Process Certificates. Discussion is underway within the
Kimberley Process on a full review visit to Zimbabwe in the coming
¶13. Prices of Basics Continue to Fall... Prices of most basic
commodities keep falling in Zimbabwe as more players enter the
market. The price of the staple maize meal, for example, fell from
US$5/10kg bag two weeks ago to US$3.80 during the week under review.
Our own calculation of the prices of eight basic food items for a
HARARE 00000310 003.2 OF 003
low-income family of five, using the lowest prices on the market,
show an expenditure of about US$46/month, down from US$58 two weeks
ago. However, when transportation, rent and school fees are
included, the monthly expenditure rises well above the civil
servants' US$100 allowance, which is being used as a benchmark in
wage and salary negotiations. Declines in non-basic goods have not
been as dramatic. Harare-based economst John Robertson said
figures from the Central Statistical Office sho(&z(44lzf Finance... The
Minister of Finance is my boss." -- RBZ Governor Gideon Gono
speaking at the first joint press conference between him and Finance
Minister Tendai Biti on April 8.