- Mugabe warns of
The Zimbabwe Government will seize the
assets of firms, which do not co-operate with
the government, President Mugabe has
He accused National Foods, which is partly
owned by a subsidiary of the Anglo-American
multinational company, of causing a recent
shortage of salt by hoarding its supplies.
This was a political ploy
to turn "people on the
streets against our
government", he said
according to the
The price of salt is
controlled by the government but National
Foods says it cannot afford to sell at this
price, because it is lower than the cost of
importing the salt.
Price controls on other basic foodstuffs were
lifted last month.
Zimbabwe was once a bread-basket for the
southern African region.
But due to drought, the seizure of
white-owned farms and food price controls, it
is now dependent on food aid.
"Do they still want to work in partnership [with
the government]? If not, we will take over
their enterprises", Robert Mugabe told a
Zanu-PF meeting over the week-end.
National Foods denies hoarding the salt but
says that government price controls are
causing huge losses to the company.
"We cannot afford to
sell salt, which is
imported, at the
controlled price, which
is less than half what
we paid for it," a
according to the
correspondent for the
British Daily Telegraph
The salt was imported
at an exchange rate
six times higher than the government's fixed
rate, according to the company spokesman.
National Foods says it has been negotiating
with the government to find a compromise
price at which the salt can be sold without
damaging the company.
On Sunday, Zimbabwean state radio reported
the president as saying that he would not
"tolerate companies bent on causing
unnecessary suffering to people by creating
Officials of the ruling Zanu-PF party had found
2,000 metric tons of salt at National Foods
warehouses, according to the radio.
National Foods is the largest food production
and supply company in Zimbabwe and employs
over 4,000 people.
President Mugabe and
his party have
companies, along with
the country's white
farmers, of being part
of a conspiracy
government and of
depriving the country
The Sunday Mail says
that the president now
says that multinational companies will be asked
if they wish to co-operate with the
If not, the paper says, the government will
take over their enterprises in Zimbabwe and
transfer control to local people.
Ex-president fears for
The former President of Zambia, Kenneth
Kaunda, has warned that the political situation
in the country is "volatile".
Mr Kaunda made his comments after after the
incumbent head of state, Levy Mwanawasa,
said that he had uncovered a plot to
assassinate him and other key leaders.
Mr Kaunda urged President Mwanawasa to take
action against the alleged coup plotters.
details of the coup
plot are vague.
Mr Mwanawasa said
that some people were
planning to kill him
because of his
determination to fight
corruption in the
He did not identify the
people he suspects of
planning a coup, but
he said the security forces were now watching
"The nation should not be surprised that I will
ask my officers to arrest a few people and
prosecute them in court on charges of
treason," he was quoted as saying by a
Zambian newspaper, The Post.
He repeated that the fight against corruption
in the country was one of his top priorities.
"What we are doing now is not a playing
matter, it's a serious matter, this country
should not have been as poor as it is now," Mr
"I am doing this not because I hate those who
plundered the country. I am doing it because I
love my country, because people want what
we are doing.
"Whether they like it or not, I am going to
ensure that this programme is brought to its
The president also said that, as part of
increased precautions, crowds of his
supporters would no longer be allowed to
welcome him hom from foreign trips at the
airport because his enemies could hide among
Mr Mwanawasa came to power with 29% of
the vote in last December's election.
Opposition parties alleged massive fraud and
took the case to court.
Mr Mwanawasa is also facing a split withing his
ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy
Also, I saw part of this documentary last night on Howard University
Television. Very interesting. I recommend looking for it on your local
- 'Voting doesn't fill the belly'
12 December 2004 23:59
Mozambique's ruling party, Frelimo, surged ahead last week in unofficial results from the country's recent election, puzzling analysts who had expected a neck-and-neck finish with the opposition Renamo. At the same time, evidence of ballot-stuffing in some remote districts cast a shadow over the clean bill of health that international observers gave the elections.
Projections suggest that Frelimo's presidential candidate, Armando Guebuza, will get 60% of the vote, as compared with 35% for Renamo's Afonso Dhlakama, who in 1999 collected nearly 48% of the vote. These projections are based on results posted by individual polling stations and collected by Radio Mozambique correspondents around the country.
The sharp drop in Renamo support was accompanied by an equally dramatic fall in voter turnout, with numbers expected to be between three million and 3,5-million: less than half of the eligible voters. Turnout in the 1994 and 1999 general elections was 5,4-million and 4,9-million respectively.
Analysts agreed that abstention had been highest among Renamo's traditional supporters in the largely agricultural centre and north of the country, who felt that the government had let them down, and the opposition had failed to provide a viable alternative.
"People chose to stay in the fields -- voting doesn't fill the belly," said independent journalist Marcelo Mosse.
"In the cities, the absence might have been a criticism not only of [outgoing president Joaquim] Chissano, but also of Guebuza -- he is not someone who inspires support."
The political weekly Savana described the low turnout as "a red card to the political class", which it accused of being out of touch with voters' interests.
Reports of irregularities were concentrated in Tete province in western Mozambique.
"In Tete there was clearly fraud, though not enough to affect the final result," said Luís de Brito of the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (Eisa).
He said two voting stations in the province's Changara district had reported turnout of close to 100%, with most of these votes going to Frelimo. De Brito said the high turnout for the province as a whole gave reason for suspicion.
"In Tete, we have an average of 400 voters turning out at each voting table, compared with fewer than 300 per table in all the other provinces."
De Brito said Renamo activists had been forced to leave certain areas of Tete province early in the election campaign, which had prevented them from sending monitors to polling in those areas. Elsewhere in the country, the presence of party representatives during voting and counting was hailed as Mozambique's best safeguards against fraud.
The Mozambican Political Process Bulletin -- an independent newsletter with a wide network of correspondents -- also cited evidence of ballot-stuffing in Tsangano district of Tete province, as well as in Chicono in northern Niassa province. In the latter, 996 out of 1 000 voters registered at one station appeared to have voted, with Guebuza gaining more than 900 of the votes.
Such reports contradicted the positive assessment of international observation teams, who praised Mozambique's strong legal framework for elections, the professionalism of polling station staff, and balanced coverage both in state and private media. Asked why the international teams had not picked up the incidents of fraud cited by Eisa, De Brito said these incidents had occurred mostly at remote and inaccessible polling stations.
The international teams, including Southern African Development Community parliamentarians and representatives of the Commonwealth, the Carter Center and the European Union, were however concerned at the low electoral turnout. Several of the observer teams also mentioned the mistrust that had been created by the party-political structure of the National Electoral Commission, where Frelimo is able to force through decisions by majority vote.
Elderly pay the price for raising Aids orphans
14 December 2004 08:21
Until a week ago, elderly Hannah Dube and her five grandchildren living in the dusty village of Kezi in soutwestern Zimbabwe had been surviving on small portions of dried white melon.
Then Zimbabwe's social services stepped in, handing the 75-year-old Dube emergency aid of the staple corn grain to feed her family, caught in the grip of an HIV/Aids pandemic and a crippling drought.
Her face worn by grief and stress, the aging grandmother's plight in this remote and rural corner of Zimbabwe tells the story of the burden of many other pensioners in this southern African country where HIV/Aids has turned a million children into orphans.
The UN children's organisation Unicef estimates that more than one in five children will be orphaned in Zimbabwe by 2010, with more than 80% of those orphaned by HIV/Aids, which kills about 3 000 people per week on average.
Nine of her grandchildren are orphaned -- she is looking after five children between the ages of five and 13.
Three successive years of drought in this naturally dry region some 600km southwest of the capital, characterised by unproductive soils, and a political and economic crisis have exacerbated food shortages.
"We only eat one meal a day," said Dube, who lives in a hut next to a dusty road, where her cooking fire has long since gone out.
"We are used to it now and there is nothing unusual about it," she said.
While food is available in the shops, people like Dube and her family, who have no source of income whatsoever, cannot even dream of buying any.
Driving up to Dube's home along a narrow dust road, hundreds of people, dangling empty sacks, were seen walking back home, looking tired, hungry and dejected.
They are coming from the local business centre where they had gone to register their names for food aid to be handed out three days later.
"We were told [by an international aid organisation] to come and register our names for food coming next week. But now they say only those on the old list will be given food," Dube said.
The Zimbabwean government this year turned away foreign food aid, saying the country produced enough to feed its people.
But Harare has recently allowed the United Nations World Food Programme to undertake a one-off free food distribution to get rid of its stock left over from April when the government stopped general food aid.
Volunteer workers confirm the hunger in the area.
"It is depressing to go out there visiting the sick, handing out a few bars of soap, diapers, some antiseptic solutions -- but seeing that what is urgently needed is food," said volunteer Georgina Tshabalala.
Dube is not only struggling to provide food for her orphaned grandchildren, but also shelter.
She cleans up grass that fell while she was thatching the roof of her new mud and pole hut in this remote rural area of Zimbabwe.
With nobody to help her build or maintain their home, Dube has to risk climbing onto the roof to patch it up before the rains bring it down.
Inside, the fire has gone out.
Dube said besides the fact that their one meal has already been cooked, she could not afford to keep the fire going because she does not have the energy to regularly go to the bush to cut down firewood.
The elderly woman -- old and weak enough to be a dependent herself -- said she had no choice but to look after her some of her grandchildren.
Those who are not under her wing are probably involved in illegal gold mining, rife in the area.
"I don't really know how they are surviving, but no one helps me with anything. The chickens and the goats you see outside I sell to send these children to school," she said.
Despite the difficult living conditions and lack of food, one of her grandchildren, Dan, (7), passed his year-end school examinations with A grades. - Sapa-AFP
Improved Zim inflation still world's highest
14 December 2004 15:15
Zimbabwe's official inflation rate dropped to 149,3% last month, down from 209% in October, the state Central Statistical Office said on Tuesday. The new rate still leaves Zimbabwe with the highest inflation in the world.
The troubled Southern African country is in the midst of its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1980, with inflation peaking at more than 600% last year.
With the local currency plummeting, sending a Christmas card to Europe by air mail now costs Z$40 000 (about R41) -- twice as much as a one-bedroom apartment did shortly after independence.
A dollar was equivalent to Z$2 at the time, compared with the current official rate of Z$5 600, or Z$8 000 on the black market.
The Reserve Bank attributes the recent drop to tighter fiscal policies aimed at reining in rampant profiteering and a lucrative black market in scarce commodities and hard currency.
However, the official inflation rate excludes prices on a wide range of services and imports that have continued to soar throughout the year.
The cost of medicines, vehicle repairs and health, agriculture and mining equipment has risen by more than 600%. The state telephone and postal companies have increased their fees by 1 000%.
The agriculture-based economy has collapsed in the four years since the government began seizing thousands of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans.
The country routinely faces acute shortages of food, gasoline, hard currency and other imports. -- Sapa-AP