Saturday, May 03, 2008

Tsvangirai scores 47%, Mugabe 43%

Tsvangirai scores 47%, Mugabe 43%
By George Chellah
Saturday May 03, 2008 [04:00]

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) yesterday announced that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the March 29 elections by 47.9 per cent against President Robert Mugabe who polled 43.2 per cent of the votes cast. And a senior Zimbabwean government official has revealed that authorities were planning to hold the presidential run-off in the third week of this month.

ZEC chief elections officer Lovemore Sekeramayi said independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni polled 8.3 per cent of the votes.

Sekeramayi said none of the presidential candidates won the election outrightly.

"Since no candidate has received the majority of the total votes cast, a second election shall be held on a date to be announced by the commission," Sekeramayi said.

By law, a second round should be held within 21 days of the result.
And a senior government official, who is also one of President Mugabe’s campaign strategists, disclosed to The Post yesterday that it was now clear that the nation would definitely go for a presidential run-off.

“It’s very clear that none of the four presidential candidates won the election outrightly. Contrary to the opposition MDC’s claims, the verification has confirmed that Morgan Tsvangirai actually got somewhere slightly above 47 per cent and the President also got slightly above 43 per cent,” the source disclosed.

“I’m sure from the above results you will agree with me that none of the presidential candidates met the required threshold to be declared outright winner. Therefore, this leaves us with no option but to go for a presidential run-off.”

Asked when the presidential run-off, was likely to be held, the source answered: “We are planning to hold the presidential run-off somewhere around the third week of this month. To be precise, we are working around the dates between May 18 to May 24, 2008, that’s when we hope to have the runoff.”

The source further revealed that the ruling ZANU-PF was geared for the presidential run-off.

“So Tsvangirai should now return and halt his trips abroad to come and meet his people,” the source said.

But on Wednesday, MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa dismissed possibilities of a presidential runoff, saying Tsvangirai outrightly won the elections.

“Zimbabweans are suffering; the women, children and many others. Those are the issues Zimbabweans want to be resolved and resolved by a legitimate government.

Not the so-called run-offs or run-ins... that’s not going to solve the people’s problems,” Chamisa said. “We are more interested with the reconstruction programme and a new beginning for this country because that’s what people want. So the challenge before us is not a run-off but that of survival for our people.”

Asked whether the MDC would participate in a run-off, Chamisa responded: “That would not arise or happen. It’s very clear that people voted and spoke very clearly, so where will a run-off come from? We don’t see possibilities of a run-off unless the result is a cooked one.”

And during the verification and collation of the presidential election results in Harare on Thursday, ZEC deputy chief elections officer Utloile Silaigwana said the commission presented its results to all political parties represented.

He said the verification process was meant to allow parties compare their final statistics with the ZEC results before they could be announced to the public.

Silaigwana said the MDC and independent candidate Towungana indicated to the meeting that their final results did not tally with those submitted by the electoral commission.

He said the ZEC adjourned the meeting to give the two parties with queries an opportunity to present their figures for comparison with the commission’s figures.
“If the figures do not tally, then they have to prove their source of results,” Silaigwana said.

At the verification process, President Mugabe was represented by ZANU-PF secretary for legal affairs Emmerson Mnangagwa, Tsvangirai was represented by Morgan Komichi and Chris Mbanga, while Makoni and Towungana were present during the process.

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Letters - 50%+1, Local Languages

50% plus 1 is a must
By Boyd Sitwala
Saturday May 03, 2008 [04:00]

I couldn’t help but wonder whether when some people are giving their opinions, they consider both the merits and demerits of what they are talking about. The sentiments by Pastor Charles Mwape that the 50 per cent plus one provision in the constitution would be a waste of the country's resources cannot go without comment. Pastor Mwape is insinuating that there would be violence and lawlessness if the 50 per cent plus one presidential majority threshold were enshrined in the Constitution.

Just to educate our misguided pastor on this topic, the violence that he purported as being the result of the 50 per cent plus one is purely as a result of incumbent presidents who refuse to leave office. The citizenry do not perpetuate such violence.

The 50 per cent plus one provision is meant to ensure that only a popular president is elected into office. The only people that oppose this in most countries are members of ruling parties, the reason being that incumbent presidents always have an upper hand in an election which ever way you look at it.

For example, the President appoints the chief justice loyal to him/her to be the returning officer for the presidential election.

In elections, whether political parties are funded or not, the ruling party always has an undue advantage of accessing resources to finance its campaigns.

Whichever way you look at it, the simple majority only favours the ruling party and can dangerously mean that it continues to rule even when it's clearly no longer popular. Our own President Mwanawasa won the 2001 elections through a simple majority of 27 per cent and this was because the opposition, which should have won, had their vote fragmented. As long as the simple majority rule continues, ruling parties will always carry the day.

The 50 per cent plus one provision would have filtered the candidates so that the worst candidates at the bottom of the list would have dropped out of the race and fewer candidates, say the best three or four would have gone for a re-run. Had that been the case, Mwanawasa would be in the opposition today and it is for that reason that he does not favour the idea.

I have no objection if Mwanawasa would have been elected by the majority. Even if Pastor Charles Mwape thinks Mwanawasa is a good leader, it does not mean we should ignore the 50 per cent plus one provision.

Let's not be docile and allow ourselves to be ruled under a mediocre constitution which is meant to just keep a group of people in power. The constitution is meant to safeguard the nation so that even future presidents should abide by it.

On the issue of wasting resources, the government already wastes resources on unbudgeted for and unnecessary by-elections which, except where the death of the MP is concerned, are usually caused by the ruling party enticing opposition MPs to denounce their parties to join the ruling party with a view to getting lucrative appointments. If the government sees it fit to waste resources like that, why should it be considered a waste of resources in ensure that a popular president is elected into office?

The 50 per cent plus one provision is the only way of ensuring that a popular president rules. Resources must always be found for such elections even if there needs to be a third re-run. Even Dr Kaunda, who used to contest elections without opponents, was only assured of continued presidency if he polled more than 50 per cent despite it not being provided for in the constitution.

Pastor Mwape should consult before misguiding his flock on this matter and put his personal feelings aside so that he can analyse both the merits and demerits of the 50 per cent plus one provision.

50% + 1 talk
By Godwin Yoram Mumba Kafue
Friday May 02, 2008 [04:00] Print Article Email Article
Following the outbursts from the opposition about the need to think hard by all stakeholders before including the 50 per cent plus one provision into our final constitution as the minimum requirement for any successful presidential candidate , I contend that perhaps our opposition leaders are too much in a hurry. they should revisit the proposal.

If you asked me, I would rather see the nation stick to the present scenario whereby the one with the highest number of votes, regardless of whether he has over or less than 50 per cent votes, becomes president.

A minority president is aware of the fact that he is the first among equals, realising that he has no monopoly of wisdom in his country. As such, he will spend much of his time trying to woe others of different opinion or persuasion to work with him.

He will consult first before implementing any of his decisions whereas the majority president tends to be arrogant and overbearing.

A majority president fears no one, not even parliament; He is totally oblivious of existence of checks and balances. The threshold of his so-called mandate of 50 per cent plus one goes to his head and begins to do things nonchalantly and, before you know it, he builds his own "tribe" alien to all the inalienable tribes in the country to the extent where all the resources are dished out only to his sycophants without qualification. Let us not build a monster president, or we will retard national development.

therefore, I am of the opinion that our emphasis should be on education for all. Let us pump more money in education so that the majority can understand why they are voting without succumbing to mob instinct. We have a problem in Africa because of lack of quality education. I have met a few people who have voted for someone just because he came from the same district as theirs regardless of the fact that the man had just come out of prison for fraud and was not long ago a patient at Chainama Mental Hospital; his understanding of how to invigorate the economy was totally below par.

This country needs a parliament of high integrity and very sharp ‘teeth’. It is wrong for Parliament to depend on the president instead of the president depending on parliament. This is why I am more comfortable with a minority president.

Local language use
By Tobias Hatembo, Lusaka.
Friday May 02, 2008 [04:00]

Allow me to give a word of caution after the comments made by Kaunda Wisdom in his letter titled ‘Local languages’ which appeared in the Sunday Post of April 27, 2008 in which he calls on fellow Zambians to be proud Africans and learn to use more of their local languages in comparison to our preference for the learning and use of English (or French).

I totally agree with Kaunda that as Zambians, we have reached a stage where we easily adopt anything exotic and abandon indigenous things. the purpose of language is to communicate, and doing away with our own languages amounts to plunder of our cultural identity.

However, under the current local language use preferences in Zambia, the adoption of English has not only been good for international recognition/communication. It has also played a very important role in harmonising the language situation in the country because local language use is dominated by only two languages, that is, Bemba and Nyanja.

The sentiments that the extensive use of the English may lead to the plunder of our cultural identity is itself an admission that a language is closely linked to a particular culture. If a language is predominantly used in a given society, the cultural values associated with it will tend to dominate that society and may lead to the ‘death’ of all other languages/cultures in that society.

Since our purpose is to preserve our cultural identity by preventing or reducing foreign language dominance, it is important that we recognise that English is not the only threat to our local languages and cultures. The dominance of Bemba and Nyanja is also a threat to other languages and cultures.

It is also important to recognise that ‘our linguistic identity’ is in fact a short cut for ‘our cultural identities’ because we are a multi-cultural society.

No one language in Zambia can represent our cultural identity and when we call for alertness against the plunder of our cultural identity by a foreign language, we need to ask ourselves whether our cultural identity is completely safe by guarding against the foreign language alone.

The destruction of one cultural identity through extensive use of another local language must equally be a source of concern as it has the same effect on our cultural identity as a foreign language.

My word of caution with respect to the above is that with the current dominant use of Bemba and Nyanja in Zambia, any guard against the extensive use, or against the demand in school for the exclusive use of the English language, is likely to protect only the Bemba and the Ngoni cultural identities (especially) if such a guard does not go with calls and actions for the balanced usage of all our seven main languages in the country. That situation would certainly not be good enough for us.

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Celebrating May 3 with unchanging demands

Celebrating May 3 with unchanging demands
By Editor
Saturday May 03, 2008 [04:00]

WE celebrate this year's World Press Freedom Day with more or less the same agenda, problems and challenges as those of last year. And top on our agenda is the access to information Bill. As we celebrate this year's World Press Freedom Day, we call on all our politicians, especially our parliamentarians, to reflect and meditate deeply over the issue of access to information. We urge them to explore how media freedom and access to information feed into the wider development objective of empowering the people.

There is need for us citizens and our political leaders to realise that empowerment is a multi-dimensional social and political process that helps us gain control over our own lives. And this can only be achieved through access to accurate, fair and unbiased information, representing a plurality of opinions, and the means to actively communicate vertically and horizontally, thereby participating in the active life of our nation, of our communities.

But this will not come by itself. We have to work for it, we have to make it happen. It will require us, as a nation, to create the necessary environment under which it can be realised. In order to make it a reality, a legal and regulatory environment must exist that allows for an open and pluralistic media sector to emerge; political will to support the sector and rule of law to protect it must also exist, and there must be law ensuring access to information, especially information in the public domain.

We know that our politicians, especially our parliamentarians and those in government, have been very uncomfortable with issues concerning access to information and increased media freedoms and rights.

They look at the media as protagonists who should not be made more powerful than they already are. They seem to feel that enacting access to information legislation will make the media stronger at the expense of those who govern, those in politics.

They have every right to fear the media, to be uncomfortable with it and less trusting of it given the way our media has performed. It cannot be denied that the media has not performed to the high standards expected of it. Of course there are reasons for this poor performance which don't need too much disquisition.

But whatever our irritations, our fears, our discomfort with the media, we should never use that to stifle media freedom and deny our people access to information. The cure for all these deficiencies with our media is to give them more and more access to information; and not to limit it. Limiting access to information will only worsen the situation.

Moreover, access to information is not for the media alone - it is for every citizen, including politicans themselves.
And news consumers must have the necessary media literacy skills to critically analyse and synthesise the information they receive to use it in their daily lives and to hold the media accountable for its actions.

The elements, along with the media professionals adhering to the highest ethical and professional standards designed by themselves as practitioners, serve as fundamental infrastructure on which freedom of expression can prevail. On this basis media serves as a watchdog, civil society engages with authorities and decision-makers, and information flows through the nation and between communities.

The media can fulfil a watchdog role by reporting on the activities of government, civil society and the private sector. A plurality of media outlets is key for this to occur because of the breadth of material to report on and to ensure that different opinions are heard. The media enables citizens to be informed and to participate in their society which generates real empowerment. And accurate, fair and unbiased reporting is the best defence against ignorance and uninformed decision making.

In all facets of national and community life, the media plays a central role as the conduit for information and potentially a catalyst for activism and change. For example, development issues can have a polarising effect on a community, encompassing a debate that can stretch from economic benefits to environmental impacts to overall quality of life concerns.

Through media, a non-threatening informed debate can ensue that is able to yield positive outcomes for all stakeholders. In these instances, media can ensure the voice in a community is counted as much as the financial interests of investors in any one particular project.

It becomes increasingly evident that the responsibility of accurate, fair and unbiased reporting is critical to the media's relevance and respectability in a society and to the community's ability to fulfil its role in a democracy. Without the informed participation of its citizenry, a democracy is sure to crumble. If those in power are manipulating journalists, the media become a propaganda tool for plunging the society into ignorance, indifference and despair.

But we must realise that the fuel that drives this engine, that moves all this, is information and, therefore, access to information is very critical. Freedom of information laws, which permit access to public information are essential, but so are the means by which information is made available.

Open and pluralistic media are, perhaps, most precious when they simply provide the mirror for society to see itself. These moments of reflection are instrumental in defining national and community objectives, making course corrections when the nation or the community or its leaders have lost touch with each other or gone astray.

It is clear that the communications media are powerful and far-reaching instruments for promoting awareness and consciousness. They should therefore be accorded new importance in our nation and communities. It would be difficult for us to find a more effective tool for educating, mobilising, organising and agitating the masses of our people. If we do not use these media, it is doubtful that our voice will be heard at all.

The statistics indicating the average amount of time Zambians are devoting to listening to various radio stations, watching television, reading newspapers and other publications each week leave no doubt as to their importance.

They will be of decisive importance in inculcating human values and in promoting new types of organisational and living styles that will help to create the new order we seek. For this reason, it is important that we give the media and all our people maximum freedom and adequate access to information so that they can meaningfully participate in the affairs of their country and their communities.

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Don't fear the press, KK urges govt

Don't fear the press, KK urges govt
By Mwila Chansa, Speedwell Mupuchi,Abigail Chaponda and Bright
Saturday May 03, 2008 [04:00]

DR Kenneth Kaunda has called on governments and organisations not to fear press freedom. And United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) director-general Koïchiro Matsuura has said acts of intimidation and violence against journalists were morally unacceptable. In his World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) message that falls today under the theme "Freedom of the Press, Access to Information and Empowerment of People", Dr Kaunda said governments and other organisations should be ready to see that the truth be told about them“The world of the press is an extremely important aspect of human development. It is a key to development,” Dr Kaunda said.

He said it was society’s desire that the press told them what was happening around them in a transparent, sincere and truthful manner. Dr Kaunda said press freedom was important not only for journalists but the government and society at large.

And Matsuura said freedom of expression was a fundamental human right recognised in Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, whose 60th anniversary was being celebrated this year.

He paid tribute to the courage and professionalism of the many journalists and media professionals killed and wounded while carrying out their professional activities. He noted that alongside the dangers of conflict areas and war zones, journalists often faced threats, intimidation and actual violence as a direct result of their work.

“These acts are unconscionable, not only because they violate the human rights of individuals, but also because they impede the free flow of accurate and reliable information which underpins good governance and democracy. Too often these crimes are not adequately punished,” he said.

Matsuura stated that press freedom and access to information fed into the wider development objective of empowering people by giving them the information that could help them gain control over their own lives.

“This empowerment supports participatory democracy by giving citizens the capacity to engage in public debate and to hold governments and others accountable. But this flow of communication does not happen automatically.

It has to be fostered by a free, pluralistic, independent and professional media, and through national policies founded on four key principles at the heart of UNESCO’s work: freedom of expression, quality education for all, universal access to information and knowledge, and respect for linguistic diversity,” he stated.

“Without strong policies to foster linguistic diversity in all aspects of a nation’s life - in schools, administration, law and in the media - we risk denying hundreds of thousands of people around the world of the basic right to engage in public life and debate.”

Matsuura noted that freedom of information, and online information alone did not guarantee access. He stated that people also needed the internet connectivity and IT resources to use that information, for example to access national or international news or to provide a plurality of media options, including community radio.

He said as people celebrate World Press Freedom Day today, they should remember the journalists who had put themselves at risks in order to provide the public with accurate and independent information.

Matsuura also advised people to remember that press freedom and freedom of information were the founding principles for good governance, development and peace.
And UPND Namwala member of parliament Major Robbie Chizhyuka challenged the media to exhibit enough traits of self-regulation.

Speaking at the stakeholders’ meeting ahead of World Press Freedom Day at Mulungushi International Conference Centre yesterday, Maj Chizhyuka said there was need for the media to unite to deal with ethical issues that arose under a single ethical body.
He urged the media to continue lobbying, negotiating and convincing the lawmakers on the need to implement the access to information law.

Maj Chizyuka said the media should organise itself and demonstrate a strong ethical capacity that it could deal with intricacies that arose in the course of their duty.
He said the issue of the media belonging to one single ethical body was frequently raised by members of the public and it could not be ignored.

Maj Chizhyuka said there was need for partnership among the public, private media and parliamentarians to iron out contentious issues that surrounded the implementation of the access to information law.

And Post managing editor Amos Malupenga said it was unfortunate that the process of implementing the access to information law was being delayed due to personal interests by some lawmakers.

Malupenga, contributing to the debate on the need for access to information law, called for objectivity among parliamentarians as they formulated laws meant to govern the public. He said it was sad that there seemed to be a tug of war between the members of parliament and the media.

Malupenga observed that it was sad that some mistakes of the media were being generalised. He said, for example, some mistakes by The Post were not expected to let other media suffer because the existence of the media was not dependent on a single entity or individual.

He said The Post makes its own mistakes just like other media institutions.
“And we are just as concerned as members of the public about the need for professionalism in our work, so this matter cannot be overemphasised,” Malupenga said. “For that reason, there is a lot that we do publicly and privately to uphold our professionalism.”

Malupenga also said The Post supported in principle the objectives of Media Ethics Council of Zambia (MECOZ) but did not belong to this voluntary self-regulatory body.
“We have our own reasons which we can explain to those who would want to know why we don’t belong to MECOZ,” Malupenga said.

“Be that as it may, we still have some common grounds with MECOZ and we cooperate with them, together with other media bodies. But the bottom line is that membership is voluntary. And we believe that this country has sufficient laws to ensure that we operate professionally.”

Press Association of Zambia (PAZA) president Andrew Sakala said the media had shown considerable improvement in terms of self-regulation over the years. He said members of parliament should not formulate laws based on their personal experiences with some media institutions.

And in an interview, Mission Press director Fr Miha Drevensek observed that the public media had been hijacked and strangled. He said many journalists in the public media had uncovered a lot of anomalies in the government and even wrote about them but the information did not see the light of day because it was suffocated.

“Government is afraid of press freedom. Public media has been hijacked by the party in power and therefore strangled to a point of ‘slaveryish’ one-sided reporting,” Fr. Miha said.

He said if journalists in the public media attempted to write anything against the government, they could lose their employment.

“Government fears the truth to be known about what is happening in government. That is why they don’t want press freedom,” he said.

“Press freedom is somehow on the middle of the road. There are areas that are spoken about freely while those that tackle real life of national development cannot be talked about because government is in charge. I say there is still a long way to go.”

Fr Miha also called for the training of journalists in investigative and analytical reporting in order to enhance press freedom.

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Zim police keen to interview Biti over poll results

Zim police keen to interview Biti over poll results
By George Chellah in Harare, Zimbabwe
Saturday May 03, 2008 [04:00]

ZIMBABWE'S Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri has announced that the police is keen to interview MDC secretary general Tendai Biti for illegally declaring results of the March 29 elections. According to a letter by Chihuri addressed to Biti and quoted extensively by state-controlled Herald newspapers, the police were not amused by the manner in which Biti was urging and abetting political violence through what he described as his political rhetoric.

"What is very conspicuous in the Zimbabwean political arena today is your prominent role in urging and abetting political violence through unbridled rhetoric of incitement.

You know for sure, your violation of the country's laws by declaring presidential results which was, indeed, in contravention of Section 110 of the Electoral Act, Chapter 2:13 and is still to be attended to by the police.

Maybe this you may cite as having been a deliberate delay in bringing the culprit to book, but as all know, the swift arm of the law will always catch up with the evildoer," read Chihuri's letter in part.

"Surely, the police have been looking for you so that you could assist in investigations surrounding the above-mentioned issue, concerning the electoral laws and other matters, but you were nowhere to be found.

The only time one sees you is on the international media, making all sorts of unsubstantiated allegations against everybody else and the country, gallivanting all over the world. This might be the reason why you are out of touch with the real issues affecting the people on the ground."

But MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa dismissed Chihuri's statement accusing him of ignoring the greater picture of the matter.

"The issue is not about Biti but the issues affecting Zimbabweans. Patrick Chinamasa chairperson of the ZANU-PF media sub-committee announced the runoff, where did he get the results? And what will police do about that?

There is nothing sinister about what Biti did because the results were already announced at polling stations," said Chamisa.

"So instead of Chihuri pre-occupying himself with pursuing individuals, they should maintain law and order, especially in the countryside where there is violence and not parochial personal vindictiveness."

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Mesa urges Cubans to forge towards fair, efficient Socialism

Mesa urges Cubans to forge towards fair, efficient Socialism
By Larry Moonze in Havana, Cuba
Saturday May 03, 2008 [04:00]

CONTINUE walking the path towards a fair, more humane and efficient Socialism, Cuban Workers Confederation (CTC) secretary general Salvador Valdes Mesa has urged. And Cuban President Raul Castro Ruz presided over the colourful May Day activities at Havana’s Revolution Square attended by some 1,386 guests from 173 labour and social organisations from 61 countries.

Addressing the workers on Thursday, Valdes who is also member of the Cuban Communist Party political bureau urged Cubans to maintain the achievements made by the 1959 Revolution.

“Let us ratify our determination to continue walking the path opened by the founder of the Revolution Fidel Castro towards a fair, more humane and efficient Socialism,” he said.

"It is fundamental to concentrate efforts on increasing production and productivity above all of food, the quality of construction and services given to the population.”

Valdes used the day which marked the 70th year of the labour movement in Cuba to urge Cubans to increase exports and at the same time reduce imports.

He said that could be achieved through a rational use of material and financial resources.
Valdes also called for implementation of cost-reducing and more efficient economic policies.

“We have to undertake a tenacious fight against all kind of social indiscipline, crimes and corruption undermining our workers' moral and ethical integrity,” he said.

Valdes said the world faced many challenges but he urged workers the world over to continue defending what was right.

He conveyed the CTC’s solidarity to all workers and peoples fighting for a better world.
Valdes said Cuba was aware of its challenges, particularly in the face of harsh US policy against the island.

He said Cuba had recognised what it lacked and what the island needed to go ahead.
Valdes said given the complex time that the world was under, discipline was important in order to build a sustainable society.

He said the wide ideological processes currently taking place within the Cuban working class were oriented toward increasing the country’s economy and productive development.

Valdes expressed confidence in the integration process under the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean.

He also saluted the Five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters jailed in the United States since September 1998.

Valdes said Rene Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Ramon Labañino were an example of the Cuban people's unbreakable will to resist any hardship.

On his part, President Raul Castro did not utter a single word. He waved to the sea of Cubans who included representatives of the Young Communist League, survivors of the 1953 attacks on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes garrisons, members of the 1956 Granma yacht expedition from Mexico to Cuba, labour heroes and relatives of the Cuban Five.

Immediately after Valdes’ address, the march past led by a bloc of youths and students ensued with banners of the year’s May Day slogan Unity, Strength and Victory.

In an interview, 65-year-old Margarita Solor said she was ever more confident in President Raul Castro steering Cuba to better heights.

Solor, a retired restaurant cashier, said Cubans were better off under the socialist revolution.

She said May Day in Cuba was meaningful because the people were free.
“I am happy that within this week, the government announced the raising of pension,” Solor said. “Social security is important, it is another form of help to the people.”

Solor said earlier in the morning she heard someone saying revolutionary leader Fidel Castro was in attendance.

“We love Fidel,” said Solor. “And we are confident in Raul. There are reforms taking place… it is necessary that these changes continue gradually. We are not in a hurry. It is not like running but focused adjustments.

We have a country and a people to protect.”

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Levy hopes for stronger Zambia-Mexico relation

Levy hopes for stronger Zambia-Mexico relation
By Mutuna Chanda
Saturday May 03, 2008 [04:00]

PRESIDENT Levy Mwanawasa has said the relations between Zambia and Mexico have the potential to grow stronger. Receiving credentials from the Mexican Ambassador designate to Zambia Luis Cabrera at State House in Lusaka yesterday, President Mwanawasa cited the potential areas of strengthening as agriculture, hydroelectric energy, forestry, manufacturing and mining.

"It is our desire to open new avenues of interaction in these sectors to boost our cooperation," he said. President Mwanawasa noted Mexico's commitment to upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter.

"At the international level, Zambia recognises that Mexico is an ardent advocate of the peaceful resolution of international disputes and conflicts," President Mwanawasa said. "In this regard your country has contributed significantly to peace in central America...

We hail the positive role it plays in the work of the organization, particularly in the fields of peacekeeping, disarmament, development, human rights and the environment. It is our desire to work closely with you at the international fora to promote issues of common interest to our regions and continents."

He said Zambia and Mexico should use their common membership in the United Nations, Group of 77 and the Non Aligned Movement to further enhance their cooperation.

And Ambassador Cabrera said Mexico had always admired and respected the role that Zambia played in supporting southern African countries' independence, social and economic development and the promotion of peace.

"Zambia's valuable support is currently reflected and very much needed nowadays through your leadership as chairperson of the Southern African Development Community."

Ambassador Cabrera said President Felipe Calderon was especially interested in a stronger Mexican presence in Africa.

"To do so, we need to consolidate the foundations for the development of joint initiatives on a great variety of bilateral and international matters," said Ambassador Cabrera.

"Our bilateral relation is still young and we require promoting closer links of cooperation and exchange between our people, especially in the educational, cultural and social fields."

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Mushrooming of churches has not improved morals, says Phiri

Mushrooming of churches has not improved morals, says Phiri
By Correspondent
Saturday May 03, 2008 [04:00]

ZAMBIA Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) vice-president Sam Phiri has said the mushrooming of churches in the country has done little to improve the morality of the people. And Phiri has urged the government to set a good example in following labour laws so that others could follow suit.

Speaking during the Labour Day celebrations in Kitwe on Thursday, Phiri said churches were now being used as industries where some fake pastors, reverends and bishops were getting money to feed their families.

Phiri noted that levels of immorality were now higher than they were when the country had few churches.

Phiri said it was disappointing that even within the churches themselves, the levels of immorality were also high.

He said some Christians had turned churches into money spinning ventures where they got money to feed their families and take their children to expensive schools.
He said because of the high poverty levels, some people were establishing churches for monetary gain.

He said the government should put parameters over establishing churches.
“Previously, churches were places were clergymen and women would help people to change for better and live lives that would be desirable in the eyes of God, but now some people have turned churches into industries or a money spinning ventures,” he said.

And Phiri said the government must sets a good example in following labour laws so that others could follow suit.

He said both local and foreign investors would start following labour laws if government did the same.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

(BBC) Labour suffers big council losses

Labour suffers big council losses
Gordon Brown says he will 'listen and lead'

Gordon Brown says it has been a "bad and disappointing" election for Labour, as the party suffers its worst council results in at least 40 years. BBC research suggests Labour won 24% of votes cast in England and Wales, behind the Tories on 44% and Lib Dems on 25%. So far Labour has lost 289 councillors and key councils like Reading. Tory gains include Bury and North Tyneside. Mr Brown insists his party will learn lessons. David Cameron called it a "big moment" for the Conservative Party.

General secretary 'quits'

The margin is similar to the drubbing received by Tory Prime Minister John Major in council elections in 1995, two years before he was ejected from Downing Street by Tony Blair. Attention is set to turn later on Friday to the race to be London mayor, where Conservative Boris Johnson is seeking to defeat Labour's Ken Livingstone.

Counting of the 2.4m votes began at 0830 BST with a result due at 2000 BST at the earliest. With about a quarter of the votes counted Mr Johnson was understood to be ahead in 9 out of 14 areas.

But as election fever gripped Westminster, Labour had further bad news as the party's newly appointed general secretary, David Pitt-Watson - a City fund manager - decided not to take up the position.

Mr Pitt-Watson, believed to have been Mr Brown's choice, was appointed after Peter Watt resigned over the row about donations from businessman David Abrahams. And senior Labour backbencher Ian Gibson said Mr Brown had six months - up to the party conference - to move the party forward or risk losing the next general election.

In the local elections - where results continue to come in - the Tories have had a 4% higher share of the national vote than in last year's local polls.

Such a share in a general election would have the potential to give the party a Commons majority of 138.

Mr Brown told reporters: "It's clear to me that this has been a disappointing night, indeed a bad night for Labour."

He conceded that the government had "lessons to learn", but insisted: "My job is to listen and to lead."

The test of leadership is not what happens in a period of success but what happens in difficult circumstances

He blamed "difficult economic circumstances" for much of the bad performance, and claimed that measures taken by the government to counter problems would become clear "over the next few months".

"I think people want to be assured, and indeed people are questioning and want to be assured, that the government will steer them through these difficult times."

He added: "The test of leadership is not what happens in a period of success but what happens in difficult circumstances."

Mr Cameron said: "This is a very big moment for the Conservative Party - but I don't want anyone to think that we would deserve to win an election on the back of a failing government.

"I want us to really prove to people that we can make the changes that they want to see, in terms of schools and hospitals and crime and the other issues that really matter to all of us.

"That's what I'm going to devote myself and my party to over the next few months."

'No crisis'

The Tories have gained control of several councils including Southampton, Bury, Harlow, Maidstone and North Tyneside.

BBC analysis suggests Labour's vote appears to have fallen most heavily in its traditional heartlands - suggesting MPs were right to fear the 10p tax row had damaged their core support.

In Wales, Labour lost control of five councils and could also be out of office in another.

Labour was defeated in its south Wales valley heartland areas of Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen and Caerphilly. It also lost Flintshire.

Ministers were trying to put a brave face on the results and pledging to listen to voters' concerns.

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the results had been "very disappointing indeed", but said the elections had taken place against a background of rising economic concerns.

"We didn't respond early enough to those groups of people who were going to lose out as a result of the change in the 10p rate which overall benefits lower income people but there were some people who lost out and we didn't react early enough," she said.

Labour's chief whip Geoff Hoon said: "There's no crisis. This isn't something that's going to affect the fundamental stability of the government."

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg told BBC Breakfast: "We were 13% a few months ago, we're now 25%. We've over-taken Labour, we've taken seats off the Conservatives, we've taken seats off Labour.

"If you call that a disappointment then we inhabit different planets. I am actually delighted, we are regaining momentum."

London contest

More than 4,000 seats on 159 councils were up for grabs in Thursday's elections, as well as the London mayoralty and assembly.

All seats are up for election in the 22 Welsh unitary authorities.

Of 1,005 people who took part in the poll, 68% said Mr Cameron was an asset to his party, compared with 43% for Mr Clegg and 42% for Mr Brown.

Mr Brown's reputation for economic competence has also taken a blow.

At this time last year 48% said that Labour could be trusted to run the country's economy, little different from the 53% who did so in 2002. But this year the figure has fallen to 32%.

However, only 36% said they trust the Conservatives to run the economy - 10 points down on last year, and little better than the figure of 32% recorded for the party in 2002.

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(HERALD) ‘Invest in research to improve agric production’

‘Invest in research to improve agric production’
Herald Reporter

Sadc needs to improve agricultural production through investment in research and technology, irrigation and rural infrastructure, Industry and International Trade Minister Cde Obert Mpofu has said.

Speaking at a regional workshop on trade and development, agro-biodiversity and food security in Norton this week, he said while agricultural growth and improving production was the focus of the region, the level to which countries added value to agricultural production was still very low.

"Our region should, through trade, exploit regional value chains and integrate through value addition," said the minister.

Through value addition, he said, the region would not only increase the income derived from selling value-added products, but also create employment for youths and women.

The workshop was organised by the Community Technology Development Trust as part of the Southern Africa Biodiversity and Biosafety Policy Initiative to facilitate stakeholder consultation and draw up special recommendations for trade agreements for the region.

The workshop, which drew more than 50 participants from Malawi, Zambia, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe, analysed the implications of regional and international trade agreements.

These included Economic Partnership Agreements and World Trade Organisation negotiations.

"As a region, we need to safeguard our economic and social interests in all negotiations and ensure that developed countries do not sideline our concerns by making onerous market access demands at the expense of our economies and people.

"As developing countries, we reiterate the development issues remain a priority for our continent and a key component for the successful achievement of the real objectives of the Economic Partnerships Agreement negotiations," Cde Mpofu said.

CTDT executive director Mr Andrew Mushi said the workshop provided a platform for open discussion among all stakeholders to contribute towards the shaping-up of global instruments and defining national and regional positions on trade and development instruments.

CTDT is a non-governmental organisation that runs a number of programmes on agriculture, food security, trade and development, environment and bio-diversity.

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(HERALD) AU must protect African interests

AU must protect African interests

EDITOR — As we celebrate Africa Day later this month, we must be wary of the West’s imminent attempt to recolonise Africa. We are under siege and Zimbabwe is a natural target given that its leadership has been outspoken against neo-colonialism. Westerners feel there is an opportunity to dislodge Zanu-PF, the icon of liberation movements after Unip, and then go for MPLA, ANC, Swapo, PAC and Frelimo.

If you see how frantic the Americans and Britons are to force MDC-T into power, you will agree with me that this is not their only destination.

In that light, we must not be surprised by Jendayi Frazer’s mischievous call for an MDC-T boycott of the potential run-off.

Americans are afraid their stooges may have had a temporary success and the guided missile may be shot down after all.

If MDC-T decides not to participate in the run-off, we will not be disturbed but celebrate that the Western hand has finally left our politics.

Those keen to see Zimbabwe remain democratic agree with me that we must protect our Constitution at whatever cost.

If our Constitution says run-off then those who qualify must come forward for the electorate to decide or pull out, not to jump the gun.

The lot at MDC-T can go hang, Zimbabwe will not fall to the West’s vile bullishness.

As long as we are protecting our laws from external manipulation, God and the progressive world will be on our side.

Tsvangirai and the "educated" fellows in his gang of sellouts are aware of this and the outside world must not be pushed to set a wrong precedence.

Most Sadc leaders must be applauded for being resolute about getting African solutions to African problems.

As for the misguided Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, I have always doubted his mental stability after his horrendous accident, I do not doubt that he is a willing sellout.

If you see how MDC-T is following echoes from the White House and 10 Downing Street, you will never doubt who is behind all these undemocratic tendencies. The sponsors of an unprocedural attempt by MDC-T duet to address the UN must realise that the world body is not synonymous with the West, in particular Britain and America.

The nations of the world are aware of these countries’ hypocrisy and it was no surprise that Biti and Mukonoweshuro failed to address the Security Council.

The problem with the West is that if you agree with their treachery they automatically raise you to the level of a government. This has always backfired and in the case of MDC-T it was disastrous because the group leader does not think properly.

In a nutshell all Africans must guard their Africanness, resources and culture from imperialist plunder. Our minds must not only read beyond the sweet talk by the West but their intentions and lies.

These are descendants of our slave master, former colonisers and present exploiters of our rich natural resources. These are the same people who think we got our freedom too early, as they believe we are subhuman.

The West has a policy that any government that believes in the success of its people must be replaced by a puppet regime. Zimbabwe is a victim of these machinations and she needs Africa to stand on her side.

Our war is not for Zimbabweans but for Africans and people of the world who have been subjected to American and British hegemony for centuries.

These empires have bullied the world throughout much of recorded history through wars, economic strangulation and unforgivable racism.

The British and Americans have the blood of the millions they killed in Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Middle East, Africa, Latin America on their hands. These are the same people who claim to be champions of democracy. What rank hypocrisy!

We have had many from the continent who sell out for the greed of money or power. In Zimbabwe today we have Morgan Tsvangirai and his followers who have swallowed Western diatribes hook, line and sinker.

The war-mongering British sponsor Tsvangirai’s gaffes at the UN and his failed bid to become president of Zimbabwe. The British and their allies do not realise the anger they are provoking as they create unending wars and hatred among Africans.

In future no African country must go to elections when it is at war.

Zimbabwe has been at war with Britain for the past 10 years because of land reforms and I wonder why we went for elections when guns are clearly pointed on our foreheads by our enemies.

The African Union must protect the interest of Africans and must never be used to define democracy in a way, which has no relevance to our circumstances.

P. Togarepi.

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(HERALD) Unity essential for economic turnaround

Unity essential for economic turnaround

THE 2008 First Quarter Monetary Policy Statement presented by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, Dr Gideon Gono, on Wednesday contains some of the boldest measures ever. And the question to ask now is: What more do we want as Zimbabweans? At just one stroke of a pen and in one afternoon’s presentation, Zimbabwe is back on the world radar as a land of vast opportunities and infinite possibilities.

The monetary policy statement has been welcomed by many, who expect the measures to restore lost hope and rebuild the confidence of all Zimbabweans. Indeed, the feeling is that the monetary policy statement is just what the doctor ordered, coming especially at a time when many businesses are not operating at full capacity largely as a result of foreign currency constraints.

For the past 12 years Zimbabweans, particularly the business community, have been calling for the liberalisation of the foreign currency markets.

Now, the business community has been rewarded for their patience. And the ball is in their court to be responsible and reciprocate with more goods on the shelves.

Dr Gono has promised that more exciting news is on the way. Now, that is keeping the country in suspense, but it is worth waiting for that surprise because the Governor always delivers on his promises. We are well aware of the fact that the Governor’s bag of tricks is never empty of surprises.

However, as the country moves forward with various economic turnaround policy initiatives, it has amply demonstrated the unique resilience of its people and economy in the face of virtually a decade of sanctions.

We now find that Dr Gono’s sanctions lifting calls are timely.

Zimbabwe has forged ahead despite the freezing of most donor-supported programmes, withdrawal of balance of payments support and lines of credit by multilateral financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Zimbabwe has also suffered from the passing by some countries of legislation that prohibits trade and financial relations with the country.

It is regrettable that the crafty nature of some of the sanctions has been ignored by many who instead are seeing Zimbabwe’s economic problems as mainly a result of bad governance and wrong policies.

We cannot run away from the reality that the country cannot prosper under sanctions. The Governor’s call for unity and political maturity is therefore most welcome and timely.

The need for all stakeholders to close ranks cannot be overemphasised.

Let us not spend time and energy throwing brickbats and sniping at people who are trying hard to make a positive difference.

Instead, we should as Zimbabweans be bound by the spirit of oneness, see problems through the same eyes, ride over them together and never say die.

Dr Gono could not have put it any better when in the concluding remarks of his monetary policy statement, he said:

". . . let our economic history of tomorrow, just like our liberation war history of yesterday, record that at her greatest hour of need, when she was at her most vulnerable moment and at the stage when it was easier to give in and give up than to toil and sweat, Zimbabwe found herself lucky to have men and women who could stand up and defend her, who could sacrifice all they have for her till she was able to stand on her own . . ."

Success should be guaranteed if we walk the economic turnaround journey as one people.

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(HERALD) MDC-T under the grip of Western mind controllers

MDC-T under the grip of Western mind controllers
By David Samuriwo

BRITISH mind controllers have come out of their closets in a clumsy and ham-fisted operation that has seen MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, leave Zimbabwe for self-imposed exile in neighbouring Botswana. That is a strategic miscalculation. It validates the much talked about lack of a national character within MDC-T which is overwhelmed by foreign influence.

Expectedly and at their own peril, both the mind controllers and those being managed do not view this as political nightmare to the opposition. Instead, both view the ‘‘refugee’’ status as bold resistance to Zanu-PF.

This same mindset is also stuck in the thinking of the purported remaining strongman in the formation, Tendai Biti.

His comments in Kenya after talks with the newly installed prime minister, Raila Odinga that Zimbabwe had a lot to learn from Kenya’s post election violence confirmed his tag as a political upstart.

MDC-T supporters should view Biti’s trip to Kenya and his utterances in the context of a mind controller’s thinking. To British mind controllers the difference between Kenya and Zimbabwe is the same.

They are all African countries suffering from the same disease that needs the same medicine. Zimbabwe definitely has nothing to learn from Kenya’s chaos and mayhem.

According to Tsvangirai, he has decided to fight the on-going presidential and parliamentary race from Botswana because he ‘‘fears’’ being attacked or jailed if he returns to Zimbabwe.

"It’s no use going back to Zimbabwe and become captive. Then you are not effective", said Tsvangirai in an interview with the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail in Johannesburg, South Africa widely quoted by the Press this week.

For 30 days during the month of March, Tsvangirai crisscrossed the length and breath of Zimbabwe campaigning for his bid for the presidency.

Supporters of both his party and those belonging to Zanu-PF freely campaigned for their preferred candidates. Not many incidents of politically motivated violence were witnessed.

Even the Zimbabwe Republic Police and election observers commended the political maturity of the voters.

All of a sudden, the man makes a U-turn telling his Western backers that his continued stay in Zimbabwe was perilous and as such, he needs protection from the US and its Western allies.

The spin line being thrown by the British mind controllers to the gullible Western readers to psyche them for offensive options against Zanu-PF is that if Tsvangirai returns to Zimbabwe he will face charges of treason.

The charges of treason stem from an off-the-cuff statement being attributed to Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa suggesting that a letter written by the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to Tsvangirai supporting regime change in Zimbabwe was treasonous.

Why has Tsvangirai become the judge and the jury of his own purported treason case if ever it exists?

There is need to repeat the recent court judgments that have been made in favor of the due course of the electoral process.

Vote re-counting, with the blessing of Zimbabwean courts of law was underway in 23 constituencies where the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission felt there were irregularities that impacted on the final result. Polling officers who were paid money to manipulate the voting process are being prosecuted.

Others have already been found guilty and dully sentenced.

The envisaged protests to forcibly remove a sitting government in power unconstitutionally has turned out to be an embarrassing illusion especially to the British mind controllers in charge of the regime change agenda.

The line of thinking being pursued by the mind controllers is obviously not in the best interests of the MDC-T. How will Tsvangirai campaign for a possible run-off, as unconfirmed figures seem to indicate? The motive behind Tsvangirai’s temporary stay in Botswana as he unashamedly disclosed to the media is to maintain the global spotlight on Zimbabwe.

As pointed out earlier the modus operandi of these mind controllers are clumsy and ham-fisted. Recently, they gave Gordon Brown the task of tabling the so-called Zimbabwean "election crises" to the UN Security Council where it was unanimously thrown out, as his elephant-like rumblings on Zimbabwe were not on the agenda of the proceedings.

President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa is a respected African statesman. He has made his position very clear "Please let the due electoral process in Zimbabwe proceed within the confines of its electoral laws".

The mind controllers would have none of that.

‘‘He has to be exposed for the charlatan he is,’’ so they say.

As if on cue Tsvangirai once again graced the public gallery to air innuendoes against the South African president in Johannesburg.

"President Mbeki needs to be relieved of his duty" calling for what he termed fresh initiatives by Sadc to untangle the so-called Zimbabwe’s election stalemate.

Throwing away all diplomatic etiquette and insulting Mbeki in his own homeland? South Africans are not fools.

Their day of reckoning is not very far away. Vavi and company are not the type to rely on. Even if they ascend to the highest echelons power, they will not last longer than a single term in office.

Sadc leaders took a stand against Tsvangirai’s warped advice from his mind controllers. "We have renewed our confidence in him (Mbeki) by asking him to continue the work of mediation and find a solution to the situation in Zimbabwe," Mauritian Prime Minister, Navin Ramgoolan said over the weekend.

Predictably South Africa’s government spokesperson, obviously airing the views of his president put the record straight and to the point. "The Zimbabweans need to be informed about the reasons for holding the results. But the most important thing is that the results need to be verified and released as soon as possible". That is the on-going process.

ZEC has discovered huge anomalies in tallying of both the parliamentary and the presidential vote with some polling officers already in the dock and others already convicted and there is every reason to clear the air before prematurely announcing the results as being demanded by the British mind controllers.

Of interest to note is the catapulting into the Zimbabwean electoral process of non-entities in the likes of Louis Michel, EU commissioner for development and humanitarian aid.

He had the audacity to order Sadc to exert pressure on the Government to accept the "initial results" of elections, which according to him the opposition won.

According to him, the dramatic effects of the "Zimbabwe crises" will mainly hit the population of Zimbabwe but they will also hit the whole region — bookish interpretation.

Zimbabwe is undergoing a revolution, like it or not, that revolution has its own dire consequences.

As said earlier, the mind controllers rope in every Jack and Jill to accommodate their view in a phony evaluation and analysis of their strategy.

To camouflage their hegemonic interests the British mind controllers also roped in Jess Stoltenburg, Prime Minister of Norway to act as an auxiliary force in ratcheting pressure on Sadc heads of state and government.

In a short and precise statement delivered at the Sadc meeting in Mauritius last week and billed as a "Development and Poverty" summit, Stoltenberg demanded; "The situation should not be allowed to continue".

The meeting was in fact one of those numerous summits currently being ratcheted up to exchange notes on how to apply brakes on the seemingly unstoppable Zimbabwean march to self determination among the community of world nations.

Those privileged to access the Digital Satellite Television can testify the comradeship explicitly exposed on various channels between our modern day Moise Tshombe and the Norwegian Prime Minister.

The British mind controllers have availed so much in terms of financial resources to the extent that poor Morgan has completely lost his marbles.

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Chilufya’s death has injured me, cries Sata

Chilufya’s death has injured me, cries Sata
By Chibaula Silwamba, Kelvin Tembo and Mwila Chansa
Friday May 02, 2008 [04:00] Print Article

Patriotic Front (PF) president Michael Sata yesterday said the death of his son Chilufya has left a wound in his life. And St Ignatius Catholic Church priest Charles Chilinda said Chilufya was a rebel and difficult child who looked for happiness in wrong places.

In a message read on his behalf by his niece Monty Tembo during a requiem service for the late Chilufya at St Ignatius Catholic Church in Lusaka, Sata said that as he lay in his hospital bed in South Africa where he received specialist treatment following his heart attack last Friday, he struggled to come to terms with Chilufya’s death.

“It is very difficult to say anything on death, especially death of your own child, a child who is very close and dear to you, I grieve greatly knowing that I have not been able to give you goodbye in person.

Life can indeed be very difficult to understand, it deals you severe blows when you least expect it,” Sata said. “I loved you in womb, I loved you in life and I still love you in death, my namesake Chilufya.”

He said he remembered Chilufya’s birth like yesterday and now he had to say goodbye.

“I am glad God gave you to me as a son; I will always remember your cheerful smiles. My words are few, not because I have nothing to say but because of the great pain that I feel inside,” said Sata. “Mwana wandi wansha nechikonko, wansha nechilonda. My son, you have left me grieving and wounded. I pray that you may find rest in the loving hands of our Lord Jesus Christ, may your soul rest in peace.”

And Fr Chilinda described Chilufya as a rebel who tried to seek happiness, joy and fulfillment in wrong places.

“He Chilufya wasn’t coming to Church and some of you might say ‘but why now should Chilufya come to church that he has died?’ And for me the answer is very simple, Chilufya is a beloved child of God.

Chilufya didn’t come from any of you, Chilufya was not sustained in this life by any of you, Chilufya came from God and he belongs to God. He belonged to this holy space we call church.

The Father Himself has welcomed this difficult but beloved child,” Fr Chilinda said. “If you were to describe Chilufya, how would you describe him? He was a little bit of a rebel, wasn’t he?”

Fr Chilinda recalled Sata being asked during the run up to the 2006 elections how he would manage Chilufya’s behaviour, if he was elected Republican president.

“I think the answer was, ‘president Kaunda had Kambarage and then president Chiluba had Castro and then my Chilufya’. Is Castro here in church? Aah Castro is not here…he is here! You are hiding Castro, I will see you. The last time I saw Castro was at UTH,” said Fr Chilinda, as former president Frederick Chiluba listened on amid laughter among the people. “You know, people come in different forms, some are very difficult, Chilufya was a rebel but the mother loved him. The mother’s love.”

He said even for a difficult and rebellious child, the mother was always there for him.

“You didn’t close the door; did you lock the door when he was out with Castro going to drink? They loved to drink, isn’t it? Even the last thing he was doing the day before he departed from this world, I think it was a drink,” Fr Chilinda said. “He had gone out but here is the mother who has never given up on her own child because beyond the difficulties that she had experienced, there is something of love that she experienced from him. The brothers and sisters and all you friends that knew him, he was not the package of difficulties and problems only, there was some goodness in this young man that will bring to church today.”

He said if Chilufya’s mother and father loved and cared for him, then God loved and cared for him even more.

“God’s is bigger than Margaret’s and Michael’s hearts. God loved Chilufya whom you have brought to this church today,” he said.

Fr Chilinda observed that Chilufya had experienced moments of darkness in life.
“Chilufya was trying to find happiness, joy and fulfillment in wrong places,” Fr Chilinda observed. “His father said he was a rebel, and sometimes he would discuss certain things and he would even challenge his father. And I said ‘Mr Sata, he takes after you, Chilufya must have taken something of Margaret and something of Mr Sata and then he had his own personality’.”

Fr Chilinda said when he received the news about Chilufya’s death, he thought of Sata, who is in South Africa for specialist treatment, not being able to attend his son’s burial.

“I was thinking of Mr Sata whom I went to see before he was flown to South Africa, to anoint him. When I arrived he said to me, ‘father am I dying?’ I said to him, ‘no I am not a messenger of death… I haven’t come here to kill you’. And then he said ‘in the village, when a priest arrives, that means that the person is dying’.

I said ‘no do not be afraid, I have just come here to pray for you and anoint you so that you may get better’,” Fr Chilinda said. “I was thinking of him being away there in South Africa not being able to bury his own son but I think he is present here with us.”
Fr Chilinda urged people to turn to God because he was their creator and sustained their lives.

However, Fr Chilinda said he did not know Chilufya’s encounter with God.
“We don’t know what happened to this young man, he came back in the night, the mother thinking he has just gone to sleep and only then things were not the normal usual thing, then they started finding out what had happened to him,” he said. “Death is a mystery.”

And a family representative, Alexander Chikwanda said Chilufya’s demise had left a huge gap among family members and friends. Chikwanda said Chilufya meant a lot to the Sata family and friends.

“The death of a young person at the prime of their age such as Chilufya is an acutely painful and exceedingly traumatic experience for the community and in particular for family and friends,” Chikwanda said. “Death, whatever the circumstances and irrespective of our tour duration on the transitory habitat mother earth, is always a shattering event.”

Chikwanda described Chilufya as a cheerful person who was always available for all. He thanked mourners for not only turning up in huge numbers to pay their last respects but also for offering solace to the family in its time of distress. Chikwanda also urged mourners to pray for Sata who, because of illness, was unable to see his son put to eternal rest.

“Mr. Sata, who is ever fond of his children and indeed all children lavished Chilufya with affection. Mr. Sata who is embraced by large segments of our society essentially for his compassion and generosity and endless fight for the cause of the weak and disadvantaged in our society has had to bear the agony and anguish of not burying his dear son. He deserves our prayers,” Chikwanda said.

Chikwanda also thanked, on behalf of the family, the government for promptly evacuating Sata to South Africa for treatment.

“The action by government went beyond the symbolic issue of call of duty. It underscored the strength of our country that when the imperatives of our common humanity, fellowship and compassion so dictate, we can put aside our political differences and do the needful, our duty to mankind,” Chikwanda said.

And Chikwanda said Sata sounded encouragingly strong when spoken to by phone. He said Sata was discharged on Wednesday but still had a few weeks for his condition to be monitored. Hundreds of people attended Chilufya’s requiem service.

Among them were Chiluba and his wife Regina, All People’ Congress (APC) president Ken Ngondo, FDD national secretary Newton Ng’uni, PF vice-president Dr Guy Scott and several members of parliament from both the opposition and ruling party.

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Securities Act doesn't allow creation of exchange market, says Liweley

Securities Act doesn't allow creation of exchange market, says Liweley
By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Friday May 02, 2008 [04:00]

SECURITIES and Exchange Commission (SEC) director for licensing and enforcement Michael Liweleya has said the current securities Act does not allow for creation of a commodity exchange market. Liweleya was commenting on reports that Zambia Agricultural Commodities Exchange (ZAMACE) had approached SEC with a view to forming a commodity exchange market which was expected to operate along the same line as Lusaka Stock Exchange (LuSE). He also confirmed that SEC had received an official application from the promoters of the commodity exchange market.

“We received a written application from ZAMACE over their intentions to set up a commodity exchange market but our view is that the current securities Act only empowers SEC to regulate securities and not commodities,” he said.

Liweleya also said for SEC to start providing for provision for establishment of commodity stock market, the securities Act needed to be amended.

He disclosed that the government had since endorsed the position that SEC in the current setup did not have a legal mandate to regulate commodity exchange market.

“After making our assessment and position on the matter, we wrote to the Attorney General to seek further guidance on the matter and yesterday (Monday) they wrote back to us and they also confirmed position that unless there is an amendment to the current securities Act, we cannot licence for a commodity exchange market,” said Liweleya.

The commodity exchanges are the associations with public corporation established to handle the purchase and sales of goods quoted in the commodity exchange market and to determine, register and declare prices of those goods in the market.”

It operates on the same principles like stock exchanges where the bonds are exchanged but the only fundamental difference between the two is that the commodity exchange market deals with agricultural goods.

Currently, ZAMACE is the country’s sole agriculture commodity market with a stronger commercial focus and links to regional commodity exchange.

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Preventing corruption is less costly, says Martinez

Preventing corruption is less costly, says Martinez
By Agness Changala
Friday May 02, 2008 [04:00]

UNITED States Ambassador Carmen Martinez has said that it would be easier and less costly to prevent corruption than prosecute it. And ACC commissioner Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika said it was dangerous for the media to make heroes out of thieves.

Speaking during the official closure of the 'Walk against Corruption' campaign at Arcades on Thursday, Martinez said there was need to strengthen existing laws that would help curb corruption effectively.

“Such as asset disclosure, asset forfeiture, whistleblower protection, evidence, plea bargaining, procurement and anti-money laundering,” she said.

Martinez said the strengthening of institutions that fought corruption like Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) was another way of fighting corruption effectively.

Lewanika urged the media to condemn the perpetrators of corruption instead of turning them into heroes.

“The media has to be alert even in the absence of the Freedom of Information Bill (FOL). There's no law that stops the exposure of corruption so people can be investigated,” he said.

Wendy Mwachilenga an ACC employee and Richard Mwanza, who took the walk against corruption, covered 358km from Kitwe to Lusaka.

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Zukas challenges ERB on blackouts...3

Zukas challenges ERB on blackouts...3
By Joan Chirwa
Friday May 02, 2008 [04:00]

VETERAN politician Simon Zukas has asked the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) to adequately explain its findings on the mid-January nationwide power blackouts. But sources have disclosed that ERB could not give more details on the cause of the January power blackouts because of the sensitivity surrounding the issue, considering that another country was involved.

Zambia, between January 19 and 22 this year experienced power blackouts that were, according to the findings, triggered by the loss of a major load at Kariba North Bank power station.

According to the ERB’s findings, the countrywide power outages were initiated by a disturbance in the Zimbabwean grid which resulted in the loss of a major load and shutdown of the Kariba North Bank power station.

The ERB stated that the loss of a major load at Kariba North Bank led to the tripping of the machines at Kafue Gorge and Victoria Falls power stations, resulting in the blackout.

But Zukas said the public needed more explanation on the loss of a major load at Kariba North Bank, which led to the shutdown of the power plant.

“The technically literate public will find this report most unsatisfactory with regards to its findings. Finding number one ascribes the blackout of January 19, 2008 to a loss of a major load and shutdown of the Kariba North Bank power station. While accepting that the Kariba North Bank power station was shut down, the public would need to know more than that this was caused by a loss of a major load,” Zukas said.

“Power station control gear would normally protect against overloads; to shut down on loss of a load, even if major, needs more explanation than this report has given us. Since the loss of the load in the integrated grid was in Zimbabwe, there should have been more power left for Zambia and not a reduction to zero for Zambia.”

Zukas said there was no mention in the finding that there were many generators out of action due to a mistaken programme of simultaneous refurbishment.

“Finding two ascribes the blackout of January 21, 2008 to a ‘spurious tripping’ on a transmission line. Spurious means fake or non-genuine. Only genuine tripping can result in a blackout. If there was an accidental, unnecessary tripping, did Zesco explain and was the committee satisfied how it happened and how to avoid such an event in future?” he asked.

Zukas, who is also a commercial farmer, said wheat production was highly dependent on irrigation and the frequent power outages would have terrible negative effects on agriculture.

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Chiluba knows where the $7.8m for Carlington maize lies - Nkole

Chiluba knows where the $7.8m for Carlington maize lies - Nkole
By Mwila Chansa
Friday May 02, 2008 [04:01]

ZAMBIANS expect co-operation from former president Frederick Chiluba to recover their money and not celebration just because some donors have temporarily not funded us, Task Force on Corruption chairperson Max Nkole has said. Commenting on Chiluba’s statement that the Task Force was surviving on an expired mandate and that its support from all parties including cooperating partners was diminishing, Nkole explained that some donors had still continued assisting the Task Force.

“Following the expiry of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 31st June 2007, the donors made some demands to government as a condition for them to continue funding the Task Force. The government then promised to look into those demands that included the future of the Task Force and its mandate,” Nkole said.

He said the government promised to look into those demands but in the meantime, some donors have suspended their funding until their demands were met.

However, Nkole said some individual donor countries had continued rendering support to the Task Force although the government had to bear the bigger burden of running its operations since the expiry of the MoU. He said donors had promised to come back on board to continue their support to the fight against corruption in whatever form or strategy put in place by the government.

And Nkole said Chiluba had never cooperated with the Task Force.
“He knows everything about the Carlington maize, yet he declined to answer questions,” Nkole said.

He further said Chiluba and his Iranian associate Ari Ben Menashe knew where the US $7.8 million lay.

“The guilty are afraid, he and his associate the Iranian Ari Ben Menashe know where the US $7.8 million lies. There is nothing wrong with our attempt to trace and recover Zambian public funds; we expect his assistance which he has denied us. LAZ gave him timely advice,” said Nkole.

But Chiluba’s spokesperson Emmanuel Mwamba said Chiluba did not co-operate with the Task Force because they were recording a warn and caution statement from him as opposed to being interviewed on the matter.

“When you are being warned and cautioned, you can either say something in reply or say nothing at all. That is a legal provision,” Mwamba said. “When time comes for Dr Chiluba to say something in his defence, he will not fail to defend himself.”

And Nkole said the Task Force’s doors were still open for Chiluba to give a statement on the Carlington maize deal if he so wished. He said warn and caution statements were requirements of the law and that the Task Force would not have proceeded into getting an ordinary statement from Chiluba who was a principal suspect.

Recently, when summoned to appear before the Task Force over Carlington, Chiluba was reported to have evaded questions.
And in reaction to LAZ president Elijah Banda who advised him to use the Carlington maize deal investigations to prove his innocence instead of being uncooperative, Chiluba urged Banda not to use the noble platform of LAZ to prop up the image of the Task Force.

He said it had become public knowledge that the Task Force was surviving on an expired mandate and that their support from all parties, including cooperating partners had diminished.

Chiluba said in its quest to maintain its relevance to revive its role and extend its mandate, the Task Force was now trying to whip up public emotion with sensational and high sounding cases such as the Carlington maize deal.

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The plight of workers

The plight of workers
By Editor
Friday May 02, 2008 [04:00]

AS they have been doing over the years, workers yesterday marched carrying banners with literally the same demands they have been making at every May 1 parade. Instead of improving, their conditions are worsening by the day. Workers today face more difficulties and complex challenges than they did 17 years ago.

So many pieces of legislation have been enacted over the last 17 years whose effect has been to erode the workers’ rights. Things which our workers won for themselves over the years have been lost over this period.

It should be understandable why workers have become so suspicious and less trusting over legislation affecting them that our politicians try to enact.
Although our workers are the creators of the wealth of this country, their interests are usually subordinated to those of capital.

Those who own and manage enterprises have a better hearing from our political leaders than the workers and their representatives.
But we shouldn’t forget that the trade unions which enable workers to improve their conditions should be valued and promoted by everybody in society. the government should regulate industries and commerce to protect workers’ rights and to curb their exploitation. Remuneration for work should guarantee people a dignified livelihood for themselves and their families.

We say this because the rights of workers, like all rights, are based on the nature of the human person and on her and his transcendent dignity. Among these rights are: a just wage; a working environment not harmful to the workers’ physical health or their moral integrity; social security, and the right to assemble and form associations.

The workers know from experience that they must count on themselves and their own initiatives more than on the help of politicians and those who own and control enterprises. And it would be a delusion for them to wait passively for a change of heart in those who, as our father Abraham warns us, “will not be convinced even if someone would rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

It is primarily up to the workers and their legitimate leaders to effect their own betterment. They must regain confidence in themselves. They must educate themselves and overcome their lack of knowledge. They must work zealously to fashion their own destiny. They must develop themselves by utilising all the media that modern society places at their disposal.

They must open their ears to those who can awaken and shape the conscious awareness of the masses. Certain erroneous viewpoints must be wiped away without delay. No, it is not God’s will that a few rich people should enjoy the goods of this country and exploit the workers. No, it is not God’s will that some people remain poor and abject forever.

Of course Jesus warned us that the poor will always be with us (John 12:8); but that is because there will always be powerful people who expropriate to themselves the goods of this world and because there will always be certain inequalities resulting from differing degrees of capability and other unavoidable factors.

But Jesus also teaches us that the second commandment is equal to the first, since we cannot love God without loving our fellow humans. We shall all be judged by the same standard: “I was hungry and you gave me food…in so far as you did it to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Matt 25:35-40).

All the great religions and philosophies of the world echo this sentiment. The Quran spells out the last and ultimate test to which humans must submit when they are judged by Allah. What is that test? “Have you redeemed the captive, fed the orphan in his need or the beggar on your door-step, and lived your life as a rod of mercy?” (Sura 90, 11:18).

It is our duty to share our food and all our goods. If some try to monopolise for themselves what others need, then it is the duty of public authority to carry out the distribution that was not met willingly.

In like manner, we cannot allow rich and powerful trans-national corporations to come and exploit our impoverished people under the pretext of developing commerce and industry; nor can we allow our rich and powerful nationals to exploit their own fellow citizens.

These things incite the exasperating strains of excessive nationalism, which is hostile to authentic collaboration with other nationals that is very much needed in today’s fast globalising world.
Workers have a right and duty to form real trade unions, so that they may press for and defend their rights. It is not enough for these rights to be recognised on paper by the law.

The law must be implemented, and the government must exercise its powers in this area to serve the workers. The government must face up to the task of stopping unnecessary industrial unrest. And contrary to popular belief, this unrest is often incited by those who own and manage enterprises; and they do so by exploiting the worker through inadequate wages and inhuman working conditions.

It is a subversive instability that has been craftily waged throughout the world for a long time by money interests, annihilating whole nations in the process. It is high time the workers defended their rights to live. When God appeared to Moses, it was said to him:

“I have seen the miserable state of my people in Egypt, I have heard their appeal to be free of their slave drivers…I mean to deliver them” (Ex.3:7). Jesus took all humanity upon himself to lead it to eternal life. And the earthly foreshadowing of this is social justice, the first form of brotherly love. When Jesus freed humankind from death through his resurrection, he brought all human liberation movement to their fullness in eternity.

Therefore, in the intermediary professional structure, the workers’ unions, to which the workers have a right, should acquire sufficient strength and power. Their unions will have a unified and responsible strength, to exercise the right of representation and participation on the levels of production and of national, regional, continental and international trade.

They ought to exercise their right of being represented, also, on the social, economic and political levels, where decisions are made which touch upon the common good. Therefore, the unions ought to use every means at their disposal to train those who are to carry out these responsibilities in moral, economic, and especially in technical matters.

The fight against injustice is meaningless unless it is waged with a view to establishing a new social and political order in conformity with the demands of justice. Justice must already mark each stage of the establishment of this new order. There is a morality of means.

In the way things stand today, there is need to take a lot of care when enacting any labour laws. With private interests in control of commerce and industry, workers are increasingly becoming more vulnerable to merciless exploitation and injustice.

If even the government itself, is increasingly becoming insensitive to the plight of workers, what more private capital? Every law that we pass in our parliament, we should try to pay a lot of attention to its effect on workers and the poor. Any law that in any way weakens the workers and their unions should not be passed by our parliament.

If this labour relations amendment bill in any way weakens the workers and their unions or takes away something from them, from their rights, it should be withdrawn. And in doing so we should not be inhibited by political expediencies of the moment. If its Joyce Nonde or Leonard Hikaumba we don’t want, let’s deal with them politically or by other means without putting unnecessary legislation just to get them out.

Changes must be made; present conditions must be improved. The workers and their various representatives must get together, for only unity will enable them to demand and achieve real justice.

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Senior trade unionists are just being difficult, charges Levy

Senior trade unionists are just being difficult, charges Levy
By Mutuna Chanda
Friday May 02, 2008 [04:01]

PRESIDENT Levy Mwanawasa yesterday said the Industrial and Labour Relations Amendment Bill that is before Parliament will not be withdrawn. Officiating at the Labour Day celebration in Lusaka, President Mwanawasa accused trade unions of trying to be difficult over the bill.

"We won't withdraw the bill because we have already consulted you. Mr Hikaumba, you know that we have consulted you and you only want to be difficult," President Mwanawasa said. "Consultation does not mean that we have to agree with you. The fact remains that it's only the mother trade unions that are agitating for the withdrawal of the bill. The lower unions are happy with it."

President Mwanawasa said senior trade union leaders had taken the stance of being difficult because they had interests to protect.

“It’s known that there are very senior trade union leaders who have retired but have clung on to union positions while some are about to retire,” President Mwanawasa said. “All these are agitating that the law is bad because it will disadvantage them.

But we are saying trade unions must move their leadership to workers. It’s time to go. You insist that there must be two terms for the President (Republican) but you want to be there indefinitely. Why?”

President Mwanawasa said the labour commissioner needed to receive audited accounts of trade unions.

“We have received reports of union funds being used for personal legal fees and for building houses,” President Mwanawasa said.

“The committee on labour at Parliament will be calling you and if they agree with you, they will recommend that the bill be withdrawn or that it be amended and if they don’t agree with you, it will come to Parliament and don’t you threaten that you will go on strike if the bill is not withdrawn. If you go on strike I’ll fire you.”

President Mwanawasa also said that trade unions appeared to be under the impression that if they put a government in power, they could make whatever demands they wished.

“If you want K3 million across the board, you don’t think of where it will come from and the opposition join you in pressurising and workers will agitate instead of thinking that this is too high,” he said.

“When you hold your general meetings, you want to be re-elected and you think you won’t be re-elected if you are not militant and to be militant is to demand unreasonable wage increases. And yet among your members are the people who are responsible for raising finances and have the capacity to tell what government has raised but this does not happen.”

President Mwanawasa further urged investors in the copper mines not to use the review of the mine tax regime as an excuse to deny workers improved conditions of service.

“What we have done in mineral taxes should not be an excuse for investors to disadvantage employees,” President Mwanawasa said. “If you do, workers won’t work hard and profits will be worse. We are aware that even with taxes, there is a lot for mines. The taxes are not higher than the average among copper producers.”

Earlier Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Leonard Hikaumba urged the government to withdraw the Industrial and Labour Relations Amendment Bill in view of the complaints that the amendments that were incorporated were not agreed on.

Some of the contentious issues in the Industrial and Labour Relations Amendment Bill include the amendments of: section 69 of the Industrial and Labour Relations Act where the most representative trade unions in the sector, trade or industry would lead negotiations with employers after forming an alliance with minority labour bodies; section 21 where the labour commissioner had been given powers to appoint an independent auditor to look at the books of account of a trade union which is suspected of abusing funds or using them contrary to its objectives and that depending on the auditor's recommendation, officers of the union could be suspended for a period not beyond 90 days pending conclusion of the audit report.

Hikaumba further said there was still time for President Mwanawasa to redeem himself to be counted as having done something for the workers.

“Zambia is poor and yet very rich in natural resources. Why should we remain poor? Talk of minerals, they are in abundance; water is in abundance; human resources are in abundance. What haven’t we done?” Hikaumba asked. “Mr President, at the end of your second term we want to look back and say what did he do for us? We don’t want to count you as a statistic; as President Mwanawasa did nothing. You still have time to redeem yourself. I know on the road to success there is no shortcut. Before we reached HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) completion point, workers were used as sacrificial lambs.

They were told they could not get salaries they were asking for until after HIPC but after reaching HIPC workers are asking where are the salaries? Many young men are PHDs not PHDs because they are doctors of philosophy. It’s Poor Hair Distribution (PHD) due to malnutrition that we are talking of, and these are the issues we need to tackle.”

Hikaumba said decent work for employees meant that they should afford basics from the first to the very last day of the month and are able to have three meals through them.
He further said decent work implied jobs for the youth, disabled as well as gender equity and equality.

Hikaumba called for unity among workers, political parties, employers and the government.
And Zambia Federation of Employers president Dr George Chabwera called for the liberalisation of the labour market in Zambia to facilitate the creation of decent jobs.
And International Labour Organisation area representative for Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique Gerry Finnegan said the creation of decent jobs was the most sustainable way out of poverty.

Meanwhile, there was disapproval by spectators and employees from different institutions when a Zesco truck displaying what the company is involved in was driving past the President.
This year’s Labour Day theme is ‘Economic empowerment through decent work and social justice’.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

(HERALD) Gono ‘frees’ forex trade

Gono ‘frees’ forex trade
By Victoria Ruzvidzo

THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has liberalised the foreign currency market by introducing an interbank trading system that will result in exchange rates being determined by the forces of supply and demand to encourage inflows into the formal market. Individuals, embassies and other institutions will now sell their foreign currency to banks and other authorised dealers on a willing-buyer/willing-seller basis.

Presenting the 2008 First Quarter Monetary Policy Statement in Harare yesterday, RBZ Governor Dr Gideon Gono announced key measures to guide foreign currency trading, set to subdue activity on the parallel market. The measures were also in response to requests by the Bankers’ Association of Zimbabwe to liberalise the exchange rate system.

"Freeing the exchange rate system by introducing an interbank foreign exchange market in order to formalise the trading of foreign exchange away from the informal market to the formal market, this measure will go a long way in addressing many apparent distortions in the pricing system in the economy while at the same time addressing the shortages of goods and services in the economy," said a memo to Dr Gono signed by BAZ president Dr John Mangudya.

The willing-buyer/willing-seller concept, said BAZ, would also reduce "unnecessary" demand for foreign currency in the market while creating an efficient pricing system.

Banks and other authorised dealers will now display their average buying and selling price each business day and will on-sell their foreign exchange to the Reserve Bank at the going interbank rate, leaving them with a float of not more than US$100 000.

This strategy is meant to rebuild the country’s strategic reserves position.

Exporters will now dispose of their surrender requirements to the central bank at the interbank rate while surrender levels, previously at 35 percent, will be determined by the rate at which exporters grow their exports.

For instance, a 10 percent growth will reduce the surrender level to 25 percent while a 30 percent rise in exports will see exporters retaining 95 percent of their earnings.

Retention levels will now be held in corporate Foreign Currency Accounts for a maximum of 21 days.

Under the twinning willing-buyer/willing-seller arrangement, authorised dealers will match sellers with buyers, guided by a priority list that will see food production, spare parts, fertilizers and other related imports being allocated 35 percent of available foreign currency while other critical imports will receive varying amounts based on the list.

"In order to significantly move the economy towards stability, increased capacity utilisation, availability of basic commodities and, hence, reduced and declining inflationary pressures, it has become necessary that the pricing and allocative frameworks in the foreign exchange market be reformed in a manner that guarantees viability for all generators of foreign exchange, whilst at the same time ensuring availability and affordability of this resource to users of foreign currency, particularly the non-exporting producers of basic goods and services," said Dr Gono.

This will also help strengthen the Zimbabwe dollar as overall export levels and other foreign currency levels improve.

The central bank chief also spoke passionately about the global food crisis and its effects back home, saying strategies would be employed to boost production.

"Most importantly, the strongest lesson for Zimbabwe is that now is the time to swiftly act against the ravaging global menace of hunger so as to lay a credible foundation for lasting macro-economic stability and internal cohesion of our nation," said Dr Gono.

In this regard, the lifespan of the Agricultural Sector Productivity Enhancement Facility will be extended to the 2008 summer cropping season while the modified Basic Commodities Supply Side Intervention Facility will also be extended to December.

The latter now incorporates Upfront Social Front Pacts between the central bank and beneficiaries to ensure effective deployment of funds.

This comes in the wake of reports that some firms had previously channelled the funds to speculative deals, thus defeating the facility’s purpose.

Furthermore, Dr Gono introduced a $300 trillion Strategic Products Price Controls Mitigation Fund to cushion firms against the effects of price controls.

Producers of such selected products as bread, sugar, cooking oil, stockfeeds and cement, among others, will get financial assistance to make up for the "genuine" adverse effects of price controls and delays in the approval of justified price reviews.

The fourth phase of the agricultural sector mechanisation programme will be launched in July to equip more communal, A1 and A2 farmers to increase production on the farms.

On inflation, Dr Gono reiterated that it remains the economy’s greatest challenge.

However, strategies to boost agricultural production, enhance general industrial output and foreign currency generation will help suppress inflationary pressures.

The annual rate of inflation stood at 165 000 percent as of February.

Tight monetary conditions such as increases in secured and unsecured accommodation to 4 500 percent and 5 000 percent, respectively, would also help reduce inflation.

Dr Gono bemoaned the absence of political cohesion and unity of common national purpose between the main political parties and challenged them to desist from selfish practices that were harmful to the nation, but to instead put Zimbabwe first.

"While we have been heartened to notice that a growing number of political players across the political divide are beginning to use the language of nation-building and economic revival, we, nevertheless, eagerly await the day when that language will be transformed into operational beliefs through concerted action.

"And we pray that this will happen not tomorrow, but today. Words are meaningful only when they are acted upon, not only when they are declared," he said.

Sanctions continued to wreak havoc in the economy, prompting Dr Gono to implore the business community to speak strongly against them. "The business community should condemn the sanctions . . . only then can we say we are moving in the same direction."

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