Saturday, May 15, 2010

(WHATS LEFT) Russ Feingold: Defending the top one percent from the bottom 99

what’s left
Russ Feingold: Defending the top one percent from the bottom 99
Posted in Zimbabwe by gowans on May 15, 2010

US Senator Russ Feingold is displeased. The legislation he helped draft in 2001 to cripple Zimbabwe’s economy as punishment for the country’s land reform program, which redistributed the land of 4,000 settlers to 300,000 landless indigenous families, has been exposed for what it is: a major instrument in a program of economic warfare designed to restore the property of expropriated farmers and drive the land reform program’s champions, Zanu-PF, from government.

Feingold is counterpunching with new legislation which he hopes will prove less of a liability to US propaganda, which has misdirected blame for Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown to Zanu-PF policies. At the same time, the new legislation aims to strengthen the West’s agent on the ground, the Movement for Democratic Change.

By Stephen Gowans

New US legislation introduced by US Senator Russ Feingold to update a 2001 bill that has been used to cripple Zimbabwe’s economy is aimed at supporting members of Zimbabwe’s coalition government who support US goals of restoring the property rights of settlers, while pressuring land reform champions to step down from government posts.

The current legislation, ZDERA, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, was passed into law in 2001 as an instrument to be employed in the program of ousting the Zanu-PF government. Zanu-PF, a merger of forces that had played the leading role in the country’s liberation from settler minority rule, provoked Western reaction when it rejected harsh conditions imposed by the IMF in the late 1990s and then introduced a fast-track land reform program. The land reform program expropriated settler farms without compensation, redistributing land to indigenous Zimbabweans. The beneficiaries of the program were over 300,000 previously landless families who were resettled on land previously owned by 4,000 farmers, mostly of British origin.

ZDERA, which blocked Zimbabwe’s access to loans, credits and debt relief from international financial institutions, plunged the country into an economic abyss. To bleed Zanu-PF of popular support, the United States, Britain, the European Union and other Western governments launched a propaganda offensive, blaming the ZDERA-induced economic meltdown on Zanu-PF mismanagement. At the same time, they backed the formation of a new opposition party, the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change), which brought together the settler community, trade unions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The MDC and its NGO partners have received generous assistance from Western governments and foundations, and have championed an agenda congruent with overseas investor rights and the interests of the settler community.

US Senator Russ Feingold has introduced new legislation to update a 2001 bill he co-wrote that has been used to cripple Zimbabwe’s economy. Feingold and others have tried to blame the effects of the 2001 bill, known as ZDERA, on Zanu-PF mismanagement.
Since the MDC’s formation in 2000 a virtual low-level civil war has convulsed the country, with the MDC, its civil society allies, and its Western backers seeking to oust Zanu-PF from power through electoral and extra-electoral means. Elections held in 2008 produced a parliament divided roughly evenly between Zanu-PF and the MDC (the MDC having fractured, by this point, into two factions.) Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the largest MDC faction, won the first round of voting in the presidential election, but failed to obtain a majority, forcing a runoff. Alleging that Zanu-PF partisans were using violence to intimidate his supporters, Tsvangirai withdrew from the ensuing runoff, effectively conceding the presidency to Robert Mugabe, the Zanu-PF candidate. This left the country divided, with neither party able to convincingly command the support of a majority. To avoid paralysis, the parties agreed to the formation of a coalition government. Mugabe would serve as president and Tsvangirai as prime minister.

For the MDC’s Western backers, the outcome was neither as good as desired, nor as bad as it could have been. MDC members were part of the cabinet, and therefore could affect policy, but Zanu-PF controlled the police and military, and therefore was in a position to block any attempted roll back of the party’s land reform program, as well as its (newly introduced) economic indigenization agenda. And it was precisely land reform and economic indigenization (a policy mandating majority ownership of the country’s enterprises by indigenous Zimbabweans) that Western governments bristled against.

Another minus from Washington and London’s point of view was the coalition government requirement that all members call for the lifting of sanctions. The official Western position, mimicked by the MDC, was that there were no sanctions, only targeted “restrictive measures” that exempted the population at large and punished a few key members of Zanu-PF. By denying the existence of sanctions, the West could blame Mugabe for the country’s economic turmoil, thereby providing Zimbabweans with a reason to turf Zanu-PF from government.

However, the West’s story wasn’t believable. ZDERA, with its obvious punitive implications for Zimbabwe’s economic welfare, could be pointed to as evidence of Washington’s hostility to Zimbabwe’s agenda of investing its liberation struggle with substantive content. (Zimbabweans want more than their own flag. They want control of their land and resources, too.) The ZDERA bill was readily available for all to see, in black and white, tangible evidence of the sanctions regime the United States denied existed. Requiring the MDC to climb aboard the anti-sanctions bandwagon, which already included the South African Development Community and the African Union, made the task of crippling Zimbabwe’s economy and blaming it on Mugabe all the more difficult.

Zimbabweans want more than their own flag. They want control of their land and resources, too.
All of this has given rise to the need to discard the discredited ZDERA, to remove an obvious target that critics of US foreign policy have been able to point to, to mobilize opposition to US economic warfare against Zimbabwe. The success of these critics has rankled Feingold, who whines that the attacks on ZDERA are nothing more than ”Mugabe’s propaganda” which allow Zanu-PF “to win local regional support.”

At the same time, the United States wants to step up assistance to the MDC, which, while part of the coalition government, is not in a strong enough position to roll back Zanu-PF’s land reforms. With the MDC now controlling some levers of government, the United States has the option of directing advice, material assistance and loans and credit to MDC-controlled ministries, freezing out ministries under Zanu-PF control.

Out of these requirements has come the Zimbabwe Transition to Democracy and Economic Recovery Act. The aim is to do exactly what ZDERA (which Feingold had had a hand in drafting) aims to do: strengthen the MDC and weaken Zanu-PF, in order to clear the way for the MDC to come to power to carry out the US agenda of restoring property rights.

It is no accident that Feingold’s new bill, and the statement accompanying its introduction, dwell on Zanu-PF’s “continued disrespect…for property rights,” a reference to the expropriation of settler farms and their redistribution to landless indigenous Zimbabweans. It’s no accident because that’s precisely what the new act, and ZDERA as well, is intended to overturn: the negation of private property rights to serve public policy goals, in this case, redress of an historical iniquity and recovery of indigenous sovereignty.

As the world’s hegemonic power, the United States has taken on the role of policing the globe to keep it safe for investors, bankers, bondholders and transnational corporations. In keeping with the domination of the US state by corporate executives, corporate lawyers, and investment bankers (i.e., people who own and control productive property), US foreign policy aims to keep the world open to foreign investment and trade and its riches in the hands of those who are already wealthy. This means, among other things, upholding private ownership claims to productive property, and defining as intolerable, even criminal, any violation of this principle. Expropriation of productive property, including of settler farms, especially where it is done without compensation, is a clear violation, (though the original expropriation of indigenous farmland at the point of a gun by European settlers merits no indemnification, apology, or corrective action by the global hegemon. Since Britain and the United States refused to assist in the redress of the original colonial expropriation — indeed, did all they could to hinder it — Zimbabweans took it upon themselves to remedy the wrong themselves. The United States polices the world on behalf of the property rights of those who are wealthy, not the dispossessed the wealthy robbed.)

US policy, then, brooks no abridgment of the right of individuals who currently hold productive property to continue to enjoy that property, and acts to vouchsafe their property against its being brought under public control, as socialist or communist governments may do, or being transferred to local business people (including landless families), as economic nationalist governments may do. The violation of the principle of private property by the 99 percent of the world that has none, has always been sufficient to arouse the hostility of the US government, which has always acted on behalf the remaining one percent. Feingold’s new bill is a continuation of this tradition.

Labels: , , ,


(MnG, SAPA) SA 'dumping' GM maize on Africa

SA 'dumping' GM maize on Africa

South Africa has dumped genetically modified (GM) maize on African markets, the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) alleged on Friday. "In the last four months, South Africa has dumped almost 300 000 metric tons of GM maize on to Kenya, Mozambique and Swaziland," it said in a statement.

This was revealed in its study, "Good neighbour? South Africa forcing GM maize onto African markets and policy makers", ACB said. The study contained the first documented cases of commodity exports of genetically modified organism (GMOs) from South Africa to the rest of the African continent, it said, describing this as a "a worrying precedent".

The ACB said that even Kenya, which was strategically important to Africa's biotech industry, and where most of the GM maize ended up, lacked the capacity to ensure the safe handling and monitoring of such a huge volume.

ACB director Mariam Mayet said as much as 80% of the grain trade in East Africa was informal and undocumented.

"The arrival of 280 000 tons of GM maize into Kenya presents the potential for genetic contamination on an unimaginable scale," she said.

"These shipments have come at a time when South Africa has experienced its second largest maize harvest on record, at over 13 million tons."

She said the latest available figures from the United Nations indicated that improved maize production in Kenya and Mozambique would result in increased food security in the two countries in the coming year.

"In both cases, analysts have stated that any remaining shortages can be plugged by inter-regional trade and government policies, without the need to impose GMOs on countries that have no infrastructure to safely handle them."

She said none of the three countries had functional biosafety legislation in place, let alone monitoring capacities.

"Swaziland has already refused entry to two shipments of GM maize this year, but records on the department of agriculture's website indicate that the South African response was to merely re-issue the permits to agribusiness, showing a flagrant disregard to its neighbour's right to say no."

Mayet said her organisation condemned "the underhand tactics and dubious motives" behind these GMO shipments.

ACB demanded that the South African GMO authorities conduct their affairs transparently, in a way that respected the country's neighbours "in keeping with the original intentions of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety". -- Sapa

Labels: , ,


(MnG) ANC stalls over public funding of parties

ANC stalls over public funding of parties

Certain addictions are hard to beat. The ANC looks no closer to exiting the Chancellor House deal now than it did a few weeks ago. At least two years have passed since then-secretary general of the ruling party, Kgalema Motlanthe, publicly conceded that Chancellor House is a "front company" used by the ANC to raise money.

Chancellor House has benefited, through its stake in Hitachi Africa, from the contracts to supply boilers to the new Medupi and Khusile power stations. Although Barbara Hogan, the minister of public enterprises, called for a quick exit in a recent speech to the National Assembly, there is no unanimity within the party on how to deal with the thorny issue.

If it is genuinely concerned about the ethics of the ruling party gaining millions indirectly from a World Bank loan, why does it not simply sell its shares? Instead, ANC treasurer general Mathews Phosa seems unable to get past opposition from the craven right wing of the ANC and from individuals such as Chancellor House chairperson Popo Molefe.

South Africa's democracy is suffering from the absence of transparency and a complete lack of regulation of private funding, despite being a signatory to the African Union convention on corruption, which includes a provision requiring national regulation based on the principle of ­transparency.

Given the ruling party's intransigence, it seems time to contextualise the problem yet again and try to map solutions. There seem to be three main dimensions to the challenge.

First, the demand side: political parties need money to operate.

Strong democracies require healthy political parties. In turn political parties require resources to sustain and operate a basic party structure, to contest elections and to contribute to policy debate. Therefore it is probably unrealistic to suggest an outright ban on private donations.

But limits on expenditure may be desirable. Many donors are tired of seeing their donations spent on the poster "arms race" that precedes every election. They would rather see their money being spent on creating real capacity in political parties. In the Netherlands, for instance, half the public funding must go towards policy institutes attached to each party.

Second, there is the supply side. Corporate donors in particular are increasingly vexed by the choice they face. Some have fled from the scene, concerned that the funding environment is a minefield in which their reputations can only be harmed.


Others have taken the opposite view, pumping secret donations to the ruling party to oil the tender wheels. In between, a small minority of companies have taken the open road, declaring their donations, but invariably making them on the basis of the current proportional representation within the National Assembly — which only really serves to cement the status quo.

The third dimension is the public one: there is already substantial public funding of political parties — about R70-million in the current financial year. There have been hesitant calls for an increase in this figure from across the political spectrum. Some believe that it will result in less dependence on either corporate or dodgy donors. Minority parties hope that it will increase the overall envelope and therefore heighten their ability to compete.

Five years ago Idasa decided against appealing the decision of the Cape High Court that political parties are entirely private associations, whose sources of funding are not subject to disclosure in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act. We did so on the basis of the ruling by the court that legislation initiated in Parliament, rather than litigation, was a more appropriate mechanism to address the issue of regulating political donations.

Idasa also took the ANC at its word when it stated in court papers that it was committed to the initiation and passage of such legislation in Parliament. We had underestimated the depth of the ANC's addiction to secret, dodgy funding and the inability and unwillingness of its leadership to take any steps to clean up its act.

Subsequent to that, at the ANC's Polokwane conference in 2007, the party resolved to "champion the introduction of a comprehensive system of public funding of representative political parties … as part of strengthening the tenets of our new democracy. This should include putting in place an effective regulatory architecture for private funding of political parties … The incoming NEC must urgently develop guidelines and policy on public and private funding, including how to regulate investment vehicles."

Yet, since then, nothing. Despite the Independent Democrats' Lance Greyling leading a brave charge, Parliament as an institution has shown itself to be deaf to his requests for a debate on the issue, despite parliamentary rule 103, which states that a member "may request the Speaker to place a matter of public importance on the Order paper for discussion".

Furthermore, Greyling's requests for an ad hoc committee have also fallen on fallow ground despite there being precedent for Parliament setting up ad hoc committees on, for example, the question of "service-delivery protests".
The Democratic Alliance has submitted a private members' Bill that tries to tackle a few of the challenges of regulation, though its focus is far too narrow.

The ANC under Jacob Zuma has promised that it will do things differently. If it is serious about curbing the corrosive impact of money on our political system, it will start by introducing legislation in Parliament that regulates private funding to political parties.

Although legislation alone can never be a panacea for all ills, unless a start is made to creating an environment for transparency in political party fundraising, we will have no guarantee that the public interest has not been eclipsed by the interests of political parties eagerly lining their coffers.

Judith February heads Idasa's Political Information and Monitoring Service. Richard Calland is associate professor of public law at UCT

Labels: , ,


(MnG) Turning over the land

Turning over the land

The government is preparing to overhaul land reform legislation, with the controversial Expropriation Bill coming off the shelf and the agriculture department looking at legislating targets for BEE ownership in the farming industry. In addition, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was due to present a Green Paper to the Cabinet last week outlining a new form of land ownership.

On Tuesday Beeld reported that Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson had proposed a new empowerment charter for agriculture requiring farmers to sell a 40% share of their farms and land to black shareholders.

In her budget vote last month Joemat-Pettersson also alluded to possible black ownership targets in agriculture. Her comments provoked an angry reaction from commercial farm unions, with which she had previously enjoyed good relations.

Her spokesperson, Priscilla Sehoole, said that the minister had merely said that a process of rethinking the challenges of production on the land and its political economy was critical.

"The process will look at various options and stakeholders will be consulted," Sehoole said. "Government will release an official statement when finality is reached."

Joemat-Pettersson told Beeld the new agricultural shares scheme will be discussed in September at the ANC's interim national conference.

The land reform department would also not be drawn on the new scheme, referring all questions to Joemat-Pettersson's office.

The original target was for the transfer of 30% of farmland into black hands by 2014, but earlier this year the government admitted that this will not be possible because of an inadequate budget.

The government estimates that less than 6% of land has been transferred to black ownership since 1994. Some analysts agree that reform is moving at a snail's pace, but the figure has also been disputed because it takes no account of private land transactions.

The Green Paper that Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti was due to submit to Cabinet at the end of April, outlining his department's plans, is still under wraps. But Nkwinti told Parliament during his budget vote that his department was considering moving towards a system of "freehold with limited extent" for private farmland.

At the end of last month President Jacob Zuma signalled that the government is looking at a new scheme to drive land reform. "The general view is that the willing-buyer willing-seller model has not worked adequately thus far," he said.

Zuma promised a more "pragmatic formula" to address South Africa's land problems, including less "costly ways" of purchasing land and significant changes in the current land redistribution model. He emphasised that all plans will follow the letter of the law and that South Africa will not go the Zimbabwean route.

A week later Public Works Minister Geoff Doidge announced that the controversial Expropriation Bill will be resubmitted to Parliament next January. The Bill was shelved in 2008 after objections that it allows government to expropriate farms in the national interest. Doidge said his department and the land reform departments are redrafting the Bill, which will have to be approved by the Cabinet before being presented to Parliament.

At the time the Bill was shelved the ANC said it believed that there had been insufficient time for its national executive committee and parliamentary caucus to consider it. Public hearings were "far too limited" and the Bill needed to go back for review.

As pressure mounts over the perceived slow pace of reform, many in the ANC believe it is now time to reintroduce the legislation.

Joemat-Pettersson's proposal has not been met with enthusiasm in commercial farming circles.

"To expect farmers to transfer 40% of their agricultural interest to black shareholders is outrageous and totally unacceptable," said Transvaal Agricultural Union president Ben Marais.

"We've been experiencing difficulty for some time in meeting the minister to discuss agricultural issues. Meetings were postponed and in the last case she didn't even bother to give notice that she would not be available."

Marais said organised agriculture had the impression "that she cannot meet us eye to eye because she knows what our reaction would be on this unacceptable and ridiculous plan".

He said that a 2001 study for the Development Bank indicated that the state and people of colour own more than 56% of South Africa's land.

Court stands by traditional communities

The Constitutional Court ruled this week that the Communal Land Rights Act -- regarded by some traditional communities as "a new apartheid" -- is unconstitutional and invalid.

The Act would have given traditional authorities the power to control property owned by families, subcommunities, trusts and communal property associations.

Four communities from Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West challenged its constitutionality in the North Gauteng High Court, where they succeeded in having 17 subsections declared unconstitutional last October.

The offending subsections provided for the transfer and registration of communal land, the determination of rights by the minister of rural development and land reform and the establishment and composition of land administration committees.

The communities of Kalkfontein, Makuleke, Makgobistad and Dixie argued that the Act violated the Constitution by restoring "apartheid-era tribal units" and reinforcing tribal boundaries created by the architects of apartheid.

The Constitutional Court heard the state's appeal in March and upheld the high court judgment this week.

Judge Sandile Ngcobo found that the "inescapable conclusion" was that the Act's provisions substantially affected indigenous law and traditional leadership, areas of concurrent national and provincial competence.

Ngcobo ruled that the Act would have replaced the living indigenous law that regulates the occupation, use and administration of communal land. He also concluded that Parliament followed incorrect procedure in enacting the law.

The Act would have affected about 21-million people living under traditional leadership, handing administrative control of communally owned land to traditional leaders.

Its original intention was to give rural South Africans security of tenure. But its effect would have been to give traditional leaders much greater authority over their subjects.

The communities argued the Act would have given traditional leaders undemocratic and unprecedented powers and undermined women's rights and black ownership of land.

"We submit that the evidence shows that, far from securing the applicant communities' land tenure, the Act actually undermines their tenure and makes it more insecure," the communities argued in their application."

The Kalkfontein community feared that the law would have given their chief the power to take over their land.

The Dixie community, bordering the Kruger Park, feared that its valuable land could be sold from under them to developers.

Labels: , , ,


(NYASATIMES) Inkosi M’Mbelwa IV explains his political loyalty

Inkosi M’Mbelwa IV explains his political loyalty
By Nyasa Times
Published: May 13, 2010

“My area has people of different political affiliations but I work with the government of the day,” he told Capital Radio Straight Talk programme.

Presenter Brian Banda asked him to explain his political loyalty after supporting the one-party dictatorship of Kamuzu Banda, later supported Bakili Muluzi regime including the failed third term bid and now he is supportive of the current Bingu wa Mutharika administration.

Inkosi Mbelwa said he was a not a party functionary but is like a civil servant as a chief working directory with the President through the Local Government ministry.

He denied promoting third term bid for former president Muluzi.

“If there were people who were not behind the Third Term Bill, I was one of them, but I was pushed to be on the forefront,” he said.

Pressed to explain, he said: “It wasn’t that I was pushed but because of my position I was meant to be spokesman for the chiefs.”

On naming the incumbent the title Ngwazi, which was also used by Kamuzu, he said President Mutharika merited the title.

“First and foremost I looked at the subsidy programme, the food situation of this country. People were dying of hunger in this country but when Bingu came in with his principles and policies that he had instituted, the people all over a sudden had changed.

“When we were celebrating in Mzimba, we decided to give Bingu wa Mutharika a skin of a lion. Usually in Ngoni [culture] he who put on a skin of lion is Ngwazi,” the Ngoni chief said.

“It was the Mzimba people after getting satisfied with the Bingu policies that we decided to give him the skin of the lion.”

Speaking on the education quota system which has provoked the people of the Northern Region, the paramount chief said he was not in opposition to the controversial policy.

“The issue on quota system if I tell you the way I am brought up in my tradition… if an elderly person has said we would do this, you don’t question it.

“You just look at it until such a time when things have worked. After things have worked you relook at them, have they worked positively or negatively,” he said.

Inkosi Mbelwa said President Mutharika’s statement when he opened the National Bank branch in Mzuzu said the “equitable access to higher education” allow improvements and that he was waiting for people to submit their views.

“We have seen the selection, at first the quota system was being said for university but the implementation has started from secondary so we would want to sit down and see how best we would approach government on this issue.

“We will have to create a room for discussion which I am happy the President has created. We create room for an audience with the President.”

He denied being a governing party functionary.

“I am not DPP but I am an affiliate of government. Whichever government comes, I will support. I have never been corrupted by any government,” said Inkosi M’Mbelwa who is also chairman of Television of Malawi.

He also said he had got wind of rumours that a political party is being formed in the Northern Region but said if the rumours were anything to go by; it “will bring division or widen divisions”.



(NYASATIMES) Malawi tobacco child labourers being poisoned –TV documentary

Malawi tobacco child labourers being poisoned –TV documentary
By Nyasa Times
Published: May 14, 2010

The documentary was produced by Julie Noon and reporter Jenny Kleeman which uncovered that children suffer health problems from handling tobacco and some are trapped in bonded labour arrangements, leaving them unable to escape and little seems to be done to protect their health and wellbeing.

In the documentary, the team begin their journey in Mchinji district. While some children are in their uniforms on their way to school, the team spots

[Really? How convenient. I don't believe in coincidences. - MrK]

a group of 15 to 20 sorting tobacco by the roadside. Emilida and her three children – including her three-year-old son – have been working there since dawn.

The team finds a family of seven harvesting tobacco who says they work every day from dawn to dusk. The children’s hands are covered in a sticky brown residue and they say they suffer from severe headaches: a symptom of green tobacco sickness, or nicotine poisoning, where high doses of nicotine are absorbed through the skin.

Farges, the mother of the family, says the entire family takes home the equivalent of about K4,000 a year (£18), the cost of three packets of cigarettes in the UK. Her children must work so they can fulfil the daily quota of tobacco the farm owner has demanded of them.

She says the farm owners claim they’re not getting a fair price for tobacco at auction and can’t pay them more. The family wants to escape tobacco farming, but they’ve been forced to borrow money from the land owner and can’t leave until they work off their debt. The UN says this is bonded labour, a modern form of slavery.

The team visits the local primary school to see how tobacco is affecting children’s education. The headmaster tells Channel 4 TV that a third of his class are absent, probably in the tobacco fields. He says most pupils fail their exams and then can’t go on to secondary school because they miss out on so much of their education to work with tobacco.

In Kasungu, they investigated claims that some farm owners are trafficking children to work on larger estates. They meet Elisa, 13, Akim Nkhoma, 14, and Joseph, 17. Elisa says a farm owner came to her village to recruit child labourers, promising that her family would be paid for her work at the end of the season. The boys claim they were treated very badly on the estates: their supervisors shouted at them, withheld their food and beat them with sticks.

South of Kasungu, the team joins a group of charity workers and government officials who are trying to stop child labour. They quickly find children sorting tobacco in a facility owned by a former MP.

The District Labour Officer tells the British TV the owner will definitely go to jail, but the team later discovers he has been let off with a caution. No one has ever been imprisoned in the district for employing children.

Channel 4 TV team end their journey in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, where the majority of tobacco picked by Malawi’s children enters the world market.

Malawi is one of the world’s biggest tobacco producers. Tobacco Control Commission CEO, Dr Bruce Munthali said in the documentary that Malawi relies on the crop for 65 per cent of its foreign income and its tobacco is bought by companies including British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris.

The TV crew try to arrange an interview with the Minister of Labour Yunnus Mussa to talk about their findings, but he fails to turn up to every appointment.

But Mussa told Malawi’s private Capital Radio Straight Talk programme recently that his ministry through district and regional offices had put in place initiatives to build capacity in rural communities to combat child labour

“I am told with the school-feeding programme, a lot of children are going to school. We’re actually addressing the issue with the assistance of International Labour Organization. We have a programme to eliminate child labour,” the minister said.

“We have rescued a number of children of being child-labourers. Out of those some have gone back to school. Some we have given them start-up capital and equipment so that they are self-employed in brick-laying, carpentry, tailoring and even farming,” he said.

“The Minister disclosed that government would table a tenancy bill in parliament which proposes an age limit.

“No child shall be employed until the age of 18 years otherwise there will be a punishment of up to K1 million or imprisonment,” the minister said.

The investigations by Channel 4 TV follows another research by international children’s organisation Plan showing that Malawi has the highest incidence of child labour in southern Africa, with 88.9% of five to 14-year-olds working in the agricultural sector.

Plan called on Malawi’s government to enforce existing child labour and protection laws and on plantations to provide safer, fairer working conditions for those children forced to work.

“Plan is calling for better enforcement of child labour laws and harsher punishment for employers who break them,” said Macdonald Mumba, Plan Malawi’s child rights adviser.

Malawi is a signatory to numerous conventions against child labour, including the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, the 1973 International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 138 (setting a minimum working age of 18), and the 1999 ILO Convention 182 (outlawing child labour). —Nyasa Times/Channel 4 TV-Unreported World

Labels: ,


(NYASATIMES) Zambian politicians at each other’s throats over HIV and heart tests

Zambian politicians at each other’s throats over HIV and heart tests
By Nyasa Times
Published: May 13, 2010

Mud-slinging in Zambian politics has entered a new turf with politicians challenging each other to publicly reveal their health conditions.

Outspoken opposition leader of Patriotic Front (PF) Michael Sata has challenged Vice President George Kunda and President Rupiah Banda to go for AIDS tests and publicize the medical test results. According media reports, Sata (pictured) is even prepared to foot the bill.

“I am challenging comrade Rupiah Banda and comrade George Kunda (Vice President) for us to go for specific tests of three conditions: (1) heart condition, (2) HIV/AIDS and three Caposi Sacoma,” Sata said.

“And I will bear the costs of the test whether they will be done in Zambia or not” he is quoted saying.

Sata said those in government should not be angry when citizens demanded to know the health status of their leaders.

He said it was sad to see how angry Kunda got when the nation was merely asking to know more about his medical trip to South Africa.

Media reports have revealed that Kunda returned to Zambia on Saturday from South Africa for a three week medical review and claimed that the trip had been politicized.

Kunda, according to reports, claimed “that he knew a lot about his (Sata) health” although he avoided talking about it. Although Sata said it was well known fact that he suffered a heart attack in the past.

He is quoted saying “I have nothing to hide about my health. It is George who has everything to hide about his health.

“On 24th April, 2008 I suffered a heart attack that saw me go to Milpak Hospital. Since that time, I have four times gone for HIV tests and have been found negative” said Sata.

The health issue has forced Zambia Medical Association (ZMA) to intervene urging politicians to desist from politicising personal health matters.

“ZMA considers individual medical issues as a serious matter which should not be politicised or discussed in public,” the association warned.

The church in Zambia, however, says Sata should be the last person to politicise the recent medical check-up Kunda underwent in South Africa because he has allegedly more serious health complications himself.–

Labels: , , ,


Rentals and rates

Rentals and rates
By The Post
Sat 15 May 2010, 04:00 CAT

It cannot be denied that Rupiah Banda’s pronouncements concerning local authorities that are dominated by the opposition Patriotic Front on the Copperbelt Province have caused a lot of problems.

In his quest to maintain a hold on power, Rupiah is ready to sacrifice anything and anyone. Under the tutorage of Frederick Chiluba, Rupiah thinks messing up local authorities on the Copperbelt is the most effective way of endearing himself to the people of the Copperbelt.

Following his pronouncements on the way the councils are being managed on the Copperbelt, tenants and ratepayers started refusing giving to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar. Some even demanded refunds of their rentals and rates because Rupiah pronounced that councils were just exploiting tenants and ratepayers with the high rates and rentals.

Last week, town clerks from Ndola, Kitwe, Chingola, Luanshya and Mufulira complained before the Parliamentary Committee on Local Governance, Housing and Chiefs’ Affairs that they were experiencing problems in collecting rates and rentals because occupants were refusing to pay following Rupiah’s recent pronouncements on the matter.

It is with this background in mind that we welcome local government and housing minister Eustarckio Kazongo’s directive for all tenants occupying council properties to pay rentals and rates in accordance with the law. And there is no need for Kazonga to mislead people that Rupiah did not order tenants to stop paying rates and rentals anywhere in his speech. It is more honourable for one to admit a mistake when it is committed.

Kazonga cannot in any reasonable way claim that Rupiah’s pronouncements did not bring about this confusion on the Copperbelt. If Rupiah did not say something to incite tenants from stopping paying rentals and rates, why was this refusal only witnessed after his so-called press conference in Kitwe? Why didn’t these tenants approach their various local authorities in demanding refunds before Rupiah made those pronouncements on the operations of the councils?

That is why we are saying it is more honourable for one to admit a mistake when it is committed. Rupiah made a mistake in his pronouncements because he is blinded by his selfish desire to seek re-election next year. In fact, he even threatened government officials with dismissals should they refuse to carry out Presidential orders.

That is why Kazonga has to be careful the way he moves on this matter. He is prepared to lie just to protect himself from being dismissed. We know Kazonga must be under a lot of pressure trying to implement illegal directives from Rupiah. We are waiting to see how Kazonga is going to implement or react to Rupiah’s directive for him to issue the Zambia National Marketeers Association (ZANAMA) with title deeds for a market in Kitwe.

However, we commend him that this time around he has seen that following every irregular pronouncement from his boss will create chaos among our people. Ministers are there to carry out only lawful instructions from a president. Rupiah should not mislead himself that as President, he can make any decision as he deems fit. He should learn lessons from his bedfellow Chiluba who had his immunity lifted after he left State House and prosecuted for his criminal activities. As for ministers, they have no immunity so it is very easy to deal with them.

A president should not be in the forefront promoting anarchy in the country. Laws are there to be obeyed and if there is anything wrong with them, they should be taken to Parliament for amendment. Paying rentals and rates is a legal requirement which every tenant has to oblige.

And we urge the tenants on the Copperbelt to follow Kazonga’s directive with the seriousness it deserves. If there are issues, those issues must be confronted without violating the provisions of the law.

We only hope we are not endangering Kazonga’s job by commending him for doing the right thing because Rupiah says any minister praised by The Post is his enemy and therefore deserves to be fired. That is how shallow his thinking is. Rupiah does not know that praise is only given where it is due just like criticism is offered when it is due. We wonder if Rupiah will divorce his wife the day she will deserve praise in this column.

It is our hope that Rupiah is learning lessons from his mistakes. He should control his appetite for power. If he wants to be re-elected next year, he should just do the correct things. Breaking the law with impunity will only diminish his chances. He will not buy votes with council houses. Local government is a very important area in which development should be promoted at the local level.

But how will councils be expected to deliver development when they are denied resources by tenants who are insulated from meeting their obligations? Rupiah should be a responsible leader and lead by example. A good leader can’t be in the forefront inciting citizens to ignore the law.

The other day we said good ideas foster other good ideas, just as on the other hand, bad things foster other bad things. Rupiah should identify issues correctly if he has to be appreciated by our people. For him, he has to do anything to continue in office. In his misguided view, Rupiah has embraced Chiluba thinking he will help him win popularity in Luapula and Copperbelt provinces.

This weekend, he is sending hundreds of police officers to guard Chiluba in Mansa as he launches a campaign for him in that area.

This is not all. Rupiah has also indentified violence as a weapon to silence his opponents and critics. When it was clear that the MMD were losing in the Mufumbwe parliamentary election recently, the MMD resorted to violence. Rupiah’s disciple, William Banda is in the forefront threatening violence against all those with divergent views.

Fr Frank Bwalya is their biggest victim. The MMD cadres under Rupiah are now licensed to spill blood. They make all sorts of statements threatening violence with no condemnation from the party hierarchy. This is enough confirmation that this violence is orchestrated by the top leadership both in the party and in government.

Labels: , , , ,


Kazonga asks tenants in C/belt council houses to pay rates

Kazonga asks tenants in C/belt council houses to pay rates
By Namatama Mundia
Sat 15 May 2010, 04:20 CAT

LOCAL government minister Dr Eustarckio Kazonga yesterday directed the tenants in all council houses on the Copperbelt to continue paying rentals and rates.

Dr Kazonga’s statement follows complaints from town clerks on the Copperbelt that they were having difficulties in collecting rentals and rates following President Rupiah Banda’s pronouncements on the matter.

Town clerks from Ndola, Kitwe, Chingola, Luanshya and Mufulira told the parliamentary committee on local governance, housing and chiefs affairs that they were experiencing problems to collect rates and rentals because occupants were refusing to pay following President Banda’s recent pronouncements.

During a press briefing late last month, President Banda said he could not understand the criteria used by councils to evaluate the properties which were bought under the empowerment policy in 1996.

President Banda said, “one wonders whether this is not a calculated political move by the PF councils to create a wedge between the people and their government. Some house owners who failed to pay the increased rates have even had their household goods such as TV sets, furniture and other such items confiscated by councils, depriving them of their comfort.

This is unacceptable and I advise all those citizens affected to report such incidents so that we can deal with these people,” President Banda said.
But Dr Kazonga urged tenants on the Copperbelt to pay rates and rentals to the councils.

“The people have to pay the rates that are there, but we are saying that let’s put a human face to these demands and we can also take the route of trying to negotiate,” he said in an interview. “The councils can sit with ratepayers and agree on the mode of payment.”

Dr Kazonga said residents by law were expected to pay their rates.

“In accordance with the law, they are supposed to pay but it’s these modalities that we need to look at because some people were trying to misuse the legal provisions.

The law is not there to punish, it’s there to assist what people are supposed to do, that is it’s not meant to punish the ratepayer,” Dr Kazonga said. “When the rates are within manageable levels, even compliance indirectly also improves, so if you put in a big figure, to collect that big figure you will have problems.”

He said ratepayers and councils should discuss the modalities of paying these rates.

“There are some companies that have discussed with councils, Sun International Hotel discussed with Livingstone council, they demanded that the rates were on a higher side and they negotiated with the council,” Dr Kazonga said.

He said the issue of tenants demanding for refunds from councils was a non-issue.

However, Dr Kazonga said President Banda did not order tenants to stop paying rates.
And Dr Kazonga said the ratings Act required the local authorities to prepare valuations rolls.

“And the same law empowers property owners an opportunity to check and inspect the valuation rolls before they are finalised. Where they feel the values indicated are not appropriate or manageable,” he said.

“They can submit their objections to the Ratings Valuation Tribunal and based on the submission, the tribunal makes a decision. In case a ratepayer or property owner is not satisfied with the decision, he or she is free to appeal to the High Court.”

Dr Kazonga said President Banda directed him to devise and supervise a professionally acceptable, efficient and orderly way of evaluating property and setting land rates so that correct things are done within the legal framework.

He said he was now implementing the President’s directive.

“I will ensure that during the preparation of the valuation roll, those property owners must get involved and they must also make comments or objections of the draft to the tribunal,” he said.

“I will ensure that the ratings valuations tribunal listens to the objections if any submitted by property owners,” he said.

Recently, former president Frederick Chiluba told tenants at Ndola’s Itawa Flats that they should give president Banda a vote in next year’s elections.

Chiluba who was accompanied by his wife Regina, former MMD provincial chairman Terence Findlay, Ndola District MMD vice publicity secretary Alex Mubanga popularly known as Shimpundu pankoloko, told the tenants that if they voted for the UPND-PF Pact leaders, they would never see development in the nation.

On February 14, 2010 in Ndola, President Banda accused PF-UPND–controlled councils of stealing billions of kwacha without providing services.

“I have listened to your cries, you tenants of Itawa Flats and the Chinese Housing Complex in Ndola, especially that the council has been stealing billions of kwacha without providing services. Why charge you more when you stay in houses that are cracking thus putting your lives in danger?” asked President Banda.

“But they will not steal anymore since they are not in government and soon we shall be moving to Kitwe because similar incidents are happening and we shall thoroughly audit them to find out how much they collect as rates from the mines without doing roads.”

Labels: , , , ,


Milupi quits MP post, forms party

COMMENT - As much as I like Charles Milupi MP and I really do, perhaps the acronym ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is a little unfortunate for a new party. Also, it seems to me that a party without cadres doesn't stand much chance. Unless they can put up candidates in as many constituencies as the MMD, they don't stand a chance.

Milupi quits MP post, forms party
By Moses Kuwema and Mwape Chishimba
Sat 15 May 2010, 04:50 CAT

Milupi with supporters after the launch of the party at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka yesterday - Picture by Cynthia Phiri

CHARLES Milupi has resigned his position as Luena independent member of parliament to become president of the newly launched Alliance for Development and Democracy (ADD).

During the launch of ADD at Mulungushi International Conference Centre yesterday, Milupi said he had since informed the Speaker of the National Assembly of his decision to resign and would re-contest on ADD ticket.

“The desire to tackle issues affecting the nation is so serious in us here that we can no longer afford to wait,” he said.

Milupi thanked the people of Luena for having shown confidence in him.

“I wish to thank the people of Luena for voting for me on an independent ticket and for their cooperation during my tenure of office. However, it is my intention to re-contest the seat on the Alliance for Development and Democracy ticket during the forthcoming by-election for the sole purpose of completing the current term of parliament and in 2011 we shall stand for higher things that of presidency,” he said.

And Milupi has called for an end to arbitrary spending, saying the building of mansions for former presidents was part of abuse of public resources.

“Consider this; by the time a person decides to stand for presidency of the nation, the chances are that that person already has a house. Why then does Zambia consider that in addition to the generous pension, an ex-president receives, the State must build mansions for those who have held office of the president? What about others - vice-presidents, ministers, the Secretary to the Cabinet? This simply does not make sense. It is part of the abuse of public resources,” he said.

Milupi said the wastage of public resources in Zambia was not only limited to corruption.

“Over the years, there has developed a culture of ‘free for all’ in the use of public resources. Our public service pay policy has moved from the basic pay remuneration system to one based on all manner of allowances, which, of course are not accessible to all but only to those whose positions allow them to create opportunities for such allowances, such as workshops, local tours and overseas travel,” he said.

Milupi said the misuse of resources was also evident in the current practice of sale of personal to holder vehicles sold to the recipients before they reach their asset disposal date and at well below market value.

UNZA lecturer Dr Mathias Mpande is ADD’s interim vice president.

Labels: , ,


Parliamentary Committee questions Chilubi council over grants

Parliamentary Committee questions Chilubi council over grants
By Florence Bupe
Sat 15 May 2010, 03:10 CAT

THE Parliamentary Committee on Local Government, Housing and Chiefs Affairs yesterday took to task Chilubi district council for failing to properly manage government grants. Committee chairperson Regina Musokotwane said the council was performing very poorly with a scanty revenue base standing at K6 million against a wage bill of K38 million.

This was after the council secretary, Reagan Kalumba, disclosed that the district was only raking in K6 million to pay the total workforce of 27, as well as deliver other required services.

“You cannot afford to operate in such a manner as a district council. It shows lack of commitment and seriousness to your work,” she said.

Musokotwane warned that the committee would have no choice but to recommend for Chilubi district to be downgraded to a sub- committee if the performance of the council did not improve.

“You need to pull up your socks; so far you’re the second worst performing council after Luwingu. We cannot afford to have a district council with such a huge number of people raking in so little,” she said.
Luwingu District Council has been cited as the worst performing local authority.

But Kalumba explained that the low revenue flow was as a result of depleted fish stocks in the district’s water bodies.

He said the council was reliant on the fishing community for levies as it was the mainstay preoccupation of the population on the island.

“Fish stocks in Chilubi have really depleted and that is why our revenue base has also declined significantly. We are, however, putting measures in place aimed at resuscitating out revenue collection by constructing a rest house,” Kalumba explained.

This revelation, however, caused laughter among committee members as Musokotwane wondered how the council could manage to construct a rest house with K6 million.

It was also learnt that the council was in arrears, as it had not been remitting statutory obligations to the National Pensions Scheme Authority (NAPSA) and the Local Authority Superannuation Fund (LASF).

Musokotwane advised that the district administration should instead sensitise the local community on the importance of observing the annual fish ban and avoiding the use of wrong fishing methods to increase fish stocks, and ultimately raise the council’s revenue collection.

Labels: , ,


Rupiah receives names of Rwanda genocide suspects hiding in Zambia

Rupiah receives names of Rwanda genocide suspects hiding in Zambia
By Chibaula Silwamba
Sat 15 May 2010, 03:50 CAT

RWANDA-based African Rights and two other international human rights organisations have submitted names of suspects of the 1994 Rwanda genocide hiding in Zambia to President Rupiah Banda.

African Rights director Rakiya Omaar told The Post from Kigali that African Rights, REDRESS and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre submitted a dossier with detailed information about 14 individuals suspected to have been involved in human rights violation during the genocide.

“In sending the dossier, we are not simply asking the government to surrender the alleged genocide suspects, but rather to (1) establish definitively that these individuals are indeed in Zambia; (2) to carry out its own investigations into the allegations which have been leveled against them and (3) to examine the options that would enable Zambia to meet the relevant legal obligations so that the public statements which Zambia has made, saying that it will not be a haven for fugitives from justice, can be met in a timely fashion,” said Omaar.

In January this year, President Banda, during his state visit to Rwanda, told President Paul Kagame that Zambia would have to trace genocide suspects hiding in Zambia and would extradite them.

In a space of 100 days between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed. The majority of the dead were Tutsis in the massacre perpetrated by the Hutu tribe.

Labels: , , ,


Businessman denies using Rupiah ties to exploit Lafarge

Businessman denies using Rupiah ties to exploit Lafarge
By George Chellah
Sat 15 May 2010, 03:10 CAT

Time Tracking managing director Umesh Patel has been accused of forcing some officials at Larfage Cement to give him business on account that he is one of the financiers to the ruling MMD. But Patel yesterday dismissed the allegations as rubbish. According to sources at Larfarge, Patel has been boasting that he is very close to State House and President Rupiah Banda.

“In fact, Mr Umesh Patel has been threatening to cause the deportation of two senior managers at Lafarge using his connections with State House. It is not only Larfarge that is in trouble,” the source said.

“Umesh Patel has grown big-headed because he is very close to the President. In fact, we are aware that he was at State House yesterday (Thursday) in the company of two people. But this nonsense must be stopped. He is going round boasting that he supports the MMD financially and meets President Banda as and when he feels like so nothing can happen to him.

The other day he was boasting that he donated K48 million to the MMD. Even if Mr Patel is donating money to MMD, we do not think President Banda can allow his behaviour. It is possible Mr Patel is abusing the President’s name. We are not convinced that the President can condone that behaviour.”

But when reached for comment yesterday, Patel said: “I don’t think that’s right…oh my God! Whoever told that information to you, tell him to go to hell because that’s all wrong. Okay, phone me on Monday when I am in town.”

When further pressed to give his comment over the matter, Patel answered: “It’s all rubbish!”

Labels: , , , ,


Mansa residents oppose Chiluba’s visit

Mansa residents oppose Chiluba’s visit
By Chibaula Silwamba in Mansa
Sat 15 May 2010, 04:00 CAT

SEVERAL listeners to Mansa's Radio Yangeni on Thursday opposed Frederick Chiluba’s visit to the area this weekend, arguing that he did nothing for Luapula Province during his 10-year reign.

During a special programme on the ‘development’ meeting of chiefs and parliamentarians from Luapula Province to be addressed by former president Chiluba today, the listeners sent text messages denouncing the discussants - Copperbelt minister Mwansa Mbulakulima, Kawambwa PF member of parliament Elizabeth Chitika-Mulobeka and Mansa Central MMD parliamentarian Chrispin Musosha.

Chitika-Mulobeka was the hardest hit with people accusing her of being dishonest.

“Mulobeka, you used Sata to get Kawambwa in 2006 and now you want to use Chiluba in 2011,” presenter Mumbi Mumbi read some text messages.

“We are not supporting Mulobeka because she is a crook, she is chameleon. That lady is irritating. Madam Mulobeka you must be honest. Don’t you think that Chiluba supported the PF because he was afraid of Mwanawasa? …To realise that Chiluba is in the MMD because he needs protection from the MMD? Chiluba must stay away from active politics. Madam, you have not been consistent in your relationship with Chiluba.”

The listeners accused Chiluba of spoiling the MMD.
“Hon Chitika, what value can Chiluba add to the people of Luapula when he failed to do this when he was president? I feel by inviting him to your meeting, it is a minus on the MMD because the big man has already proved himself a failure to the people of Luapula. The chiefs you are parading will not force us to vote for Rupiah Banda,” another text message read. “You know Dr Chiluba could be a factor but your timing of your tailored meeting is misplaced. Your meeting will yield zero, just like the last national indaba.”

Another listener Jimmy Kapanda stated that Chiluba should stay away from active politics although he was born and bred from Luapula Province.

Patrick Mwewa stated, “Gordon Brown resigned because he understands seasons, Chiluba is not a season of today.”

“Let Chiluba be a preacher, he ruled this country, it’s over,” another text message read. “For as long as the London High Court judgment stands, Chiluba remains convicted. Thanks to Honourable George Kunda for prosecuting successfully.”

Another listener wrote, “Be careful with FTJ; he formed PUDD, joined PF then rejoined MMD. Can you trust him? Be careful Honourable Musosha, FTJ is slippery. He may contest Mansa Central. Lucky you he is not Ushi, he may fail on one qualification you set.”

Another text message read, “count what he did in Luapula during his 10 years rule, not Shoprite. You did not pay retrenchment packages to Sparks’ employees, can they buy things from Shoprite? Be ashamed! Imwe kuyabebele in 2011.”

Another message stated, “Why come to the province at this time? It’s a very big threat to the peace of the province. We stayed alone without any development since 1991. We are fine and we are not complaining. Please leave us, we know when our development will begin, we will welcome you after 2011; these are the kicks of a dying horse. Please leave.”

But Mbulakulima remarked: “I am aware that these text messages are stage managed, so we are not worried.”

Mbulakulima, the co-organiser of the meeting, said Chiluba and President Rupiah Banda would soon be heroes for their contribution to the country’s development despite the scorn being poured on them.

“I believe, I tell you, we can bet, Dr Chiluba will be a hero a few years from now. He contributed to the free economy, free market, the media, democracy, everything; all these he did play a role. He does not need to build a house in his own village to be a hero,” said Mbulakulima, who is also Chembe MMD member of parliament.

“Dr Mwanawasa, starting on a shaky note if you want, and people called him all sorts of names and then they realised he is a steel metal. Rule of law was bright, this was a man focused on the economy and the economy started growing tremendously. Equally today, they are calling our President Mr Rupiah Banda all sorts of names but I can tell you when he leaves office he will be a hero. So in short, you cannot rise to the position of president and come out zero.”
He said former president Dr Kenneth Kaunda was denounced but he was now a hero.

“In 1991, if we were not careful we would have killed Dr Kaunda. We all hated Dr Kaunda. After cooling down we realised Dr Kaunda was a great man. Lucky enough we did not eliminate him. But we called him all sorts of names in 1990/1991. But today, Dr Kaunda is a hero,” Mbulakulima said.

When Mumbi asked whether people were against the development meeting or Chiluba’s presence at the meeting, Mbulakulima said he was at pains to answer the question.

He said people should not think the discussants were contradicting each other in their explanation about the meeting.

“You are at pains to ask that question; equally we are also at pains to answer that question because definitely the same question that you are asking is the one that is on the ground. People are asking, ‘this has raised a lot of issues and concerns’. One wonders, ‘why?’ hence the reasons for you to ask that question,” Mbulakulima said.

“But definitely I will tell you and if you want and people want to be malicious, they can say: ‘Mbulakulima, Musosha, Mulobeka contradict each other on the reason why they haven’t invited more people’. But I am going to say, adding on what my two colleagues have said, honourable Mulobeka has said, supposed we had to engage the chiefs on any other issues, what would they say?”

He accused the PF of disliking Chiluba.
“I ask the people out there, what is their reaction, especially the Patriotic Front in regards to Dr Chiluba? We have seen the reaction that they don’t want Dr Chiluba to be part of them. We know that their PF’s approach to Dr Chiluba and our approach are not compatible,” Mbulakulima said.

“What is the relationship between the Patriotic Front and their royal highnesses in Northern, in Luapula and out there? We don’t want to be arbitrators in this regard, we are competitors. It’s a fact. At certain stage, we are not compatible.”

He said people had unnecessarily raised dust on Chiluba’s invitation to the meeting.
“I don’t see a reason why we people of Luapula should be fighting,” said Mbulakulima.

At least 44 chiefs from Luapula and all but two parliamentarians from the province will attend the meeting which Chiluba will open, while Vice-President George Kunda is expected to officially close it on Sunday.

And Chitika-Mulobeka dismissed opposition to the invitation to Chiluba to the meeting.

“Mr Chiluba was president of this country for 10 years and he comes from here, so we don’t really understand the concerns that these people are raising. I believe that they are raising these issues purely on hate. If they are saying Chiluba is not a factor, in the development of this country, why are they so scared about this development meeting, just a one-off arrangement?” she asked.

“So the point is he is an interested party; he comes from this area. Some people were actually saying, ‘what did he do for Luapula?’ I am shocked that a man was president for 10 years; some people did not see what he did for this country and what he did for Luapula. Dr Chiluba was not a provincial president, he was a national president. …the resources that were in the nation had to be shared in the nine provinces.”
She said the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) was an initiative of Chiluba and must be credited for it.

“Right now there are projects in each and every constituency being implemented using the CDF. Where did CDF come from? It was because of Dr Chiluba. He knew that, ‘the only way I am going to help the people of Zambia and people of Luapula is by getting an amount direct into the constituencies’,” Chitika-Mulobeka said. “We invited him as a serious stakeholder, he was president for 10 years, he has a lot of experience, he has a lot of knowledge and that we are meeting our royal highnesses. And since, you know, 2001 he hasn’t been in the province officially like to interact with all of us; so for us this is an occasion that we expected him to come over into Luapula so that we are able interact we him. Dr Chiluba will come and add value to our meeting.”

She said Chiluba built the foundation for Zambia’s development and it would be naïve for anyone to argue that he did nothing for the province and Zambia as a whole.

Chitika-Mulobeka also said there would be nothing wrong with parliamentarians to discuss matters that are not development oriented with the chiefs.

“Just in case Mumbi Mumbi, if we engaged our chiefs on any other thing other than development, is that a problem? I am just asking the people of Luapula, just in case, we are not talking about development, as MPs we decided, ‘okay we needed to engage our royal highnesses on something else’, is that your problem? Would that be a problem?” Chitika-Mulobeka asked. “You know there are people that have come into this province, they have engaged, they were able to hold rallies and do everything that they could think of but no one raised a hand that, ‘this is wrong.’ Just in case we didn’t talk about development, is there anything wrong?”

She said when Chiluba supported PF leader Michael Sata’s presidential candidacy in the 2006 elections, he was a darling of the PF members but it was shocking that they were vilifying him Chiluba now.

“We PF went to all the rallies saying, ‘Dr Chiluba has never stolen! Dr Chiluba will be released once I Sata become president’. But now what has happened? These are the questions that the people of Luapula Province should be able to reflect on. What has changed because it was just the other day that because Dr Chiluba supported a particular political party he was a darling but now that he has decided to go back to his original political party now he is something else and we should be able to encourage the thuggery that has never been known to be part of the people of Luapula Province,” Chitika-Mulobeka said. “We are a very peaceful lot. Now this thuggery that is coming through, when your friends are doing something else you want to disrupt and when you are doing something else you want to be let free. It is not fair.”

She said the parliamentarians only invited the chiefs to the development meeting because of the limitation of funds.

Chitika-Mulobeka said the parliamentarians donated the money to transport, accommodate and feed the traditional rulers during the meeting.
Chitika-Mulobeka said the parliamentarians would organise another meeting for church leaders and other interest groups.

And Musosha called for harmony among politicians in Zambia.
“Can we allow each other to co-exist? It is our Zambia. Remember the motto that we have always lived with the ‘One Zambia, One Nation’ it means we want to be all inclusive irrespective of who is doing what,” said Musosha. “PF, yes it is a party, but can we allow them, can we love them, they are our brothers and sisters after all. We belong to two political parties, to three different political parties but we have only one country Zambia. But today if we want to spoil what our friends have built and you call that development because you will need that same foundation which your friends started to come and build on whatever you may think of tomorrow.”

Labels: , , , ,


Chinese delegation complains over ‘upside down’ flag

Chinese delegation complains over ‘upside down’ flag
By Staff Reporter
Sat 15 May 2010, 04:50 CAT

President Rupiah Banda (r) during the Chinese-Zambia meeting at the Royal Livingstone boardroom last Wednesday. Below, the correct position of the Chinese flag

THE Chinese delegation that held meetings in Livingstone with President Rupiah Banda on Wednesday complained to government officials over their flag which had been placed upside down.

According to officials from both the Zambian and Chinese delegation, the flag was placed upside down on the table but it could not be re-arranged after the concern was raised as journalists were already in the boardroom.

The officials, who sought anonymity, said the flag was only hung properly after the delegation moved from the boardroom to the sundeck for the signing of the four Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs).

“We realised that the officials had hanged our flag next to your country flag on the table stand upside down. We quickly informed the Ambassador about it but we could not rearrange it as you guys the journalists and other officials were already in there and then the ministers moved in,” the source in the Chinese delegation said.

“We, however, later complained to State House officials and we found a better time to correct the mess at the signing ceremony.”

Prior to President Banda’s arrival in Livingstone, there were instructions that there should be no MMD cadres, journalists, and no red carpet was rolled out for both his arrival and departure.

Labels: ,


Friday, May 14, 2010

(TALKZIMBABWE) Tsvangirai, sanctions and foreign trips

COMMENT - Is there any doubt that the US government under Hillary Clinton is trying to run specific parts of the Zimbabwean government? And all in a defense of their diamond mining backers (can you say: Oppenheimer - who after all control 90% of the world's diamond reserves - the value of diamonds depends on that monopoly, and they will do anything to maintain it). The Oppenheimers had 1/3 of their DEBSHAN ranch redistributed back in 2001. The act mentioned in this article is sponsored by ZDERA co-sponsor Russ Feingold, and is reported to be titled the Zimbabwe Transition to Democracy and Economic Recovery Act. The US has no business trying to run, demonize or manipulate the Zimbabwean government or Zimbabwean domestic policy, especially when that policy breaks no laws.

Tsvangirai, sanctions and foreign trips
By: Tendai Midzi
Posted: Friday, May 14, 2010 10:42 am

PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's visit to Washington to receive yet another "human rights award" is interesting. It comes at a time when that country is crafting yet another version, a more notorious version of the Zimbabwe Democracy Recovery Act (ZDERA).

It has become almost completely predictable that whenever the US is rethinking another regime change strategy, a leading figure from the opposition MDC-T is in that country.

The Minister of Finance Tendai Biti, who is also the secretary general of the MDC-T party made countless trips to the US in the past few months; masked as trips to the IMF/World Bank.

The Bretton Woods institutions have made it clear that they will not open up credit lines for Zimbabwe, so Biti's trips could not have made much sense at this juncture. One thing is clear though. The US wants to start funding "certain elements" in the inclusive Government legally. With the outcry on parallel government structures clearly gaining prominence, the US is being forced to amend ZDERA to open up "credit lines" for MDC-T-run ministries.

The amendments will see Washington extend financial assistance to these select Government ministries and the US will be openly, although illegally, supporting MDC-T ministers.

MDC-T spokesman Nelson Chamisa says the party has no hand in all of this. "It's being done in America, what do you want us to say." If he has no say in what happens in America regarding Zimbabwe, why does Tsvangirai give a brief to Americans on Zimbabweans? Why do we even bother to have diplomatic relations with America.

Revision of ZDERA should be resisted at any cost. Only repulsion of that illegal and nototious piece of legislation will satisfy the people of Zimbabwe, who have suffered at the behest of the MDC-T party who called for those sanctions in the first place.

We hope that, as prime minister Tsvangirai is treated with pomp and ceremony in Washington, he will remember the millions he was responsible for driving to poverty in Zimbabwe.

We hope that he will not only fight for Roy Bennett's rights from Washington, but the rights of millions of Zimbabweans who suffered to get their decency and democracy from a racist white government of Ian Smith.

It is interesting that Tsvangirai has completely avoided the UK since he was last booed. One would have hoped that with the installation of a new government in that country, and the disintegration of MDC-T structures in the country, it would have made more sense to come to Britain. This man simply does not find it easy to be heckled and booed.

Tendai Midzi is a lecturer in economics at London Guildhall University.

Labels: , , , ,


(NEWZIMBABWE) Gossip tearing MDC apart: Tsvangirai

Gossip tearing MDC apart: Tsvangirai
by Farai Mutsaka
14/05/2010 00:00:00

PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has told top officials of his party that bootlicking is the biggest internal threat to the MDC-T’s cohesion. Tsvangirai said this at a meeting of his party executives and Harare provincial leaders, the Zimbabwe Independent reported on Friday.

The meeting was part of moves by Tsvangirai and Tendai Biti, the MDC-T secretary-general, to close ranks following reports of power struggles between the two politicians. Both Tsvangirai and Biti, who as Finance minister is one of the most powerful figures in government, addressed the Saturday meeting.

They both accused MDC-T Harare provincial leaders of fanning divisions, sources who attended the meeting told the Zimbabwe Independent this week.

“Tsvangirai pointed out that the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) was behind moves to create a wedge between himself and Biti,” a source said.

“But he also made it clear that proximity-seekers, those who frequented his residence to seek favours, were feeding him with dirty rumours and lies about other senior party officials.

“He was very clear that this bootlicking was a serious internal threat and that this had also contributed to the perception that Biti was trying to wrestle power from him.”

Tsvangirai, the sources said, accused the MDC-T Harare provincial leadership of leading the “gossip peddling cycle”.

The sources said Tsvangirai accused senior party members from Harare province of sponsoring youths who spent time milling around Harvest House, the MDC-T headquarters.

These youths recently attacked party director-general Toendepi Shonhe and confiscated his official car for allegedly blocking them from party employment. “Tsvangirai said no idle youths should be allowed at Harvest House again,” another party source said.

MDC-T spokesman Nelson Chamisa yesterday confirmed that Tsvangirai and Biti had addressed the issue of perceived power wrangles during the Saturday meeting.

“The meeting with Harare province was part of a programme that we have started to inform our structures of the corrosive machinations of those who want to see us divided,” Chamisa said. “We have already met party leaders in Manicaland and Bulawayo and this is going to be a countrywide programme.”

The party’s national executive will discuss the matter tomorrow, while the national council, the MDC-T’s top decision-making body, would tackle the perceived divisions at a meeting on Sunday.

Chamisa said this fire-fighting exercise was meant to avoid another split in the party “because the CIO takes advantage of our democratic credentials and use divergent views expressed by our members to stage divisions”.

“It happened in 2005 (when the MDC split into the current two factions) and the state machinery which is still under Zanu PF’s control will try to do it again. President Tsvangirai is aware of the machinations to sidetrack the MDC from real issues such as the constitution, elections (party treasurer Roy) Bennett’s persecution and the full implementation of the global political agreement,” said Chamisa. - Zimbabwe Independent

Labels: , ,


(NEWZIMBABWE) Rising above the fables of our time

Rising above the fables of our time
Posted By Mthulisi Mathuthu on 11 May, 2010 at 8:00 pm

PERHAPS one of the sorriest traditions characteristic of Robert Mugabe’s 30 year rule and which looks set to survive long after he is gone, is Zimbabwe’s penchant for the sanctification of what one might call the doctrine of unwritten and yet socially accepted “laws”.

Absurd as they are, these “laws” have so much held sway that they have, over the years, come to have an enduring influence on the rhythm and sentiment of the country, defining just about every aspect of life.

Straight from the mentality of the earlier era, the examples are legion but only a few will suffice: Thou shall not criticise the hero of the day, for those who do so shall be invariably labelled agents, dissidents or sell-outs; thou shall not criticise the MDC-T (it used to be Zanu PF), for those who do so shall have their names inscribed onto the hall of infamy and subjected to unending vicious pillory; thou shall not say nor suggest that the western sanctions regime hurts beyond Mugabe’s inner circle nor infer in any way that, other than the “targeted measures”, there are indeed real sanctions on Zimbabwe, ZEDERA for example.

With devious ease, the press has customarily succumbed to the might of this tradition to willingly perpetuate the myth and impression that the government of national unity is essentially a fought over entity with the powerful devils of Zanu PF ranged against the weaker saints of the MDC T. One gets the sense that the MDC are lesser partners or simply victims whose fair share has yet to come, and must naturally be spared of any opprobrium.

For that reason, it has been made politically incorrect to say anything good about the GNU, and anybody who does shall, in accordance with the spirit of the socially-spun commandments, be tarred as a Zanu PF lackey.

At work here is a collective strategy by both the press and the activists to steer clear from criticising the MDC and instead maintain always the mantra of “outstanding issues”, “deadlocks” and “ongoing talks” and ultimately build a case for the continuation of the sanctions regime.

The MDC, we are told, are detained on the edges of Canaan and Pretoria, and must act fast and decisively to prod Mugabe into freeing the saviours to finally deliver us into the Promised Land. The aroma is in the air but, for the MDC, Canaan is still just within sight and only if Jacob Zuma could scatter the stalemate or even break down the perimeter wall, our saviours would usher us all in to taste the honey, we are made to believe. What a chimera!

Speaking to SW Radio Africa recently, Lovemore Madhuku said: ‘Who says there is a deadlock? This is mainly the journalists and politicians who tell you there is deadlock.

“You can’t call it a deadlock when daily Gideon Gono is the governor of the Reserve Bank. He reports to the government of Morgan Tsvangirai, Robert Mugabe and Tendai Biti (Finance Minister). Biti and Gono have so many meetings together, they are working in the same government.

“Johannes Tomana (attorney general) sits in the same cabinet with those guys from the MDC and so forth, and these things are happening every week. The MDC itself does accept from time to time decisions made by the Attorney General and so on, and that is not a deadlock …”

Calling a spade by its name, he let rip: “These discussions that have been purportedly taking place among the three political parties in government I think that they have been a conspiracy by the politicians just to keep everyone in the country in suspense. I must be very clear those negotiations are really a fraud actually, politically.

“So,” Madhuku went on, “the way forward for our country is to treat the MDC led by Tsvangirai, the MDC led by Mutambara, Robert Mugabe leading Zanu PF and also being President, let’s treat them as a government and lets subject them to accountability and that accountability must be based on bread and butter issues and so on.”

Equally forthright was the ever eloquent Paul Themba Nyathi: “The tendency that you get from the media and other sections that seek to comment on the Zimbabwean situation is to portray in this whole arrangement Tsvangirai as the victim, and I keep saying to myself, the man is not a victim!

“He is part of an arrangement, he has gone into that arrangement with his eyes open, he knows what he is doing in that arrangement, he knows what he gets in that arrangement, but the media loves to portray him as victim and I don’t understand why the media seeks to do that.”

While Nyathi may be baffled by this stoic dedication to deceit, the real reasons for it are not hard to find. The media are awash with fortune-seeking cheer leaders who yearn for a Canaan in which the MDC T would then parcel out some of the honey to the loyalists Zanu PF-style.

The reality that Tsvangirai has finally tasted “sugar” at the palace is ignored by his media apologists who however refuse to demand a collective balance sheet. They look the other direction to shout the old anti-Zanu PF mantra.

Slowly the door is closing and they shout from outside, urging Mugabe to “share” the cake (power) with Tsvangirai and yet far from what is commonly supposed, that Tsvangirai is some kind of an African Lazarus feeding on the crumbles from under the State House table, he is instead drowning in the honey.

Fearful of the prospect that they may be shut out of the gravy train completely, and yet blinded by the conviction that the dear leader does not err, the praise singers must peddle the convenient fallacy that Tsvangirai has yet to reap the fruits of his toil.

To acknowledge that the MDC T is indeed a ruling party would seal the praise singers’ fate, as it would be akin to waving the train goodbye. They fear that they may have, for many years, cheered through the blogosphere and the airwaves in vain. For that reason, the “deadlock” fable must be maintained until they are admitted inside.

To continue to peddle this fable is to hand a political windfall to the MDC T elite; it affords them the opportunity to continue to enjoy the prerogative of the opposition, occasionally passing through the Quill Club to discourse and play pool with the journalists and possibly buy rounds of beer. And yet while it might seem that the GNU has not brought about any meaningful change in Zimbabwe, there is evidence of change in some quarters.

One only needs to check the shoes the new rulers are now wearing, their suits and the cars they drive and the direction they take from the Quill. Not so long ago, they either drove or walked towards Seke Road or westwards down Samora Machel Avenue. Not anymore.

No longer do they complain about bureaucracy at the Makombe building or NOCZIM for example; instead they are now part and parcel of it. No longer do they complain about school fees for their children, they have now joined those of the “locust class” at Peterhouse, Falcon, St Georges and Lomagundi colleges.

Quite understandably, the journalists are anxiously waiting for their triumphal entry into the Promised Land amid the clattering of the printing presses churning out the Daily News, Newsday and so forth, but the politicians are already there — right in the pool of honey, knee-deep in it.

However, in allowing the impression to gather that the politicians share their fate, the journalists are helping the rulers to perpetuate themselves in office without accounting to the membership.

Media people will be shocked to learn that while these new rulers took the Daily News for a compliment yesterday, they may view it as a potential irritant today; instead they are comfortable with the daily Herald taunts as this perpetuates their claim to victimhood and consequently galvanises the fallacy of a “deadlock”.

At work here is what one might refer to as the sponsored and systematic suspension of reasoning to deploy in its place a “tapestry of lies” amounting to breathtaking revisionism such as has never been seen in Southern Africa since Apartheid.

Come the next election (only the gods know when), the MDC leadership’s credibility will still be intact with them seeking fresh mandates as new uncorrupted hands and yet their children would have finished high school or undergraduate study and the younger ones would be starting the sweet process of free education at the tax payer’s expense.

And yet we are made to believe that these people have very little or nothing to do with the GNU. You will imagine that the MDC want an election yesterday. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This is how Zanu PF got away with murder in the 1980’s — peddling the lie that they were clearing the Rhodesian rot while, in reality, they were entrenching themselves in office. Just as the MDC today is spared the criticism it deserves, thanks to the unwritten “laws”, the Mugabe retinue were continuously pampered and cheered on as they personalised the national cake and the result was what is today called the Zimbabwean Crisis.

To put a gloss on what Madhuku refers to as a “conspiracy” — that is the encouragement of the persecution image to camouflage behind-the-scenes consensus, the MDC will resort to hollow gestures such as boycotting certain events; occasionally, they will threaten to pull out of the government only to backtrack the following morning.

It is said that boycotting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was an act of revulsion at the Iranian ruler’s tenuous rule and yet it was, in reality, meant to secure the Western cheque. In other words, while the cheque from the Munhumutapa Building is assured, every effort must be made to ensure that the traditional one from the White House and elsewhere doesn’t fizzle out by acting, from time to time, in a manner that pleases the signatories.

This, of course, looks suspiciously like a wretched double standard, if not high-minded naivety — a product of woolly and un-joined up thinking.

Dismayingly, while the new rulers are wont to shake Ahmadinejad’s hand, they have yet to explain how they will boycott the proceeds from his deals with Mugabe when they come as part of their allowances and salaries down the line.

Madhuku and Nyathi are right: Obsequious journalism has had its day; it is high time the media rejected this “deadlock” baloney to probe the “fraud” unfolding before our eyes.

It is only useless journalism which persists in being useful to any politician — even saintly ones. Journalism must be a headache, and never provide a comfort zone for any politician; more-so in conditions such as prevailing in Zimbabwe where politicians deploy fables and myths to forestall scrutiny.

Both good and bad may have come out of the GNU, but only a collective balance sheet — and not stereotypes — will prove to us who the saints and who the devils are. As journalists, we must demand that balance sheet now and roll back this steady flow of political myths and conspiracies.

To make it any other way is not just to abdicate duty, but to connive in the bleeding of our country.

Mthulisi Mathuthu is the news editor of New He is hooked on Russian literature and also enjoys the works of John Maxwell Coetzee, Eduardo Galeano and Salman Rushdie. He is an A-Z on Afro-jazz and has recently taken a keen interest in issues of climate change and international development. In Jose Mourinho, he sees his ideal self: "a character who doesn't care about anybody but gets things going for himself"

Contact Mthulisi on e-mail

Labels: , ,


(TALKZIMBABWE) City councillors get US$1200 each for entertainment

COMMENT - One reason I turned against the MDC very early on, is that their rhetoric did not match their actual policies. If your only claim to fame is that you are agaisnt something, and then espouse rightwing elitist economic policies like neoliberal economics, yet come out of the trade union movement, that shows you out to be a traitor. Once you are a neoliberal, why would I trust you to be any more frugal or well intended with public monies than the management of ENRON or TYCO? This is the caliber of individuals the MDC has attracted in their 'Mugabe Must Go' campaign. People with absolutely no ideology, except - what's in it for me? We've seen the same with the 'Kaunda Must Go' campaign waged by the MMD in Zambia - what is their ideology? Neoliberalism too - what's in it for me, 'greed is good, greed works' (Gordon Gekko/Michael Douglas in Wall Street), 'there is no such thing as society' (Margaret Thatcher). That is the neoliberal ideology. And I will oppose it whenever it rears it's head.

City councillors get US$1200 each for entertainment
Posted: Friday, May 14, 2010 10:11 am

HARARE city councillors have awarded themselves huge entertainment allowances that will see the mayor getting up to US$1 200 for every seminar and workshop he attends, at a time when the council is failing to provide basic services to residents citing shortage of funds. Reports on Friday say councillors gave themselves the allowances at their last full council meeting in April.

According to a confidential human resources department report dated April 12 seen by state media, the mayor will receive an entertainment allowance of US$1 200 per seminar while his deputy will get US$1 050. Councillors are entitled to US$800 per seminar.

The figures apply to seminars outside Africa and stand regardless of the length of the meeting. Before the resolution, councillors did not get any entertainment allowances for overseas trips.

In addition, the mayor and his deputy will receive out of pocket allowances of US$100 daily while councillors will receive a daily allowance of US$50 for the duration of the seminar.

Previously, councillors were getting US$15 daily while the mayor’s allowance is unchanged.

"Where out of pocket allowance is paid by the sponsor and is less than the rate here, council pays the difference," reads the report.

For regional seminars and conferences, the mayor receives US$800 as entertainment allowance while his deputy gets US$700 and councillors US$500. Councillors previously did not get an entertainment allowance for regional trips. The money excludes transportation, meals and accommodation fees. Councillors attending conferences and seminars within Harare will receive a daily allowance of US$20.

Before this, councillors were getting US$15 for such seminars while the mayor and his deputy were not entitled to anything. The councillors presently get a general monthly allowance of US$120 and US$40 for transport. Councillors are expected to be gainfully employed and not seek to make a living from their public offices.

Allowances for senior managers are not included on the schedule, bolstering accusations from some quarters that management operates a separate and confidential payroll for itself.

"Council approves with immediate effect the review of the rates of subsistence allowances payable to councillors and officials attending workshops, seminars, conferences and similar events on official council business," reads part of the approved minutes.

Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda yesterday justified his entertainment and other allowances saying council had approved them.

"The decision was unanimous. If anybody had views to the contrary, they would have expressed them," Mayor Masunda said.

He added: "I’m driven more by the opportunity to serve and get our city to work properly and less by mercenary considerations."

City workers are up in arms over the allowances, saying they differed greatly from what they received.

The report says: "For attending conferences, seminars and the like within Zimbabwe but outside Harare employees in grades 5 to 16 will receive US$30 daily."

A grade seven employee who spoke to The Herald on condition of anonymity said: "There is no justification for awarding such huge allowances.

"Councillors essentially do not do any work and most of these guys are trying to make a living from ratepayers," she fumed.

Another employee, in grade six, added: "Watch out, soon they will suddenly all be out attending seminars and workshops. The allowances that were there before were already high and now the situation is simply ridiculous."

The contentious allowances come after revelations that management was drawing huge salaries. The city’s gross monthly salary bill is US$6,4 million against revenue of about US$7 million.

This means the bulk of ratepayers’ money is going towards maintaining managers’ lifestyles at the expense of service delivery.

Labels: , , ,


Zimbabwe mine workers strike over low pay

Zimbabwe mine workers strike over low pay
By Sapa-AFP
Fri 14 May 2010, 10:40 CAT

Thousands of mine workers in Zimbabwe went on strike for better pay Thursday after negotiations with employers collapsed, union officials said.

“This is a national strike which covers the whole country and so far 25,000 workers have heeded our call to go on strike,” Tinago Ruzive, president of the Associated Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe, told AFP.

“The chamber of mines has refused to negotiate with us.” The strike began a day after a deadline set by the unions for employers to raise their salaries expired, he said.

Ruzive said a labour tribunal had already awarded a 140-dollar wage increase to mine workers, but the national chamber of mines has instructed its members not to pay out the full increase.

“This is a violation of the law. We understand that the industry is not yet out of the pit, but workers are suffering,” he said.

The workers are demanding 290 dollars a month for the lowest-paid employees, who currently earn 140 dollars a month.

Zimbabwe’s mining sector, which employs 40,000 workers, is showing signs of recovery after an economic crisis that saw hyperinflation erase the value of the local currency, which was abandoned last year.

The country has deposits of gold, platinum, diamonds, coal and a variety of metals, but production had plunged to almost nothing.

The gold sector has so far produced 1,667 tonnes during the first quarter of the year, compared to zero production during the same period last year.

Chris Hokonya, chief executive of the chamber of mines, said the strike was premature as negotiations were still on.

“It is very unfortunate that they have decided to go on strike. This has resulted in man hours lost, which will obviously affect the companies’ positions to pay them,” Hokonya told AFP.

In 2008, most of the country’s mines were either placed under care and maintenance or closed down due to hyperinflation and stringent export regulations that compelled companies to sell minerals through the central bank.

Zimbabwe’s economy has been stabilising since a power-sharing government, formed last year between President Robert Mugabe and former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, ditched the local dollar in favour of the US dollar.

Labels: , ,