Saturday, July 14, 2012

(REPUBLIC) The Queen, the Crown and who owns what

The Queen, the Crown and who owns what
Graham Smith
03 Jun 2011

In another recent post one commenter was suggesting that the cost of becoming a republic would be astronomical because the state would lose the Crown Estate, the palaces and the royal art collection (among other things). This is an example of a common misconception about the relationship between the Windsors, the monarchy, the Crown, the state and the government. It’s a misconception fueled by the confusing way in which the government and the royal household describe the various property and ownership arrangements.

The Queen owns property in an official capacity and in a private capacity. Some things she owns as Queen Elizabeth, other things she owns as Elizabeth Windsor.

Property owned by Elizabeth Windsor is rightly hers and will remain so in a republic. Property owned by Queen Elizabeth would cease to be hers if she ceases to be Queen.

The Crown Estate is owned by the Queen ‘in right of the Crown’. In other words, in an official capacity. She no more owns the Crown Estate personally than David Cameron owns the flat above 10 Downing Street. If she ceases to be Queen she ceases to ‘own’ the Crown Estate.

The same is true of the royal palaces and the art collection. The same is also true, although in a slightly different way, of the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall. They are only the property of the Queen and the heir respectively so long as those individuals are Queen and heir.

The Crown is something else altogether. Contrary to the view of our recent commenter on this site, the Crown does not ‘belong’ to the Queen. It is an institution of state and it belongs to the nation. Since 1689 parliament has had complete authority over who the Crown passes to and how its powers will be exercised.

It is also worth pointing out that the government doesn’t own or have claim to the palaces, land or art collections anymore than the Windsors do. But the nation does, as I’ll explain in a moment. But we need to be clear that the government is a separate entity from the state and from parliament. It is parliament that has control over the Crown, not the government (putting aside for one moment government access to royal powers). This difference between parliament and government is often lost in this country because parliament is so often controlled by government, but it is still an important distinction to make.

So, parliament decides who the Crowned head of state is and whoever that person is ‘owns’ the property mentioned above only so long as they are in that official position. They have no personal claim to it were they to leave office.

So what happens if we abolish the monarchy? It’s quite simple: parliament declares the throne to be vacant and passes the Crown to the people. The people’s parliament then has complete authority to determine what to do with all its assets and property. The monarch who is removed from office has no claim to any of the property as it was never theirs in the first place. The nation keeps the palaces, the art, the jewels and the land. It’s legally, constitutionally and morally right.

Some people like to point out that the former King of Greece has pursued the Greek government in the courts over confiscated assets since his removal from power in the 1970s. I’d say two things about this: firstly Greek law and the Greek constitution are different to ours. In the UK the situation is reasonably clear, the property in question is the property of the Crown and parliament has complete authority over the Crown; secondly, do we really want to look up to people who feel such an overwhelming sense of entitlement as the King of Greece?

Putting the technical points to one side for a minute, the underlying message of the “it’s going to cost us millions/billions” argument is that we should allow ourselves to be held to ransom by one family. The question of republicanism is one of principle and democratic reform, if the people want that reform then there is a duty on the part of the Windsors to allow that reform to go ahead. To demand money and property that morally and practically belongs to the nation on the basis of a technicality would be in very bad taste. Particurly given their own personal fortunes that they can fall back on in their post-monarchy lives.

So let’s be absolutely clear: there would be no financial loss if we became a republic because the property belongs to the nation and would continue to do so.

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(NYASATIMES) Malawi central bank economist upbeat of ‘long term gains’

COMMENT - Typical neoliberal garbage. Venerate foreign corporations and the banking dynasties that own them, and stick it to the people of Malawi and the world. You thought you had $1000 in the bank - guess what, you now have $500, courtesy of a 49% currency devaluation. This is supposed to make your labour cheaper, which will 'help' foreign corporations hire more slave wage workers. Isn't that 'progress'?

Malawi central bank economist upbeat of ‘long term gains’
By Felie Mzumara,
Nyasa Times
July 11, 2012

Malawi’s recent policy changes by President Joyce Banda’s administration may in the interim appear pricey to ordinary citizens but the long term gains will compensate the losses, an economic expert has said.

Citing the 49 percent devaluation of the official Malawi kwacha exchange rate against the US dollar and the subsequent floatation of the exchange rate as some of the changes, the expert, Mary Nkosi, feels the policies have been put in place to create a better Malawi.

Nkosi, who is the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi, was speaking at a business breakfast organised by Sunbird Malawi at Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre last week.

Nkosi: Renewed optimism

“There will be short term costs but the long term gains more than compensate for the losses,” she told the morning gathering.

Nkosi said over the years, Malawi has lagged behind its neighbours in the sub-Saharan Africa with its share of regional exports to the world declining sharply in terms of the business environment indicators such as transaction costs and infrastructure.

As such, she said, adjusting the exchange rate regime was one of the measures to enhance the country’s international competitiveness.

“The bank recognises that further steps still remain to be undertaken, such as removal of structural bottlenecks that are retarding growth and diversification of the economy,” she said.

Renewed optimism

The economic executive said RBM believes that the private sector is an engine of growth in any economy “but for them to make any impact the bank would encourage that they improve on their efficiency in both resource mobilisation and allocation.”

While agreeing with the country’s administration that the biggest current challenge was revitalising the economy which has been on its death bed for the last few years, Nkosi remained upbeat that Malawi has a bright future.

“The good thing is that we know where things went wrong and if that were corrected, it is not too late to get back on a positive trajectory,” she said while applauding management of Sunbird for their foresight in fostering discussions and debate on issues that affect our economy through such interactions.

She added: “It is through such fora that the intellectuals and business community in this country make enormous contribution to the policy making process. “

Meeting under the theme “Think Global, Act Local”, Nkosi observed that there was renewed optimism amongst Malawians, especially the business community to see that the economy is doing well and that most people have sufficient income for essentials and perhaps a little extra.

“We would want to see that businesses are hiring and jobs are relatively easy to get. We may, not have a job for everyone but we would like to see that everyone is well off,” she stated.

Nkosi observed that Malawi has come late in responding to problems being faced but there is a lot to learn from the neighbouring countries that went through similar situations and had responded.

“We are far behind some of the countries such as Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania and to some extent Mozambique who liberalised their financial sectors some time ago. It was also painful for each one of them but the pain did not last.

[Unemployed youths in Zambia would differ with that opinion. Total neoliberal garbage, but of course, well supported by the IMF and World Bank. - MrK]

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(NYASATIMES) Malawi promises to raise contraceptive prevalence rate to 60% – VP

COMMENT - There is no population problem in Malawi. There is an access to financing problem. When a mere $62 million fertilizer support program can turn around agriculture, you know you're looking at an economy that is being starved of cash. So here Bill Gates of Microsoft breezes in, to tell the people of Malawi that 'there's just too many of you for my liking, I will fund a contraceptives drive'. This is a foreign conceived problem with a foreign solution. Elevate the Malawian people to a middle class lifestyle, and they will reduce family size on their own. Don't try and do it on the cheap by handing out pills.

Malawi promises to raise contraceptive prevalence rate to 60% – VP
By Sam Makaka,
Malawi News Agency
July 12, 2012

Malawi Government says it wants to use family planning as a strategy to achieve its development goals and has declared its commitment to raise Malawi’s Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) to 60% by 2020 with a targeted increase in young people aged 15 to 24 years. The remarks were made Wednesday by the Vice President Khumbo Kachali who is also Minister of Health at the London Family Planning Summit.

He told delegates that the Malawi Government does realise that family planning plays a very important role in stabilising population growth, which contributes to the improved health of its citizens, promotes economic growth and development which ultimately improves quality of life of women and girls.

[Proof? What country has raised it's citizens income by reducing family size, instead of the other way around? None. - MrK]

Kachale speaking at the London Summit. -Photo by Sam Makaka/ Malawi News Agency

“The Government of Malawi wishes to embrace family planning as a strategy to achieve its development goals and hereby declares its commitment to raise Malawi’s Contraceptive Prevalence Rate to 60% by 2020 with a focused increase in those aged 15 to 24 years,” declared Kachali.

Plan of action

To achieve these objectives, the Vice President said, Government will have to approve a National Population Policy before the end of this year, raise the legal age of marriage and strengthen institutional arrangements to deliver effective policy leadership for population and family planning. He said this means elevation of the population department in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development and the Reproductive Health Unit in the Ministry of Health to full Departments.

He, however, accepted that despite Government’s good plans, without enough resources, the plans cannot be realised.

“However, in spite of our best efforts as reflected above, we acknowledge that we still have some funding shortfalls. It is in this regard that I wish to solicit for funding support from our partners to bridge the gaps,” the Vice President appealed.

He disclosed that in the programme development and service delivery front, Malawi would among other interventions, increase community access to all family planning methods through community structures, and cited examples which included the creation of the Presidential Initiative on Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood, the establishment of the Chiefs Committee on Safe Motherhood chaired by Traditional Authority Kwataine from Ntcheu himself an activist in this area.

Kachali also touched on early parenthood saying: “We will also ensure that there is no parenthood before adulthood,” he concluded.

Bill and Melinda Gates

Speaking in closing, Bill and Melinda Gates expressed satisfaction that the summit had been able to raise more money than targeted 4.3 billion dollars by 0.3 billion dollars.

“We are happy that the summit has raised more than what we targeted. However the main task begins now to walk the talk. It will mean nothing to make so many pledges but without fulfilling them,” Bill Gates pleaded.

The summit was organised by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at sourcing funds for family planning in developing countries from donor partners and the developing nations themselves.

Lack of information

Speaking to the press before the summit opened, the Veep said that most Malawi women die because they lack information on family planning and expressed the hope that with the London Summit.

[Really? So 'family planning' will ensure lower a maternal mortality rate, not an increase in spending on real health? - MrK]

He confirmed that the Malawi Government has a strong political will on issues of safe motherhood in order to reduce maternal deaths and also that young women must have children by choice and not by chance.

Kachali added that family planning is vital not only for quality lives of women and children but also helps government plan effectively as it is able to predict how many people will be in a given time.

[It can already do that - the population doubles about every 25 years. What does not change is access to financing for entrepreneurs, investment in infrastructure, hoarding of land by a few foreign corporations and an end to the theft of natural resources by foreign mining corporations. Of course, changing that would be 'restrict free trade', so why not reduce the size of the population instead? Foreign problems with alien solutions. - MrK]

And speaking in a pre recorded video clip broadcasted at the summit by the organisers, President Joyce Banda, said she is ashamed that Malawi is the second worst country in Africa on maternal mortality after Sierra Leone which was ravaged by war.

She promised to work tirelessly to reduce the figures.

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(NYASATIMES) Malawi’s designer Lilly Alfonso set for Africa Fashion Week London

Malawi’s designer Lilly Alfonso set for Africa Fashion Week London
By Kimpho Loka,
Nyasa Times
July 14, 2012

As she gets geared for her participation at the forthcoming Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL) early next month, Malawi’s fashion designer, Lilly Alfonso, will on July 21 give the people of Blantyre a taste of her exquisite designs to be showcased in the UK.

Scheduled to be held at Protea Ryalls Hotel, the fashion show follows her opening exhibition in the country, which took place at the Old Town Mall in Lilongwe on June 29, named ‘Last Supper’ where she dished out a delectable selection of the ‘Lilly Alfonso’ designs. Tickets are in such high demand that people have to get theirs in advance.

“The Last Supper was a mare starter. Get ready for the main course, the dessert and the cherry on top of the dessert all served in one scrumptious package,” Lilly told Nyasa Times, saying “it’s an exclusive showcase of my AFWL (Africa Fashion Week London ) collection”.

Modelling Lilly Alfonso designer clothes

Original Malawi

According to the Italy-bred fashion designer, she will be coming out with tie and dye fabric, which are all “Original Malawi” products created from the unique art of one of the country’s fabric designers Chrissie Mijiga’s tie and dye.

“It brings me great pride and pleasure to use Mrs. Chrissie Mijiga’s tie dye fabric for my latest collection as Tie Dye is one of best fabrics I have ever come across,” points out Lilly.

She adds: “And the fact that it is an original indigenous Malawian product, produced by local women from the local community makes it that much more special. The advantage for me in using this fabric is that I will have special prints that have been custom made for my label only.”

Lilly Alfonso

‘Lilly Alfonso’ is a fashion design label that has evolved over the years to become one of the top fashion labels in Malawi. The whole phenomenon was born out of Lilly’s pure passion as a fashion designer, having discovered her passion for fashion at a very early age.

Despite the low level of development in the Malawi Fashion industry, she moved against the tide until the year 2010 when she won the Malawi Fashion Edition, popularly known as FAME, as the best fashion designer.

Lilly has been an inspiration for many women in Malawi with her clothing designs which remain current on the market trends and she possesses vast creative techniques, having a strong eye for colour, fabric, trim and embellishments.

Her work is a mixture of ethnic style with western inspiration. The first ever Malawian to earn a place to showcase her exquisitely creative designs at AFWL, Lilly is also involved in interior decorating for both houses and office.
Africa Fashion Week London

Africa Fashion Week London is one of the biggest African events based in the UK that is dedicated to celebrating the work of African inspired

Ronke Ademiluyi, founder said,“At the heart of Africa Fashion Week London is the willingness to showcase the work of African and African inspired designers to an international level audience as well as work with them to become sustainable brands. We are looking for a creative and unique talent that lives and breathes fashion.”

The two-day event, in its second edition, will hold from Friday, August 3 to Saturday, August 4, 2012 at the Old Spitalfields Market, Brushfield St, London, and will feature pieces from African and Africa-inspired designers from all over the world.



(HERALD) Equip pupils with practical skills: President

Equip pupils with practical skills: President
Saturday, 14 July 2012 12:28
Bulawayo Bureau

PRESIDENT Mugabe yesterday challenged schools to adopt a production system in their curriculum to equip pupils with practical skills to produce self-reliant youths.

Addressing thousands of people at the joint launch of the Presidential High Schools e-learning programme for the country’s southern region and the technologically advanced Landa John Nkomo High School at Manqe in Tsholotsho District, President Mugabe said the academically-inclined education system was a disadvantage to the country.

He said the launch of the e-learning programme was a way of creating self-reliance among the youths and of equipping the girl child with survival skills that would prevent exploitation.

The Head of State and Government and Commander-In-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces said he was also impressed by the school’s efforts to enroll and educate members of the minority San community, who reportedly still do not appreciate the importance of modern schooling.

“Lest we forget, the colonial education system which we inherited was by and large, academically inclined and deliberately designed to create an ever desperate pool of job seekers who eagerly awaited and gave each other turns to join the white dominated and controlled labour market only to be exploited for the white man’s benefit,” said President Mugabe.

He applauded Vice President Landa John Nkomo for establishing the school, the first in Tsholotsho to have a fully equipped computer laboratory, designed to bring e-learning to the rural areas.

Vice-President Nkomo built the school, situated about 10km west of Tsholotsho Business Centre.

“The launch of the e-learning programme at this particular school would not have been possible without the Honourable Vice-President Landa John Nkomo’s quest for development and his visionary leadership,” said President Mugabe.

The President said VP Nkomo was inspired by the goals of the liberation struggle.

“He knew very well that our independence would be meaningless if the national socio-economic development agenda is not addressed. It is through the desire to uplift the livelihoods of our people that he mobilised resources for establishing a secondary school in this remote area, which is one of the districts that bore the brunt of the draconian racial policies of the settler governments, whose objective was to under develop indigenous people,” said President Mugabe.

He said the curriculum at Landa John Nkomo High School had a bias towards science and practical subjects, which tended to equip pupils for the adult world where they could use skills learnt for self-employment.

“Mindful of the vulnerability of the girl-child, the VP has taken measures to ensure that the school also focuses on skills which are tailor-made to develop the girls from an early age,” said President Mugabe.

He said the school’s deliberate focus on enrolling children from the disadvantaged and marginalised San community, thereby bringing them on board for social programmes and activities was in tandem with the Government policy of recognising and empowering minority groups wherever they were in Zimbabwe.

The President said the launch of the southern region’s e-learning programme was an indication that the Government was committed to improving the quality of education in the country.

The southern region covers five of the country’s 10 provinces — Bulawayo, Masvingo, Midlands, Matabeleland North and South.

“This event comes two months after a similar launch for the northern region at Chogugudza Primary School in Mashonaland East on 28 March,” said President Mugabe.
He said the launch was an addition to the Presidential Schools Computerisation Programme that introduced the e-learning programme at schools.

“Comrades and friends, the speed of global technological and economic transformation demands that we move abreast of other developing countries if we are to derive the full benefits of the ICT revolution and turn the digital divide into digital opportunities for the nation,” said President Mugabe.

He said the country was looking forward to the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture to be the implementing agency to give the e-learning programme the attention it deserved.

“Through technology-enhanced learning, Zimbabwe is destined to produce school leavers with the requisite 21st century skills, which are critical factors in this worldwide digital economy. The establishment of Landa John Nkomo High School thus takes place at an opportune time when the ICT revolution in this country is just setting in,” said President Mugabe.

He donated 15 Hewlett Packard computers, complete with accessories, three printers and 50 blank DVDs to augment the school’s ability to impart e-knowledge to pupils and surrounding schools.

The Zimbabwe National Army was very instrumental in the construction of the school as they provided qualified builders.

The school now has five neatly painted classroom blocks including a well-equipped science block.

It also has a well-furnished administration block and a computer laboratory with modern computer sets.

The entire school, including teachers’ cottages, has been electrified while the computer laboratory has been connected to the Internet.

A water pump and water taps have also been connected for domestic and agricultural activities.

The school has been fenced while a neatly designed gate and sign post have also been erected.

There is also a poultry project centre, which is already running.

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(HERALD) Tobacco sales surpass last season

Tobacco sales surpass last season
Friday, 13 July 2012 11:44
Agriculture Reporter

THE volume of flue-cured tobacco sold so far has surpassed last season’s cumulative output. This is the third time in eight years that tobacco volumes have hit the 100 million kg mark, an indication that Zimbabwe is regaining its status as one of the leading tobacco producers in the world.

By Monday 132,7 million kg of the golden leaf had been sold. Last year, the tobacco-selling season ended on August 18 after 125 selling days. A total of 132,4 million kg were sold last season with the contract market accounting for 56 percent of the sales.

The continuous increase in tobacco production has been attributed to an increase of the number of tobacco growers. High prices being offered for tobacco has also attracted many farmers to grow the crop.

Resettled farmers claim 43 percent of the tobacco sold so far. Farmers have described tobacco farming as one of the viable enterprises although they bemoaned that buyers formed a cartel and held the highest price at US$4,99 per kilogramme.

[Tobacco is 'viable', because unlike in the case of staple crops like maize, the MDC is not playing games with whether or not farmers get paid after delivery. Rapid payment after delivery of goods by the new farmers is a key in their enthusiasm for growing it. - MrK]

Meanwhile, deliveries at the auction floors have continued to decline. Auction floors have applied to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board to have the selling season cut while others want auction days reduced from five to three per week.

Millennium Tobacco Floor spokes-person, Ms Kudzayi Hamadziripi, said indications were that most farmers have already sold their crop.

“We have applied to the TIMB to allow us to operate three days a week to cut operational costs,” she said.

Ms Hamadziripi said the increase in the number of auction floors has resulted in the floors getting less deliveries of tobacco compared to last season. Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri said the board was yet to announce the tobacco selling season closing date.

“We are expecting a few million kilogrammes and at the moment I can not give estimates on the total volumes we will get at the end of the season,” he said.
Dr Matibiri said the TIMB board was going to conduct a meeting to consider auction floor applications.

About 150 million kilogrammes of tobacco are expected to go under the hammer this season. The target according to some experts may not be realised as the crop was affected by drought.



(HERALD) Irrigation set to boost smallholder farmer capacity

Irrigation set to boost smallholder farmer capacity
Friday, 13 July 2012 11:42
Agriculture Reporter

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made, recently met the Israeli ambassador for Africa, Mr Dan Shaham, to discuss ways of boosting the irrigation sector. Minister Made said the revival of the irrigation sector was expected to boost the capacity of smallholder farmers.

He said the two parties have been working together in the agriculture sector and this led to the establishment of several institutions related to the irrigation sector. These include the Irrigation Centre at the Institute of Agriculture Engineering and Mechanisation among others.

“The ambassador visited the Irrigation Centre on Tuesday and has seen the state-of-the-art machinery. We have agreed to re-establish the Irrigation Centre, which is very important in training personnel from Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi among other Southern African countries,” said Minister Made.

He said a regional irrigation company, Netafim, would also help the centre through the replacement of computers at the institution.

“We are grateful to experts who are going to work with a local irrigation company, Pedstock, in irrigation re-establishment,” said Minister Made.

The two parties will sign a Memorandum of Understanding soon, which is being drafted. The signing of other agreements at business level will follow the MoU. The meeting also discussed other areas of development and co-operation in the agriculture sector, including mechanisation.

“Israel is a leader in uplifting smallholder farmers from subsistence to commercial level and we are going to use the same system,” said Minister Made. “We are also interested in phytosanitary matters.”

Minister Made said although irrigation development was important, there was need to look at plant and animal diseases that may come with it. Zimbabwe and Israel will also co-operate in the control of animal diseases.

“Israel leads in dairy production and has worked in China, Kenya and Botswana,” said Minister Made.

“We are happy that we are going to strengthen the capacity of our scientists in extension, training and research.”

Ambassador Shaham said the meeting was fruitful. “We have reached a concrete level. We spoke to professionals and got suggestions on how we can help the small holder farmers through irrigation system,” he said.

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(HERALD) Tips on tractor maintenance

Tips on tractor maintenance
Friday, 13 July 2012 11:43
Agriculture Reporter

Here are 10 easy steps to tractor longevity

1. Never extend oil life past one year. It is okay to leave last season’s oil in the system during winter if you are not going to be using your equipment but be sure to change before its first use in spring. Oil is vital for functions like lubrication of all working engine parts, prevention of corrosion, protection against rust and wear and maintaining a clean engine.

2. Check hydraulic, transmission and rear end case fluid levels. A tiny bit of dirt can ruin the hydrostatic transmission or the hydraulic cylinder seals, so you will want to check your hydraulic system. Wipe off the filler cap and filler tube, then re-fill the hydraulic system carefully.

3. Clean or replace filters because the spring and summer seasons are often dry and dusty. You should also change your tractor’s air filter. Check the fuel filters and oil filters and when applicable, you will want to check your hydraulic system filters. Go ahead and change any filters that appear dirty as it is just good preventive maintenance and is cost effective.

4. Do not overlook the battery. Test each battery cell’s electrolyte level with a hydrometer. If necessary, re-charge or replace the battery.

5. Check safety features. Check the brakes and brake pads to make certain they are not slipping or grabbing. Check tyres to guarantee they are properly inflated and inspect all lights to make sure they are working properly.

6. Inspect cable connections. Check the spark plugs and change them if necessary. Pay special attention to glow plugs, if applicable. Make sure all starter connections are secure and have not corroded. Tighten any loose connections, but be careful not to over tighten. Do the same for the generator and modify the tension in the driving belt.

7. Make sure the engine is adequately lubricated. Lubrication guidelines will be found in your equipment owner’s manual.

8. Flush and clean the radiator. If you did not flush the radiator last autumn, do so this spring. Also gently vacuum or blow out debris that may restrict airflow from the radiator coils.

9. Tighten and repair loose bolts. Fix leaks, tighten wheel plugs and re-torque to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Check for loose bolts, leaks, worn belts, hoses and listen for any suspicious rattles to guarantee your safety as well as the reliability of your equipment.

10. Clean and restore attachments. Clean all scraper blades. Sharpen the cutting blade on any mowing equipment at the beginning of spring, then again before the first mowing. Check any other attachments and implements. Inspect for and remove any rust then re-touch as necessary.
l Ministry of Agriculture

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(HERALD ZW) Packed agenda for AU Summit

Packed agenda for AU Summit
Saturday, 14 July 2012 12:00

African leaders are meeting next week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to review the political and socio-economic situation on the continent in an effort to promote deeper integration among member states.

The 19th Ordinary Assembly of African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government set for 15-16 July is held under the theme “Boosting Intra-African Trade”. However, one of the major issues likely to dominate the summit is the election for the new chairperson of the AU Commission.

The AU Commission is the executive arm of the union, and is tasked with driving the African development and integration agenda on behalf of the member states.
At the last summit, elections to choose a new chairperson were suspended after no winner emerged despite several rounds of voting.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC)-endorsed candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is also the South African Minister of Home Affairs, is contesting for the post against the incumbent, Jean Ping of Gabon.

SADC said the time for southern Africa to lead the AU Commission is now, since all other regions in Africa have had the opportunity to occupy the top post.

However, there is an unwritten agreement among AU member states that leading nations on the continent such as Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa should not lead the AU Commission.

The outcome of the hugely anticipated elections is likely to change the politics of Africa in many ways.

For example, if elected, Dlamini-Zuma would become the first woman to lead the AU Commission. And failure by Ping to retain his post will also send a strong message to the international community that Africa is not ready to entertain any outside interference in its development agenda.

This follows much disquiet among many African leaders over Ping’s alleged poor handling of recent conflicts on the continent including in Ivory Coast and Libya.

Other issues on the summit agenda include trade, food security, peace and climate change. According to a draft agenda of the summit, African leaders are expected to discuss measures to improve intra-African trade as a crucial instrument for meaningful regional integration, connectivity and development.

Africa is targeting to establish a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017, which is expected to contribute significantly to sustainable economic growth, employment generation, poverty reduction, inflow of foreign direct investment, industrial development and better integration of the continent into the global economy.

The leaders are expected to come up with solutions that will address factors constraining African trade such as restrictive customs procedures, administrative barriers and infrastructure bottlenecks.

The low intra-regional trade figures are mainly a result by poor transport infrastructure on the continent, which increases the costs of transporting products across borders.

In this regard, the summit is expected to give leaders the chance to discuss ways of fund-raising for the US$310 billion required to upgrade infrastructure on the continent over the next 30 years.

When fully operational, the proposed CFTA is expected to increase African intra-regional trade from the present 10 percent to about 40 percent.

With regard to climate change and sustainable development, the leaders are set to discuss, among other things, the outcome of the recent Rio+20 Summit on sustainable development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The summit failed to produce a more binding international agreement on sustainable development, and instead came up with the “The Future We Want” declaration, which many say lacks the political will to address emerging challenges such as hunger and climate change.

Also on the agenda for the summit is the African Leaders’ Malaria Alliance Forum (ALMA), under which the heads of state and government are to utilise their collective power to keep out the scourge of malaria.

On food security, leaders are expected to review the implementation of various programmes to boost production. These interventions include the allocation of substantial budgets to agriculture and investment in technology such as irrigation and improved seeds, fertilisers and pesticides.

With respect to the political situation on the continent, leaders are expected to receive reports on ongoing mediation processes in the political problems in Somalia, Madagascar, Guinea Bissau and Niger. —

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(HERALD) Illegal sanctions must be removed

Illegal sanctions must be removed
Saturday, 14 July 2012 12:00

We call upon the European Union to totally and unconditionally lift the sanctions it imposed on Zimbabwe in 2002 after the country embarked on the land reform programme.
Yesterday we reported that Britain and the EU were preparing to suspend the illegal sanctions and that a resolution to that effect would be made in Brussels at the end of this month.

According to British media reports, the EU council resolved to suspend the illegal sanctions, but agreed to reinstate them depending on whether they are satisfied with the outcome of the referendum and harmonised elections.

We do not believe that certain conditions should be met before the removal of the sanctions. That clearly will be meddling in the country’s politics. We know exactly what these conditions mean to the EU and their allies in America.

It means that if their favoured party loses, then the referendum and elections would, in their view, not be free and fair. Zimbabweans must be left to decide their own destiny without hindrance. It is not the duty of the EU, or any other foreign power for that matter, to decide who will rule Zimbabwe.

Everybody knows the sanctions were imposed to spite Zimbabwe after it embarked on the land reform programme a decade ago and that they have over the years served no purpose apart from worsening the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans.

We see no reason to celebrate their impending removal because these sanctions have never been justified in the first place as they were imposed unilaterally by the EU and their American bullies outside the scope of the United Nations.

Over the years, we have seen impish attempts by the EU, the United States and Britian to label the sanctions as targeted at certain individuals within Government and in Zanu-PF. This failed to stick as the rest of the progressive world has seen through these machinations.

In fact, the whole world knows that the sanctions have hampered Zimbabwe’s speedy economic recovery. Even those in the MDC formations who asked for the sanctions have long realised that they blundered big time.

We reiterate our call and the Government’s call for the sanctions to be removed in toto. This means it is not only the EU which must lift its sanctions, but the Americans must also sit down and repeal the misnamed and sugar-coated Zimbabwe Transition to Democracy and Economy Recovery Act of 2010.

[For more on ZDERA, read here. ZTDERA can be found here.- MrK]

We believe constructive engagement and not isolation and punishment would bring the necessary impetus to the efforts of the inclusive Government which has made tremendous progress in stabilising the economy since its formation in February last year in spite of the embargo.

No sane person can pretend not to see the devastation caused by the sanctions, which have seen Zimbabwe failing to access lines of credit, needed to revitalise its economy. The Global Political Agreement signed in 2008 by Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations explicitly talks about sanctions and calls on all the parties to the agreement to work towards their lifting.

Under Article IV of the GPA, the parties noted the present economic and political isolation of Zimbabwe by the United Kingdom, European Union, United States and other sections of the international community over and around issues of disputed elections, governance and differences over the land reform programme.

They also noted and acknowledged “the sanctions and measures” imposed on Zimbabwe through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act by the United States Congress which outlaws Zimbabwe’s right to access credit from international financial institutions in which the US government is represented or has a stake.

The parties to the GPA noted the suspension of Zimbabwe’s voting and related rights, suspension of balance of payment support, declaration of ineligibility to borrow International Monetary Fund resources and suspension of technical assistance to Zimbabwe by the IMF.

They also noted the suspension of grants and infrastructural development support to Zimbabwe by the World Bank and imposition of targeted travel bans against current Government and some business leaders.

The three parties have since formed a re-engagement committee whose mandate is to engage with those who have imposed the sanctions with a view to having them lifted.
But until recently, the EU and its American allies have appeared insensitive and unwilling to re-engage Zimbabwe.

As we have said before, the sanctions are not serving any meaningful purpose other than punishing the people of Zimbabwe for having chosen their own destiny.
They must simply go and with no strings attached.

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(NEWZIMBABWE) UK 'appalled' by plan to lift Zimbabwe sanctions

UK 'appalled' by plan to lift Zimbabwe sanctions
13/07/2012 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter

BRITAIN will scupper any plans by European Union countries to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe because senior government figures are “appalled” by thoughts of President Robert Mugabe shaking hands with the Queen, reports said Saturday.

Britain’s Independent newspaper quotes a Foreign Office official saying Mugabe, 88 this year, would never be allowed to set foot in London because he has “shown no sign of contrition for his misdemeanours”.

"That would be awful," the unnamed official is quoted as saying. "I don't think that he or his people will be visiting Britain any time soon – he has burnt his bridges as far as this country is concerned.

"The idea of him shaking hands with the Queen is appalling.”

Another British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, reported earlier this week that EU officials were prepared to lift sanctions targeting Zimbabwe’s state-owned companies and a travel ban on Mugabe and dozens of his top aides to encourage him to hold free and fair elections.

The sanctions – first imposed in February 2002 after the head of an EU observer mission to the presidential election was expelled – are facing growing opposition from both sides of Zimbabwe’s political divide and the region.

[ZDERA, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, which put a credit freeze on the Zimbabwean government through Section 4 C titled Multilateral Financing Restriction, came into force on Jan. 1st 2002. And by the way, the British government has never apologized for the deaths due to cholera caused by these sanctions. In fact one 'BBC reporter' pranced around Zimbabwe bragging about it. - MrK]

Most recently, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangiri, the MDC-T leader, and Navi Pillay, the UN human rights commissioner, have called for their lifting.

Pillay said the stigma of sanctions was inflicting damage on the Zimbabwean economy as the country was viewed adversely by international investors and lenders.

The Telegraph had reported that EU officials would use a carrot and stick approach by lifting the embargo conditionally later this month, the move becoming permanent if Mugabe can keep his promise to deliver a new constitution and hold free and fair elections.

But the Independent says Britain – which championed the sanctions – is hostile to the idea.

“Talks are planned over whether to approve the move – although there is widespread understanding that it cannot be agreed without Britain's approval,” the newspaper said.

“The hostility of the UK to any easing the international pressure on Mugabe suggests that is unlikely and the Foreign Office believes it would be hard to lend an olive branch to Zimbabwe until Mugabe either steps down or dies.”

John Robertson, a Zimbabwean economist, said Zanu PF had made much "political mileage" out of the sanctions.

"Sanctions were the West's best gift to Zanu PF,” he opined earlier this week.

[John Robertson, geriatric rhodesian and head of the Economist Intelligence Unit, is full of you know what. Economic sanctions killed thousands of Zimbabweans and destroyed the national currency. (See this graph, courtesy of the Economist Intelligence Unit, and notice the trend break and the rapid fall of the Zimbabwe Dollar/US Dollar exchange rate from 2002 onwards. Notice that there no change in trend from 2000 to 2001, when the so-called farm invasions started in 2000. Read more on ZDERA and it's devastating economic impact here.) So if he thinks that is economic sanctions were a gift to ZANU-PF, he is murderous liar. - MrK]

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Zimbabwe undergoing ICT revolution: Mugabe

Zimbabwe undergoing ICT revolution: Mugabe
14/07/2012 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter

ZIMBABWE is “just setting into an information communication technology revolution” and has set a 2015 target for all schools to produce school leavers with the requisite 21st century skills to play a part in the worldwide digital economy, President Robert Mugabe said on Friday.

Launching the government’s e-learning programme at a newly-built school in Matabeleland North, Mugabe pledged his government’s commitment to put computer technology at the heart of the school curriculum.

“Comrades and friends, the speed of global technological and economic transformation demands that we move abreast of other developing countries if we are to derive the full benefits of the ICT revolution and turn the digital divide into digital opportunities for the nation,” Mugabe said.

The schools e-learning programme was launched at Chogugudza Secondary School in Mashonaland East last March, and Friday saw it shift to the southern region with the launch at the Landa John Nkomo High School in Manqe, Tsholotsho.

Information Communication Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa said it was their vision that every school in the country – both secondary and primary – must use computer technology by 2015.

“Our agenda is benchmarked on 2015, we have a digital programme that by 2015 Zimbabwe should be fully on the digital platform, we are building a knowledge economy and our citizens must be digital natives,” Chamisa said.

“All schools ultimately are going to benefit, we have in excess of 8,000 schools countrywide and I am working with David Coltart [Education Minister] who is the implementing minister and the President to see this programme through.”

Under the programme, the ICT ministry will give out computers to schools, train the teachers and provide maintenance through the government-owned technology company, ZARNet.

The ministry also works hand-in-hand with the Rural Electrification Agency to ensure power – both solar and electric – is extended to all schools countrywide.

“We have a standard agenda on ICTs,” Chamisa went on, “as you may know ICTs are becoming part and parcel of teaching tools. Gone are the days when teachers used chalk board and duster, now you need PowerPoint, Keynote and projectors... that’s the direction that this country is taking. We are moving from mere pedagogy to webagogy.”

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(NEWZIMBABWE) Zanu PF: when defeat gets so sweet

Zanu PF: when defeat gets so sweet
14/07/2012 00:00:00
by Nathaniel Manheru

THE Thursday judgement by the Supreme Court gives legal weight to the call for early elections, does it not? Of course the judgement relates immediately to three constituencies.

Yet its ramifications extend well beyond the three, to suggest many possibilities, all of them favourable to Zanu PF. The floodgates have been opened and it does not require any clairvoyance to predict the direction of events henceforth.

Only a little memory will help one recall that Zanu PF has been strenuously making a case for the re-enfranchisement of the more than 30 constituencies which have been frozen out of any representation, largely by God’s hand, minutely, but significantly by misconduct, critically by treachery on the part of three sitting MPs who decided to desert their party for a rival one.
On life support

Significantly, the court action has been brought about by the dissident MPs seeking to eat their cake while having it. The trio used the law to place themselves beyond disciplinary action of the party they had deserted, indeed to beat the national law which forbids floor-crossing. They used the law to cull comfort from, and hide in interstices created by the leadership wrangle in their former party.

They sought and found refuge in Arthur Mutambara, himself leaning on the life-support machine of legal technicalities. And as Mutambara stretched for a little more ounces of life, the trio clearly saw that they risked becoming his extended patient, thereby sharing his fate.

They wrenched themselves from the life of a man so providentially condemned, a desperate man whose sojourn at the country’s courts owed more to a plea for one more gasp than to the promise or prospect of one more life.
When the president loses to himself

As leader of this MDC faction, Arthur Mutambara is finished. Arguably, as a leader of anything in Zimbabwe’s treacherous politics, he fares no better.

Indeed his gratuitously foolhardy praise of Morgan Tsvangirai only last week amounts to coquettish or pimpish courtship by a proverbial woman only too aware of deeper wrinkles, coarsening flesh and greater, unimpressive gaps in a cavernous mouth that once kissed sweet, that once emitted scented breath.

The trio has discovered it measures 96 degrees in King Arthur’s shade, hence the legal action whose ostensible target is the President, but which in essence tells the story of continued fragmentation of the MDC formations.

Indeed a legal battle where Mugabe the President loses to Mugabe leader of a political party seeking an early electoral end to the political charade sparsely christened government of national unity. That is the beauty of politics’ multiple identities, is it not?

When a narrow man wins

With significant defections from MDC-T to MDC-N in Bulawayo only a week or so ago, and the rancour that followed, it is clear that MDC-N cannot wait for by-elections in the region, much as it is still to consolidate its hold in the three constituencies, let alone muster enough resources to match, still less surpass MDC-T.

But its recovery has been remarkable in a game where money might not be everything. MDC-N has been hammering the issue of devolution principally. MDC-N has been hammering Zanu PF, something Welshman Ncube and Priscilla Misihairabwi consider a sine qua non to electability in Matabeleland.

More significantly, MDC-N has been hammering MDC-T as yet another face of a Shona conspiratorial domination of Matabeleland. Very narrow and potentially divisive politics indeed, but politics finding currency, finding fertile ground in a region whose depressed economic fortunes, while representative of the state we are in as Zimbabweans, have always been made to assume a parochial resonance.

And the Dimaf debacle has been the proverbial hyena that coughs out white hair in a village which cannot account for one of its elderly women. The whole blame falls, arguably deservedly, on MDC-T whose Secretary General, as the country’s finance minister, is read as withholding a lifeline to the region.

The politics which this situation spawns for the MDC-T are tellingly evident in Thokozani Khupe’s unscheduled and undignified eloping from her urban constituency to what she perceives to be a safe rural seat.

The move amounts to another ringing victory for Welshman who had been humiliated by the same lady in 2008. Much worse, it has triggered a potentially divisive demotion of Thabitha Khumalo as MDC-T’s deputy spokeswoman.

However read, Welshman should be credited for mounting enough pressure on MDC-T as to trigger bleeding contradictions in that party.
Zanu PF’s needless missteps

But who else is smiling? Zanu PF of course! An MDC-T which is lamed in Matabeleland is an MDC-T which gets softened nationally. The party is bound to find it harder to defend its bid for presidency, well before we even factor in other complications gathering pace inside it.

And in spite of his waspish attacks on Zanu PF, Welshman is doing Zanu PF insuperable service, the same way that Mutambara’s gratuitous courtship and panegyrizing of Tsvangirai reinforces Ncube’s hatred of Tsvangirai, again for Zanu PF.

He is not, after all, aiming for Presidency. He is aiming for leverage against whoever emerges the President, something Zanu PF should have quickly grasped. And there is a lot to censure Zanu PF for in the unfolding equation.

Zanu PF could have been laughing more in the unfolding circumstances. While there was a genuine legal argument to delay the ascendancy of Ncube both to the leadership of the other faction of the MDC and to national vice premiership, there was little that stood in the way of Zanu PF to make some symbolic show of goodwill and fairness.

We did not have to make Ncube win his place — or the obverse — to make Mutambara effortlessly keep what he no longer deserved, even then to our detriment. And with each legal battle Ncube won, the legal argument which Zanu PF summoned and relied upon to keep Mutambara in the posts deteriorated from the threadbareness to an outright fig leaf we did not need for our so well-covered front.

After all, this was none of our fight, and the man we appeared to redeem did not deserve our sacrifice, both intrinsically and by his subsequent political conduct in giving meaningless succour to the deserters.
Validating conspiracy theory

We also ceded to Ncube the vote of victimhood. For the region, he became a victor orphaned, nay, lynched by Zanu PF which should have dressed his weeping wounds after a bloody fight.

We also pushed him into a harder corner and stance from where he now demands both political and governmental leadership as a matter of self-gotten victory. And in the eyes of the voter in Matabeleland, we grew him into a lawyer who demonstrated professorship in his grasp and use of the courts, indeed grew him into a politician who uses the law to successfully punch through adversity, to punch above his numerical weight.

The materially inconsequential, but unrequited victories he has won in the leadership contest, has become huge symbolically for a region looking for a hero, craving for representational victory. We have cost ourselves trust in Matabeleland, even lending credence to Ncube’s conspiracy theories.

Pilfering Look East

Zanu PF can still regain ground, both symbolically and materially. Ncube still needs the goodwill of Zanu PF which he has deserved for long without getting, and there is a lot that can be done between now and elections. After all, the issue of devolution is now behind us.

Materially, Zanu PF’s support base in Matabeleland has remained stable, unshaken. But it has also not grown, with current efforts aiming at growing it against years of stagnation. Given the current realignment of forces in Matabeleland, there is real scope for that magical growth, against an MDC-T fending off attacks from MDC-M and Dumiso Dabengwa’s Zapu.

The frantic attempts by the MDC-T to raise its image using the Zanu PF initiated and negotiated water agreements with the Chinese government in the context of the broad Look East policy, clearly reveal an MDC-T at its tether’s end. We do not have to allow it to prance about as a solution to Matabeleland’s water woes, merely because it holds the water portfolio in the inclusive government.
The real game-changer

This being the environment within which the Supreme Court decision has been handed down, so what now? Well, effectively, the Supreme Court decision has brought the electoral law into what until now has been pre-eminently a politically framed national question of when to have elections.

Until this court decision, the whole debate has evolved as if only GPA principals, watched by SADC through its facilitator, have been the only factors at play. The Supreme Court has now shown this was a mistaken overrating of persons and institutions which, in any event, are themselves the players in the game about to begin. It has shown it is a game-changer, indeed the writer of rules of the game which SADC seeks to referee.

This is a key adjustment to the whole electoral equation in which all sorts of political arguments, not least among them the bogey of “outstanding issues”, were being summoned to extend indefinitely the saccharine but increasingly illegal governing moment.

If the MDC formations needed until June next year “to level the playing field”, they now have until August this year to do so. And we are in July!

Once we hold those by-elections as required by this judgment and presumably many others to come, it means the argument for delaying a national poll in the name of “outstanding issues” becomes hopelessly threadbare, obscene in fact. The MDC formations may now have to go back to the courts to make a case for a review of the Supreme Court judgment! Their only hope is to boycott elections, or to discredit them by triggering violence.
When can’t pay won’t wash

Secondly, if the “can’t pay” argument will not wash with the Supreme Court, it certainly implies the law takes the view that the ballot box may not be deferred for whatever reason, beyond the limits of the law.

Again that relocates the electoral epicentre from SADC’s capitals where the MDC formations have been heavily lobbying, to some small building so near to Parliament where the formations sit, so near to Munhumutapa from where these formations pretend to govern.

Again that makes Tendai Biti’s ministry irrelevant to the timing of elections and just as well that he had already set aside the US$100 million in SDRs for that purpose. He must find the money. In just this one Thursday, in the month of July, in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twelve, Zimbabwe’s sovereignty has been reasserted. Firmly.

Changing the governing landscape

Practically, the President will have to decide whether to proceed piecemeal, all the time waiting for a prod from another judgment from the Supreme Court as more challenges are made, or to proceed by way of declaring elections due in all the vacant constituencies throughout the country.

That means a mini-general election of far-reaching consequences for all parties, more so for the MDC-T which was beginning to use its ill-gotten majority in the lower house to abuse parliamentary processes. I bet my bottom dollar the MDC-T is fated to emerge worse off at the conclusion of such a process, however managed.

Zanu PF is sure to carry the day in by-elections. Check its record! Of course such an outcome will be a huge fillip, not just for governance in the immediate aftermath, but also for the general elections to follow.

Bolder, more daring measures

Or more dramatically and boldly, the President may use this judgment to dissolve Parliament and get the country to move post haste to harmonised elections! After all he is the President. What is more, as he correctly argues, the constitution was never a precondition for holding elections. Yet it is being used as if it is.

Zimbabwe has a constitution in place, on the strength of which elections have been held in the past, with the MDC even making significant gains under it. What is more, that constitution has undergone sweeping changes, all of them prompted by the MDC formations which participated in drafting the resultant amendments we now have as part of the electoral law. That often forgotten fact came through in Patrick Chinamasa’s interview last week.

Fearing having power themselves

And as I write, Parliament is considering further changes to the electoral law, changes which would have taken a mere day had it not been for the fact that one of the MDC formations has, true to type, again reneged on positions agreed to early on under the GPA. But with the pressure of the Supreme Court judgment now evident, even an impasse on that front may no longer matter. Quite the contrary, it could very well be the reason for calling for early polls.

And as is already established, the prevarication of the MDC-T on all these changes and on the draft constitution has more to do with reservations which are internal and unique to it, than with the lack of consensus between parties.

Acting on fulsome optimism, the MDC-T fears a constitution that creates a strong executive, lest it misgoverns with it! Its leader, says some of its core players, cannot be trusted with undiminished powers by which disciplined Robert Mugabe governed! Tingapera, they opine.

When the EU begins to crack

Externally, something even more dramatic is beginning to happen. The accretive pressures which Zanu PF has been building against sanctions, both singly and through a series of manoeuvres that got the MDC formations in, have now got the offending EU to begin to crack.

The judicious leak through the Telegraph, itself an establishment paper, this week comes as a culmination of a series of not-so-subtle measures which the Conservatives-led British coalition has been deploying to undo the damage from the Labour days, been doing to reverse the constraining anti-Zimbabwe hype which the Labour government had over the years whipped to frenzied proportions.

Only last week I detailed aspects of this campaign whose local reflex is a despairing sense of abandonment on the part of the local white factor, so aggressively expressing itself through the effete Roy Bennett. But the British government has crossed the Rubicon and shall not make any further sacrifices for what, after all, are remnant elements from the rebellious UDI.

Britain has had to come to the realisation that picking a fight over the preservation of narrow Rhodesian interests at the expense of its bilateral relations with Zimbabwe might not be the right way to protect her place and interests in Southern Africa. After all, even demographically Rhodesia is a smashed beachhead which can no longer sustain Britain’s entry and penetration into the hinterland.

Ubi panis ibi patria

Much worse, this mistaken fight waged by Labour has hardened Southern Africa through Zimbabwe’s viral political influence worrisomely docking in dirty streets and settlements where the poor, unfulfilled majority are found in its neighbourhood. Within the European Union itself, the British racially bigoted position against Zimbabwe has become harder and harder to defend.

Critical players within the EU were beginning to make overt steps towards cutting deals with Zimbabwe, a move made more compelling and uncontrollable by the economic mayhem afflicting the Union.

One does not need much thought to provide an answer to whether or not a Greece, or Portugal, or Spain, or Italy so threatened with economic chaos need go by EU solidarity and sentiment, and not fall for a portion of the shimmering riches of Chiadzwa which Zimbabwe licentiously continues to dangle. And Dame Zimbabwe has been doing lots of lewd moves to a hungry subcontinent, knowing fully well the old saying, Ubi panis ibi patria, will do the trick.

Reading false defeats

I have been reading some very immature commentary on this sanctions matter from people I expect to know better. First, the whites. White voices have cautioned the EU against speedy removal of sanctions. They urge the EU to remember what the sanctions were about in the first instance.

Obscenely and incredulously, these voices proceed to suggest that sanctions had something to do with the realisation of democracy for the native here! I hope they grow up.

Then you have black politicians who naively think that the removal of sanctions wrong-foots Zanu PF. Really?How does the successful realisation of Zanu PF’s decade-long campaign yield a setback for it? They are in for a rude awakening.

The reversal of sanctions could very well be the beginning of a winning psychosis for the party. After all, the enemy has not been a small one; the victory thus cannot be a day-long carnival only, surely. Or the obverse: that those guilty of bringing the Nation to such a long grief cannot suffer a short guilt, a guilt feeling far shorter than ecstasy, surely?
For as long as the MDC formations live politically sanctions shall remain their enduring political signifier.

Indigenisation, the breaker

Much more, none within this dreaming tribe ever pauses to ask what Zanu PF’s core campaign message is, or is going to be. It was never going to be sanctions, surely, much as the issue of sanctions is sure to create the necessary atmospherics.

In any case the removal of sanctions owe to greater pressure mounted through the policy of indigenisation, is that not so? So why relegate the causal factor? It sounds very childish until one remembers this is an argument frothing from mouths of grown-ups! But one can depress these grown-up infants even more. America will not remove sanctions, certainly not before our elections.

And American sanctions have been the more overt, the more extensive, the more hurtful. So the sanctions discourse will not go away, in fact will be ramped up to greater frenzy, what with this inspiring breakthrough in Europe! It is such faulty reasoning which has always been the bane of opposition politics, the boon for Zanu!
Make no mind them!

Overall, the deck is clearing itself, fast too! Of course the EU will shout preconditions, will spice up the removal of sanctions with copious threats. Make no mind them! They have to save face. They have to manage home constituencies.

European sanctions are going, not by the largeness of European heart, still less the British one (if hearts they have). Sanctions are going because we have successfully turned them into such a frightful foreign policy disutility. Because we have held firm and fast. Because we have exhausted the ardour of the quisling politics they have spawned here. Yes, because we have forced EU onto the table, as in 1979. Yet another victory, Zimbabwe.


Nathaniel Manheru is a columnist for the Saturday Herald. E-mail him:

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Minimum wage

Minimum wage
By The Post
Sat 14 July 2012, 16:00 CAT

There has been an interesting debate over the recently announced minimum wages.
According to the Statutory Instrument No. 45 of 2012 signed by the Minister of Labour, Fackson Shamenda, on July 4, 2012, the minimum wage for a person engaged as a general worker, cleaner, handyman, an office orderly, watch person or guard must be K700,000 per month or K3,646 per hour.

A person engaged as a driver must be paid K1,002,386 per month or K5,220 per hour. Typists or receptionists must be paid not less than K1,085,919 per month or K5, 656 per hour. And a qualified clerk should be paid not less than K1,445,107 per month or K7,527 per hour. In short, no one in this country should be employed at a salary of not less than K700,000.

Workers have a right to a just wage. And this right obliges the employer to establish a just and fair remuneration. In the same light, the state is obliged to fix a minimum wage for the country. Such a minimum wage should be enough to guarantee to all workers dignified and decent living conditions for them and their families. In determining such a minimum wage, the following factors should be considered: the cost of living, the needs of the workers and their families and the availability of provisions for social security.

We appreciate and praise all that is being done to raise the standard of living of the less privileged people in our country. And much still needs to be done for the betterment of the lot of the unskilled worker, whose wage is generally far below that necessary for the proper maintenance of the family; for it should not be forgotten that the worker is not merely a cog in the industrial or commercial machine, but a human being, with human needs and human interests. Here, perhaps, more than anywhere else, justice must be accompanied and supplemented by compassion.

The rights of workers, like all rights, are based on the nature of the human person and on her and his transcendent dignity and among these rights are: a just wage; a working environment not harmful to the workers' physical health or their moral integrity; social security, and the right to assemble and form associations.
We are reminded in Mathew 20:4: "…so he told them, 'You also go and work in the vineyard, and I will pay you a fair wage'."

But there are challenges, there are practical difficulties in realising justice over wages. Today in this country, we have so many types of employers. Almost every one of us is an employer. A person whom the government has guaranteed a minimum wage of K700,000 per month is also an employer of another person. The challenge is how they are going to share that K700,000 and ensure that at the end of the month, each one of them takes home or remains with K700,000. This is arithmetically impossible.

We have a situation in this country where for one to go for work, they have to have a maid to take care of their children at home. And if that person is going to be paid K700,000 per month, how much are they going to remain with as employers to enable them to also take care of their own families?

What is the solution to this challenge? Do we simply ban or criminalise the employment of everyone below the minimum wage? If you can't afford the minimum wage, then you can't employ anyone! If the employer can't afford to pay you the minimum wage, then he can't employ you, no matter how desperate you are to take up that job that has a below minimum wage remuneration! Is this possible given our high levels of unemployment? But we all know that the effect of unemployment is degrading and making work available is most important

These are the challenges people are debating on radio station programmes across the width and breadth of our country. How is a lowly paid nurse, school teacher going to manage to pay the statutory minimum wage to her maid to enable her to go to work?

And the numbers we are talking about in this category of workers are gigantic, are huge. How are we going to manage to keep all these people in this type of employment at this minimum wage?

Of course, there are certain categories of employers who are today paying far below these new minimum wages when they can afford to pay much better remuneration to their workers. They are simply interested in maximising their profits even if it is at the expense of the workers. It is such employers the government minimum wages should target. Of course, the challenge here is on how to structure the minimum wage requirements so that they target those with the ability to pay and make them pay.

Where it is not possible for people to meet the minimum wage requirements, forcing them to do so won't work. We will simply have a law that is just on paper with many people not following it. And these new minimum wages are likely to be ignored by most of our people. The intention is certainly noble but the practicality of it seems to be difficult or impossible in certain respects.

Probably sometimes it may be better to leave things to the individuals concerned to agree and where there are injustices, then the state can step in to mitigate. This may also be helped by strengthening trade unions and enable them to recruit as many workers as possible. Unions which enable workers to improve their conditions should be valued and promoted by everybody in society. Therefore, the trade unions, to which the workers have a right, should acquire sufficient strengths and power.

And we end by reminding ourselves of what comrade KK said on this score at a rally in Chifubu, Ndola on January 17, 1965: "The responsibilities of trade unionism are to see that there is a decent wage, a decent life for each member, and also to see that more people are employed in the country. Trade union responsibilities do not begin and end with demanding more pay."

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Expel them, we'll adopt them - PF

Expel them, we'll adopt them - PF
By Kombe Chimpinde and Allan Mulenga
Sat 14 July 2012, 16:00 CAT

WYNTER Kabimba says the PF will adopt MMD members of parliament who have been given positions in government if they wish to re-contest their seats. And MMD president Nevers Mumba says he will not change the party's position to expel members who will align themselves with the PF.

Meanwhile, veteran politician and MMD founder member Vernon Mwaanga has resigned from the MMD National Executive Committee (NEC).

In an interview yesterday, Kabimba, who is PF secretary general, mocked Mumba that the nine members of parliament were "free gifts" and MMD would do well to hand them over to PF.

"For us, if MMD decides to expel them on account that they took positions in the government, they will all be adopted in their constituencies. In fact they would have handed them over to us. I will even send a 'thank you' note to Mr. Nevers Mumba for giving me free gifts as PF. I will be very happy with that decision to expel MMD members," he said.

Kabimba said President Michael Sata had a prerogative under the Constitution to appoint any citizen to serve the government.

"If the President is appointing the respective members of parliament to join PF as members of PF, that is a different thing. The President has a prerogative under the Constitution to appoint any citizen of Zambia to serve the government of the Republic of Zambia; not to serve Michael Sata, but to serve the people of this country," he said.

Kabimba said he expected Mumba to appreciate the situation involving his members of parliament because late president Levy Mwanawasa appointed him when he was still a member of the National Christian Coalition.

"The honourable members of parliament that have been appointed by the President are not serving an individual. They are serving the nation and we expect Mr. Mumba himself, who had jumped from his political party to become vice-president, to be able to appreciate this situation. Mr. Mumba himself was appointed from his small party NCC to become vice-president of this country.

Did the late president Mwanawasa consult his members? He just jumped from NCC into MMD and became vice-president. What has changed now?" asked Kabimba.

Yesterday, Mumba announced at a media briefing that the nine that had been offered ministerial positions in government were considered expelled by the party until they resign from their ministerial posts.

He said the MMD had declared a political war against President Sata regardless of the cost.

"Considering the obvious agenda of the PF government to diminish the opposition both in Parliament and outside, the party has decided to fight for democracy," Mumba said.

"We did not start this war and we don't want it, but PF has declared war on democracy. Although we don't like this war, we are ready to fight until we win. We have been provoked, our members have been brutally hunted to belong to the PF government. In view of this assault on democracy, the MMD has decided to protect itself."

Mumba said the action was necessitated after NEC and other MMD members of parliament, who were present at the briefing, invoked the resolution of the Parliamentary Liaison Committee made earlier.

On Thursday, well placed-sources within the MMD said that the party had decided to give a 10- day ultimatum to the affected members of parliament to relinquish their ministerial posts or face expulsion.

"I wish to announce that our party has decided to invoke the resolution of the PLC Parliamentary Liaison Committee which was held immediately after losing the 2011 election, that state: 'Any MMD member of parliament who accepts a ministerial job from the PF government ceases to be a member of the MMD party and a letter of expulsion shall be sent and the National Assembly shall inform the Speaker accordingly'," he explained.

"Our only tools for survival are discipline and unity. As president, I would rather have 20 disciplined and dedicated MPs than 80 who are not sure where they stand."

Mumba said it was not the wish of the party to declare costly by-elections.
"So we are joining the jungle business with him so that when he rolls on the right, we roll on the left and I think that it is important you defend your democracy," he vowed.

"I wish to announce that yesterday I wrote a letter to the President raising deep concern on his adamant desire and attempt to destroy the opposition and create one party-dictatorship. I feel greatly grieved.
The agenda of the President and the PF government has now been exposed as that of wishing to destroy the MMD."

And MMD chairperson for elections Gabriel Namulambe, who was directed to start preparing for elections by Mumba, explained that the decisive action taken by the MMD was aimed at disciplining erring members.

"For us, it doesn't matter whether we lose the elections or not. What is important is to have loyal and disciplined members. If a person insults where he is feeding from or is coming from, then I don't think it is necessary to have that person," he said.

And MMD Luampa member of parliament and North Western province minister Josephine Limaata, who is one of the affected members, said she would not resign from government but contest her expulsion in the courts of law.

During the same briefing, Mumba announced that Mwaanga, the former parliamentary chief whip, who will officially resign on August 1, 2012 said he was retiring from NEC and active politics to give chance to the young people within the MMD.

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(LUSAKATIMES) Revised minimum wage is final, erring employers will be prosecuted-Shamenda

Revised minimum wage is final, erring employers will be prosecuted-Shamenda
TIME PUBLISHED - Saturday, July 14, 2012, 2:10 pm

Labour Minister Fackson Shamenda says the revised minimum wage is now a piece of legislation which must be complied with by all employers in the country. Mr Shamenda has warned of prosecution against erring employers. He told ZNBC news in an interview in Lusaka on Saturday that the revised minimum wage is non reversible.

Mr Shamenda said that the minimum wage was arrived at after wide consultation. He has urged all employers to implement the new minimum wage to avoid getting in trouble. Mr Shamenda was reacting to the Zambia Federation of Employers -ZEF- Executive Director Harrington Chibanda who said the revised minimum wage is beyond the reach of many employers.

Mr. Chibanda was speaking when he featured on a Tv2 programme ‘Seven Dayas Today’ on Saturday morning.

And VICE-President Guy Scott yesterday assured that there will be no job losses following the upward adjustment in the minimum wage.

Dr Scott was responding to MMD Mafinga Member of Parliament, Catherine Namugala in Parliament yesterday who raised concern over the increase in the minimum wage, saying this would trigger job losses in the informal sector.

Dr Scott said that Government had taken a positive step in improving the welfare of domestic workers and others in the informal sector and that the law would prevent any job-cuts.

“What we have done as Government is the right thing, if we hadn’t created the jobs, people would still be complaining and so we are doing the right thing and I want to assure you that there will be no job losses following the changes we have made to the minimum wage,” Dr Scott said.

Recently Government announced a 100 per cent pay rise for workers in the informal sector and urged all employers to abide by the earning adjustment to improve the living standards of the workers.


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(LUSAKATIMES) £411,000 worth of assets and cash from the Barotse Royal treasury was distributed to district councils countrywide-VEEP

£411,000 worth of assets and cash from the Barotse Royal treasury was distributed to district councils countrywide-VEEP
TIME PUBLISHED - Saturday, July 14, 2012, 9:42 am

VICE-PRESIDENT Guy Scott told Parliament yesterday that £411,000 worth of assets and cash from the Barotse Royal treasury was distributed to district councils countrywide in 1964.

Dr Scott said according to the information released by former Minister of Local Government Sikota Wina as published in one of the editions of the Times of Zambia newspaper in 1964, the £411,000 worth of assets and cash was distributed to councils after the signing of the Barotseland Agreement.

The Vice-President, who laid the cutting of the article on the table of the House, was answering a question from Bahati member of Parliament (MP) Harry Kalaba (Patriotic Front) who wanted to know how much was in the Barotse Royal treasury and what happened to the money at the time the Barotseland Agreement was signed.

This was during the Vice-President’s question time.

And Dr Scott said the Litunga of the Lozi people in Western Province, like the other three Paramount Chiefs in the country, derives his powers from the colonial establishment and the republican Constitution.

Dr Scott said this in response to a question by Lukulu West MP Misheck Mutelo (MMD) who asked whether or not the Litunga has powers as those of the Chitimukulu of the Bemba, Paramount Chief Mpezeni of the Ngoni and Paramount Chief Gawa Undi of the Chewa people.

The Vice-President dismissed assertions that Government is trying to ridicule the Litunga, describing them as baseless.

And Dr Scott said it is not Government’s desire to see people lose their jobs following the upward adjustment of the minimum wage for domestic, shop and general workers.

He said Government revised the minimum wage to ensure all workers are accorded decent salaries.

Dr Scott said this in response to Mafinga MP Catherine Namugala (MMD) who asked if Government is aware that the implementation of the minimum wage is likely to result in high levels of unemployment.

ZRA collected K1.185 trillion excise duty, K1.7 trillion customs duty, K3.9 trillion value added tax, K4.5 trillion pay as you earn while K7.5 trillion was collected from other taxes last year.

“If we follow your logic, it will mean reducing wages and increasing the number of workers. But this is not the case with the PF government,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Finance Miles Sampa told Parliament that Government collected K18.8 trillion in taxes from January 1 to December 31 last year.

He said the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) collected K1.185 trillion excise duty, K1.7 trillion customs duty, K3.9 trillion value added tax, K4.5 trillion pay as you earn while K7.5 trillion was collected from other taxes.

[Zambia Daily Mail]

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(TAIBBLOG) Why is Nobody Freaking Out About the LIBOR Banking Scandal

Why is Nobody Freaking Out About the LIBOR Banking Scandal?
POSTED: July 3, 9:04 AM ET

The LIBOR manipulation story has exploded into a major scandal overseas. The CEO of Barclays, Bob Diamond, has resigned in disgrace; his was the first of what will undoubtedly be many major banks to walk the regulatory plank for fixing the interbank exchange rate. The Labor party is demanding a sweeping criminal investigation. Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, responded the way a real public official should (i.e. not like Ben Bernanke), blasting the banks:

It is time to do something about the banking system…Many people in the banking industry are hardworking and feel badly let down by some of their colleagues and leaders. It goes to the culture and the structure of banks: the excessive compensation, the shoddy treatment of customers, the deceitful manipulation of a key interest rate, and today, news of yet another mis-selling scandal.

The furor is over revelations that Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and other banks were monkeying with at least $10 trillion in loans (The Wall Street Journal is calculating that that LIBOR affects $800 trillion worth of contracts).

The banks gamed LIBOR for two semi-overlapping reasons. As noted here last week, there were instances of Barclays traders badgering the LIBOR submitters to "push down" rates in order to fatten their immediate bottom lines, depending on what they were trading or holding that day. They also apparently rigged LIBOR downward in order to produce a general appearance of better health, essentially tweaking their credit scores a few ticks upward.

Most intriguingly, or perhaps disturbingly, there were revelations last week that Bank of England deputy Governor Paul Tucker had a conversation with Diamond at the peak of the crisis in 2008. The conversation reportedly left Diamond, and subsequently his traders, with the impression that the bank had carte blanche to rig LIBOR downward in order to help allay spiraling public fears about the banks’ poor financial health.

British officials, and Tucker individually, deny that Tucker gave Diamond permission to rig rates. But a report by British regulators did conclude that the two were talking about Barclays LIBOR submissions on October 29, 2008, and that as a result of that conversation, Diamond came away with a “misunderstanding.” The Daily Mail quotes the Financial Services Authority report:

However, as the substance of the telephone conversation was relayed down the chain of command at Barclays, a misunderstanding or miscommunication occurred.

This meant that Barclays’ submitters believed mistakenly that they were operating under an instruction from the Bank of England (as conveyed by senior management) to reduce Barclays’ Libor submissions.

That is explosive stuff. Members of Parliament will be grilling Tucker tomorrow about those events in what is sure to be a far more combative and entertaining legislative inquiry than the Jamie Dimon dog-and-pony show we just went through here in the states in recent weeks.

The implications of that part of the story should be particularly chilling to Americans, who in recent years have been party to a number of revelations about strange and seemingly inappropriate contacts between senior regulatory officials and big bankers during the heat of the crisis.

We know that American officials in 2008-2009 were extremely concerned about the appearance of weakness in the financial markets, so much so that they may have resisted pursuing criminal prosecutions against big banks, and we also know that they spent a lot of time commiserating with Wall Street figures before and during the crisis.

If Bob Diamond and Paul Tucker were having these talks about LIBOR, is it fair to wonder what else Hank Paulson and Lloyd Blankfein were talking about in the 24 discussions they had in the six days following the AIG disaster? When Paulson had a secret meeting with the entire board of Goldman Sachs in, of all places, his hotel suite in Moscow, in June of 2008? Or what other material nonpublic information was exchanged when Paulson met with a gang of hedge fund chiefs at the offices of Eton Park management in July 2008, and laid out for them a possible scenario for putting Fannie and Freddie into receivership?

Anyway, the LIBOR story is leading the front pages of most of Britain’s dailies, it’s on TV, and it’s producing blistering editorials and howls of outrage amongst politicians and activists. But as compadre Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism put it, where’s the outrage here in America?

The big story on our shores in the last few weeks has been the health care ruling, which makes sense, but then after that… what? The heat? Tom and Katie? (There’s actually a story about how Katie can wear heels again, now that she’s not married to a short person). Joe Sandusky? Nightline’s big story tonight, which is already being hyped on the net, is about how fat Chris Christie is and why the hell he hasn’t done the bypass surgery yet:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie opened up about his weight problem in an interview with ABC News and stressed he is "trying" to lose weight, a battle he's waged for 30 years, but said he's never considered gastric bypass surgery because it's "too risky."

"I mean, see, listen, I think there's a fundamental misunderstanding among people regarding weight and regarding all those things that go into, to people being overweight," Christie said in an interview that will air Tuesday on "Nightline."

Glad to be informed! The New York Times, meanwhile, did chime in with a house editorial yesterday, and it was appropriately somber. And there has been some coverage in the financial press.

But to me what’s missing from all of this is the “Holy Fucking Shit!” factor. This story is so outrageous that it shocks even the most cynical Wall Street observers. I have a friend who works on Wall Street who for years has been trolling through the stream of financial corruption stories with bemusement, darkly enjoying the spectacle as though the whole post-crisis news arc has been like one long, beautifully-acted, intensely believable sequel to Goodfellas. But even he is just stunned to the point of near-speechlessness by the LIBOR thing. “It’s like finding out that the whole world is on quicksand,” he says.

So as far as the stateside press goes, I’ve got to assume the cavalry is coming soon. But when?

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(TAIBBLOG, ROLLING STONE) Romney's 'Free Stuff' Speech Is a New Low

Romney's 'Free Stuff' Speech Is a New Low
POSTED: July 13, 9:51 AM ET

Wow. If you live long enough, you’ll see some truly gross things in politics, but Mitt Romney’s work this past week "courting black support" was enough to turn even the strongest stomach.

Romney really showed us something in his luridly self-congratulating N.A.A.C.P. gambit, followed by the awesomely disgusting "free stuff" post-mortem speech he delivered the next night in front of friendlier audiences. The twin appearances revealed the candidate to be not merely unlikable, and not merely a fatuous, unoriginal hack of a politician, but also a genuinely repugnant human being, a grasping corporate hypocrite with so little feel for how to get along with people that he has to dream up elaborate schemes just to try to pander to the mob.

At first, it was hard to say what exactly Romney was thinking when he decided to address the N.A.A.C.P. He plunged into the speech with a creepy kamikaze smile and a rushed, weird (even for him) delivery, acting like someone proud of what a ballsily moronic dare he was attempting – like a high school kid mooning a squad car from the back of a school bus, or Peter McNeeley rushing face-first into the ring with Mike Tyson.

Now, it would have been one thing if Romney had put some real thought into this, if he had taken a day or two or three and really pondered the question of why 90% of black voters vote Democratic. That’s a serious question, and it would have been something if Romney had really attempted to bridge what has turned into a disturbingly ugly gap between most nonwhite Americans and political conservatives.

Without accepting blame or admitting guilt, he could have talked about the increasingly strident tone of the national debate over racially charged issues, and wondered aloud if politicians on both sides perhaps needed to find a new way to talk about these things without fearmongering, stereotyping, or trading accusations. He could have met the racial-tension issue head on, in other words, just by saying out loud the simple truth that white and nonwhite Americans, and Democrats and Republicans both, need to find more civilized ways to talk about their political concerns. If he had owned the problem, that would have been a big step forward, for all of us.

Of course, that’s expecting a lot. But even if he had just come up with a fresh, earnest new way to articulate the conservative argument, something beyond the usual sloganeering, that would have been really interesting.

But he didn’t. He came out with the same half-assed, platitude-filled stump speech he usually doles out at campaign stops, literally the same exact speech, only he added quotes from Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Hooks, and Dr. King. As he told a mostly white audience in Montana the next night: “I gave them the same speech I am giving you.” He seemed almost proud of the fact that he didn’t put any extra thought into what he was going to say in his first big address to black America. If some speeches feel like a verbal embrace, Romney’s felt like a stack of cardboard emptied from the bay of a dump truck.

So given that he didn’t say anything new in the speech besides what he always says – government is the enemy of all life forms, we can’t blame the rich, etc. – the true meaning of the speech had to be in the very fact that he gave it in the first place. So what was he trying to accomplish? Surely he didn’t think he was going to be getting converts by promising to repeal “Obamacare,” crush teachers’ unions, and “help those who need help.”

No, he delivered those lines like a man expecting, maybe even wanting to get booed. And sure enough, after the event, it was hard not to notice how gleefully Fox and Hannity and the like played and replayed the video of the Mittster gamely dying on the cross of racial outreach. The rhetorical theme on those outlets was something like, “This is what happens when you promote the cause of free enterprise and self-sufficiency in front of the N.A.A.C.P.!” As Charles Blow in the New York Times put it:

The speech sounded like it was designed not for the audience in the room, but for those in Republican living rooms.

It sounded as though he wanted to show force and fearlessness: “Look folks, I walked into hostile territory unafraid and unbowed.” This was his version of a Daniel in the lions’ den speech.

Talk tough. Get heckled and booed for telling the truth to those who don’t want to hear it. Take the president down a couple of pegs in front of the most loyal segment of his supporters…

So Romney did that, and then the next night he went to Montana and he discussed the experience in front of a friendlier audience. And this is what he said:

When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare they weren’t happy, I didn’t get the same response. That’s O.K, I want people to know what I stand for and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that’s just fine…

But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff.

So now this is the message: I tried to reason with the blacks, I really did, but it turns out they just want a free lunch.

How’s that for bridging the racial divide? Time to wake up the Nobel committee in Oslo!

As far as free lunches go, we of course just witnessed the biggest government handout in history, one that Romney himself endorsed. Four and a half trillion dollars in bailout money already disbursed, trillions more still at risk in guarantees and loans, sixteen trillion dollars in emergency lending from the Federal Reserve, two trillion in quantitative easing, etc. etc. All of this money went to Romney’s pals in the Wall Street banks that for years helped Romney take over companies with mountains of borrowed cash. Now, after these banks crashed, executives at those same firms used those public funds to pay themselves massive salaries, which is exactly the opposite of “helping those who need help,” if you’re keeping score.

That set of facts alone made the “free stuff” speech shockingly offensive. But the problem isn’t just that Romney’s wrong, and a hypocrite, and cynically furthering dangerous and irresponsible stereotypes in order to advance some harebrained electoral ploy involving white conservative voters. What makes it gross is the way he did it.

Romney can’t even be mean with any honesty. Even when he’s pandering to viciousness, ignorance and racism, it comes across like a scaly calculation. A guy who feels like he has to take a dump on the N.A.A.C.P. in Houston in order to connect with frustrated white yahoos everywhere else is a guy who has absolutely no social instincts at all. Someone like Jesse Helms at least had a genuine emotional connection with his crazy-mean-stupid audiences. But Mitt Romney has to think his way to the lowest common denominator, which is somehow so much worse.

Most presidents have something under the hood – wit, warmth, approachability, something. Even the most liberal football fan could enjoy watching an NFL game with George Bush. And even a Klansman probably would have found some of LBJ’s jokes funny. The biggest office in the world requires someone who buzzes with enough personality to fill the job, and most of them have it.

But Romney doesn’t buzz with anything. His vision of humanity is just a million tons of meat floating around in a sea of base calculations. He’s like a teenager who stays up all night thinking of a way to impress the prom queen, and what he comes up with is kicking a kid in a wheelchair. Instincts like those are probably what made him a great leveraged buyout specialist, but in a public figure? Man, is he a disaster. It’s really incredible theater, watching the Republicans talk themselves into this guy.