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Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa says no immunity
for former First Lady Grace Mugabe

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa says he has not granted former First Lady Grace Mugabe immunity from prosecution.

Speaking in an interview at the ongoing World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, Mnangagwa, however, said he had given former President Robert Mugabe a lucrative retirement package and would ensure that Mugabe’s family lives in peace, the state run Herald newspaper reported Thursday.

Mnangagwa took over from Mugabe in November last year following his resignation after a military intervention.

There have been reports that Mugabe was given a 10 million U.S. dollars retirement package but Mnangagwa denied this.

“There is no figure, but it is a question of him continuing to enjoy his salary, his allowances as before, offices, security and travel by first class. My government will also facilitate him going to Singapore for medical check-up,” Mnangagwa said.

On Grace Mugabe’s immunity, he said: “We have not given anybody any immunity. What I promised to my former president and the founding father of our nation, President Mugabe, is that first we give him a package- a very lucrative package.”

He further added “so we are not saying anybody commits a crime then the former status will stop the police dealing with that issue, but I am saying that the new administration will do everything possible to make sure the family lives in peace, undisturbed.”

The president also reiterated that Zimbabwe will hold free and fair elections by July and that he would respect the poll outcome even if his governing ZANU-PF party loses.

He also said international observers including the European Union which was banned by Mugabe from observing the elections, will be invited to monitor the polls.

“Obviously, like in the past, SADC ...its automatic they come. The same with the continental body, that is the Africa Union, they can observe.

“But this time around, I have gone further and said the EU, if they want to observe our elections, I will welcome them. Other nations outside the EU, who want to observe our elections, let them apply.”

The president said he will proclaim the election date after the voter registration exercise which ends on Feb. 12.

He said Zimbabwe was keen to forge viable relations with the international community, adding that even the U.S. was welcome to invest in the country.



Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa meets IMF chief in Davos

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday met IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde on the sidelines of the ongoing World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The IMF said in a statement that Lagarde welcomed Mnangagwa’s commitment to stabilize the Zimbabwean economy and work towards normalizing the country’s engagement with the international community.

“She reiterated the IMF’s commitment to continue to support Zimbabwe as it addresses its economic challenges,” the IMF said.

Mnangagwa is attending the Davos summit, a first by a Zimbabwean president, to market Zimbabwe and lure potential investors to help revive the economy after years of international isolation and stagnation.

The IMF has not been lending to Zimbabwe since 2000 when the country started defaulting on loan repayments.


Zimbabwe orders senior officials to declare assets

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwean government has ordered its ministers and senior civil servants to declare their assets, as it moves to curb corruption in the public sector.

A statement issued by the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda late Tuesday said the written declaration must be submitted by no later than Feb. 28.

It said the order covered ministers and their deputies, permanent secretaries, senior principal directors, board members of state enterprises and parastatals and their chief executive officers.

Also included were chief executives of local authorities and members of constitutional commissions, whether executive or independent.

Sibanda said since his inauguration on Nov. 24, President Emmerson Mnangagwa had consistently called for strict adherence to good corporate governance.

“The President expects the full and urgent cooperation of all affected office bearers in responding to the directive,” Sibanda said.

The assets required for declaration include immovable property and movable property worth more than 100,000 U.S. dollars.


Zimbabwean civil society pushes for roadmap to ensure credible elections

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Civil society organizations (CSOs) have called for a roadmap that will ensure free, fair and credible elections premised on constitutionally aligned electoral laws and effective electoral administrative arrangements, among other issues.

In addition, the political environment should allow citizens to make free and informed choices on electoral processes, a statement issued by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network on behalf of civil society said Thursday.

The CSOs said there were five fundamental requirements which must be completed before the country can hold credible elections, most likely in June or July this year.

“The first requirement is the urgent introduction of a new electoral law that is fully aligned to the constitution. This is necessary to provide a satisfactory legal framework for free and fair elections and to foster democratic values.”

Previous efforts by the government to implement electoral reforms had been piecemeal, selective, inequitable and inadequate, they charged.

“In the absence of substantive legislative realignment and reform, it will be difficult for Zimbabwe to hold credible elections.”

The CSOs said there was also need for the creation and implementation of a complete, accurate, inclusive and current voters’ roll which was free from any politically motivated bias.

In the past, there have been allegations of ghost voters on the roll, including names of people who would long be dead.

“A valid voters’ roll is prerequisite for the credibility of any election and is an important tool in improving the efficiency of the electoral management body. The right to vote and to contest elections should be enjoyed by all eligible citizens including women, the youth and people with disabilities as provided for in the constitution.”

They added that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) should extend the right to vote to all eligible Zimbabweans including those in hospitals and prisons and reinstate special voting.

Special voting was used during the 2013 elections to allow elections officers who were not based in their wards to vote, but ZEC said it would not repeat it because it did not have enough resources.

Then ZEC chairperson Rita Makarau said special voting had been troublesome from a logistical point of view as they had to track down nearly 55,000 police officers from their wards to their stations.

The SCOs also called for a truly independent electoral commission which was highly professional, adequately resourced and which adhered to regionally and internationally accepted norms of accountability, inclusivity, transparency and integrity.

The political environment should also guarantee fundamental political and human rights, hence the need avoid violence, intimidation, patronage, propaganda and hate speech particularly in the media, they said.

They added that the invitation of observers should be delinked from the executive to enhance the integrity of the elections.


Zimbabwe government reduces excise duty on fuel

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwean government has reduced excise duty on fuel with effect from Tuesday in a bid to stimulate growth of the productive sector and reduce the cost of basic goods.

A statement from Secretary of Finance and Economic Development Willard Manungo seen by Xinhua Tuesday said that duty on petrol would be reduced from 45 U.S. cents per liter to 38.5 cents, while that of diesel and paraffin would come down by 7 cents to 33 cents per liter.

“The reduction in excise duty will have the impact of reducing fuel prices. This will also have the effect of reducing the impact of fuel costs in the economy’s overall production cost structures across all sectors,” he said.

There have been concerns over high fuel costs in the country with parliamentarians questioning why they were higher than anywhere else in the region.

A liter of petrol currently costs at least 1.40 dollars.


Zimbabwe power utility workers threaten strike over pay

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Workers at Zimbabwe’s power utility, ZESA Holdings, have threatened to go on strike over pay rise.

The workers are accusing their employer of failing to honor a collective bargaining agreement of 2012 which awarded them significant pay increases.

ZESA is arguing that it is technically insolvent and has no financial capacity to meet the expected salaries.

It has been contesting the collective bargaining agreement since 2012, arguing that it could only do so after increasing tariffs.

“The threatened job action, if it does happen, will definitely have an impact on security of power supplies,” ZESA said in a statement on Tuesday.

“It (ZESA) was and remains technically insolvent as evidenced by a net liability of 479 million U.S. dollars, as at December 2017.”

ZESA is running obsolete power plants that are failing to produce adequate power for the nation. It plugs the shortfall through imports from South Africa and Mozambique.

However, the power utility is making strides to improve power supplies and will in March this year complete the expansion of Kariba Hydro power station by an additional 300 megawatts.

The expansion project is being implemented by China’s Sinohydro at a cost of 533 million U.S dollars. The first 150 MW unit of the expansion project has been completed and started feeding into the national grid in December last year.

ZESA has also struck a deal with Sinohydro for expansion of the coal-fired Hwange Power Station by another 600 MW.


Crops in Zimbabwe under moisture stress as dry weather persists

By Gretinah Machingura HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe’s dry land crops have begun showing signs of moisture stress, with some reaching permanent wilting stage due to erratic rains and high temperatures.

According to the latest Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET), Zimbabwe has received below normal cumulative rainfall since the start of the 2017-18 rainfall season in October and November, a situation that has affected many crops.

“The worst affected province is Mashonaland West, one of the highest surplus-producing areas in the country.

“Because of low rainfall, planted area is atypically low in some areas, especially in the north. Crop germination and establishment in some areas has been and will continue to be affected. Planted area is lower than typical in most areas and agricultural activity is below-normal as well,” FEWSNET said Wednesday.

The country’s Meteorological Services Department has forecast little and isolated rainfall activity over the country, with dry and hot conditions continuing.

The state-run Herald newspaper reports that the worst affected crops are the staple maize and tobacco which is now showing signs of false ripening.

Cotton, however, is doing well.

Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s largest foreign currency earner and it has been reported that the late onset of rains may affect the opening of the 2018 selling season as most of the crop is still in the fields.

Under normal circumstances, at this time of the year, most of the farmers would be harvesting and curing their crop ahead of the marketing season.

Traditionally, the selling season starts mid-February or early March. However, last year, the tobacco marketing season was a bit delayed as it opened on March 15.

“The date for this year’s tobacco selling season has not yet been announced as stakeholders are yet to meet to discuss issues relating to marketing. This is because most of the crop is still in the fields due to the late onset of the rains,” said a local online agriculture publication, the Farmers Voices.

Agriculture deputy minister Davis Marapira expressed concern over the general crop condition in the country.

“The dry conditions have seriously affected plants, especially those at tasseling stage.

“In some areas, the irrigated crop has been affected as water sources are dwindling,” the minister said to the media.

The country recorded a bumper maize harvest of over 2 million tonnes in the 2016/17 agricultural season, more than the national requirement of 1.8 million tonnes annually.



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