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Zimbabwe elections: Parties grapple with
internal conflicts over selection of candidates

By Tichaona Chifamba HARARE (Xinhua) -- Tempers are flaring across Zimbabwe’s two major political parties as they choose candidates to contest in forthcoming general elections scheduled for Aug. 21 at the latest.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to proclaim the election date anytime soon as amendments to the Electoral Act have been passed by Parliament and are now before Senate.

The ruling party Zanu-PF and the main opposition party MDC-T faction led by Nelson Chamisa are grappling with complaints of vote rigging and imposition of candidates by senior party officials.

Zanu-PF has had to conduct re-runs in primary elections to choose candidates for Members of Parliament, senators and councilors, while in the MDC-T, the selection of candidates “by consensus” and holding of primary elections in some selected areas have been met with acrimony.

The smaller parties have apparently found it easier to choose candidates by consensus, with the smaller MDC in the current legislature coming up with candidates who will contest under the banner of the MDC Alliance, which is also led by Chamisa.

The People’s Democratic Party led by Tendai Biti has also chosen its candidates who will also contest under the MDC Alliance banner.

The People’s Rainbow Coalition which is led by former state vice president Joice Mujuru, who was fired from government and Zanu-PF by then President Robert Mugabe in 2014, is yet to come up with candidates amid reports that Mujuru’s own National People’s Party is failing to come up with political structures in the provinces.

Mujuru wants to contest for the presidency but so far no other candidates for the legislature and local authority elections have been unveiled.

However, the party is said to be preparing to train about 50,000 polling agents during the first week of June.

It remains to be seen if the coalition, which has failed to hold rallies opting for door to door campaigns because of resource constraints, will be able to train such a huge number.

Former MDC-T treasurer-general Elton Mangoma also leads another outfit of small political parties under the Coalition of Democrats (Code) banner but besides indicating that he wants to contest for the presidency, there is nothing much to show for what is happening on the ground.

Mugabe is said to be supporting the New Patriotic Front which is being led in the interim by former minister in his government Ambrose Mutinhiri, but leadership squabbles have hit the fledgling party.

The party is yet to announce its presidential candidate amid speculation that Mutinhiri is merely warming up the chair for a candidate to be unveiled at a later stage.

All in all, about 120 parties have registered with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to contest in the elections, with former cabinet minister Nkosana Moyo also throwing his hat in the ring as leader of the Alliance for People’s Agenda.

Among opposition parties, only the smaller faction of the MDC-T led by Thokozani Khupe has come up with an election manifesto which pledges to fight corruption and calls for devolution of power to the provinces.

Zanu-PF recently launched its manifesto whose theme is “Unite, fight corruption, develop, re-engage and create jobs.”


Zimbabwe government offers 15 per cent pay
rise to agitated workers after strike threat

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwe government on Monday increased its pay offer to civil servants from 10 to 15 percent as part of efforts to improve the welfare and working conditions of its workers, the state-run Herald newspaper reported Tuesday.

The increment is effective July 1, 2018.

Apex Council chairperson Cecelia Alexander said the government made the offer during a meeting of the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) which brings together government and workers representatives.

Alexander, however, urged the government to further increase the offer so that it matches or surpasses the poverty datum line, currently pegged at 591 U.S. dollars.

The lowest paid government worker earns 253 dollars per month, and the workers want this increased to 720 dollars.

“The Apex council, while appreciating this gesture, is still urging government to improve the offer to a level at or above poverty datum line for the lowest-paid civil servant,” she said.

She advised civil servants that wage negotiations with government were ongoing until such time when an acceptable deal has been reached.

The government last week tabled a 10 percent offer after teachers, the majority of the public sector workers, threatened to go on strike when schools opened last Tuesday.

The strike threat came after doctors spent the whole of March on strike demanding better pay and improved working conditions.

In April, nurses also briefly downed tools demanding better pay but had to rush back to work after government threatened them with dismissal after they had rejected money offered by the government.

As some teachers were reportedly agitating for a strike, Alexander said there was no need for industrial action because they were engaging with the government.

“Government is presenting its position and we as workers we are also presenting our position. For now we continue with service delivery while negotiations continue. We are now going with the new offer to our membership and hear what they say also,” she said.

As part of measures to improve working conditions, government last week also rescinded its decision to bar teachers from going on vacation leave.

Teachers, who were short changed by the vacation leave ban, will be paid cash in lieu for the accrued days effective from July but in a staggered manner.

The government deferred vacation leave for teachers in 2016 as a cost-cutting measure.

In addition, government also revived manpower development benefits, a move which will see civil servants going on study leave using their accrued vacation leave days.

It also reduced rentals for civil servants to a figure which is not more than the housing allowances for the workers.


Zimbabwe imports 400 mln USD to ease cash shortages

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua)-- The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has imported about 400 million U.S. dollars cash in the first four months of this year to ease cash shortages in the economy, governor John Mangudya said last week.

He told the state-run weekly Sunday Mail newspaper that bank queues were expected to minimize within the next two months as cash flows improve from tobacco and gold exports.

The central bank will also draw from the 1.5 billion dollars extended to it by the Afreximbank in December 2017, he said.

“What I want to promise the nation is that within he next two months, the queues are going to be minimized.

Zimbabwe has been facing bank note shortages since 2016 due to a widening trade deficit and runaway government expenditure.

The governor also said the biggest challenge facing Zimbabwe in relation to the cash crunch was poor circulation of money.

“If the money was circulating, we would not be having the cash challenges that we have. Zimbabweans are looking at foreign currency as a store of value and not as something that they should circulate,” he said.

Instead of circulating the money in the country, many people in the country were exporting the cash through paying for digital satellite television, school fees and shopping in foreign countries, among many other means of cash flight, the governor said.

In 2016, the central bank introduced local bond notes to ease the cash crunch but these have not helped much since these are being put into the market sparingly and in tandem with the value of exports to avoid stoking inflation.

Currently, 350 million bond notes and 40 million bond coins are in circulation.

Initially trading at par with the U.S. dollar, the bond notes have significantly lost value to the greenback on the black market.


Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe orders banks not to offer service to Bitcoin dealers

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has directed all banking institutions not to provide banking services to facilitate anyone dealing with or settling virtual currencies and once again warned the public against trading in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Litecoin saying that they risked losing their investments.

In a statement, RBZ said the move was taken to safeguard the integrity and soundness of the country’s financial system and to protect the public in general.

It said dealers and investors in any kind of cryptocurrency in Zimbabwe were not protected by law and that virtual currencies were traded in exchange platforms that were unregulated the world over.

“The opacity and pseudonymous nature of virtual currencies resents regulatory concerns due to the potential risks to the public and financial stability. The nature of cryptocurrency transactions makes them the currency of choice for money launderers and other criminals, seriously undermining global efforts to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism,” the central bank said.

Many Zimbabweans are trading in cryptocurrencies which have given them quick yields, but RBZ also warned that anonymity surrounding deals made it difficult for law enforcement agencies to trace transactions.

It added that any instrument or platform that resulted in the flow of foreign currency or value into and out of the country or between residents and non-residents was subject to approval in terms of the law.

“The anonymity of transactions in respect of virtual currencies has the potential to result in exchange control circumvention as the transfer would not be effected and reported by an authorized dealer in foreign exchange,” it said.

A local company recently introduced an ATM in Harare which it said would be loaded with U.S. dollars and would be used to transact Bitcoins.

The central bank said it would continue monitoring regional and global cryptocurrency development in order to inform policy direction.

But in the mean time, the bank has urged the public to stay away from the virtual currencies.

“Any person who buys, sells or otherwise transacts in cryptocurrencies, whether online, or otherwise, does so at their own risk and will have no recourse to the Reserve Bank or to any regulatory authority in the country,” it said.


Zimbabwe elections body sets fees for voters’ roll inspection

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The media and observers wishing to inspect the provisional voters’ roll ahead of Zimbabwe’s elections will have to pay accreditation fees, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has said.

In a notice published Wednesday, ZEC said local observers will pay 10 U.S. dollars while those from the continent will pay 20 dollars.

Observers from foreign embassies in Zimbabwe will pay 50 dollars, while those from any country outside Africa will part with 100 dollars.

Zimbabwean journalists accredited with the Zimbabwe Media Commission and working in the country for foreign media houses will pay 50 dollars while those working for local organizations will pay 10 dollars.

Journalists from Africa will pay 20 dollars, ZEC said.

The provisional voters’ roll will be open for inspection from May 19-29.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has not yet proclaimed election dates, but the constitution stipulates that polls should be held between July 21 and August 21 taking into account the last election date of July 31, 2013.

Zimbabwe holds harmonized presidential, legislative and local government elections every five years.


Zimbabwe elections: Blind demand secrecy of vote

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- A blind Zimbabwean voter has filed an application at the High Court seeking to compel the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to provide ballot papers in Braille or the template ballot to ensure secrecy of the vote by visually impaired people.

Abraham Mateta wants ZEC to put in place administrative measures to enable people in his condition to vote by secret ballot in forthcoming elections due by Aug. 21.

Alternatively, ZEC should provide tactile voting devices to all blind people who wish to vote by secret ballot, Mateta said.

Also, those who wish to be assisted to vote should select their own assistants and cast the vote without the involvement of a presiding officer or any other third party, he argued.

The matter is yet to be set down for hearing, the state media Herald reported Tuesday.

ZEC Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi and Attorney-General Prince Machaya are cited as respondents in the application.

According to the country’s electoral laws, people who are either illiterate or are living with a disability may, upon request, be helped to vote by a person of their choice.

For the blind, the presiding officer is entitled to observe the casting of the ballot for that particular voter.

The person offering assistance does not need to be on the voters’ roll, but should be above 18 years of age, should not be an electoral officer, election agent, chief election agent, and candidate or accredited observer in the election.

“I am advised that the above provisions require ZEC and the other respondents to this application to ensure that I have equal opportunities to exercise by right to vote in secret, regardless of my disabilities or other factors.

“My disability does not mean inability to vote by secret ballot,” Mateta said.

He urged the courts to treat the matter with urgency so as to ensure that his rights were not infringed upon.

“Where my rights are in danger from an imminent violation especially due to state inaction, it is only fair and just that this court urgently intervenes to protect me and those who are similarly disadvantaged,” he said. 


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