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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Zimbabwe producers of basic commodities assure
consumers of continuing and affordable supplies

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Some Zimbabwean producers of basic commodities have reassured the public that their products are enough to satisfy the market and that wholesale prices have not been hiked, despite the price madness that is being experienced in the retail sector.

The Zimbabwe Sugar Association on Friday said it had noticed "an abnormal surge in the demand for sugar throughout the country, particularly in the main urban centers as a consequence of speculative activities by some traders".

"We wish to assure all our valued customers and stakeholders that the Zimbabwe sugar industry has sufficient stocks to meet the national requirements for both industrial and household grades of sugar to the next season.

"In this regard, we would like to strongly urge all our retailers and wholesalers in the trade to behave responsibly as there is no shortage of sugar in the country," association chairperson Much Masunda said in a statement.

He advised consumers to buy their goods from formally registered wholesalers and traders at the recommended prices.

Earlier this week, two cooking oil producers—Surface Wilmar and Zimgold Cooking Oil—have announced that their products still cost the same and published the recommended retail prices of 3.70 U.S. dollars and 3.99 dollars per 2 liters respectively.

Surface Wilmar produces Pure Drop while Zimgold’s brand bears the company name.

Some retailers had hiked the prices of cooking oil from the recommended selling prices to as much as 6 to 10 dollars as consumers suffered a panic buying frenzy in anticipation of shortages of basic commodities following a spike in parallel market rates between the U.S. dollar and the surrogate bond note.

To arrest bulk buying and ensure that as many customers as possible benefit, some of the major retailers such as OK Bazaars and Pick n Pay have been rationing the amount of basic commodities a person can buy at a given time.

Leading cement producer PPC also reassured the building public that prices of its products had not been increased since 2012.

"We therefore urge customers to resist the unwarranted price increases that are being effected by some retailers," the company said.

Some retailers had hiked prices of cement from around 12 dollars per bag to between 18 and 20 dollars.

Although beverages producer Delta Corporation has not increased the prices of its products, some liquor outlets are taking advantage of the prevailing situation and have hiked beer prices by as much as 100 percent.

Reputable retailers have however maintained the old prices.

The government early this week re-activated an inter-ministerial task force on price stabilization following the unwarranted increase of prices of basic goods and commodities by most retailers.
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UPDATES:

Zimbabwean President Mnangagwa declares war on black market as prices soar

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared war on the black market, saying that it is a threat to national security.

Mnangagwa, who started a weekly column in the state-controlled Sunday Mail this week, said new measures would be employed to restore sanity.

The Sunday Mail also reported that Mnangagwa is understood to have summoned his security cluster last week to discuss the matter, paving way for imminent arrests of high-profile figures suspected of being behind black market activities.

Zimbabwe has witnessed a surge in the black market currency trading that has seen the surrogate bond note trading as low as 1:6 to the U.S. dollar, resulting in rises of prices of basic commodities and shortages of some.

"A great threat to our bid to stimulate productive activity in the economy comes by way of non-productive, speculative activities operating below the radar but involving millions in precious foreign currency and bond notes.

"These nefarious activities thrive on different electronic platforms.

"New measures will be pursued to stop such malpractices.

"I call on all of us to tread back into the real economy, away from the current practice where currencies become key commodities that transact in dark markets, controlled by shadowy figures.

He said the costs and havoc the illegal activities wreaked on the whole economy had become apparent and a bold response was merited.

"To that end, this problem is now being treated as a serious security threat which requires a different response so that we get back to clean, productive and disciplined economic activity operating within norms and rules of the market," he said.
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Zimbabwe President Mnangagwa appreciates
Chinese involvement in national development

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has acknowledged China’s continued assistance to the country, saying that investments from the Asian country were enhancing national capacity.

In a weekly column he started writing in the state-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper this week, Mnangagwa also said he was also set to meet Russian President Vladmir Putin.

China continues to support the country both bilaterally and internationally, including by way of private sector investments which continue to enhance national capacity, he said.

"Early next year, I am set to meet President Putin in Russia to explore ways to enhance our co-operation," he said.

Mnangagwa said he had made headway in generating goodwill for Zimbabwe on the sidelines of the recently held United Nations General Assembly in New York.

"As I write, our delegation led by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development (Mthuli Ncube), is in Bali, Indonesia, where it is meeting development partners and creditors," he said.

"This initiative, which is a continuation of our engagement and re-engagement policy, has elicited good responses from IFIs (International Financial Institutions) and development partners."

The country owes some 2.2 billion U.S. dollars to multilateral creditors, 2.7 billion dollars to the Paris Club and another 700 million dollars to other creditors.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

Zimbabwe government warns unscrupulous retailers and
moves in to control rising prices of basic commodities

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Prices of basic commodities continue to rise in Zimbabwe as unscrupulous business people take advantage of foreign currency shortages which have triggered a vibrant parallel market and a multi-tier pricing system.

Some prices of commodities such as cooking oil and medicines have more than doubled in less than two weeks while commuter fares have also gone up.

The hikes have prompted the government to direct that prices of basic commodities which were increased without justification should be reduced immediately, according to the state-controlled Herald newspaper.

The price increases have triggered panic buying as some consumers try to cut on future higher costs, resulting in shortages of some commodities.

Some retailers have removed price tags from the shelves as they may change at any time during the day, in a situation reminiscent to 2008 when prices could go up more than four times in a day.

Major retailers are now rationing the amount of basic goods of the same kind that a customer can buy, with some supermarkets restricting cooking oil to two bottles per customer.

The government also directed that no businesses should reject bond notes and other electronic payments when transacting.

Some retailers, including fuel providers, and pharmacists had started charging for their products only in U.S. dollars.

A number of businesses on Tuesday announced that they were closing down temporarily because they could no longer source products without paying in hard currency.

Government on Tuesday warned that those who defied the directives would face drastic action, including the revocation of licenses for fuel suppliers.

Vice President Kembo Mohadi, who gave assurances that Zimbabwe had enough fuel stock, said swift measures were being implemented to ensure that there was adequate foreign currency to procure medical drugs.

This came in the wake of concerns raised by the Association of Health Funders of Zimbabwe that the health sector had been excluded from a 500 million U.S. dollar facility to help strategic sectors acquire goods and services requiring foreign currency.

Apart from pharmacies, some doctors and health institutions are also demanding cash in U.S. dollars for their services.

Medical aid societies have also intimated that one way out of the problem is for workers to ask their employers to pay part of medical aid subscriptions in foreign currency.

Mohadi thanked major retail shops such as OK Zimbabwe and Pick n Pay who have maintained the old selling prices.

"However, it has been noted with concern that there are some supermarkets and individuals that have started selling commodities at exorbitant prices.

"There are also some who have engaged in speculative buying in order to create artificial shortages.

"Government is warning that those that have hiked prices and also those that are hoarding basic commodities in order to create artificial shortages to stop this malpractice forthwith," he said.

He said the government would take stern measures against people "who are bent on inflicting suffering on our people", he said.
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President Emmerson Mnangagwa re-iterates
commitment to correcting economic ills

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his government is committed to cutting down government expenditure and correct a host of other fiscal imbalances weighing down the economy.

He also reiterated that the multiple currency regime adopted by government in 2009 will remain in place for some time as government seeks to stabilize the wobbly economy, the state controlled Herald newspaper reported Thursday.

"Further to my address on the need to accelerate economic reforms that are necessary to stimulate the economy, I have found it necessary to restate government’s strong commitment to reducing fiscal imbalances which are the root cause of the many challenges the economy faces," the president said Wednesday to the state media.

Some of the challenges include cash and foreign currency shortages that have resulted in the re-emergence of a thriving black market for foreign currency.

A recently announced two percent tax on electronic money transfers has also unnerved the economy, with most businesses hiking their prices while some have closed shop.

Shortages of fuel, medical drugs and other essentials have resurfaced in the economy, resulting in panic buying by consumers.

Mnangagwa said the challenges require the government to position the economy on a strong footing by implementing painful but necessary reforms that include cutting government expenditure to reduce the budget deficit and fast tracking reform of state owned enterprises.

He said the government will institute currency reforms once the implementation of the fiscal reforms has been completed.

Meanwhile, finance minister Mthuli Ncube said the government had secured a loan facility from Afreximbank to guarantee the 1:1 convertibility value of Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) balances into the United States dollar.

The decision comes in the wake of widespread fears of possible loss of value for RTGS or electronic balances in banks given the spiraling parallel market exchange rates which have triggered inflation.

Ncube, who is in Bali, Indonesia for the IMF/World Bank meetings, said government was committed to preserving the value of RTGS deposits on the current exchange rate of 1 to 1 in order to protect people’s savings.

He also announced that during a meeting in Bali, the IMF and the World Bank supported Zimbabwe’s plan to clear 2.2 billion U.S. dollars in arrears to international creditors.

"It is also important to note that all the cooperating partners and creditors present, uniformly expressed their (support) for Zimbabwe and its arrears clearance road map and that the meeting has been the best so far on Zimbabwe’s arrears clearance process." the minister said.
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Zimbabwe Vice President Kembo Mohadi warns against price hikes

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean Vice President Kembo Mohadi on Tuesday warned retailers, fuel traders, pharmacies and health service providers that have unilaterally hiked prices for goods and services in the past week that they risked their licenses being revoked.

Mohadi told the media that the cabinet has reviewed the situation and called for restoration of order in the market, state news agency New Ziana reported.

"Fuel stocks are adequate to satisfy the needs of the country at the prices agreed by Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA), which are still operational.

"Anyone pricing above these regulated fuel prices is doing so illegally.

"Price monitors are on the ground, monitoring the situation. All those caught selling fuel at prices not approved by ZERA will have their licenses revoked," Mohadi said.

Prices of fuel, basic goods and drugs shot up after the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Finance last week introduced changes in how foreign currency will be traded and a new "two cents on every dollar transaction" tax.

In the capital Harare and other cities, prices of some basic commodities such as cooking oil have risen by more than 200 percent.

On the black market, petrol is being sold for 18 U.S. dollars per five liters, compared to 7.05 dollars on the official market.

"Government is warning those that have hiked prices and those who are hoarding basic commodities in order to create artificial shortages to stop this practice forthwith," Mohadi said.

He said the government will provide foreign currency to manufacturers facing constraints to boost local production while allowing imports to cover supply gaps.
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Zimbabwean central bank releases 41 million USD to ease fuel shortages

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has started drawing down from the 500 million U.S. dollar lines of credit it recently secured to support the procurement of essential commodities, with the first disbursement of 41 million U.S. dollars being released for fuel procurement.

A statement from the central bank on Monday said that the money to procure fuel was released Friday.

The country has been experiencing erratic fuel supplies for several weeks, with motorists enduring long queues at filling stations.

"The bank released 41 million dollar for the procurement of fuel on Friday, the 5th of October, 2018 and the fuel is currently being supplied and delivered to the various filling stations and supply points across the market," the bank said.

It reassured the public that there was sufficient fuel in the country and there was, therefore, no need for panic buying of fuel and other basic commodities.

Relevant essential commodities include fuel, electricity, wheat and raw materials for the manufacturing of cooking oil.
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Zimbabwe bans demonstration over new tax on electronic money transfers

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean police on Tuesday banned a planned demonstration by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) against a 2 percent tax on electronic money transfers recently announced by the government.

The country’s largest worker representative body had called for the protest on Wednesday following the tax decision, which has triggered a spate of price increases.

The tax was announced last week by finance minister Mthuli Ncube as a measure to raise more funds for social services.

The move, however, has been condemned by many Zimbabweans who feel that they are already over taxed.

In a statement on Tuesday, police said the demonstration cannot go ahead because the ban on public gatherings due to the cholera outbreak still stands.

"Therefore, the organizers of the intended demonstrations by ZCTU and its affiliates should take note of the government’s directive particularly the movement of large numbers of people from one point to another which includes cholera epicenters," police said.

The police warned that if the situation turns violent, the ZCTU will be held accountable.

Police banned public gatherings last month after an outbreak of cholera, which has so far killed 49 people and infected more than 10,000 others, mainly in the capital Harare.
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Zimbabwe mining firm to sue central bank for defaulting on forex payment

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Mining firm RioZim said Tuesday it plans to sue the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) for failing to pay part of its gold output in foreign currency as per its policy.

The company said the unavailability of the foreign currency earnings was impacting negatively on its operations.

According to the RBZ policy introduced in 2016, gold producers were to receive 50 percent of their receipts in foreign exchange and the remaining 50 percent through electronic transfers of the local bond notes.

But beginning Oct. 1, the RBZ reduced the 50 percent payment in actual U.S. dollars to 30 percent.

RioZim said since 2016 to date, it had only been allocated an average of 15 percent of the foreign currency it generated.

"The impact of this on the company’s operations has been that the company is unable to pay its external suppliers and consequently, the company’s costs have escalated as the price of locally available consumables and spares has increased exponentially," the company said in a cautionary statement.

All gold producers sell their gold to state firm Fidelity Printers and Refiners, who in turn export the metal.

RioZim said it had engaged the RBZ on numerous occasions over the matter but had made minimal progress.

"Therefore, in addition to the other measures that the company is considering to address the situation, the company has proceeded to formally serve the RBZ with its notice of its intention to file legal proceedings against the RBZ for a claim demanding that the central bank complies with its directives and policies, and also for compensation for any losses that the company has suffered as a result of the central bank’s non-compliance with its directives from 2016 to date," RioZim said.

Zimbabwe is grappling worsening cash and foreign currency shortages that have crippled importation of essential commodities such as fuel and medical drugs.
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Zimbabwe to open platinum sector to all
investors, says President Mnangagwa

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his government will soon open up the platinum sector to all interested investors while a diamond policy to guide the sector will be announced soon.

Government had left out the two minerals when it liberalized the mining sector in December after scrapping the controversial Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act that limited foreign shareholding in mining ventures to 49 percent.

The president was quoted by the state controlled Herald newspaper on Tuesday as saying that the 51-49 percent shareholding requirement with regards to platinum will soon be repealed.

"We did not have Diamond policy as a country, we have now done our research and we are now going to announce our Diamond policy.

"With regard to platinum, I can safely say it (the platinum sector) is going to be open to anybody," Mnangagwa said.

Zimbabwe has the world’s second largest platinum reserves after South Africa.

He said the diamond policy would guide the sector on such issues as exploration, ownership, mining, processing and selling.

Mnangagwa has committed to opening up Zimbabwe’s economy to the rest of the world in order to attract the much-needed foreign direct investment to revive the ailing economy.

Meanwhile, gold deliveries hit 28 tonnes by end of September, only two tonnes short of the targeted 30 tonnes this year.
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Zimbabwe patients suffer as pharmacies demand foreign currency for drugs

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Prevailing foreign currency shortages in Zimbabwe are hitting hard on patients who are now being forced by some dispensaries to pay for medication in foreign currency while some doctors and health institutions are now also demanding the same.

One pharmacist told Xinhua that suppliers were demanding cash for the medication, so the pharmacists had no option but to demand the same from patients.

"On this one we want cash.

"The supplier wants cash and there is nothing we can do about it," he said while he was dispensing Prednisolone, a drug which eases the effects of gout.

The Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) said on Tuesday that it had noted with concern the absence of pharmaceuticals among the list of strategic sectors earmarked to benefit from a 500 million U.S. dollar facility from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

RBZ announced this week that the facility would fund the procurement of essential commodities such as fuel, electricity, wheat, raw materials for the manufacturing of cooking oil, packaging and other basic commodities.

Meanwhile, many patients, some with chronic ailments, are being forced to move from one pharmacy to another in search of medicines and having to look for U.S. dollars on the black market where they are charged premiums of up to 350 percent.

AHFoZ said severe shortages of essential and chronic drugs had been reported countrywide.

"This situation deals a severe blow to the population in general and to workers in particular, some of whom may need medication.

"A sick workforce cannot be productive," the association said in a statement.

"The shortage of medicines for chronic conditions compromise the quality of life of those requiring them and reverses healthcare gains achieved, since those unable to access them have to default on their treatment, while others are reportedly reacting to substitutes," it added.

It warned that patients whose conditions were previously well-managed on chronic medication would suffer from complications due to their inability to access prescribed medication.

"AHFoZ urges its members to closely monitor the situation with a view to engaging employer organizations to request that medical aid subscriptions be paid in U.S. dollars, so that service providers may be paid in U.S. dollars and their members be able to access healthcare services without inconvenience." the association said.
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Zimbabwe postpones international carnival due to cholera outbreak

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe has postponed the annual Harare International Carnival due to the cholera outbreak.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said in a statement Thursday that the event, which was scheduled to take place mid this month, will now be held either in November or early December at the latest.

The government has since banned public gatherings following the outbreak in Harare last month which has so far killed 50 people and infected more than 10,000 others.

"The ZTA, having given serious consideration to all the efforts being employed to contain the spread of cholera, has decided to adhere to the call by health authorities to curtail events that draw huge crowds.

"It is in light of this health consideration that the ZTA has had to postpone the popular Harare International Carnival that was scheduled to run from 15 to 20 October 2018," it said.

The Harare International Carnival, in its fifth year running, is an annual festival that encompasses a series of events and festivities and is aimed at advancing the arts, culture and heritage of Zimbabwe.

According to the ZTA, the carnival is about celebrating diversity, getting communities together, getting to know one another in the love and harmony that builds Zimbabwe into a peaceful and promising place for everyone.

In the past, countries such as Brazil, India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, the United Kingdom and Zambia have participated in the carnival.
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Botswana-based energy firm says to commission solar plants in Zimbabwe

GABORONE Botswana (Xinhua) -- Invest Solar Africa, an energy firm headquartered in Botswana, said it intends to commission a 20 MW solar plant in Zimbabwe next February.

George Manyere, co-founder and deputy chairman of Invest Solar Africa, told reporters in the capital Gaborone on Wednesday the company also plans to commission another 15 MW solar park there next June.

"There is real economic growth in the region and (that) will increase need for electricity," Manyere said.

"There is a huge market opportunity for growth that has been shielded by monopoly of utility companies; the opening up of this industry is important," he said.

The company also plans to set up three to five solar parks with an average capacity of 20 MW between 2021 and 2023 in Botswana, Manyere said.
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EU observers say Zimbabwe July elections fell short of international standards

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The European Union Election Observation Mission said Wednesday Zimbabwe’s July 30 election, won by incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party, fell short of international standards.

While noting some positive developments in the pre-election period, the mission said it observed a number of shortcomings during and after the polls.

Mnangagwa won the closely contested election by 50.8 percent, beating his main rival, Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance, who garnered 44.3 percent.

Chamisa rejected the results and petitioned the court to overturn Mnangagwa’s election victory, but the Constitutional Court dismissed the application and upheld Mnangagwa’s win.

The mission, in its preliminary report released on Aug. 1, alleged an uneven playing field, voter intimidation, and lack of trust in the process which it said undermined the pre-election environment.

In its final report released on Wednesday, the mission said that while the pre-election period was largely peaceful and marked with political freedoms, the misuse of state resources, intimidation of voters, partisan behavior by traditional leaders and overt bias of the state media all in favor of the ruling ZANU-PF party undermined efforts to achieve a level playing field.

The observer mission also noted lack of independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and said this undermined confidence and public trust in the elections management body.

"There were good and bad aspects about the election but overall the elections fell short of international standards," said EU’s deputy chief observer Mark Stevens.

The observer group, which was the single largest international observer group to the polls, made four key recommendations on the need to further strengthen the independence of the ZEC and improve the level playing field, legal framework and inclusiveness of the electoral process.

"These recommendations are offered to help address a number of the shortfalls outlined in this report, including problems with the legal framework, the role of the electoral commission, and various abuses of human rights and political rights of the opposition," Stevens said.

He said the recommendations will serve as important benchmarks for assessing the commitment of the Zimbabwe government to furthering democratic transition in the country after the fall of former President Robert Mugabe, who resigned in November 2017 after 37 years in power.
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FURTHER READING:

Zimbabwe: Long lines at the gas station in the capital Harare - Gasoline is running out

             

 

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