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Harare motorists face fresh fuel shortages in Zimbabwe’ capital

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe’s capital is facing fresh fuel shortages that have resulted in commuter omnibus operators hiking their fares.

Long winding queues of cars, commuter omnibuses and conventional buses have become the order of the day at few service stations that are selling the commodity.

Commuter omnibus operators have a habit of hiking fares each time there is an acute shortage of diesel on the market, arguing that they are forced to source fuel from the black market at exorbitant rates.

Although the country’s forex position is expected to improve when the tobacco marketing season opens, this has not been the case as the marketing season, which opened two weeks ago, has started slowly as most farmers are still withholding their crop due to poor prices.

The country has faced intermittent fuel shortages over the past months due to foreign currency shortages.

Energy and Power Development Minister Joram Gumbo said Thursday that the current hitches in the fuel supply situation were due to the forex shortages which had been compounded by Cyclone Idai as more fuel was now being channeled for relief efforts in the affected areas of Chimanimani and Chipinge.

"The biggest problem is not about fuel, but provision of forex.

|We have facilities in place but those handling the finances have foreign currency challenges which were compounded by the cyclone disaster which happened recently.

"Resources and much fuel has also been going there," Gumbo said.

He said he had engaged the ministry of finance to expedite processes for mining firms with free funds to import their own fuel so as to ease demand for forex on the central bank.

He said although cabinet had already approved the move, a legal instrument was required to allow the companies to start importing own fuel.

He also said apart from price adjustments determined by free on board (FOB) prices at Beira, the government had no intention to increase the price of fuel.

The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority said this week that there will be marginal increases in FOB price beginning next week Monday, which will result in marginal increase in prices of fuel in the country.


United States releases U.S. 2.5 million dollars
to assist victims of Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The United States on Wednesday provided Zimbabwe with an additional 2.5 million U.S. dollars to respond to emergency needs following Cyclone Idai which hit the country three weeks ago.

The contribution, provided through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Food for Peace, will support immediate food needs in the most affected areas of Manicaland Province, the U.S. embassy said in a statement.

The USAID on March 20 announced an initial contribution of 100,000 U.S. dollars to help victims of Cyclone Idai in the country.

The embassy said USAID will work through the World Food Program (WFP) to provide immediate food assistance to approximately 133,000 individuals affected by the cyclone in Chimanimani and Chipinge districts.

"The contribution includes more than 2,000 metric tons of U.S. in-kind sorghum, vegetable oil, and fortified cereals that were prepositioned from USAID’s warehouse in Durban, South Africa," the embassy said.

WFP country director Eddie Rowe welcomed the timely contribution which he said was "key in meeting the immediate food needs of victims who are still battling to recover from the catastrophic impact of Cyclone Idai, and support early recovery efforts as they start to rebuild their lives."

The cyclone left a trail of destruction in Zimbabwe and the death toll from the cyclone now stands at 268 and is expected to rise as rescue and search efforts continue.

An estimated 270,000 people are also in need of humanitarian assistance in Zimbabwe after the cyclone.

United States provides U.S. million dollars
for demining activities in Zimbabwe

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The United States said Thursday it has provided 10.3 million U.S. dollars to support demining efforts in Zimbabwe since 2013.

"This support has returned over 5 million square meters of land to productive use and destroyed over 28,000 landmines to the direct benefit of over 40,000 people," the U.S. embassy in Zimbabwe tweeted.

Zimbabwe is one of the most densely mined countries in the world.

Last year, the country said it was seeking 122 million dollars to clear all anti-personnel mines that were planted by the Rhodesian forces during the country’s 1970s war of liberation.

Although the country’s landmine clearance started in earnest in 1982, only two years after independence, Zimbabwe is still grappling with the challenge of landmines due to shortage of funding.

In an effort to speed up clearance, the country last year launched an eight-year national mine action strategic plan aimed at mobilizing local and international support to enable the country to meet the goal of being landmine free by 2025.

There are currently four accredited international demining organizations working in Zimbabwe since 2012.

Zimbabwe confirms salaries increment for its
public service workers amid rising cost of living

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwe government on Wednesday announced a salary increment for its workers to cushion them from rising cost of living.

Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare Minister Sekai Nzenza told a press conference that the government had offered a cost of living adjustment of 400 million RTGS dollars to be effected across the board for all members of the public service with effect from April 1.

The increment came after protracted negotiations between the government and its workers, resulting at some point this year teachers briefly downing tools.

Minister Nzenza said the government will again review the salary of its workers in June in line with the cost of living.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said the increment puts the salary of its lowest paid worker at par with the poverty datum line currently pegged at 600 RTGS dollars.

He said the latest salary increase does not change the ratio of government wage bill to the national budget, as salaries continue to take up 90 percent of the budget.

He, however, said the government will continue to guard against having more funds going towards civil servants salaries so that more money is channeled towards capital expenditure.

Chairman of the Public Service Commission Vincent Hungwe said the government will continue to work towards provision of non-monetary incentives to its workers in order to continuously improve the working conditions of its workers.

He also said the government was working on clearing medical insurance and social security debts for its workers.

Zimbabwe has experienced an increase in prices of most basic commodities in recent weeks, with businesses citing the falling exchange rate of the local currency to the U.S. dollar on the inter-bank market.

Since the introduction of the inter-bank foreign exchange market on February 22, the local currency had remained steady at 2.50 to the U.S. dollar until last week when it plunged to 3 dollars to the greenback, its biggest fall since the introduction of the inter-bank market.

Parallel market rates are hovering around 4.2 RTGS dollars to the U.S. dollar.

European Union encourages Zimbabwe to continue on reform trajectory

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The European Union has encouraged Zimbabwe to continue reform and engagement in order to enhance relations with the bloc and promote the well-being of Zimbabweans.

In a statement published Tuesday at the conclusion of a visit by Koen Vervaeke, EU’s managing director for Africa, the EU said Vervaeke had also urged the country to address the violent events that took place in the recent past.

"Based on extensive discussions with my interlocutors, we hope that the commitment to take the reform process in Zimbabwe forward and to address the violent events of the recent past will translate into tangible action," Vervaeke said.

"Implementing political and economic reforms is crucial for the country to enter into a positive trajectory, and a broad national consensus would cement internal support. Progress on the reforms will also offer space for a strengthened partnership with the EU," the EU official said.

The EU statement said that in Vervaeke’s discussions with Zimbabwean counterparts, he also dealt with matters of significant concerns regarding the country’s situation, particularly the consequences of Cyclone Idai and the food security crisis.

Britain’s CDC group gets 8 pct stake in pan-African telecom firm

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Britain’s development finance institution, the CDC Group, has taken an 8 percent stake for 180 million U.S. dollars in the pan-African telecommunications firm, Liquid Telecom.

It is CDC’s single largest investment in an African company to date.

Liquid Telecom, which is headquartered in London, was created by Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa, who also founded Econet Group. It operates fiber-optic networks in 20 African countries and has fiber infrastructure spanning from Cape Town to Cairo.

Econet Wireless, which also owns a 10 percent stake in Liquid Telecom, announced in a statement Thursday the conclusion of the deal which was first announced in December last year.

"Liquid Telecom has confirmed that it has completed the sale of an 8 percent stake to the British government Sovereign Wealth Fund for developing countries known as Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) for 180 million U.S. dollars," Econet said.

Liquid Telecom announced the deal through the Irish Stock Exchange, saying that all conditions precedent to a deal that was announced in December 2018 had been met.

"Data centers are the company’s fastest growing business and it already operates some of the biggest and most sophisticated data centers on the continent," the company said.

"Liquid is expected to push more aggressively westwards into countries like Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana with its added war chest."

CDC’s investment comes at a time when it last year became one of the guarantors of Britain’s 100 million U.S. dollars loan to Zimbabwe’s private sector, the first direct commercial loan to the southern African country in over two decades.

Britain partnered the Standard Chartered Bank in providing the loan while CDC shares the default risk on loans.



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