The secretary general of the Tsvangirai faction of the Movement for Democratic Change Tendai Biti was released from jail on 26 June, a day before the presidential elections runoff.
He was released, on bail, together with another MDC legislator Eric Matinenga.
Biti was arrested on 12 June on his return from South Africa and faced four counts including treason.
The MDC had already pulled out of the elections runoff citing ongoing violence which MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai said made an election impossible.
Viewing cable 08HARARE554, ZIM NOTES June 27, 2008
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SUBJECT: ZIM NOTES June 27, 2008
Topics of the week:
– MDC Pulls Out of Election Run-Off
– Tsvangirai Takes Refuge in Dutch Embassy
– Fallout from Raid on Opposition IDPs
– Biti and Matinenga Released from Jail
– As Abductions, Beatings, and Unlawful DetenQQ [email protected]
– Mining Sector Top Forex Earner
¶2. Price Movements-Exchange Rate and Selected Products
Parallel rate for cash more than doubled again to Z$18 billion:US$1
against inter-bank average of Z$10.6 billion:US$1
Bank transfer rate doubled to Z$3.9 trillion:US$1; official rate:
Bread more than doubled on the parallel market to Z$8 billion vs.
controlled price of Z$400 million
Sugar trebled to Z$25 billion/2kg vs. controlled price of Z$8
Cooking oil doubled to Z$15 billion/750ml vs. controlled price of
Petrol and diesel climbed to Z$17 billion/liter vs. controlled price
On the Political/Social Front
¶3. MDC Pulls Out of Election Run-Off… MDC president Morgan
Tsvangirai announced on June 20 that he would not participate in the
run-off election due to ongoing violence which made an election
impossible. Nevertheless, the GOZ decided to proceed with the June
¶4. Tsvangirai Takes Refuge in Dutch QmQp>cn}of the chancery. See Harare
¶5. Fallout from Raid on Opposition IDPs… MDC supporters and
their families displaced by political violence remain homeless in
Harare following the June 23 raid on opposition headquarters’
Harvest House in which 30 people were seized by police and over
2,000 fled. Hundreds of IDPs have since sought refuge at NGO
offices, churches, and the U.S. and South African embassies. On
June 25, an estimated 300 IDPs were allowed onto the South African
Embassy grounds after armed riot police arrived outside the mission.
They were allowed to spend the night and remain on the site today.
¶6. Despite the ban on NGO operations, informal networks amongst
civil society actors, UN organizations and diplomatic missions are
attempting to provide aid to the many IDPs requesting shelter, food
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and supplies. However, formalized, systematic and coordinated
assistance, including a lead UN agency and a centralized reception
center, remains unavailable, severely impacting those who are still
in danger of seizure by GOZ security forces. International
organizations appear to fear the repercussions of publicly assisting
opposition aligned IDPs. See Harare 533.
¶7. Biti and Matinenga Released from Jail… The high court granted
MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti bail on June 26 after his arrest
on June 12 on four counts, including treason. Tsvangirai had said
on June 25 that Biti’s release was a prerequisite to negotiations.
MDC MP-elect Eric Matinenga was also released on bail on the same
day. WOZA’s Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, however, remain
in Chikurubi women’s prison pending their high court hearing on July
¶3. See Harare 512 and 532.
¶8. …As Abductions, Beatings, and Unlawful Detentions Continue…
Mayemureyi Munhuri, the MDC Senator-elect for Chimanimani, and her
husband were abducted at gunpoint from their home on June 24. She
was one of 33 abducted in Manicaland province that day. Abednico
Bhebhe, MP-elect for Nkayi, and Robert Rabson, Senator-elect for
Nkayi, have been detained without charges in Nkayi since June 18, as
police ignore a court order demanding they be brought to court.
Lawyer Ernest Jena, who represents MDC activists, was abducted from
his office in Bindura by suspected ZANU- PF members on the morning
of June 23; his whereabouts are unknown. Magistrate Felix Mawadza
was beaten up by youths in ZANU- PF garb as he walked out of a
supermarket in Bindura on June 23. His “crime” was to have granted
bail to MDC supporters charged with politically motivated violence.
A local NGO has released two reports documenting post-election
¶9. Criticism of Zimbabwe Grows… The SADC troika of Tanzania,
Angola, and Swaziland met on June 25 and issued a communique
criticizing the GOZ’s plans to proceed with the June 27 election.
At his 90th birthday party in London, Nelson Mandela condemned the
“tragic failure of leadership” in Zimbabwe. The British Foreign
Office took the unusual step of revoking the knighthood Mugabe had
received in 1994. In another symbolically important move, Cricket
South Africa, a long time defender of Zimbabwe, finally broke ties
with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union on June 23. The England and Wales
Cricket Board also broke ties and canceled a tour by the Zimbabwean
team set for next year.
¶10. Making Ends Meet (or not) as a Civil Servant… A ministry
director with a doctoral degree in his highly technical agricultural
specialty and decades of work experience allowed us a peek at his
June pay stub: He took home Z$23 billioQ|7Q&+|hicle for Z$700
million, which was less than US$1 dollar at the time. He survives
on consultancy work in South Africa and Zambia but admitted that his
greatest regret was not having emigrated years ago.
Economic and Business News
¶11. Manufacturing Sector Totters On As Conditions Worsen…
Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector is gasping to keep afloat in the
face of foreign exchange shortages, hyperinflation and constant
power outages. Although exporting firms benefited from the partial
liberalization of the foreign exchange market, complementary
measures to sustain the reform effort have not followed. Indeed,
HARARE 00000554 003 OF 003
firms have raised concerns over their inability to increase prices
in line with rising costs; the National Incomes and Pricing
Commission (NIPC) refuses to entertain any requests for price
reviews. In fact, it made several new entries this week to the list
of price-controlled items. A contact at the Confederation of
Zimbabwe Industries told us that some firms, strategizing over their
future, had taken a wait-and-see attitude, hoping for an improvement
after the election. The bottom line is how much longer firms are
prepared to produce at a loss.
¶12. Stock Exchange Roars… The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE)
continues to defy the gloom that otherwise characterizes the
economy, as investors hunt for bargains in the face of little or no
other viable investment opportunities. The precipitous fall in the
external value of the Zimbabwe dollar has also spurred the market.
Moreover, money market rates yield ludicrously negative real
returns, and the poor macroeconomic environment has made it
virtually impossible to engage in capital investment. The ZSE is
the only place where returns have outpaced the rate of inflation.
The benchmark industrial index has risen by 767,687 percent since
the beginning of this year and by a whopping 36,396,356.9 percent on
a y-o-y basis to June 25, 2008. The mining index’s y-o-y rate of
growth is even higher at 77,919,460.8 percent. These rates are well
above estimates of around 4 million percent inflation for mid-June
¶2008. As long as macroeconomic fundamentals remain weak, activity
on the ZSE will continue pushing the local bourse into uncharted
¶13. Mining Sector Top Forex Earner… Mining earned Zimbabwe US$1
billion in 2007 and contributed about 6 percent to GDP; it is the
source of more than 30 percent of all foreign currency inflow. The
six largest earners from 2001-2007 were, in descend)Mm>QOjSQS.
¶14. Zimplats Shuts Down… After a gang of youth militia last week
forced its way onto the mine grounds and compelled workers to march
and chant ZANU-PF slogans, Zimbabwe Platinum Mines shut down its
operations at Ngezi in the run-up to the election. Its Selous
metallurgical plant remains open. A member of the Board of
Directors told us that the company was reviewing its multi-million
dollar expansion plan.