Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi promised to set up an emergency tourism revival fund when he assumed office in 2009.
He said this after hosting a two-day tourism conference in Harare in March, one month after the formation of the inclusive government. The conference was aimed at reviving the country’s moribund tourism industry.
Japan announced that it was removing its travel warning aimed at discouraging its citizens from travelling to the Victoria Falls, shortly after the conference.
Viewing cable 09HARARE268, ZIM NOTES 03-27-2009
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RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000268
AF/S FOR B. WALCH
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND J. HARMON
COMMERCE FOR ROBERT TELCHIN
SUBJECT: ZIM NOTES 03-27-2009
Topics of the week:
– Parliament Getting its House in Order…
– Zimbabwean Teachers Consider Striking…
– Government Sponsors Stakeholders Meeting…
– Cholera Continues to Decline…
– Zimbabwe Hosts Tourism Conference…
– Court Update…
– Scandinavians Send Delegates to Zimbabwe…
– UZ Postponed Again!
– Banks Struggle to Pay US$ Allowances…
– Kimberley Process Chair Gives Zimbabwe Kid-Glove Treatment…
– IMF’s Recommendations…
– Biti’s Revised Cash Budget…
– Fungibility of Shares Restored…
– Former Trade Minister Appointed Vice President of AfDB…
On the Political/Social Front
¶2. Parliament Getting its House in Order… Parliament has
recently constituted the important Standing Rules and Orders
Committee and is in the process of establishing Portfolio
Committees, setting up a Standing Committee on the Constitution, and
making appointments to the Media, Anti-Corruption and Electoral
Commissions. These new bodies will help enable Parliament to
promote its legislative agenda and push reform, though any new
legislation will likely originate from the executive branch.
Parliament also resumed “question time,” an important mechanism that
allows MPs to ask policy questions of government ministers. See
¶3. Zimbabwean Teachers Consider Striking… Faced with
government’s continued inability to pay teachers a living wage in
foreign currency, Zimbabwe’s teachers are growing restless and may
resort to a work stoppage if the situation does not improve in the
next couple of months. Currently teachers are only receiving the
US$100 allowance paid to all civil servants. Many teachers are
frustrated because they returned to their posts after having been
promised more substantial forex salaries by Prime Minister
Tsvangirai, but recent statements by Education Minister David
Coltart have made clear government does not have the funds
available. See Harare 246.
¶4. Government Sponsors Stakeholders Meeting… The GOZ sponsored a
stakeholders meeting with government officials, donors, and civil
society which was promoted as an opportunity to engage in dialogue.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai keynoted the day-long meeting. A
ministerial retreat is to take place next weekend.
¶5. Cholera Continues to Decline… The World Health Organization
reports that, for the week ending March 14, there was a 45 percent
decrease in suspected new cases of cholera and a 39 percent decrease
in deaths compared to the prior week, despite a reemergence of cases
in Harare and Chitungwiza. UNICEF reports that water supply
chemicals in main urban areas are now secure. On March 20, a water
and sanitation-focused World Bank team finalized a one-week
assessment mission to allocate emergency funds, and will likely
initiate a US$10 million infrastructure repair project in Harare,
with another US$3 million to be utilized as a pilot in suburban or
Qwith another US$3 million to be utilized as a pilot in suburban or
rural areas. As of March 24, the cholera outbreak has claimed 4,077
lives and affected more than 92,000 people.
¶6. Zimbabwe Hosts Tourism Conference… The Zimbabwean government
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hosted a two-day tourism conference in Harare on March 25 and 26 in
an effort to revive the country’s moribund tourism industry.
Concurrently, Minister of Tourism and Hospitality, Walter Mzembi,
announced that the GOZ would initiate an emergency tourism revival
fund. On the heels of the well-attended conference, Japan announced
that it would remove its travel advisory discouraging Japanese
travel to Victoria Falls.
¶7. Court Update… The case of three elderly white Zimbabweans —
arrested in early January on charges of training MDC activists in
terrorism and banditry — was removed from remand this week by
magistrate Gloria Takundwa. In addition, strict bail conditions for
four of the seven accused of bombing police stations were relaxed;
now they must report to police stations once per week rather than
twice daily. The trial of eight Women of Zimbabwe Arise women and
two lawyers, arrested in connection with a Valentine’s Day march,
failed to start on March 25. For the second time, police witnesses
failed to appear for the trial. The magistrate delayed the trial
again to April 29.
¶8. Scandinavians Send Delegates to Zimbabwe… Norway’s
Environment and International Development Minister, Erik Solheim,
and Denmark’s Minister for Development Cooperation, Ula Toernas,
made separate trips to Zimbabwe to meet with President Robert Mugabe
and other senior officials during the past two weeks. The purpose
of their visits was to evaluate conditions in Zimbabwe as a
potential pre-curser to renewing ties and channelling assistance.
Zimbabwean officials also pressed Denmark to lobby other EU members
to lift sanctions. The state-controlled media gave significant
coverage to the visits and portrayed them positively, though both
representatives were critical of the continued detention of
political prisoners and rash of recent farm invasions.
¶9. UZ Postponed Again! The University of Zimbabwe, scheduled to
start its second semester of the 2008-09 academic year three months
late next Monday, has postponed opening once again, this time to a
date “to be advised in due course.” All faculty and staff at the
university are still only being paid monthly US$100 allowances, so
faculty and staff strikes would have been imminent had the
university tried to open. The only exceptions are the Medical
School and the few, small graduate programs.
On the Economic and Business Front
¶10. Banks Struggle to Pay US$ Allowances… The GOZ again this
month topped up the worthless Zimbabwe dollar salaries of its
employees with a US$100 allowance. Problems and lines arose at
primarily non-bank financial institutions, where most civil servants
bank, as these institutions struggled to pay out the allowance.
With the official Poverty Datum Line for a family of five set at a
very generous US$552 per month, even assuming cash distribution
problems are solved, the meager allowance may lead to frustration
Qproblems are solved, the meager allowance may lead to frustration
and impatience. See Harare 266.
¶11. Kimberley Process Chair Gives Zimbabwe Kid-Glove Treatment…
KP Chair Bernard Esau of Namibia got a white-washed account from the
GOZ of violence in the disputed Chiadzwa diamond field during his
team’s visit to Zimbabwe last week. He made conciliatory remarks
about the need for SADC to support Zimbabwe in his parting address
to a select group of stakeholders. See Harare 263.
¶12. IMF’s Recommendations… In a statement at the conclusion of
the IMF’s Article IV mission, the mission chief welcomed the new
government’s commitment to ending off-budget spending and matching
expenditure to revenue in 2009. He recommended greater
accountability and transparency of the Reserve Bank and restricting
HARARE 00000268 003 OF 003
it to core central bank activities. The mission chief also
recommended strengthening the investment climate, ensuring property
rights protection, and maintaining wages at competitive levels to
increase investment. See http://www.imf.org/external
¶13. Biti’s Revised Cash Budget… Despite the improvement in
economic policy underlying Finance Minister Biti’s revised budget,
members of the recent IMF mission suggested that the government’s
revenue projection of US$1 billion was high. We expect the IMF
staff report to project a US$200 million deficit. See Harare 260.
¶14. Fungibility of Shares Restored… Following several policy
flip flops, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) restored offshore
trading of dually-listed shares on March 17, 2009. For stock
listings with full fungibility, investors can now buy shares from
one stock exchange and transfer them to another exchange where the
company is also listed. Partially fungible shares will continue to
trade in one direction –from overseas to Zimbabwe– although the
RBZ may consider full fungibility for these shares in order to raise
capital for expansion projects.
¶15. Former Trade Minister Appointed Vice President of AfDB… The
Zimbabwe Independent reported today that former Minister of Industry
and International Trade Nkosana Moyo has been appointed Vice
President of the African Development Bank (AfDB). Meanwhile, an
AfDB private sector specialist was in Harare this week looking at
the possibility of channeling credit to the private sector, and a
further AfDB team is on an extended three-month mission in Zimbabwe.
Quote of the Week
¶16. “Conditions, they’re always setting conditions! It’s their way
of making us slaves. If Zimbabwe is to accept aid, it must be
offered on a friendly basis. We will not bow to the donors.” —
President Mugabe speaking at a joint press conference with the
Norwegian development minister in Harare on March 25.