Top stories for April 21-25


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Much ado about Mugabe’s salary – The media was today awash with news about the sacrifices President Robert Mugabe has made to earn a meagre US$4 000 a month, the lowest salary for any Head of State in Southern Africa. While Mugabe’s salary is nothing compared to that of Barack Obama, or Jacob Zuma or Uhuru Kenyatta, sight must not be lost that it is still 13 times that of the average civil servant, who gets his or her salary from the same coffers as Mugabe. It is five times that of a Member of Parliament. It is folly to compare it to that of Happison Muchechetere or Reward Kangai or Cuthbert Dube because these people were earning exorbitant salaries that are essentially criminal. It is the lack of action on these CEOs that is likely to perpetuate corruption because it seems people can get away with it. This has happened before. What is needed is sterner action against one or two big bosses, especially the government ministers that have been fingered in the corruption at the ZBC and Air Zimbabwe, and not the small fry that is being fired for stealing US$2 000 after five months without a salary.

Chinamasa backtracking!
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa today said foreigners can remain with, or acquire, majority shareholding in banks but said the 51 percent local ownership in mining will continue to be enforced. President Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front won a landslide victory last year on the back of black empowerment and could now be backtracking that the vote is in the bag. “I am quite comfortable with foreign ownership in the banks because at this time our people have no capacity to buy equity. But it is temporary and we are not looking for a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach,” he said without stating how temporary is temporary. “We have been very clear on the mining sector that this is our resource and our people have to benefit by being major shareholders,” he said. Chinamasa’s statement is in line with what Mugabe said on Independence Day. “Now in implementing the indigenisation programme, there has been some confusion. We have said where big companies have been established mainly on the basis of our natural resources, in mining, in agriculture, manufacturing, we demand that Zimbabweans — either through the Government or through our people — should have 51 percent or not less than 51 percent. But if a company is established and is getting raw materials from outside and the raw materials are not Zimbabwean, take the case of aluminium, we don’t have raw materials for it; if the raw materials come from Tanzania, which has it and if a company establishes itself here in Willowvale, we cannot demand 51 percent. You can negotiate with the company in the usual way what percentage we should have and it’s up to the company and yourselves establishing the percentages respectively you should share. But we cannot demand 51 percent where we don’t have materials. These materials are coming from outside and the machines are also coming from outside and we have no basis on which we can demand 51 percent except to say the locality of the company is ours,” Mugabe said.

 

Chinamasa confronts US ambassador over embassy account freeze
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa today confronted the United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo over the United States’s freeze of the Zimbabwean embassy account in Washington. Chinamasa said the account was frozen last week resulting in the embassy staff failing to access their salaries. It was unfrozen after the government approached the State Department. The United States added three individuals and one entity to its sanctions last week and removed 10 individuals and one company. Those added to the list were: Registrar-general Tobaiwa Mudede for his critical role in the flawed elections of 31 July last year; Sam Pa, for facilitating public corruption by Zimbabwean senior officials through illicit diamond deals, and providing financial and logistical support to the government of Zimbabwe and listed people; and Jimmy Zerenie for facilitating illicit diamond deals between Sam Pa and senior Zimbabwean officials. Sino Zim Development (Pvt) Ltd was also added to the list. Chinamasa said people must not be fooled about the reasons for the sanctions. “We should not be fooled by Americans who tell us all sorts of reasons for the sanctions. The reason is the land reform programme. This programme has been very expensive for the country. It has come with huge costs,” he said.

 

Court bars demolition of Chitungwiza houses
A Chitungwiza court today barred the Chitungwiza Municipality from demolishing houses that it said were built on undesignated sites saying that this would be an infringement of the owners’ constitutional rights. Magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa said: “The court rules that (Chitungwiza Municipality) has no power to demolish homes as stipulated in Section 74 of the Constitution which states that: ‘No person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances’.” There have been reports of rampant corruption is the selling of stands in Chitungwiza and around Harare and hundreds of desperate house-seekers who bought stands from property barons could have their homes demolished. Zengeza East Member of Parliament Alexio Musundire claimed in the house that Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo was going to benefit most from the demolitions because he had several property companies which included Harvestnet Investment, Waywick Investment, Waycorn Investment, Tonewick Investment and Nedbourne Investment.

 

Diamond about turn
The government now wants to reduce the number of diamond mining companies in Marange from seven to two because they have not accounted for the revenue from their operations and has already notified the mining companies. Companies currently operating in Marange are: Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company, Gye Nyame, Jinan, Kusena, Marange Resources and Mbada Diamonds. Marange Resources is the only government-owned company. The others are in joint ventures with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation which wholly owns Marange. “We have invited the mining companies to discuss policy direction and to deal with the issue of consolidating financial and human resource issues,” Mines Minister Walter Chidakwa said. “We also discussed legal issues and the issue of equipment. We are currently waiting for the Chinese (Anjin) to come because they said their chairman has to come from China and we are meeting them in the second week of May.

 

We want investment from abroad- Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe today said Zimbabwe was open to foreign investment and has not nationalised a single company since independence 34 years ago. He said the country’s indigenisation programme was being misrepresented and misinterpreted. Indigenisation has often been lumped together with compulsory land acquisition and forced takeovers by land-hungry Zimbabweans yet the indigenisation regulations clearly set out the time period in which firms are expected to comply. It also sets out 14 sectors that are reserved for locals. But Mugabe’s statement, following soon after that by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, is a clear indication of a shift in policy. “As originally set out, (indigenisation) is meant to empower and integrate the majority of our people into the mainstream economy. The policy aims at achieving inclusive growth, sustainable development and social equity. There is not exploration on nationalisation of shares held by non-indigenous persons in companies, as some of our detractors would want the world to believe. Rather, any equity that an indigenous person takes up will be disposed of at fair value. With this clarification, let me take this opportunity to invite potential investors to come and do business in Zimbabwe in which there is huge potential for joint venture partnerships between investors, manufacturers, industrialist and the public sector. We want investment from abroad,” Mugabe said.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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