Top stories for January 16-20


Man pays US$350 000 to kill a rhino -Corey Knowlton, a consultant for a hunting outfit in the United States, Hunting Consortium Ltd, paid a staggering US$350 000 to kill a black rhino. He won the Dallas Safari Club’s auction for a permit to kill the rhino in Namibia. There was wide speculation that Knowlton, who co-hosts a hunting show, was not rich enough to afford the hunt and could be fronting for someone else but he reportedly confessed on facebook that he was the winning bidder. There was also an outcry from conservationists including Zimbabwean Johnny Rodrigues about the hunt as black rhinos are an endangered species. “Thank you all for your comments about conservation and the current situation regarding the black rhino. I am considering all sides and concerns involved in this unique situation,” Knowlton wrote on his facebook page. “Please don’t rush to judgment with emotionally driven criticism towards individuals on either sides of this issue. I deeply care about all of the inhabitants of this planet and I am looking forward to more educated discussion regarding the ongoing conservation effort for the black rhino.”

No solution yet on civil servants’ salaries
Government and civil servants’ representatives met for almost the entire day today but failed to reach a solution on new salaries for civil servants. Negotiations will continue on Monday. Reports say the government told civil servants’ representatives that it could not up its offer made on Wednesday under which the lowest paid civil servant will get US$375 a month because it could not sustain salary increases of more than US$13 million a month. The current monthly wage bill is reported to be US$142 million and is expected to go up to US$155million after the increases. Salaries presently consume more than 70 percent of the government budget; something that the International Monetary Fund says must be addressed. The IMF wants salaries to consume not more than 30 percent of the budget. Zimbabwe is currently working with the IMF’s Staff Monitored Programme. Its programme, which started in April last year, was extended by six months this year. Civil servants want the minimum salary to be increased to US$543 a month to match the current poverty datum line.


Platinum companies say they need three years to put up refinery
The three major platinum miners in Zimbabwe, all South-African based, have submitted plans to the government to set up a refinery but they say they can only do so in three years, that is up to the end of 2016 or early 2017. The companies submitted their proposals to Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa this week ahead of the deadline which was today, 18 January. “They have tabled end of 2016 as the deadline for the setting-up of the refinery. In their proposals, they have also said there were issues which need urgent attention; things like power and finance: how are they going to be addressed,” an unnamed government official said. “So, between now and 2016, they will be sorting out all these issues, but they have reaffirmed their commitment to setting up that refinery. Basically, the companies assured Government that by end of 2016 into early 2017, a platinum refinery will be in Zimbabwe and they need to start small.” The three mining companies are Impala Platinum (Implats) which owns Zimplats and half of Mimosa, Aquarius Platinum which owns the other half of Mimosa and Anglo Platinum (Amplats) which owns Unki. The companies were given two years at the beginning of 2013 to set up a refinery which meant that they had to do so by the end of this year. The companies have been arguing that local production does not warrant a refinery which will cost over US$2 billion. They were also concerned about the current power shortage in the country as the refinery might need up to 400 megawatts of power. The government insisted that it was not going back on its decision to have the companies set up a refinery threatening to stop the export of raw platinum to South Africa where it is currently refined. It is not clear yet whether the government will accept the proposal to push forward the setting up of a refinery by two years. Implats, which is currently Zimbabwe’s biggest producer, is reported to be relying heavily on its Zimbabwe operations as they are more profitable than its South African operations.


Bridget Mugabe dies
President Robert Mugabe’s only surviving sister Bridget died at Parirenyatwa Hospital today after more than three years on life support. Bridgette collapsed at the burial of her sister Sabina who was buried at the National Heroes Acre in 2010. Her death also dispelled rumours that President Robert Mugabe was dead as he seen welcoming people who were paying their condolences.


Government and civil servants agree on salaries at last
The government and representatives of civil servants today finally agreed on new salaries which fell short of the poverty datum line that civil servants were insisting on. They agreed that the new salaries would be reviewed midyear. Under the agreement the lowest-paid civil servant will earn US$375 with a basic salary of US$218 pus allowances. The entry salary for teachers is now US$500 a month, half what they were initially demanding. Civil servants representative Richard Gundani said they had requested the government to look for an additional US$3 million to effect the de-bunching of salaries to take into account experience and qualifications. He said the new salaries were three-quarters of the poverty datum, line which he said was US$505. Civil servants initially wanted a basic salary of US$547 just slightly above the Consumer Council poverty datum line of US$540.


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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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