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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Zimbabwe government says enough funds secured to import fuel   

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean finance minister Mthuli Ncube said Wednesday the fuel shortages in the country will end in the next few days as the government has arranged enough financing to import the commodity.

Ncube told a press briefing that the fuel shortage was due to competing demand for scarce hard currency.

He said the government’s decision to increase foreign exchange retention by gold miners had squeezed the country’s foreign currency reserves, leaving very little for fuel imports.

The government raised the gold sector’s foreign currency retention rate from 30 percent to 55 percent in the middle of November after some major mines had closed citing viability challenges due to scarcity of the green back.

“We diverted some of the foreign currency to the gold sector but fuel supply should improve in the next few days as we have arranged enough lines of credit to bring in the commodity,” Ncube said.

He said foreign currency shortages are usually critical in the country during this time of the year because of the closure of the tobacco marketing season, which usually runs from March to August.

Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s largest foreign currency earner.

The ongoing foreign currency shortages have resulted in shortages of critical imports such as fuel and medical drugs and an increase in prices of basic goods and services.

Last week, Ncube raised duty on fuel in a move intended to curb illegal export of the commodity, mainly by foreign truckers who come to buy fuel at cheaper prices due to currency distortions in the economy.

Excise duty on diesel and petrol was raised by seven cents and 6.5 cents respectively effective Dec. 1, 2018.

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EARLIER REPORTS:

Zimbabwe seeks to clear World Bank, AfDB arrears by end of 2019

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe hopes to have cleared its 1.8 billion U.S. dollars arrears to the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB) by end of next year, finance minister Mthuli Ncube said Wednesday.

He said there were various financing options that the government was pursing to settle the long-term arrears that have kept Zimbabwe outside the international capital markets for close to two decades.

Zimbabwe has struggled to access international credit since it started defaulting on its debts to world lenders two decades ago.

However, the country in October last year settled its 108 million dollars debt arrears to the International Monetary Fund as part of initial steps to retire its overdue international obligations amounting to over 6 billion dollars.

Ncube said after clearing the World Bank and AfDB arrears, the country will move to the next phase of clearing debts to other bilateral creditors such as the Paris Club.

He said the country would also explore the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) option to clear some of its debt arrears.

“We have mobilized enough resources to be able to do that (clear the arrears) using our own resources as well as resources and commitments from partners,” Ncube said.

“It’s a matter of sequencing our reforms to make sure that we are able to meet the criteria for our partners to come on board. We will have access to resources from the WB and we pay the arrears and they literally refund us and that’s how we will get back in terms of draw downs.

“Again we have negotiated with partners and we have a program of action, a road map of how to get there,” Ncube said.

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Zimbabwe set to begin preliminary works on largest power plant

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Preliminary works on the 2,400 megawatt Batoka Gorge hydro-electric power plant will start in January next year as Zimbabwe moves to become energy self-sufficient, a cabinet minister said Wednesday.

The 5.2 billion U.S. dollars plant, which will be situated a few kilometers downstream the Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, will be a joint venture between Zimbabwe and Zambia who will share the electricity equally.

Zimbabwe is currently producing about 1,300 megawatts against a demand of over 2,000 megawatts, and relies on regional imports to cover the deficit.

Acting Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu was quoted by the state news agency New Ziana as saying that the project would start soon.

“Cabinet was advised that following a recent visit by delegations from China Power and General Electric, contractors on the project, preliminary works on the project were now scheduled to start in January, 2019,” he said.

Zimbabwe in March this year commissioned the Chinese-built and financed Kariba South Hydro Power Expansion Project which added 300 megawatts to the national grid. The project cost 533 million U.S. dollars.

It also commissioned the construction of Hwange Thermal Power station expansion project in June this year, which is expected to be completed within 42 months and will add 600 MW to the national grid.

The project will cost 1.5 billion dollars and will be carried out by China’s Sinohydro, the same firm that undertook the Kariba South expansion project.

Through these various energy projects, Zimbabwe is hoping to become energy self-sufficient by 2020 although it will require more than 11,000 MW to attain its vision of becoming middle income country by 2030.

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Cholera kills two more in Zimbabwe

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Cholera cases keep on emerging in Zimbabwe with the latest incident leaving two people dead and 26 others infected in Mashonaland Central Province.

The sick are detained at Mt Darwin District Hospital, district nursing officer Anna Chinyemba told state media.

The Herald reported Wednesday that one person had died on Sunday while the another succumbed to the water-borne disease on Tuesday.

All the cases were reported in an artisanal mining area and health officials had since called for an urgent meeting in an effort to arrest an outbreak.

“We have a problem of cholera which broke out on Sunday. So far, we have 26 patients who are admitted at Mt Darwin District Hospital. We have two deaths so far,” Chinyemba said.

“The affected people are artisanal miners from Mukaradzi mining area. We are trying all that we can to assist the affected. We are still investigating the source of the cholera. We have sent some samples to the laboratory to ascertain that it is cholera although we are treating it as such.”

The World Health Organization has since announced that it is setting up a cholera treatment camp in Mt Darwin as reinforcement.

Mukaradzi Mine is 25 km from Mt Darwin and there are fears that the disease could spread to neighboring districts.

“We suspect that the outbreak could have been caused by poor sanitation since most of the mining activities taking place in the area are illegal,” said Chinyemba.

At least 54 people died from cholera between September and October this year.

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Zimbabwe opposition MDC Alliance to hold
demonstration against economic hardships

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC Alliance will on Thursday hold a demonstration to protest against economic hardships and push for national dialogue to resolve the crisis.

Party president Nelson Chamisa is expected to address supporters at the Africa Unity Square in the capital after the march.

The party says it is demonstrating against “the 2 percent tax, for all workers’ salaries to be paid in U.S. dollars and to push for a national dialogue to legitimacy.”

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube introduced the 2 percent tax on all electronic transactions of 10 dollars up to 10, 000 dollars last month to raise more funds to finance social services.

The tax caused a public outcry, with many Zimbabweans lamenting that they are already highly taxed and struggling to make ends meet.

The Zimbabwean government has since warned the MDC Alliance that it will be held accountable if the demonstration turns violent and results in loss of life and limb or damage to property.

The warning follows post-election violence that occurred on Aug. 1, resulting in the death of six civilians and damage to property.

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Zimbabwe commission on post-election violence
concludes oral evidence gathering

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Commission of Inquiry into post-election violence in Zimbabwe concluded its process of gathering oral evidence through public hearings on Tuesday.

Spokesperson for the Commission John Masuku was quoted by the state broadcaster ZBC on Wednesday as saying that testimonies, most of which were broadcast live on ZBC television and social media platforms, were heard from different individuals and organizations in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare.

Masuku said the commission was also handed over written evidence as well as audio and video materials, including some from international broadcasters.

He said the commission is now collating and analyzing information gathered and has already started compiling its final report and recommendations to be presented to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Masuku said the commission, headed by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, is working day and night to present its report ahead of its 90-day deadline.

The seven-member commission was sworn in by President Mnangagwa on Sept. 19 and was given three months to come up with a report on the violence that occurred in Harare on Aug. 1, which resulted in the death of six civilians and damage to property.

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Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa sets right
tone on economic austerity measures: finance minister

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has agreed to have his salary and that of other senior government officials cut by 5 percent, finance minister Mthuli Ncube said Wednesday.

He said the move by the president would set a good example to the nation on the need to take austerity measures that will help revive the country’s ailing economy.

“President Emmerson Mnangagwa is leading from the front on this issue of cost containment. He decided that he will cut his own salary by 5 percent, and the vice presidents are also doing the same. We as ministers and deputy ministers we did the same, permanents secretaries up to principal directors and head of parastatals, the state owned enterprises also did the same,” said Ncube.

“So there is leadership from the front on this issue of cost containment and that sets the tone for the cost containment issue around the government wage bill,” Ncube said at a post-budget press conference.

The salary cut would also be extended to senior executives of all public enterprises and state institutions such as universities and statutory commissions.

Ncube announced in his 2019 budget statement last Thursday that the salaries of the president, his deputies, ministers, and other senior government officials will be slashed by 5 percent with effect from January 2019 as part of broader measures by the government to reduce government expenditure which has resulted in unsustainable budget deficits that are choking the economy.

Wages in the civil service take up to 90 percent of Zimbabwe’s national budget, leaving little for investment in critical public infrastructure such as roads, power stations and health facilities.

In the budget statement, Ncube said several austerity measures would be undertaken to bring down the civil service wage bill to sustainable levels to stimulate economic growth.

With effect from January 2019, government will weed out ghost workers in the civil service through introduction of bio-metric registration for all civil servants and will reduce the country’s foreign missions, among other cost-cutting measures.

Bonus payments to civil servants for 2018 will also be based on basic rather than gross salaries.

Implementation of these measures, Ncube said, would yield significant annual savings, which would be channeled to critical areas of health, education and infrastructure.

He told the media that the 2019 budget tried to allocate more resources towards infrastructure development, noting that at least 1.3 billion U.S. dollars had been set aside in 2019, up from 800 million dollars in 2018.

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