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Zimbabwe government condemns latest fuel price increases

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe’s cabinet on Tuesday criticized the latest round of fuel price increases and warned that regulators will be out in full force to enforce the law.

Some service stations on Tuesday increased the price of fuel to as high as 7 RTGS dollars per liter, up from about 5 dollars.

The latest price increase comes within a week after energy regulator, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority on Monday last week increased the price of petrol from 3.35 RTGS dollar per liter to 4.97 dollars.

This was a day after the central bank scrapped the subsidized exchange rate for fuel imports of 1:1 between the local currency and the U.S. dollar, which had remained in place after the bank introduced the inter-bank foreign exchange market in February.

While the local currency debuted at 2.5 to the U.S. dollar on the inter-bank market in February, it has since weakened to about 5 on the inter-bank market and to around 7 on the black market.

While prices of fuel are going up, the commodity remains in short supply as the nation is facing foreign currency shortages to import adequate supplies.

Tanzania President John Magufuli arrives for official two-day Zimbabwe visit

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Visiting Tanzanian President John Magufuli arrived in Zimbabwe on Tuesday for a two-day official visit.

He was welcomed at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport by his Zimbabwean counterpart Emmerson Mnangagwa, before inspecting a guard of honor.

   Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa welcomes Tanzanian President John Magufuli  | Coastweek

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa [on stage front right] welcomes Tanzanian President John Magufuli at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare, Zimbabwe. Visiting Tanzanian President John Magufuli arrived in Zimbabwe on Tuesday for a two-day official visit. XINHUA PHOTO - SHAUN JUSA

Magufuli is coming from Namibia where he was on a two-day state visit after attending the inauguration of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday.

Zimbabwe and Tanzania enjoy cordial relations dating back to Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and are both members of the Southern African Development Community.

Mnangagwa visited Tanzania in June last year as part of his tour of African nations to thank them for their support after he took power in November 2017.

During the Tanzanian visit, the two leaders agreed to further cement economic and trade cooperation.


Prices of basic commodities continue to soar across Zimbabwe
as government admits it has no powers to arrest problem

HARARE, Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Prices of basic commodities and drugs continue to gallop in Zimbabwe amid government admission that it is helpless when it comes to punishing profiteering businesses.

Although bread prices and maize meal have remained stable for a while, prices of other basic commodities such as cooking oil, rice, cordial drinks and soaps continue to soar as some retailers begin to peg prices using black market foreign exchange rates.

For instances, the most popular orange crush, Mazoe, which was selling at about 8 RTGS dollars on Saturday was selling for about 11 RTGS dollars on Monday.

"Every time delivery trucks bring in more commodities, we know that they also bear new prices," said a supervisor at one of the major retail shops in northwestern Harare.

At the weekend, some shops under one of the country’s major retail brands was selling its commodities in United States dollars but still accepted the local RTGS dollar at a rate of 1:8.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube told the House of Assembly on Monday that the government could not arrest retailers for profiteering and was also not in a position to impose price controls as this would cause "major problems" for the economy.

Some legislators were agitating for authorities to punish retailers of pricing goods out of the reach of many consumers.

"Quite clearly there is indiscipline.

"That is unethical (but) you cannot arrest people for that; neither can you start instituting price controls.

"That will cause major problems.

"Our hope is that sanity will come back to the market.

"We will restore confidence and will stabilize the exchange rate to a point where retailers see that they ought not to do that.

"We cannot use the law to enforce an exchange rate in that way," he said.

Zimbabwe says exporters keeping U.S. $900 million dollars in offshore accounts

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe has not yet received an outstanding 900 million U.S. dollars from its export earnings over the last 17 months at a time when the country is facing acute foreign currency shortages, a senior government official said on Monday.

George Guvamatanga, permanent secretary in the ministry of finance, told a parliamentary portfolio committee on budget and finance that the country’s exports in 2018 stood at 1.4 billion U.S. dollars and out of this 500 million was still outstanding.

Between January and May 2109 the country’s exports were 1.4 billion dollars and 400 million was still to be repatriated to the country.

An additional 800 million dollars was sitting in exporters’ local foreign currency accounts, Guvamatanga said.

"There is 1.7 billion U.S. dollars that should be available in this economy to pay for the pharmaceuticals, to pay for the fuel and all the requirements we need as an economy," he said.

"The issue is how do we enhance the inter-bank market so that those export proceeds can be liquidated on the inter-bank market."

Zimbabwean exporters have 90 days to repatriate their export earnings to the country, but they are allowed to retain a prescribed percentage of their export proceeds in hard currency for 90 days after which the unused funds will be released onto the market at the prevailing exchange rate.

The central bank introduced an inter-bank foreign exchange market in February, discarding the 1:1 parity between the local currency and the U.S. dollar.

Staring at 2.5 to the U.S. dollar, the local RTGS dollar is now trading at 5 to the U.S. dollar on the inter-bank market, compared to black market rates of around 7 to the greenback.

Zimbabwe blast kills eight people engaged in unauthorized mining

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- At least eight people died at a mine in Mazowe, about 40 km north of Harare, after a mine shaft they were working in collapsed following an explosion, the information department in the Zimbabwean government said Monday.

The Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services posted on Twitter that the incident involved illegal miners.

"Government received tragic news of a mining incident at Jumbo Mine in Mazowe.

"Information at hand indicates that some people engaged in unauthorized mining exploded dynamite in one shaft causing a collapse in an adjacent shaft."

"Eight bodies have been recovered so far. Investigations (are) underway," the ministry said.

Zimbabwe in February suffered one of its worst mining disasters in recent years when 28 miners died in Kadoma after their mine shafts were flooded following heavy rains.

Zimbabwe rules out electricity tariff increase amid power shortages

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwean government on Monday ruled out tariff increases on electricity as the nation faces its worst power shortages in three years.

Instead, the government said it will try to increase power imports and improve power generation efficiency to alleviate the situation.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said this while appearing before parliament’s budget and finance portfolio committee.

A legislator had asked if it was sustainable for the power utility to continue charging the same tariff.

The legislator argued that Zimbabwe’s current power tariffs had become the cheapest in the Southern African region.

"Any ill-advised tariff increase to bring it in line with regional levels will trigger another round of price increases and inflation.

"The only strategy to deal with this problem is to increase supply through imports," Mthuli said.

"We have to allocate more resources and import more power to supplement local supplies," Mthuli said.

The power utility has previously applied on numerous times for a tariff increase without any success.

The country is facing acute power shortages due to low generation at main power plant Kariba as well as foreign currency shortages, which have forced the he power utility to introduce biting load shedding to manage the situation.

Zimbabwe power utility reverts to "normal" load shedding hours

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) has reverted to Stage 1 load shedding after fixing a fault at the Hwange Thermal Power Station which had forced it to extend load shedding hours.

The company announced overnight on Sunday that the fault had been repaired and consumers would no longer suffer periods of load shedding under State 2 which it had announced on Saturday morning.

Consumers experience around eight hours of load shedding under the Stage 1 schedule, with Stage 2 coming in when power supplies deteriorate further.

The company introduced load shedding mid-May following depressed generation at the Kariba Hydro Power Station where authorities have begun rationing water allocations due to low water levels in the lake caused by the severe drought of 2018/19.

Zimbabwe had enjoyed more than four years without load shedding, but the drought has pushed the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) to reduce water allocation to ZETDC’s sister company - the Zimbabwe Power Company - from 19 billion cubic meters to 16 billion cubic meters for 2019, thus reducing power generation to 358MW for Zimbabwe and 392MW for Zambia and resulting in the two countries rationing the available power.

The rationing is meant to ensure that the plant continues to run until the next rainy season.

Zimbabwe is currently generating less than 820MW from three power stations against a daily peak demand of 1,600MW in winter and 1,400MW in summer.

Power generation at Hwange and the smaller thermal power stations of Harare, Bulawayo and Munyati remains fragile because of aged equipment.

Chinese company Sinohydro is currently refurbishing Hwange at a cost of 1.5 billion U.S. dollars to add two generators each producing 300MW.

The power station currently has an installed capacity of 920MW but cannot generate at optimum level because of the aged equipment.

ZRA said recently that Mozambique’s Hydro Electrica de Cahorra Bassa had offered Zimbabwe and Zambia power imports in exchange for further reduced power generation by the two countries at their Kariba Dam plants.

Cahorra Bassa Dam is overflowing following recent two cyclone-induced floods, and authorities in Mozambique favor having Zimbabwe and Zambia storing more water in Kariba Dam, which is upstream of Cahorra Bassa on the Zambezi River, to reduce inflows into the downstream dam and thus protect the infrastructure at Cahorra Bassa.



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