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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Mixed feelings over Zimbabwe new policy banning
national use of foreign currencies as legal tender

by Tichaona Chifamba HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- There have been mixed feelings over the imposition of a law on June 24 which banned the use of foreign currencies as legal tender in Zimbabwe and the re-introduction of the Zimbabwe dollar (now RTGS dollar).

Some locals fear that some basic goods will soon disappear from the shelves of retail shops, while others have welcomed the move saying that it will contain runaway prices caused by continued use of the United States dollar as a parallel unit of trade.

The country had abandoned the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009 amid hyper-inflation, and the currency was officially demonetized in 2015.

Statutory Instrument 142 (SI 142) of 2019, otherwise known as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Legal Tender) Regulations, 2019, rattled the economy in the past week to such an extent that the U.S. dollar parallel market fell from a high of 1:16 RTGS dollars to as low as 1:7 RTGS dollars, prompting panicky citizens to quickly dispose of their greenbacks at low rates.

Individuals earning their salaries in foreign currency can still withdraw it but must first change it into local currency before making any transactions.

The government has since warned that it is now a criminal offence for storekeepers to price their goods in U.S. dollars or any other foreign currency, and for anyone to use foreign currency rather than Zimbabwe dollars in any transaction carried out in the country.

Apart from the U.S. dollar, other currencies that were banned were British Pound, Euro, Australian dollar, Chinese Yuan, Japanese Yen, Indian Rupee, South African Rand and the Botswana Pula.

One of the reasons why the government decided to impose the foreign currency ban was that some retailers and suppliers had begun pegging their prices mainly in U.S. dollars yet the majority of Zimbabweans earn their salaries in local currency.

The pegging of prices in U.S. dollars had also resulted in prices of basic commodities rising every week, which had led to discontent among lowly paid government workers and many others in the private sector.

Prices of some commodities—except bread, meat (beef, pork and chicken) and milk - have been falling since the imposition of the new policy and also amid fears of reprisal following a stern warning from President Emmerson Mnangagwa that those who continued to increase prices would be punished.

Some imported goods such as potato crisps have since disappeared from the shelves as they can no longer be replaced using local currency.

Leading retail chain OK Zimbabwe Limited welcomed the new law saying that it would stabilize prices which had continued to rise as they chased the (parallel) exchange rate movement.

"We welcome the new SI 142, which we believe will stabilize prices and allow us to deliver the good prices and value you have always expected and enjoyed from us.

"We have always received good support from our supplier partners.

"Accordingly, we have engaged them and some have started to moderate prices in response to SI 142," the retail chain said in a statement Friday.

A manager with another leading retail chain said that suppliers had promised to start reviewing their prices downwards in the coming week after disposing of goods they had acquired using the previous parallel rate regime.

Other retailers under the banner of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) have welcomed the government pronouncement, adding that they also support measures taken by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to stabilize the interbank foreign currency market.

"The pricing distortions arising from the inflated and stage managed parallel market had left most Zimbabweans reeling and on the brink of total poverty as incomes ,wages and salaries were eroded daily by the fictitious and fallacious black market exchange rate.

"The dilemma was exacerbated by the demand for U.S. dollars for domestic transactions even for goods ordinarily manufactured in Zimbabwe yet about 96 percent of the workforce earn their wages and salaries in local currency.

"Many had to offload the RTGS dollars or bond notes as soon as they laid their hands on it," said CZR president Denford Mutashu in a statement.

Opposition party MDC secretary for policy and research Tapiwa Mashakada however said the banning of foreign currency as legal tender was a panic move by the government.

"To have domestic currency, there must be productivity and re-industrialization; at least six months forex reserves; there must be confidence; you must be a net exporter; (and) you must give notice to public," he said.

He added that he foresaw the market rejecting the Zimbabwe dollar (RTGS dollar) and continuing to use the U.S. dollar.

Incidentally, the use of the U.S. dollar is continuing unabated in the informal sector, while some customers also opt to use the U.S. dollar as opposed to local currency.

Mutashu warned against the uncontrolled printing of money as had happened during the hyper-inflationary period.

"The CZR further urges the RBZ to exercise restraint and prudence with the printing machine to safeguard the value of the Zimbabwe dollar while the Ministry of Finance should desist from inconsistent policy pronouncements that have dented trust and confidence in the past.

"Further measures should be a product of continued consultations and engagement while the inclusive approach is encouraged forthwith," he said.

He said the introduction of the Zimbabwe dollar would further improve competitiveness and efforts should be made to ensure that the importation of essential raw materials, capital goods, drugs and medicines, fuel and energy, is not impeded by the policy changeover.

Ordinary people are still to ascertain the long term impact of the new policy.

Hastings Muchirahondo, an officer work in a company in Harare said he would welcome the move as long as prices remained steady and basic goods were available.

"There is no point making a policy under which we will all go hungry because there are no goods in the shelves.

"Not all of us can afford to travel across the borders to South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique to buy basic goods as was the case in 2008 up to 2009," he said.

Another Harare resident, Tonderai Masango, said it was time a new currency was introduced "to do away with the U.S. dollar" which was causing suffering among ordinary people as they were being forced to buy it before making purchases in some stores.
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UPDATES:

Zimbabwe government commend Chinese tile
manufacturer for boosting exports receipts

by Tichaona Chifamba HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwe government has commended work being done by a Norton-based Chinese tile manufacturer which has already started exporting most of its products.

The firm, Sunny Yi Feng, started making tiles on May 12 and is producing between 30,000 and 35,000 square meters of tiles per day, 70 percent of which are exported to several countries in the Southern Africa Development Community region.

Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa and her counterparts Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu ( minister for industry and commerce) and Ziyambi Ziyambi (minister for justice, legal and parliamentary affairs) toured the tile manufacturing plant Wednesday and praised Sunny Yi Feng for a job well-done.

The company, which began putting up structures at its Norton premises toward the end of 2018, now operates three factories that make tiles, print cardboard boxes for packaging the tiles and logistical support, covering up to 75 percent of its capacity and expected to reach full production soon.

"In three months (they started manufacturing), they have started producing for export and it’s just wonderful to see products going to South Africa, to Zambia and that product is coming from Zimbabwe," said Mutsvangwa.

"That is a good response to our president’s call that ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business.’" she said.

"This is the kind of investment that we need that has downstream benefits for our people."

"I am also happy that we have seen our young women, our young mothers being employed and I am happy that they can now look after their children and after their families," Mutsvangwa said.

She commended the longstanding relations between China and Zimbabwe, which she said dated back to the days of the liberation struggle.

"China has contributed a lot to the development of Zimbabwe including the construction of the National Sports Stadium, Kariba South Power Station, the Victoria Falls International Airport and expansion of Hwange 7 and 8, and even our new Parliament building," Mutsvangwa said.

Sunny Yi Feng vice managing director William Gung said the firm has invested 50 million U.S. dollars for the first line of production.

"In the first line of production, we produce between 30,000 and 35,000 square meters of tiles per day and we export 70 percent of that to South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.

The company will also produce fertilizers from coal and other byproducts from its operations, Gung said, adding that the firm also plans to construct accommodation for its workers.

"Now we are trying to get some more land from the government so that we can build house for the workers here at the factory," he said.
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Zimbabwe anti-corruption body investigating 10 high-profile corruption cases

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) said Thursday it is investigating 10 high-profile cases of corruption out of 38 cases it has received since May.

Newly appointed ZACC chairperson Loice Matanda-Moyo told a press conference that corruption was the main cause of economic challenges in Zimbabwe, and vowed the anti-corruption body would work tirelessly to tackle the vice.

Matanda-Moyo said ZACC had opened investigations into government ministries, departments, and parastatals that were cited in the recent Auditor General’s report for abusing public funds.

Some of the parastatals named include power utility ZESA, state grain procurer Grain Marketing Board, national airline Air Zimbabwe and state pension fund National Social Security Authority.

"ZACC has opened active investigations in respect of all ministries, government departments, state enterprises and parastatals implicated in the report with a view to bringing to book all those implicated in any or all cases of corruption, theft, misappropriation, abuses of power and other improper conduct," said Matanda-Moyo.

She urged the Executive to reduce the powers of ministries over state enterprises and parastatals, saying such ministries had become a cause for concern.

"The government needs to urgently review the powers of ministries over state enterprises and parastatals under the purview to stem out this culture of looting," she said.

Matanda-Moyo said her organization will target 99 percent conviction rate for all corruption cases in the courts.

ZACC is a Constitutional body mandated with combating corruption as well as encouraging transparency, honesty and financial discipline in both the public and private sectors.

She said if ZACC was to deal with every matter reported, then the country’s prisons will need to be expanded in order to accommodate the culprits.

"While other countries are closing their prisons for lack of clients, Zimbabwe prisons will be open for business," she said.

To support public efforts in the fight against graft, Matanda-Moyo said recommendations had been forwarded to the Executive for a comprehensive whistleblower protection framework.

The ZACC chairperson also lauded the recent move to give the body arresting powers, saying this was necessary to ensure the body plays its role without limitations.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

Zimbabwe government to revive food for work
program to alleviate effects of drought

by Tichaona Chifamba HARARE (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwe government will re-introduce a food for work program to help vulnerable families which have been affected by the El Nino induced drought during the 2018/19 agricultural season, a top official has said.

The United Nations says more than 6 million Zimbabweans (or nearly 40 percent of the population) require food aid between now and the next harvest in April 2020 due to the drought and the impact of Cyclone Idai which hit the country, together with Mozambique and Malawi in March.

The Herald newspaper reported Wednesday that Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare Deputy Minister Lovemore Matuke had told a ruling ZANU-PF party meeting in Masvingo that the government had completed a document which outlined modalities on the implementation of the Food for Work program under which beneficiaries get food packs after working on identified projects.

The last food for work program was undertaken in 2016 following another serious drought in the country. Generally, priority is placed on projects that achieve food security.

The incapacitated still receive food under the government’s drought relief program.

Matuke said the government had finalized the document which has already been sent to all the country’s provinces, adding that the program should be designed in a manner that promotes productivity, particularly irrigation, to ensure the country is self-sufficient in terms of food requirements.

"We need projects which have significant social economic impact," he said.

"We need our people to provide labor on projects such as irrigation schemes, projects that help the country achieve food security rather than working on projects that have little or no impact on the economy.

"They should be well-designed to ensure the objectives of Vision 2030 are achieved." he said.

He said while the government had put in place some measures and resources to alleviate food shortages in light of the El-Nino induced drought, efforts must be equally put in place to harness domestic resources to build self-food sufficiency.
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Zimbabwe police warn businesses to stop charging in forex

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean police on Wednesday warned businesses against charging in foreign currency following the ban on use of the U.S. dollar for trading purposes.

The government last week scrapped the multi-currency system and made the Zimbabwe dollar the sole legal tender. The local currency is comprised of the electronic RTGS dollar, bond notes and bond coins.

In a statement, police said despite the law banning use of foreign currencies, some businesses had continued to sell their goods and services in hard currency.

Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) spokesperson Paul Nyathi urged members of the public to report those still charging in forex.

"The ZRP warns all those who are charging commodities in United States dollars that they risk being arrested as the law will be applied without fear or favor," Nyathi said.

He implored supermarkets and shops to display commodity prices in order to allow members of the public to access goods and services in an environment which gives them room to plan, coordinate and buy the items freely without any form of manipulation by unscrupulous dealers.

Some businesses and shops have not been displaying prices of goods since the ban on the U.S. dollar, thereby causing uncertainty on buyers.

Zimbabwe is currently grappling with a shortage of foreign currency that has caused shortages of essentials such as fuel, medical drugs, power and bread.
.

China extends U.S. $60 million dollars grant
to Zimbabwe for cyclone relief efforts

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- China has extended a 60 million U.S. dollars grant to Zimbabwe for reconstruction after the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai in the eastern part of the country in March, information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Tuesday.

She told a post-cabinet media briefing that Zimbabwe was grateful for the grant, which comes after the Asian country in March donated 800,000 U.S. dollars cash as emergency humanitarian assistance to victims of the cyclone.

China has also extended an offer to help Zimbabwe rebuild infrastructure in Chimanimani, where most roads, bridges, schools and clinics were destroyed by the cyclone which killed more than 300 people and displaced thousands.
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China-Zimbabwe ties profound, not to be affected by slander: Embassy

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe says it is highly concerned over some absurd remarks by individuals that seek to undermine China-Zimbabwe cooperation, saying such slander will not hurt the profound bilateral ties.

The Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe issued a statement late Sunday, expressing concern over comments by Norton legislator Temba Mliswa over China-Zimbabwe relations and suggestions that cooperation between the two parties only benefit China.

The statement refuted such allegations by providing examples which showed that bilateral cooperation has benefited Zimbabwe.

It said that China in recent years has provided financing support to quite many projects that have been playing an important role in improving infrastructure and self-sustaining capacity for the economic and social development of Zimbabwe.

Such projects include the Victoria Falls Airport Expansion Project, the (Robert Gabriel) Mugabe International Airport Expansion Project, the Kariba South Hydro-power Station Expansion Project, the Hwange Power Station Expansion Project, among others, it said.

It added that just a few days ago, China decided to provide a grant of 400 million yuan (58 million US dollars) to Zimbabwe to help the country complete post-cyclone reconstruction and other important projects.

The embassy statement said it is highly unfair, and "logically absurd" to simply blame China for the economic difficulties Zimbabwe is currently facing.

"It is universally recognized that whether a country can get rid of poverty and achieve sustainable development mainly relies on its own efforts," the statement said.

The embassy added that the New Parliament Project was a project financed by the grant from the Chinese government and did not have any attached project.

"This project is a manifestation of the profound friendship between the two governments and the peoples of China and Zimbabwe and brooks no one’s smear or distortion," the statement said.

"The Chinese government, in accordance with the laws and regulations, protects the legitimate rights and interests of overseas Chinese enterprises and citizens.

"And at the same time, the government always requires them to abide by the laws and regulations of the host countries and respect local customs," the statement said.

"China and Zimbabwe enjoy a profound traditional friendship.

"The two sides have always rendered each other strong support on issues concerning each other’s core interests.

China-Zimbabwe relations will not be affected by slander or vilifying by any individual." it said.
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Victoria Falls maintains status on UNESCO world heritage list

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- Victoria Falls has maintained its status to be on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage list after undergoing examinations, a senior government official said on Thursday.

The State of the Conservation of the Victoria Falls, was brought before the World Heritage Committee to be examined at the on-going 43rd Session of the World Heritage Committee in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Zambia and Zimbabwe submitted a report to the World Heritage Center which studied the file to decide whether the state parties had put in place adequate mechanisms to safeguard the heritage property.

Christine Kaseba-Sata, Zambia’s Ambassador to France and Permanent Representative to UNESCO, thanked the country’s National Heritage Commission and communities around the Victoria Falls for their relentless efforts in upholding statutes and guidelines as prescribed by the World heritage Convention.

"It is not guaranteed that once a property has been enlisted on the World Heritage List it cannot be deregistered.

Management of the site requires concerted efforts by government and stakeholders so as to ensure that the property is preserved and not added to the Danger List," she said, according to a release.

The Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, is the countries’ biggest tourist attraction site.

The World Heritage Committee is the secretariat for the UNESCO World Heritage center and is responsible for the listing and delisting of World Heritage Sites.

The committee meets annually to review and examine state of conservation reports, nomination dossiers and gives policy direction on the implementation of the World Heritage Convention in the Sites.

Currently, they are 1,092 Sites inscribed on the World Heritage list, according to the release.
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SEE ALSO:

Zimbabwe re-assures general public on cash withdrawals

             

 

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