Zimbabwean government has sought to allay fears of fuel shortages, saying the country has enough stocks to run until January .. but now some basic goods such as cooking oil are only sold on a cash basis…
NOV. 24, 2016, 9:30 A.M. E.S.T.
HARARE, Zimbabwe — In Zimbabwe’s capital, a man fills two drums with gasoline at a station that still accepts electronic payments in a country where many vendors demand cash, a sign of the economy’s vulnerability.
“I have to stock up. There won’t be any fuel by the time we reach Christmas,” said Fadzai Radaira, the buyer at the fuel station in Harare.
While the Zimbabwean government has sought to allay fears of fuel shortages, saying the country has enough stocks to run until January, longer lines are beginning to form at some stations and some facilities are intermittently running out of diesel. Some stations offer discounts for motorists who pay in cash as a sense of desperation deepens in Zimbabwe, where fears of economic chaos and shortages on a par with fallout from the hyperinflation of 500 billion percent in 2008 are growing.
Compounding the uncertainty is the speculation over the health and longevity of President Robert Mugabe, whose every public appearance is now scrutinized for signs of physical weakness, mental confusion or exhaustion. While Mugabe, who turns 93 in February, has looked shaky at times, he maintains a busy schedule of international travel, visiting Morocco this month for a climate conference, traveling this week to Equatorial Guinea for another meeting and often flying to Asia for reported medical treatments.
Even as Zimbabwe’s economy implodes and dissent rises, police are keeping a lid on a fractured opposition that does not appear to be prepared to mount an effective challenge to Mugabe ahead of 2018 elections. Authorities banned a protest planned for this week, though organizers said they have rescheduled the demonstration for Nov. 30.
The immediate priority for many Zimbabweans is survival. In supermarkets, some basic goods such as cooking oil are now only sold on a cash basis as the country prepares for the introduction of a local currency, bond notes. Since 2009 the country has been operating on the U.S. dollar and other foreign currencies and many fear that the return to a Zimbabwean currency will set off a new round of hyperinflation.
Zimbabwe’s central bank has gone on a publicity blitz to promote the bond notes to a skeptical public; billboards promote one bond note as having the same value as one U.S. dollar. That assurance has only seemed to prompt more worries, leading Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa to appeal for confidence.
“It is important as a nation that we build confidence in what the government is doing, including the introduction of bond notes,” he said in parliament Wednesday after lawmakers questioned the prudence of issuing the new currency.
Unlike in the past, fuel importers now have to ask for permission from the central bank for funds to buy fuel. Running out of cash, the central bank has drawn up a priority list, where some imports are banned or restricted to save foreign currency. So even businesses or individuals who have U.S. dollars in local bank accounts cannot readily make payments to foreign suppliers.
Delays by the reserve bank in settling such foreign payments have resulted in some businesses complaining that foreign suppliers are holding on to commodities.
On the political front, despite a simmering succession battle within its ranks, the ruling ZANU-PF party says it wants Mugabe, in power since 1980, to run in the 2018 election. Provincial executives have been lining up to endorse his candidacy ahead of the party’s annual conference scheduled for Dec 13-17.
Mugabe previously said he wants to rule for life, expressing his desire to live until he is 100 years old. Last weekend, he said he was ready to retire if asked to do so by his supporters and admitted that some in his party want him off the scene.
“Some are busy plotting succession in the party, they say: ‘When will this old man die? He is refusing to die.’ Why should I die when God hasn’t called me yet?” he said in the local Shona language during an address to participants of the 1970s struggle against white minority rule. “If I am to retire, let me retire properly.”
MASSIVE corruption has hit President Robert Mugabe’s rural home, with top government officials reportedly benefiting from illicit land deals that have prejudiced Zvimba Rural District Council (ZRDC), already reeling under a $2,4 million tax debt, NewsDay can reveal.
BY Albert Masaka
The scam includes awarding of contracts to companies to develop the upmarket Sandton suburb in Mt Hampden – the site for the proposed new capital – without going to tender, double allocation of stands, undervaluing land allocated to cronies and fraudulently reducing sizes of stands, among others.
This is revealed in council documents, which are expected to be tabled today at a full council meeting, where fireworks are expected.
Some of the beneficiaries of the alleged murky land deals include Innocent Tizora, the director of State residences, Mines minister Walter Chidakwa and Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, the Indigenisation minister, and local legislator, Felix Mukwangwariwa, among others.
A shelf company, Spincraft, was also allegedly created and allocated land at Rainham Farm measuring 2,6 hectares that was then subdivided at the council’s cost and reallocated without charging cession fees under the instruction of ZRDC chief executive officer, Peter Hlohla, prejudicing the council of thousands of dollars, the leaked documents revealed.
The CEO, the documents further alleged, made several unilateral decisions without council approval that have prejudiced the local authority of millions of dollars in compensation, including allocating himself allowances using government rates to go to Switzerland, when council had not approved the budget.
The ZRDC was also sitting on a $2,4 million tax debt, a figure that was arrived at after negotiations with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), down from $7,5 million after Hlohla engaged a tax consultancy firm, Misfort Tax Consultancy.
The CEO was now turning to a “political engagement” to stop Zimra from garnishing the local authority’s back accounts, the documents further reveal.
“The CEO was responsible for billing of Rainham, Murombedzi, Banket and Sandton, which created a huge debt in terms of penalties, and this burden will be passed to ratepayers for incompetence and ignorance on the part of the CEO,” part of the documents read.
Hlohla also allegedly awarded a contract without going to tender for the subdivision of plots in Rainham and without due process, which required that the said plots be repossessed.
“Upon repossession, the said plots were then supposed to be allocated, if the process was above board, following a council waiting list, which was never done,” the leaked documents continue.
“In some instances, he (Hlohla) went on to downsize the plots, as a way of clearing arrears without due authority of a resolution instructing or guiding him on the computation.
“By billing of Rainham as a planner, which was a prerogative of the finance department, Hlahlo went on to create a debt by billing Zimra exclusive of value-added tax, thereby, creating a tax obligation in both Sandton and Rainham exceeding $1 million and penalties were further added for non-remittances as a result of his actions.”
Hlohla also allegedly agreed to over-priced compensation rates for Rainham Abattoir in Nyabira, prejudicing ZRDC of millions of dollars.
“Having caused the loss of millions due to overcompensation, the resultant company, Blackdawn, was further allocated land, which had an approved layout done by another developer called Datco, which has created correspondences written by Datco claiming over $1,2 million for the portion of surveyed land allocated to Blackdawn.”
According to the documents expected to be tabled at a full council meeting today, more than 200 people not on the housing waiting list were allocated stands measuring between 1 000 and 4 000 square metres by ZRDC in the new Sandton suburb, prejudicing council of $4 600 worth of application fees at a cost of $23 per person.
Businessman, Lovemore Kurotwi also allegedly benefited immensely from the land deals, paying $96 000 for land valued at $426 700.
Contacted for comment over allegations raised in the documents, Hlohla first referred all questions to the ZRDC chairman.
But he later denied any wrongdoing in the execution of his duties. He said everything was done above board by council and the Local Government ministry was aware.
“The issue is, whatever is there was done above board through resolutions and many of those projects you are talking about were started before I was appointed CEO. I was a planner then,” Hlohla said.
“All those things done by council, there are papers and settlements to prove that they were above board.”
The documents further question the rationale behind the CEO having to drive from Chinhoyi to work, claiming fuel from the local authority, when he was allocated a council house.