Zimbabwe currency crisis: No cash, no KFC

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Empty bread shelves in a supermarket in Harare, Zimbabwe, 09 October 2018.

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Shops have run out of essential items amid the spiralling crisis

A deepening unease is settling over Zimbabwe as the country’s fragile local currency loses value at an alarming speed, prices soar, local and foreign businesses close their doors, and people wonder whether their savings are about to be wiped out once again, as they were during the economic collapse and spectacular hyperinflation that tore through the country a decade ago.

“We are suffering. Inflation is too much. Every minute, every hour, every day, the prices are just changing,” said a wholesale trader who did not want to give his name.

KFC has closed its local outlets citing “these difficult times,” while supermarkets have been rationing some items, and mining companies and other key exporters are complaining about a lack of access to foreign exchange reserves.

“I’m very worried. It’s going to be just like 2008. Or maybe worse,” said Grace Chitambara, a nurse waiting in her car in a mile-long queue for petrol in the capital, Harare.

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Leading fast-food chains in Zimbabwe have shut their doors as the cash crunch in the country worsens

Concern is rising – along with prices – following a series of unexpected government announcements regarding plans for a new 2% tax on money transfers, and for possible changes to a controversial local currency which had been pegged, one-to-one, to the US dollar.

Fuel imports stopped abruptly, trading has been badly affected, and many businesses have stopped accepting the local bond notes – known here as Zollars or Zim bollars – which black marketeers are now valuing at four, or even five, to the US dollar.

Digging out of a hole

“There’s no need to panic,” insisted Energy Mutodi, deputy information minister with the governing Zanu-PF.

“What we’re seeing is simply the result of speculative behaviour. People started to hoard. But this should normalise in the next few days. Zimbabweans need to know they are safe under Zanu-PF. The government is committed to reforms, so we need people to really be patient.”

Almost a year after former President Robert Mugabe was ousted following a military coup, Zimbabwe’s government – led by his former party Zanu-PF – is still trying to dig its way out of an economic hole caused by years of reckless spending, corruption, policy uncertainty and sluggish exports.

“It’s a pretty big hole. We’re suffering the effects of many, many years of misgovernance. We’ve been living beyond our means and it has come to a crunch,” said economist Ashok Chakravarti.

Zimbabwe’s new finance minister has recently won some international support for his attempts to chart a path towards financial stability – a path that involves significant spending cuts and privatisation, alongside plans for the foreign debt repayments necessary to unlock new international loans.

‘You can rig an election, but you can’t rig an economy’

But many here remember how their savings were seized by the government in 2008, and worry about the extent to which Zanu-PF is willing, or able, to tackle entrenched corruption.

“It’s a complete dog’s breakfast – a man-made dog’s breakfast,” fumed opposition MDC Alliance MP Tendai Biti, a former finance minister in Zimbabwe’s short-lived unity government, who points to the disputed election that kept Zanu-PF in power.

“People have no confidence in this regime. You can rig an election – as they did on 30th July 2018 – but you can’t rig an economy, you can’t rig a supermarket or a gas station. So, we have a fundamental crisis of legitimacy. Ordinary men and women are suffering because of self-induced policy distortions. It’s madness. This is a basket case.”

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In 2009, Zimbabwe scrapped its own by-then-worthless currency and relied instead of a range of foreign currencies until 2016, when the bond note was added to the mix, amid deep concerns that it would be used to hide more corruption and unchecked government spending.

No-one here underestimates the size of the mess that Mr Mugabe left behind in Zimbabwe, or the deep divisions within Zanu-PF, or the scale of the challenge ahead, but some analysts believe that the new cabinet is, slowly and erratically, making some of the right steps.

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The crisis has led to a shortage of fuel with motorists having to queue for petrol

“There’s an enormous deficit of trust – a lack of confidence,” Mr Chakravarti acknowledged.

But he believes the government must be given more time, and that the sharp fluctuations in the value of the local bond are inevitable, and perhaps necessary.

“We have to accept there will be a currency adjustment. Prices for a lot of non-essential items, in particular, are going to increase. We have tough times ahead. But governments do turn a new leaf and I think they should be given a chance to show what they can do. Things can change. The turnaround can be quite quick.”

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KFC Zimbabwe ‘runs out of money to buy chickens’

Leading fast-food chains in Zimbabwe have shut their doors as the cash crunch in the country worsens – just two months after President Emmerson Mnangagwa won elections.

KFC put up notices at its branches in the capital, Harare, and the second city, Bulawayo, saying they would remain closed “during these difficult times” until further notice.

“This is due to the fact that we are unable to source stock from our suppliers as they require US dollars. We are doing everything possible to resume trade as soon as possible,” the notice said.

St Elmos pizza outlet said it had shut its branches for the same reason, adding that it would use the time to do some deep cleaning and repairs .
Chicken Inn ran out of chicken on Tuesday, and it was unclear when they will get supplies again, the state-run Chronicle newspaper reported.

Some phramacies were also shut in Bulawayo, it added.

Last week, Zimbabwe’s Financial Gazette newspaper reported that many retail shops were running out of some essential goods because of foreign currency shortages.

Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009, adopting the use of foreign cash. The government issued its own version of dollars called “bond notes” in 2016 to ease the continuing cash shortage, but they have rapidly lost their value.

Pokello files an appeal against Elikem’s divorce petition in Zimbabwe

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Socialite Pokello Nare, 32, has filed a notice of intention to defend summons issued by her Ghanaian husband, Elikem Kumordzie, 29, seeking a decree of divorce against her.

Her estranged husband, who she met during Big Brother Africa (BBA) in 2013, last month (September 2018) filed for divorce against her saying he lost affection and love before he declared their relationship “irreparable”.

She placed the notice last week on September 28, a day after she was served with the summons.

Kumordzie, a popular Ghanaian fashion designer, is being represented by Harare lawyer Rungano Mahuni of Mahuni Gidiri Law Chambers.

READ ALSO: Jackie Ankrah announced as host of Adom Nsromma [Photos]

Kumordzie said his jealous wife was harming his professional work as she got uncomfortable when he plays romantic roles in movies.

Pokello’s husband also wants a divorce decree order that custody of their minor child be awarded to her with him exercising reasonable access on agreed holidays. He also wants to pay $500 monthly as maintenance.

The two lovebirds have been on separation for the past year.

Pokello and Kumordzie were married under the Marriages Act at Harare on September 28, 2015, and the marriage still subsists.

“They have not stayed together as husband and wife for the past year since September 2017,” reads Kumordzie’s declaration.

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“…such is regarded by Kumordzie to be incompatible with the continuation of a normal marriage relationship. As a result, Kumordzie has lost love and affection to the extent that there are no prospects for reconciliation due to irretrievable differences between the parties.”

In her notice, Pokello said: ” Be pleased to take note that the defendant has entered an appearance to defend the above action on this 28th day of September.”

No further details were given.

According to the court papers, Kumordzie and Pokello did not acquire any movable property together.

Early this year, Kumordzie was quoted saying his marriage to Pokello was a mistake.

READ ALSO: Princess Shyngle explains how blackmailers got access to her adult videos

Kumordzie posted a short video of an engagement ring with a big rock on Thursday with the caption: “I’m definitely not making a mistake on the next one. The right one.”

The two met in the BBA house in 2013 and got engaged in 2014 and had a traditional marriage in 2015.

After rumours of her breakup with Kumordzie, Pokello in a series of cryptic messages on social media tried her best to project a picture of calmness despite the raging storm in her paradise.

“You will hear good things about me; you will hear bad things about me. Think what you want. I ain’t clearings*** up,” she wrote earlier this year on her social media pages.

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Gay Zimbabwe teacher resigns after death threats

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Picture of Neal Hovelmeier

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Neal Hovelmeier

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He wanted to address the issue of homophobia in the school

A gay teacher at a top Zimbabwean boys’ school has resigned after death threats and pressure from parents.

Neal Hovelmeier, deputy head for St John’s College’s sixth form, came out to his students last week.

He was encouraged to do so as a Zimbabwean newspaper was planning on outing Mr Hovelmeier, the school’s chairman wrote in a letter.

Some parents threatened legal action against him in a country where homosexual acts are illegal.

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“I will not submit myself to a sham trial,” Mr Hovelmeier wrote in his resignation letter.

The teacher, who has worked in the elite school for 15 years, apologised for the distress caused by revealing his sexuality, saying it has since led to “death threats as well as threats of physical danger to myself and my pets”.

“I have come to realise that my current position as deputy headmaster is now untenable,” he wrote in the resignation letter.

Mr Hovelmeier came out to the student body on 21 September when the school, which is based in the capital Harare, released a statement by him.

He wrote that former students had confided to him that they had felt intimidated and ostracised at the school amidst a homophobic atmosphere.

He said he could only deal with the issue if he was “open and transparent about it myself”.

The emotive issue of homosexuality in Zimbabwe

By Shingai Nyoka, BBC Africa, Harare

The issue of gay rights has always been both controversial and emotive within Zimbabwe’s conservative society.

It was one of the most contentious matters as a new constitution – adopted in 2013 – was being drawn up. The majority of Zimbabweans appeared to support the continued outlawing of homosexual acts – and a clause banning same-sex marriage was added to the country’s laws.

Zimbabwe’s gay community is small and largely operates underground. Secret gay bars do exist and the Gay and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (Galz) is formally registered and recognised as a civil society group, but in the past it has been raided by police.

Former President Robert Mugabe was most outspoken against gay rights, describing gay people as “worse than pigs and dogs”. Other government ministers have been at pains to say that no person should be denied healthcare, or have their children lose access to education, because of their sexuality.

More recently when asked whether he would champion gay rights, Mr Mugabe’s successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, said a constitution voted for by the people was in place, hinting that amidst the myriad challenges facing the country, the issue was not a priority.

The move was applauded by rights activists, but also led to uproar among some of the parents.

Footage of an emergency parents’ meeting on 24 September showed participants angrily shouting at one another.

On the same day, the school’s chairman Charles Msipa released a letter to the parents.

He took responsibility for Mr Hovelmeier coming out to the school, saying their hand was forced as a newspaper planned on revealing the teacher’s sexuality.

Mr Msipa thought it was in the college’s best interest if Mr Hovelmeier “communicate directly to stakeholders in an open, transparent manner”.

“The publication of the story in the Daily News newspaper of Saturday September 22 was based on the management communication of the matter – rather than conjecture and rumours,” Mr Msipa wrote.

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Homosexuality is outlawed in more than 12 African countries

The following day, a law firm hired by some of the parents threatened legal action against the school if its board did not resign, according to a letter by the firm seen by the BBC.

It said the teacher’s decision to come out “has no place whatsoever in a school environment where they are minors, who look up to your staff as their life models as they exercise their role”.

They also cited the country’s Section 73 criminal law that criminalises gay sex, and said that their clients therefore reserved “a right to place criminal charges against your staff member”.

The British curriculum boys school was founded in 1986 and admits boys from the age of 12 to 18, its website says.

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Zimbabwe elephant tramples German tourist to death

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Elephants in Mana Pools (file photo)

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Tourists are advised to not get too close to wild animals

A German tourist has been trampled to death by an elephant as she tried to photograph the animal in Zimbabwe.

Authorities in Zimbabwe say the attack occurred on Wednesday in Mana Pools National Park and the tourist succumbed to her injuries later the same day.

The woman was in a group of tourists who encountered a herd of elephants upon entering the park.

Elephant attacks are common in Zimbabwe, where they often come into conflict with local farmers.

The woman has not been named.

According to Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesman Tinashe Farawo, the authorities are yet to establish what irritated the animals and led to the attack.

“We are always asking people to stay away from wild animals; they should keep a safe distance,” he told the Associated Press.

Last year a trained elephant trampled a tour guide in Victoria Falls, a tourist resort in the country’s west.

Another local man was also killed in a separate incident last year after he had tried to drive elephants into the open to take pictures, reports the AFP news agency.

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Zimbabwe launches cholera crowdfunding campaign

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A nurse takes care of cholera patients during a visit of Zimbabwe Minister of Health,

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Authorities say more than 3,000 people are infected with cholera

Zimbabwe has launched a crowdfunding campaign to deal with an outbreak of cholera that has so far killed 25 people, mostly in the capital, Harare.

New Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube sent an appeal on Twitter, sharing a mobile payment account number.

An emergency has been declared and public gatherings banned in Harare to prevent the spread of infection.

In 2008, a cholera outbreak killed some 4,000 people and at least 100,000 people fell ill.

This was a key factor in persuading President Robert Mugabe to agree a power-sharing government with the opposition, as the government did not have the money to deal with the outbreak.

The current outbreak began on 6 September after water wells were contaminated with sewage in Harare.

Tests found the presence of cholera and typhoid-causing bacteria which has so far infected over 3,000 people, Health Minister Obadiah Moyo told reporters on Thursday.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) situation report, patients were not responding to first-line antibiotics.

“Relevant medicines should be purchased as a matter of urgency as soon as resistance patterns have been ascertained,” it said.

WHO also said the disease has spread to five of the country’s 10 provinces.

The cholera outbreak can be traced to Harare city council’s struggle to supply water to some suburbs for more than a decade, forcing residents to rely on water from open wells and community boreholes, according to Reuters news agency.

Health officials are advising people to wash their hands regularly, drink only safe water, wash food, cook it thoroughly and avoid shaking hands.

The government-controlled Herald reports that the crowdfunding campaign has already received some backers.

They include telecommunication giant Econet Wireless, which has contributed $10m (£7m) and the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society $250,000 (£190,000).

However, some Zimbabweans have taken to social media to condemn Mr Ncube’s plan:

Lawyer Fadzayi Mahere wanted to remind newly elected President Emmerson Mnangagwa of his campaign promise:

This user saw the campaign as another ploy from the political class:

While Twitter user Bruce Zvandasara said it was more worthwhile than the opposition’s call for funds to pay for their legal challenge to Mr Mnangagwa’s July election victory:

This Twitter user wondered why the government had the money to charter a private plane to bring back former first lady Grace Mugabe from Singapore when her mother died, but does not have funds to deal with a public health emergency:

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Mugabe reveals how his ‘adulterous relationship’ with Grace began

Zimbabwean ex-president Robert Mugabe has reportedly revealed how his “adulterous relationship” with his wife Grace started, saying he just “grabbed and kissed” her when she was still his secretary and “she didn’t resist”.

According to New Zimbabwe.com, this happened while his now late wife Sally Mugabe was battling illness.

The nonagenarian revealed this as he addressed mourners at his mother-in-law Idah Marufu’s funeral at the former first family’s Blue Roof home in Harare over the weekend.

“… She [Grace] came as a secretary and they were many of them, I just looked at them and then it was love at first sight with Grace. Then I said to her one day, I love you and she didn’t respond,” Mugabe was quoted as saying. 

“I then grabbed her hand and I kissed her. She didn’t protest or refuse and then I said to myself now that she has accepted to be kissed, it means she loves me.”

Sally was at the time suffering from renal complications and was unable to bear children for the former president who said he needed someone to give his mother grandchildren.

Strict Catholic

Sally who was head of the ruling Zanu-PF party’s women’s league, died on January 27, 1992 in Harare’s Parirenyatwa Hospital.

She knew Grace, who at the time was in her 20s, was already in a relationship with her husband of 31 years. Mugabe admitted, somewhat clumsily, during a speech to an international business conference in 2014, to telling her on her hospital bed.“I did tell [Sally] and she just kept quiet and said fine, but she did ask, ‘Do you still love me?’ I said yes. And she said, ‘Oh, fine’,” Mugabe said at the time.

Mugabe – a strict catholic – said he was torn apart between obeying the Catholic Church doctrine against adultery and pleasing his mother who wanted grandchildren.

“Yes, we had gotten involved when Sally was still alive, I had to. Grace and I never dated either, I was just introduced to her and I said to myself she is a beautiful girl,” Mugabe was quoted as saying.

During an interview with Dali Mpofu in 2013, Mugabe revealed that he needed someone to give his mother grandchildren when Sally was ill. (Watch the interview on YouTube).

According to reports, Grace is often a bit touchy on the Sally subject and has often been compared with her.

The privately-owned Standard reported in 2016 that Grace was “angry” that people compared her to Sally.

“Mugabe took a second wife nicely, I got married well,” Grace told rally-goers in Chiweshe in March that year.



Zimbabwe court confirms Mnangagwa’s election victory

Zimbabwe’s highest court has thrown a bid by the main opposition MDC Alliance to annul President Emmerson Mnangagwa‘s victory in the heavily disputed 30 July election.

MDC Alliance candidate Nelson Chamisa rejected Mr Mnangagwa’s victory, saying the poll had been rigged.

Mr Mnangagwa won 50.7% of the vote and Mr Chamisa 44.3%.

It opens the way for Mr Mnangagwa’s inauguration as Zimbabwe’s second elected leader since independence in 1980.

The inauguration ceremony is expected to take place this weekend.



Handcuffed Zimbabwe politician in court

Zimbabwean opposition politician Tendai Biti has appeared in court in handcuffs on charges of inciting violence after he was deported from Zambia.

Zambia’s government rejected Mr Biti’s request for asylum on Wednesday.

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Mr Biti had been released on bail following his intervention.

Prosecutors accuse Mr Biti of fuelling illegal protests by rejecting Mr Mnangagwa’s victory in the fiercely contested elections on 30 July.

At least six people were killed two days after the vote in clashes between security forces and MDC Alliance supporters who alleged that their leader, Nelson Chamisa, had been robbed of victory.

There was great optimism that the elections would bring real change after the end of Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule in November.

But the MDC Alliance says the security forces have launched a brutal crackdown on the opposition following the disputed poll.

Mr Biti is the first senior opposition politician to be detained since Mr Mnangagwa took over from Mr Mugabe.

A handcuffed Mr Biti was brought to court in the capital, Harare, under a strong police presence.

Prosecutors say he falsely declared Mr Chamisa the winner of the election, and encouraged his supporters to damage property during protests against the election results.

Mr Biti was freed on $5,000 (£4,300) bail, and ordered to surrender his passport.

“We will keep on fighting,” he told reporters.

In a tweet, Mr Mnangagwa said his intervention led to Mr Biti’s release.

“At such a crucial time in the history of the new Zimbabwe, nothing is more important than unity, peace and dialogue,” he added.

However, Mr Mnangagwa said that because of the “serious nature of the allegations” against Mr Biti, “due process will continue”.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency said it was “gravely concerned” by reports that Mr Biti had been deported while trying to claim asylum in Zambia.

“Forcibly returning refugees and asylum-seekers to their country of origin is a serious violation of international refugee law,” the agency said in a statement.

Mr Biti’s lawyer Gilbert Phiri said Zambia’s High Court ruled on Wednesday night that Mr Biti should not be deported until a “judicial review” of the government’s decision to reject his asylum application.

However, Zambian immigration and police officers refused to accept the court papers, and surrendered him to Zimbabwean law enforcement officers at the Chirundu border post, about 350km (220 miles) north of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, Mr Phiri said.

The Zambian government has probably taken its revenge on Mr Biti by deporting him to Zimbabwe.

Mr Biti came to Zambia last year to show solidarity with opposition leader Hakaide Hichilema after he was arrested on treason charges.

He was scathing in his criticism of Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu, accusing him of behaving like then-President Mugabe by targeting Mr Hichilema. So, it is not surprising that Zambia has deported him.

Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party has always been a staunch ally of Zanu-PF, which has been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. Its founding leader, the late Michael Sata, was inspired by Mr Mugabe, and like him regarded the MDC as a “puppet of the West”.

When Mr Sata formed the party in 2001, he named it PF to signal that it would forge close ties with Zanu-PF. The relationship remains strong some 17 years later, albeit with new leaders at the helm of the two parties.

Mr Biti is the most senior opposition leader to be detained since Mr Mnangagwa took office.

On Wednesday, Zambia’s Foreign Minister Joe Malanji told the BBC that Mr Biti’s grounds for asylum were weak.

The police are hunting for eight other senior opposition officials in connection with post-election violence.

The MDC Alliance has confirmed that it will challenge the presidential election result in court, saying it was marred by “mammoth theft and fraud”.

The electoral commission says there was “absolutely no skulduggery”.

Mr Mnangagwa obtained 50.8% of the vote, compared with Mr Chamisa’s 44.3%. The remaining votes went to 21 other candidates.

Mr Biti was the minister of finance in a unity government formed after disputed elections in 2008 – and is credited with helping stabilise the economy after years of hyperinflation.



Zimbabwe police arrest top opposition leader

A senior member of Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC Alliance, Tendai Biti, has been arrested at the border with Zambia, his lawyer is quoted as saying.

Police had issued a search warrant for Mr Biti, accusing him of “unlawfully” announcing that his party’s leader, Nelson Chamisa, won last Monday’s presidential election.

He is also accused of inciting the violence when MDC Alliance supporters clashed with security forces two days later, leaving six people dead.

His lawyer, Nqobizitha Mlilo, told the AFP news agency that Mr Biti had been heading to Zambia to seek asylum.

Mr Biti was the minister of finance in a unity government that was formed after disputed elections in 2008 – and is credited with helping stabilise the economy after years of hyperinflation.

The election was won by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, but the opposition says the result was rigged.