Chamisa leads MDC protest, as ZEC controversies keep coming; Military seen in villages to shore up rural vote for Mnangagwa; Mugabe slapped with default judgement; and more
Welcome to the Zimbabwe Daily Briefing - the new product from Zitamar News, bringing you the top news from Zimbabwe each day as the country gears up for crucial elections at the end of this month.
Chamisa leads MDC protest, as ZEC controversies keep coming
Military seen in villages to shore up rural vote for Mnangagwa
Mozambique’s Beira Port to see $290m upgrade after concession is extended
Diaspora investors to raise $100m from Zimbabwe institutions for railways upgrade
Mnangagwa can win without cheating, says London-based professor
Mugabe slapped with $174,183 default judgement
Vote for Zimbabwe not charismatic leaders, say country's bishops
Key economic indicators ahead of Zimbabwe elections
MDC Alliance lacks money to pay for ads
Zimbabwe launches space agency
Chamisa leads MDC protest, as ZEC controversies keep coming (VOA, Chronicle, NewsDay)
MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa is leading a protest march in Harare today (pictured below from Chamisa’s Twitter feed) over alleged irregularities in the way the election is being run by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. “The two main reasons include the decision by ZEC to refuse political parties the chance to observe the printing of the ballot papers and secondly, ZEC's failure to avail a copy of the voters roll as is provided by the law,” the Alliance said in a statement. ZEC’s actions “are meant to assist Zanu PF [in] steal[ing] the people's victory,” the statement said. At a rally yesterday, Vice President and coup-leader Constantino Chiwenga called the MDC Alliance “cry-babies”, saying “ZEC is an independent body and as Zanu PF we have nothing to do with it”, and pointing out that the opposition “were part of the process to put the electoral body in place.”
Meanwhile, new irregularities continue to crop up. After last week’s revelations [see ZDB 2 July] of hundreds of voters registered at the same address, a whole polling station has now been discovered which only has two voters registered at it. Alliance spokesman Welshman Ncube said “there is no place where you can have two registered voters living in a 2km radius. It is caused by an attempt to manipulate the voters roll.” Linda Masarira, spokesperson for the Thokozani Khupe-led MDC-T faction which is not in the Alliance, agreed: “When we find a polling station with only two voters, it means that these are the polling stations that are used to rig elections.”
Today’s march, which should be huge, will make a lot of noise and probably help shore up the MDC Alliance vote in Harare. However, it is unlikely to make a dent in Zanu-PF’s rural strongholds - or in ZEC’s attitude. Its leader, Priscilla Chigumba, was unapologetic in a press conference on Monday [see ZDB 10 July], telling opposition parties the ZEC has already made more than enough concessions.
Military seen in villages to shore up rural vote for Mnangagwa (NewsDay, NewZimbabwe, VoA)
MDC-linked think-tank the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) has alleged that a huge number of soldiers has been deployed in villages across the country to intimidate the opposition and mobilise support for the ruling party ahead of the July 30 elections. ZDI executive director Pedzisayi Ruhanya said the deployments were mostly in Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East provinces which were strongholds of the G40 faction of Zanu-PF, loyal to Robert, and in particular Grace, Mugabe who were deposed by the army last November to make way for current President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
It’s a fascinating finding. Zanu-PF has always relied on the rural vote to win elections, but now that the Zanu-PF has split, the military (which denies ZDI’s accusations) appears to be trying to ensure that the rural vote stays with its faction of the ruling party. This is a seriously worrying development for the credibility of these polls - worth watching how international observers react to the allegations.
Mozambique’s Beira Port to see $290m upgrade after concession is extended (Zitamar News)
The Mozambican government gave the concessionaire at Beira Port another 15 years on condition it spends $290 million upgrading the port and the road and rail infrastructure to the Forbes/Machipanda border with Zimbabwe.
The promised investment is a clear bet by the Mozambicans that Zimbabwe will start to make a real economic recovery after the elections.
Diaspora investors to raise $100m from Zimbabwe institutions for railways upgrade (The Herald)
The Johannesburg-based Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG), which recently won the $400 million tender to recapitalise and operate the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) together with Transnet of South Africa, is planning to raise $100m from Zimbabwean institutions such as insurance, pension funds and banks, to invest in upgrading the country’s rail infrastructure. DIDG will issue two $50m tranches of ‘prescribed asset notes’, a debt instrument that enables mandated institutional investors to lend to infrastructure development firms that have been granted Prescribed Project status by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
A recovering Zimbabwean economy needs an operational NRZ - and a sustainable NRZ needs a recovering Zimbabwean economy. Turning the NRZ around is a huge job, but the diaspora investors’ initiative to leverage institutional investors’ cash would seem a good place to start. NRZ is $323m in debt, of which $98, is unpaid salaries, and is estimated to need $1.9bn for its long-term recovery. Operational problems mean it’s now moving around 3m tons of cargo yearly, down from 18m in the year 2000.
Mnangagwa can win without cheating, says London-based professor (SOAS, The Zimbabwe Mail, The Herald, The Insider)
Stephen Chan of SOAS at the University of London has predicted a win for Zanu-PF - a stance which has earned him the epithet of ‘pro-Zanu-PF professor’ from The Zimbabwe Mail. In a short video interview, Chan says: “The opposition has not had a very good beginning to its campaign. Its former leader died without anointing a successor; there have been all kinds of squabbles as to who that successor should be and their late start means that they may not be able to make up the headroom that Mnangagwa has been able to achieve. So without needing to cheat I think the ruling party is likely to win this particular election.”
Chan is a respected - and probably, in fact, non-partisan - expert who is worth listening to. A credible Mnangagwa win is probably the result that will lead to the smoothest and most peaceful transition; but whether he wins fair and square depends on whether you count such things as control of the media and other incumbent benefits as ‘cheating’.
Mugabe slapped with $174,183 default judgement (NewsDay)
Former President Robert Mugabe’s family business, Gushungo Holdings has been ordered to pay $174,183 to Seed Potato Co-op for seed supplied in 2015. The default judgment was entered on 2 July by Justice Joseph Musakwa after Gushungo Holdings failed to defend the case brought by the seed company earlier this year, claiming non-payment of part of a contract to supply potato seed to Mugabe’s six farms, namely Mwenewazvo, Gushungo Dairy, Highfield, Vusumuzi, Kaseplan and Iron Mask.
This would never have happened before the coup but the age of Mugabe’s impunity has gone - and business owners are now stepping up to recoup their debts against the family. Mugabe’s step-son, for example, was recently threatened with eviction from a Harare property for non-payment of rentals.
The potato case has also exposed the hypocrisy of Mugabe championing the one-person-one-farm policy during his incumbency, while he himself owned least six farms.
Vote for Zimbabwe not charismatic leaders, say country's bishops (The Tablet)
The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference has issued a letter commending the prevailing peace as elections approach, and urging the electorate to vote for a system that champions collaborative governance, not just charisma.
Catholic bishops are traditionally very influential in Zimbabwe. In the early years of independence, they tended to back Mugabe - a Catholic himself - but later became very critical of him. Their latest pastoral letter sounds pro-Mnangagwa, who they say is “energetically” seeking foreign investment and has expanded freedoms - while the dig at ‘charismatic leaders’ would appear to be aimed at Chamisa.
Key economic indicators ahead of Zimbabwe elections (The Source)
Respect Gwenzi of Harare-based Equity Axis has written a review of the first half of 2018 in Zimbabwe’s macro-economy. Our highlights:
Inflation is low but likely to rise as government keeps borrowing
Money supply has grown 36% year-on-year
Zim is losing $250m in FX outflows every month
The country’s economic recovery is increasing pressure on forex demand
Manufacturing investment is ‘hamstrung’ by forex crisis
In agriculture, maize production is down 50% but tobacco is picking up the slack
MDC Alliance lacks money to pay for ads (The Herald)
The MDC Alliance is struggling to raise money to pay for advertising slots made available by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation on both radio and television. The opposition coalition now risks forfeiting the slots to other political parties. “We are living on a hand to mouth budget, and this is a daily thing,” said Alliance spokesman Welshman Ncube. “We have done posters and billboards and we will continue to appeal for donations. There is a finance committee headed by Tendai Biti, which is working 24×7 to mobilise resources.”
The MDC is notably less visible in the media this time around, unlike in previous elections when they received generous funding from Europe and America. Donors are now far less supportive of regime change in Zimbabwe - see, for instance, the recent withdrawal of US funding for a raft of regime-critical NGOs [ZDB 2 July].
Zimbabwe launches space agency (phys.org, fin24, The Herald)
President Mnangagwa launched The Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency yesterday, which will deploy earth observation satellites, global navigation satellite systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, geospatial and space technologies for better farming, mineral exploration, wildlife conservation, infrastructure management and disease surveillance, he said in Harare.
There clearly are practical applications for a Zimbabwean space agency, but many voters will see this as a distraction or vanity project in a country still grappling with widespread poverty. For Zanu-PF’s patriotic voter base, however, it could play positively as a statement of Zimbabwe’s status as a serious and developed country.
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