“I feel deeply and proudly a true son of Africa after receiving this passport,” said Déby. Dlamini-Zuma said that the body had been “overwhelmed” with requests for the passport since its launch was announced in January and that other heads of state would be issued with the document over the course of the summit, which concludes Monday.
Dlamini-Zuma also urged heads of states in Africa to create their own protocols for introducing the pan-African passport to their citizens “as and when they are ready.”
The document will initially only be available to politicians and diplomats. Images of the passport show inscriptions in five languages—English, French, Arabic, Portuguese and Swahili—and the AU claims that the document has “high security features,” although it is not clear what these are.
The AU outlined in 2013 the introduction of a African passport in its Agenda 2063 document, which lays out the conditions for development of the continent over the next five decades. Fifty-four African countries are members of the AU—the only non-member is Morocco, which left a precursor organization in 1984 due to a dispute over Western Sahara, a territory contested by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.
The continent already contains several regional blocs, with different levels of freedom of movement. For example, residents of countries in the Economic Community of West African States—a bloc of 15 nations including Nigeria and Ghana—can move freely between member states without having to obtain visas, or obtaining visas upon arrival. Ghana recently instituted a visa-upon-arrival schemefor all AU residents after President John Dramani Mahama announced the policy in February, saying it would stimulate trade and tourism.
A Zimbabwean pastor is being hailed by many of his countrymen as a hero on social media for calling for an end to the country’s economic woes.
With no known political credentials but with a toxic mix of religion and patriotism, Evan Mawarire seems to have won over Zimbabweans who are sick of politicians from all political parties.
In the wake of the pastor’s appearance in court this week, when a magistrate threw out charges by the state prosecutor that he was trying to overthrow President Robert Mugabe, one Zimbabwean in the UK spent hours on Photoshop to create an image of Mr Mawarire as superhero “Captain Zimbabwe”.
“I did it with the younger generation of Zimbabwe in mind who might not understand what the struggle in Zimbabwe is about,” Tawada Sibotshiwe told the BBC after sharing the picture on Twitter.
“I did it so they can visualise the man who has inspired Zimbabweans to seek dialogue with their government in a peaceful manner.”
The pastor has galvanised people outside and inside Zimbabwe, where the governing elite is viewed by some as ruining a once-thriving economy and where the opposition is fractured and ineffectual.
Through his social media movement, which uses the hashtag #ThisFlag, he has been backing a stay-away campaign this month to protest about perceived corruption and economic mismanagement
So does the Baptist preacher have any political credentials?
He told the BBC’s Brian Hungwe in the capital, Harare, that his first brush with politics was as a child after a naughty spell at school in the mid-1990s.
Evan Mawarire left court still wearing his flag
After getting bad grades one term he was moved to another school where he thrived – so much that he was nominated as a child parliamentarian to represent Harare.
The child parliament mirrors Zimbabwe’s real legislative chamber with each constituency having a representative on the body.
Mr Mawarire was then made child president and met the real president.
He described his first encounter with Mr Mugabe as full of “respect and admiration”.
“Today I look back and say: ‘What changed?’ Either I grew up or he messed up big time for sure.”
‘Green is for crops’
After leaving school, he qualified as an auto electrician before starting his church, getting married and having two daughters.
His social media fame came after he spontaneously posted a video online, expressing his frustration at the state of the nation.
Mr Mawarire urges Zimbabweans to wear their flag in protest
He told the Daily Maverick that he filmed the unscripted speech in April in a moment of clarity after a day of struggling to work out how to pay his children’s school fees – most of his income comes from his bookings as a master of ceremonies.
“I was very disappointed. I remember looking at this flag [in my office]. I thought if I was in another country I could not have failed to have what I need,” he told the Zimbabwe Independent.
The video that went viral started with the pastor saying: “I’m not a politician; I’m not an activist… just a citizen.”
Wrapped in the stripped Zimbabwean flag, he then pointed out what each of the flag’s colours was supposed to represent.
“They tell me that the green is for the vegetation and for the crops. I don’t see any crops in my country,” he said, leaning over to fit in the frame of the phone camera while emotive music played the background.
After listing all the ways the flag had let him down, he turned to each colour again stating how it should be an inspiration.
The green “is the power of being able to push through soil, push past limitations and flourish and grow”, he said.
He ended by promising to stop standing on the sidelines and start fighting for his country.
He has gone on to produce many videos posted to Facebook and Twitter. An inspiring orator, he delivers one sentence in English and then repeats it in Shona, Zimbabwe’s most spoken language.
But in all his messages urging people to refuse to pay bribes and to stand up for their rights, he stipulates that all protest must be peaceful.
“Our protest – non-violent, non-inciting, stay-at-home – is the best because it is within the confines of the law,” he told the BBC.
Shutdown activists’ five demands:
Pay civil servants on time
Reduce roadblocks and stop officers harassing people for cash
President Robert Mugabe should fire and prosecute corrupt officials
Plans to introduce bond notes to ease a cash shortage should be abandoned
In this Thursday, July 12, 2012 file photo, the mayor of London Boris Johnson poses for the media with a plate of food in the athletes’ dining hall during a media opportunity at the Olympic and Paralympic athlete’s village in London.
Following the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron, new PM Theresa May named her Cabinet Wednesday. One of the most notable names on the list was pro-Brexiter and former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who was appointed Foreign Secretary.
Critics of Johnson’s appointment have already pointed out his numerous gaffes and propensity for offending foreign leaders. Many media outlets published articles listing all the various countries that Johnson has offended during his reign as mayor.
In April, Johnson said President Barack Obama might have an ancestral dislike of Britain. Johnson didn’t attribute this to Obama’s feelings over U.S. independence in 1776, but to his Kenyan heritage.
“Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender,” Johnson wrote in the Sun about Obama’s purported removal of a Churchill bust from the White House. Obama replaced Churchill with a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr.
But one of the most egregious comments made by the new Foreign Secretary relates to England’s colonial history in Africa.
In a 2002 commentary in the Spectator, Johnson argued that “Africa is a mess” (the entire continent of course) — and it has nothing to do with colonialism.
“The continent may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience. The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more,” he wrote. “The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.”
Not only does Johnson argue that Britain is completely faultless for the current conflicts on the continent, but he also drops other pearls of wisdom like that the British are not guilty of slavery, without the British planting of cash crops “the natives” would still be eating bananas, and the best way to spur the area’s economy would be to cater to British tourists.
As the BBC has reported, “during the last 20 years of the 19th century, Britain occupied or annexed Egypt, the Sudan, British East Africa (Kenya and Uganda), British Somaliland, Southern and Northern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe and Zambia), Bechuanaland (Botswana), Orange Free State and the Transvaal (South Africa), Gambia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, British Gold Coast (Ghana) and Nyasaland (Malawi). These countries accounted for more than 30% of Africa’s population.”
Britain left behind many mass graves and destroyed records of all the brutality it had incurred at the hands of the African people. In Kenya alone, “it is clear that tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of Kikuyu died in the [detainment] camps,” the Guardian reported.
Johnson certainly isn’t the first politician to blatantly ignore the history of imperialism, but that doesn’t make his comments, and his appointment as Foreign Secretary, any less astounding.
Zimbabwean Pastor Evan Mawarire (2nd R), who organized a ‘stay at home’ anti-government protest last week, arrives at the Harare Central Police station in Zimbabwe, July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
HARARE (Reuters) – A Zimbabwean court on Wednesday dismissed charges against a religious leader accused of trying to overthrow the government through an internet campaign that inspired rare protests against President Robert Mugabe.
Pastor Evan Mawarire appeared in a packed Harare courtroom draped in the Zimbabwean flag after spending the night in police cells as officers searched his house, church and office.
Magistrate Vakayi Chikwekwe said prosecutors presented different charges from those read out to Mawarire when he was arrested.
“It’s my finding that the National Prosecuting Authority cannot charge the accused for the first time in court without charges being read out to him,” Chikwekwe told the court.
Mawarire’s lawyer Harrison Nkomo said his client initially faced charges of inciting violence before prosecutors changed the charge to attempting to overthrow the government, which carries up to 20 years in jail in found guilty.
Hundreds of Mawarire’s supporters gathered outside the court, waving the national flag and singing protest songs, as anti-riot police kept a watchful eye.
“We are here in solidarity with a man of the cloth who is standing against a system that has impoverished the citizens of this nation,” Harare resident Pastor Ellard said.
Though Mawarire had called for further “stay at home” protests on Wednesday, queues built up as normal at bus and taxi ranks to ferry people to work, while most businesses were open.
Teachers reported for duty at most public schools, which are conducting mid-year examinations, while nurses and doctors were at work at state-run hospitals.
Mawarire last month posted a video online, that has since gone viral, venting his anger about deteriorating social and economic conditions in Zimbabwe and urging citizens to hold government to account.
“I am angered by the poverty and day to day struggles. The economy is not working and there are no jobs,” Zimbabwean activist Maureen Kademaunga told Reuters.
The preacher’s social media movement has rattled 92-year-old Mugabe’s administration, leading to accusations by the state against Mawarire of inciting public violence.
Anger is rising in Zimbabwe over high unemployment, corruption in government and shortages of money, which has seen people spending hours in bank queues to withdraw their money.
Zimbabwe’s government warned protesters on Tuesday they would face the “full wrath of the law” if they heeded Mawarire’s call, after his #ThisFlag movement organized the biggest anti-government demonstrations in a decade last week.
After his arrest, Mawarire supporters released a pre-recorded video urging Zimbabweans to stage another stay-away protest on Wednesday.
Amnesty International said Mawarire’s arrest was a calculated plan by Zimbabwean authorities to intimidate activists ahead of Wednesday’s protests.
“Instead of suppressing dissenting voices, Zimbabwean authorities should be listening to protesters like Evan Mawarire,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s deputy director for southern Africa.
Evan Mawarire has been posting videos asking people “to be bold” and protest
A Zimbabwean pastor leading a campaign against the government’s handling of the economy has reportedly been charged with inciting public violence.
His own #ThisFlag Twitter campaign feed and the state-run Herald paper tweeted that Evan Mawarire was also being charged with disturbing the peace.
Activists organised a “stay-at-home” protest last Wednesday and planned similar shutdowns this week.
It has mostly been organised on social media and WhatsApp using #ThisFlag.
Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has worsened recently, leading to a chronic cash shortage and delays paying civil servants.
Pastor Mawarire was summoned for questioning by police ahead of a two-day “stay-at-home” protest called for Wednesday and Thursday.
Several hours after he reported to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on Tuesday morning, the #ThisFlag Twitter account posted: “Pastor Evan Mawarire is being charged with section 36 for inciting public violence and disturbing peace.”
It included a video in which the preacher says: “You are watching this video because I have either been arrested or have been abducted. It’s a video we had pre-recorded for a day like this one.”
He ends his message saying that he hopes the shutdowns have been successful.
“Hold this government to account. Never let them get away with anything,” he says.
“Remember this flag is our flag, no-one else loves Zimbabwe more than a Zimbabwean.”
Import ban anger
According to Zimbabwe’s private Newsday newspaper, the pastor turned up at the central police station in the capital, Harare, with a bible and a Zimbabwean flag but without his mobile phone, which is what sources at the station say the CID wants access to.
The authorities have been trying to trace who has been sending out messages about the national shutdown, as several activist groups have been involved.
Last Wednesday’s stay away led to a complete shutdown of schools, businesses and shops across the country.
It was the biggest strike action since 2005 and public transport and some government departments, including the courts, also ceased to function.
Last week, taxi drivers complaining about police extortion also clashed with the security forces in parts of Harare.
Civil servants who had not received their June salaries were paid in the wake of the strike.
These have to be paid in foreign currency as Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009 in order to stem runaway inflation.
There is also anger at a government ban on importing many goods which has been implemented in order to save scarce foreign currency.
But with unemployment at more than 90%, many Zimbabweans rely on cross-border trading to make a living.
Zimbabwe imposed import bans on goods from South Africa
South Africa is one of the biggest investors in Zimababwe
South African President Zuma (L) and Zimbabwe’s Mugabe
South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies wants Zimbabwe to reverse a decision to ban imports of goods from the continent’s most-industrialized economy.
“The minister is engaging through SADC structures and in his capacity with his counterparts,” Sidwell Medupe, a spokesman for the department, said by phone on Monday, referring to the Southern African Development Community. “Engagements are still at an early stage. We hope that an amicable solution will be found.”
In June, Zimbabwe announced a ban on imports of many goods, saying the steps are needed to develop local industries. Products banned include cosmetics, cereals, cheese, canned goods and furniture.
South Africa is one of the biggest investors in Zimbabwe and companies including Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Nedbank Group Ltd. own units there. South Africa’sexports to Zimbabwe amounted to 24.8 billion rand ($1.7 billion) in 2014, while imports stood at 2 billion rand, President Jacob Zuma’s office said in a statement last year.
Zimbabwe’s increasingly totalitarian government on Wednesday shut down access to messaging service WhatsApp for the morning, but it appeared to be working in the afternoon after outrage swept Zimbabwe’s internet users.
“WhatsApp constitutes about 34% of all mobile internet traffic in Zimbabwe and understandably, it being down affects messaging for a lot of Zimbabweans,” the Techzim blog reported, adding that the service was down for about four hours from 7am.
One of the major cellular networks – Econet – confirmed to Techzim its service had been disrupted: “Econet would like to confirm that WhatsApp is currently down. We will notify you once it is working again.”
Zimbabwe’s controversial higher education minister Jonathan Moyo appeared to confirm the shutdown was state-sanction: “If there’s a stay away as you claim then stay away from WhatsApp. What’s gud [sic] for the goose is gud [sic] for the gander!” the former information minister tweeted.
Strikes in the form of stay-aways by civil servants, teachers, doctors and nurses have swept Zimbabwe as its collapsed economy has seen severe cash shortages, resulting in salaries not being paid. Minibus taxi drivers held a strike on Monday to complain about police extorting money during road stops. The hashtags #ThisFlag (started in April by Harare pastor Evan Mawarire) and #ZimShutDown2016 have been trending on Twitter.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been in freefall for years, under the rule of President Robert Mugabe, with hyperinflation causing the Zimbabwe dollar to be replaced with US Dollars and South African Rands. This latest round of unrest follows a ban last month on imported goods from neighbouring South Africa and riots at the Beitbridge border crossing. Traders regularly import basic food stuffs, grains and cereals, dairy products and bottled water as well as furniture, building materials, steel and kitchen products from South Africa.
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ)issued a warning about “the gross irresponsible use of social media and telecommunication services” and warned “that anyone generating, passing on or sharing such abusive and subversive materials which are tantamount to criminal behaviour, will be disconnected and the law will take its course”. POTRAZ added: “All sim cards in Zimbabwe are registered in the name of the user. Perpetrators can easily be identified. We are therefore warning members of the public that from the date of this notice, any person caught in possession of, generating, sharing or passing on abusive, threatening, subversive or offensive telecommunication messages, including whatsapp [sic] or any other social media messages that may be deemed to cause despondency, incite violence, threaten citizens and cause unrest, will be arrested and dealt with accordingly in the national interest.”
Last year Burundi also shut down WhatsApp access during turmoil over attempts by controversial President Pierre Nkurunziza to serve a third term in office after his constitutionally mandated two-terms were completed.
Government forces loyal to Nkurunziza destroyed independent radio stations during an abortive coup last May. Radio is used by 90the majority of Burundi’s population for news, meaning people use social media like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter to share news.
Forbes.Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff magazine. Based in Johannesburg, his TED talk on innovation in Africa has had more than 1.4m views.
Former Zanu-PF activist William Mutumanje also known as Acie Lumumba
Zimbabwe has a new political party, and its leader launched it in the most controversial way possible.
Acie Lumumba, 26, a former activist in the ruling Zanu-PF party, announced the creation of Viva Zimbabwe at a press conference in the capital Harare on Friday. And the young activist directed his words firmly at President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980.
“You’ve never really seen Zimbabweans angry…So here’s the red line. Mr President, Robert Gabriel Mugabe—fuck you. I’ve drawn the line, our kids are in trouble,” said Lumumba, to gasps of shock and a round of applause from the gathered reporters.
The controversial speech has landed Lumumba in police custody. The Viva Zimbabwe leader handed himself over to police in Harare on Monday in the company of his lawyer, a spokesperson for Zimbabwe’s Police Headquarters told Newsweek. The spokesperson says that Lumumba has been charged with undermining the president, an offense that carries a maximum sentence of one year’s imprisonment and a fine of around $300.
A spokesperson for Lumumba tells Newsweek that the activist is currently in police custody will go to court on Wednesday.
During the Viva Zimbabwe inauguration speech, Lumumba also appeared to threaten members of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party if anything should happen to him. “I’m someone’s child, a war veteran’s child. You touch me—you can touch me but I hope you live long, because God forbid something happens to you, and you leave your kids. They will be touched too. I’m not making threats, this is not a threat,” said Lumumba. War veterans who fought in Zimbabwe’s independence struggle hold an exalted position and political influence in the country.
Lumumba said that he would not be contesting for public office in Zimbabwe’s next general election, due to be held in 2018, but that his party would exist to give young people the opportunity to resolve the problems created by the 36-year administration of Mugabe, who turned 92 in February.
HARARE, June 10, 2016 (Xinhua) — Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Huang Ping (L, front) and Zimbabwe’s Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri (R, front) exchange documents during a handover ceremony in Harare, Zimbabwe, June 9, 2016. Zimbabwe’s state weather forecast department has tuned in to signals emitted from polar-orbiting Chinese satellites in a technological makeover aimed to improve the meteorological services of a country which relies on agriculture but has struggled to cope with irrationally changing weather patterns in recent years. (Xinhua/Xu Lingui)
Zimbabwe’s meteorological services department has received state of
the art equipment valued to the tune of $2 million to enhance weather
and climate information dissemination services especially targeting
farmers and remote rural communities.
According to Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Minister of Environment,
Water and Climate under which the meteorological services department
falls, Zimbabwe is one of the first few countries in Africa to receive
such kind of aid where equipment is installed, handed over and at the
same time commissioned.
Kashiri said that the equipment has been donated under the
China-Africa initiative to capacitate the under resourced
meteorological services department.
“The donation comes at a time when the demand for weather and
climate information has become unprecedented due to rapidly changing
weather and climate.Our weather has become more extreme, with dry
spells becoming droughts and rainy events turning into floods,”
The meteorological services department provides vital information
which farmers can use for agricultural planning. Kashiri said that the
information should be readily available at ward level and includes
information on rainfall patterns and early warning on floods.
Kashiri said that the equipment will enhance the quality of the
services being offered by the department.
Two automatic weather stations have been installed at the
Agriculture Extension Services department (AGRITEX) offices at Neshuro
growth point in Masvingo province and in Rushinga district of the
She said that this demonstrates the close link between weather and
agriculture and the partnership between the meteorological services
department and the ministry of Agriculture.
Some of the equipment received by the department include a
polar-orbiting satellite receiving system which is reported to be the
first of its kind in Africa.The system is reported to receive its
images from a chinese satellite that is orbiting the earth from pole
Other equipment include a weather virtual TV studio.The FY-3 polar
orbiting satellite receiving and processing system is an advanced
system that receives all weather and high precision data from polar
orbiting earth observation satellites for medium and long range
numerical weather forecasts, climatic prediction and natural disaster
monitoring for drought, fire,vegetation and water,150 automatic
weather stations, meteorological early warning radio system and 1 600
radios for rural communities and a Meteorological Information
Comprehensive Analysing and Processing System (MICAPS).
With traditional avenues of criticism being closed off, Zimbabweans have taken to protesting online. But don’t mistake this for slacktivism.
Evan Mawarire started #thisflag, but the movement has taken on new life over the past few months.
In a moment of deep frustration this April, Evan Mawarire, a pastor based in Zimbabwe’s capital of Harare, set his camera to record.
Draped in the Zimbabwean flag, the emotional 39-year-old looked into the lens and spoke for over 4 minutes about his weariness at what he saw as the government’s failures and broken promises of liberation.
“When I look at the flag it’s not a reminder of my pride and inspiration – it feels as if I just want to belong to another country,” he said.
As he posted the video online, he could never have imagined the response. Within a day, the video had reportedly been viewed 120,000 times and soon the hashtag #thisflag was trending as other Zimbabweans emulated the pastor in posting their own grievances.
“I was astounded that such a large number of people felt the same way. So many people identified with what I was saying, that our country has let us down,” Mawarire told African Arguments.
However, it did not stop there. With the administration of President Robert Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF party tightening its grip on the media recently, #thisflag broke a taboo and soon found itself at the heart of what seemed to be a growing trend of disgruntled Zimbabweans remonstrating, demonstrating and mobilising online.
Later that month, for example, ZANU-PF’s Acie Lumumba opted to air his grievances at being fired from the Youth Empowerment committee under the hashtag #digdeeper. He later resigned from the ruling party and has been posting videos on social media attacking Mugabe and accusing cabinet ministers of corruption.
Meanwhile, other opposition groups such as #Asijiki (meaning ‘we will not back down’) have also emerged in the wake of #thisflag.
Moreover, many of these new groups and movements have not just stayed online but also translated into action on the streets.
In June, for instance, Mawarire led a group of over 200 activists to meet Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor John Mangudya to protest against the introduction of bond notes.
Acie Lumumba has launched a political party called Viva Zimbabwe which he says will fight against the Mugabe regime.
And protesters linked to #tajamuka (meaning ‘we have rebelled’) – a movement led by Patson Dzamara, whose activist brother Itai went missing over a year ago – has seen dozens of Zimbabweans occupying Harare’s Africa Unity Square and, more recently,protesting against Vice-President Phekezela Mphoko’s continued stay at Rainbow Sheraton Hotel at the taxpayers’ expense.
The government fights back
Openly criticising the government has typically been a risky business in Zimbabwe, and many who have dared speak out against Mugabe or ZANU-PF have been imprisoned, attacked or disappeared. Additionally, over the past few years, media freedoms have been particularly squeezed with more journalists being persecuted and news houses threatened.
It is in this context that online platforms seem to have presented a less traditional but potentially far-reaching way for large numbers of Zimbabweans to both access dissenting viewpoints and share their own. And with mobile penetration at 95.4% and internet access at 48.1%, the implications could be huge.
This kind of online activism is more difficult for the government to monitor, though that has not stopped government supporters trying to push back. Mawarire, for instance, has been intimidated and received death threats. Lumumba’s house was broken into, with the assailants taking his laptop and leaking a sex tape which was on the machine. And many of the protesters who have been part of the #tajamuka movement have been arrested.
The Zimbabwean government has also engaged in its own war of words, firstly trying (largely unsuccessfully) to kickstart the counter-hashtag #OurFlag, but also trying to delegitimse the social media phenomenon as a US conspiracy.
After US ambassador Harry Thomas tweeted “wonder if #Zimbabwe’s #thisflag movement will spread to the US and other nations”, Zimbabwean Minister Jonathan Moyo claimed the US was behind the whole movement. He claimed a meeting the ambassador had held with social media voices was “Evidence of an exposed cat coming out of a see-through bag” and claimed “US envoys ignited social media revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, whose common outcome was bloodshed”.
Furthermore, faced with growing dissent, Mugabe has even threatened to control social media, saying: “There is a lot of filth in it. There are a lot of serious insults peddled in there…China set up security measures and we will soon look into how they are administering it so that the abuses and insults can be reduced.”
However, ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira has poured cold water on this idea somewhat, saying: “[The internet] is an important tool for development and no sane government or sane minister would say we want to ban social media. And if there was an intention by anyone to ban social media it would be next to impossible.”
“We are not afraid to die”
With more people organising and expressing discontentment on social media, the Zimbabwean government is understandably spooked, though commentators disagree as to to what extent these movements will actually be able to shape change at the political level.
According to some commentators such as Floyd Kadete, for example, “It doesn’t come as a surprise that the entire voting population has access to the messages and it is bad news for the government”. Meanwhile others such as Rhodes PhD scholar Admire Mare are more cautious, emphasising that “social media is not a magic bullet. What is needed is civic education to create political consciousness.”
However, all tend to agree that regardless of the popularity of hashtags and online movements, the real measure of success will be the extent to which these mobilisations can be translated into offline momentum. “Obviously the government officials are threatened as one can see from the way they are responding to this social media movement,” says Mike Vareta, a Harare-based analyst, “but the problem is how to transform from social media protests to go into the streets.”
On this front, there is plenty still to be done, though the success of movements such as #thisflag and #tajamuka in leading to marches and protests have been notable. Furthermore, although many movements may begin with relatively easy actions online, there seems to be no shortage of passion or determination amongst Zimbabwe’s activists to mobilise offline too and put their bodies on the line.
“This regime has failed to protect human rights and it is time to confront them,” says Dzamara. “We are not afraid to die.”
Mawarire echoes this, adding “Even if they kill me, they won’t kill the idea.”
A puzzle with the national flag of Zimbabwe and a US dollar banknote. (Image: Shutterstock)
Zimbabwe’s adoption of the South African rand (ZAR) as its main transaction currency to replace the US dollar in the country’s multi-currency system will “encourage” foreign direct investment according to an investment specialist in Zimbabwe at one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory organizations managing billions of dollars.
The move, which could come as soon as in the next few weeks, could help the country reduce domestic prices and raise its international competitiveness.
The assessment from South African-born Shane Helberg, Area Manager of Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique at deVere Group, which has around $10bn under advice from 80,000 mainly expatriate clients globally, comes after reports that the development is around the corner.
His comments follow presentations made on 6 June by representatives of the Bankers’ Association of Zimbabwe and the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development, where it was stated that the adoption of the rand would be one of the measuresrequired to address the cash shortages facing the country.
And, Zimbabwe certainly needs an investment boost. This year has witnessed an escalation of cash shortages in the country, which is mostly a US dollar-based economy after domestic currency hit the skids back in the 2008 after hyperinflation gripped the nation.
Economy & Hyperinflation
Zimbabwe witnessed the first hyperinflation of the 21st century, which at its peak in mid-November 2008 reached an incredible monthly rate of 79.6 billion percent. At this point it took prices just 24.7 hours to double.
The economy went into free fall following a campaign to seize white-owned commercial farms. And, recent years saw a move from a broad range of currencies to an almost dominance by the US dollar. Today the Greenback accounts for around 95% of all transactions in the country.
At the heart of the matter for Zimbabwe is a dire shortage of foreign investment. Shifting to the South African rand could help the authorities gain time and allow them to initiate a much needed shot in the arm in terms of implementing policies that are investor friendly.
Helberg, who served with the British military for five years before joining up with deVere in the Zimbabwean capital Harare, commenting says: “Zimbabwe’s adoption of the Rand as the main trading currency within the country’s multi-currency system should be championed.”
As to who will champion it, reports have pointed to the Zimbabwean and South African governments reaching an agreement during the recent continental summit in Ethiopia.
The South African president Jacob Zuma has also been quoted as saying: “I’m very much impressed by such a great and historical event that will be witnessed between the two countries both economically and socially.”
“Whilst the rand perhaps is not as weighty as the US dollar for international trade as it is more volatile against major currencies, it must be noted that the dollar has not been effective in arresting the freefalling economy in recent times,” remarks Helberg.
Zimbabwe introduced a multi-currency system in 2009 to help prevent unofficial trading. In addition to the US dollar, the country allows the use of currencies including the rand, yuan, pound and the euro. While that helped control inflation, it also left the government short of cash to buy essential imports and pay its bills – 80% of which involve civil servants’ salaries.
Stability and certainty is always welcomed by foreign investors and especially so in emerging markets. And, not all emerging markets – especially in Africa – can be considered homogenous.
Primary Currency: Benefits
Using one primary currency, the rand, for commerce is likely to be beneficial for a number of key reasons. “Firstly, it’s is better to move to using one single semi-convertible currency than a multiplicity of currencies at the moment as it reduces confusion and uncertainty,” says the South African.
Move To The Rand
Should the move prove to the Rand be successful, Helberg contends that “we can expect further levels of foreign investment and in turn more expats moving to Zimbabwe.” A steady rise in foreign investment into country will represent a clear mark of success after such a move.
Clearly, international organizations and people bring with them a raft of potentially enormous associated economic benefits to any host country.
“Zimbabweans and expats already in the country will be thankful that a single currency could replace the present variety of currencies used for the added economic stability it will likely generate,” note Helberg in Harare.
Secondly, the measure should also help boost trade links with South Africa, Zimbabwe’s major trading partner. For many years, South Africa has been Zimbabwe’s single largest trading partner.
According to statistics from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe imports from South Africa in March 2016 represented 22% of total imports. On the export front, South Africa accounted for 78% of the nation’s total.
The future development is especially important for Zimbabwe as it will make China, amongst others, more confident about investing in the country if it helps stabilize the economy.
It has been reported that China is expected to channel more than $20bn worth of investments to Zimbabwe and South Africa. And, Helberg posits that this “arrangement might have helped spur on the agreement” on rand use between the beneficiaries.
Currently the majority of Zimbabwean manufacturers are importing raw materials from South Africa. In addition, Zimbabwe imports household and basic goods from South Africa as the local industry is still struggling to meet demand. Similarly, Zimbabwean supermarket shelves are found to have around two-thirds of imported products mainly from South Africa.
Zimbabwe’s main industries are Mining (coal, gold, platinum, copper, nickel, tin, diamonds, clay, numerous metallic/non-metallic ores), steel; wood products, cement, chemicals, fertilizer, clothing and footwear, foodstuffs and beverages.
Thirdly, such a move will increase Zimbabwe’s competitiveness in broader global terms as it will make exports cheaper. Also prices in Zimbabwe will reduce.
“When the rand becomes the de facto currency of Zimbabwe, the country’s economic woes could seriously start to diminish” he also suggests. And, this according to the South African would “drive confidence in Zimbabwe” as being a place to do business and invest.
On the property front, emerging and frontier markets – including in Africa – presents unique and individual challenges for property occupiers and investors. And, highlighting that countries across Africa cannot be considered as homogenous, a report published last year by commercial property and real-estate consultants Cushman & Wakefield rated Zimbabwe ‘high risk’.
In a risk analysis of the top 42 emerging and frontier markets around the globe, while Cushman & Wakefield’s annual ‘Emerging and Frontier Markets’ (2015) report ranked five African markets in the top 10 globally – with Botswana overall number one as the “most transparent” of emerging economies – Zimbabwe ranked a lowly 39th just one spot ahead of Angola.
The principal office market in Zimbabwe is the capital city Harare, which has a population of around 1.5 million. The report noted the “weakening economy and on-going political uncertainty” had led to reduced demand from international occupiers over the past few years and higher vacancy rates in the city centre.
The focus for most occupiers is on suburban locations, with cost reduction and consolidation remaining key trends. In terms of the rental outlook for 2016, this report forecasted Harare’s USD/sq.m/year level at $144.00 ($120.00), a decline of 17% over the previous year. Demand was found to be still highest for smaller-sized suites, with higher quality accommodation letting more quickly. However, larger floor plates were taking much longer to let.
deVere is one major global brand that is currently using its resources to develop its presence in the country with its strategic and ambitious growth plans for the longer term. Helberg reveals that the firm intends to “take on more financial advisers and support staff” to meet the anticipated demand across Zimbabwe and wider southern Africa throughout 2016/17.
The rand was trading at around ZAR14.78 against the US dollar at 17.34 UTC today, with its low over the past 12 months being 12.25 and a high of 16.88. Prior to the Brexit vote USD/ZAR was at 14.40 but has receded now by 2.63%.
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – FEBRUARY 17: Robert Gumede during the Super Rugby Lions press conference at The Referee’s Drop In Room, GLRU’s offices on February 17, 2011 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Robert Gumede is one of Africa’s most accomplished business leaders and investors. The 55 year-old South African entrepreneur is the founder of the Guma Group, a leading black-owned investment company with businesses spanning Information Technology, mining, tourism, infrastructure development, hospitality and energy in several African countries.
Gumede is most popular for founding Gijima Group, an ICT company that provides application services, infrastructure configuration and end-to-end managed outsource services to clients across Southern Africa, but his business interests toay are far more extensive.
Gumede is also one of South Africa’s most recognizable philanthropists. His charity, theKeni Foundation, has given away millions of dollars in scholarships to poor South African students.
I recently caught up with Gumede, who is popularly referred to as the ‘Black Knight’ in South Africa’s social circles. He recounted his humble beginnings, mused on Sino-Africa relations, and talked about his philanthropic activities among other issues.
You are one of the most successful and recognizable business leaders in Africa today. But what’s the background story of Robert Gumede?
I was born one of seven children amidst the socioeconomic and political climate of apartheid; the same year Nelson Mandela was sentenced to prison for life.
I was raised in Nelspruit, perhaps the most beautiful part of South Africa, parented by my single mother and grandmother. I started off my professional business career at the age of 7. As a 7-year-old young man, I would caddie at the Nelspurit Golf Club for prominent farmers and businesspersons that I came to admire. These people were extremely successful and I was captivated by their passion for their various businesses and their incredible drive to succeed. I always kept it at the back of my mind that I wanted to become successful like these people.
As time went on, I proceeded to study Law at the University of Zululand and eventually became a Lawyer. But while serving as a prosecutor at the Kabokweni Magistrate’s Court early in my professional life, I grew tired of witnessing the sentencing of men and women who committed petty crimes like stealing milk to feed their families. Deep down, I knew I wanted to follow in the footsteps of the entrepreneurs I grew up admiring and build my own successful enterprise.
So in 1988, I started Gijima Electronic And Security Systems (Pty) Ltd, which is the flagship company of Guma Group. In 1992, I moved to Johannesburg – the City of Gold’ to build the business from there. I opened a small office – Guma Group’s first office, in a basement located within an industrial park. As we were a relatively new business, I had to learn effective networking and marketing to win clients. Before long, our business prospered. In 1999 I listed the company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and the sale of some of my stake in the company gave me the liquidity to make other smart and timely investments in tourism, hospitality, property development and mineral exploration. And we are still expanding and investing into new businesses in Africa and beyond.
During apartheid, black people were not allowed to play economic contributory roles of value. After the demise of apartheid, the Mandela government introduced a scheme to bring black people in to the mainstream economy through what we called ‘Black Economic Empowerment’ (BEE). Against the mantra of BEE, I took on the white-owned I.T. enterprise AST and through entrepreneurial flare in doing so, I saved over 2,000 white jobs; instead of BEE, I executed a “White Economic Empowerment ” (WEE) initiative, one achieved by its ‘Black Knight’, ergo the moniker.
With the Guma Group of Companies today operating in over 32 countries, with over 12,000 staff members and international clients and partners including British Airways and American Express, we are unlike any offering on the continent; in fact, years ago, you would never think the Duty-Free trolleys rolling through BA airline aisles worldwide would be owned by an African boy ‘from the village’.
Yet they are; I choose to believe in this unique differentiation achieved by hard work matched by ingenuity, entrepreneurial traits inherent to Africa.
What new business territories are you venturing into in the near future?
We seek to expand our operations into new sectors such as renewable energy, information technology for taxation and population registration with a citizen card, and water purification among other things. I think it’s unfortunate that Africa is home to most of the world’s fresh water reserves and yet so many people across Africa struggle to get clean water to drink. This is tragic, and the Guma Group is exploring ways to address this problem for Africa’s poorest people. Currently, we have interests across the continent and with international partners beyond our borders, such as China. We are consistently exploring new regions to expand our investments, innovate where we can and deploy our present portfolio.
‘Where’ region-specifically is a particularly intriguing question; we seek to enhance development throughout the Southern African Development Community (or SADC); North Africa, such as Egypt; the Economic Community of West African States (or ECOWAS) such as Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria. Regarding Nigeria, I must recognize fellow African entrepreneurial minds such as Aliko Dangote, who has embarked on a terrific professional journey which had roots in the cement manufacturing industry. Proud of his achievements, where he crafts cement, I use it to build roads, dams and major throughways where we presently operate and indeed where we seek to grow.
Lastly, when people refer to ‘Black Africa’ today, they do not mean pigment of our African skins; they mean the way our continent looks from Space versus the West and the deserts of the Middle East – We must create lasting change for the next generation and work together to light up the continent and compete effectively in a globalizing marketplace.
We have concurrently witnessed tremendous integration from China in Pan-African emerging markets; what can be drawn from the dichotomy between Sino-African enterprises and the West’s trepidation?
There is no question the West is lagging behind China as it pertains to integration and doing business effectively in Africa. This isn’t new. As I’ve stated many times, it remains undeniable that China has been contributing to Africa’s economy in a way that the former Western colonial powers failed to do for over 400 years.
Opportunities for mutual benefit in Africa are being squandered in the West and bearing fruit in the East, with China’s President Xi Jinping this year pledging to invest $60 billion in African States. In fact, Scott Eisner, vice-president of African affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce, has said himself that the US “…has a small window in the next couple of years before China, India and Brazil compete or partner on the continent and trade relations are theirs to own almost exclusively’”.
However, at present, we find the West setting up private equity that compete against local African businessmen instead of channeling funding through partnership and directly with like-minded entrepreneurs and providing a debt instrument that is competitive.
We seek to raise awareness to the opportunities available for the Chinese private sector to continue to compete, continue to integrate and to do so with efficiency by partnering with local businessmen as opposed to State Owned Enterprise to State Owned Enterprise; our approach is a mutually beneficial and socially responsible endeavor.
How best can South Africa reinvigorate dynamism from within and promote the opportunity it offers to international investors?
Where many may see challenge, I see opportunity. This downturn has perhaps for the first time in our democracy got government and the private sector to work closer together. However, it is no doubt extremely crucial that we restore foreign integration and domestic market confidence to increase GDP and enthusiastically promote the wide array of opportunities available for investment in the country.
As Africans, we must demand more from our leadership at all levels. They must respect the rule-of-law and promote best practices in governance. We must also demand more from our fellow successful entrepreneurs and ensure that they give back to their local communities and economically empower others. Also, we must do more in letting the world know that we are open for responsible, efficient business and that South Africa is a vital throughway for the continent.
To S&P, to the greater international community, I will say this and it’s an adage I use often – “It is best to climb on the back of an elephant when it is on its knees. For when the elephant rises, it must rise with you on top of its back”; that is what entrepreneurship in Africa is all about.
You’ve given millions of dollars in charitable donations in South Africa through your Keni Foundation. Why do you feel it is important for the business community to be more philanthropic?
Africa simply cannot wait for foreign businessmen like Bill Gates to bring in billions of dollars to assist the continent. It is also high time Africa stopped being seen as a basket case and rather the breadbasket for which it should be. Those of us who have made it through the opportunities created by our forefathers have a moral responsibility to empower those who have not been as fortunate. I love giving scholarships and supporting educational causes because I believe that education is the bedrock of world-class aspirations.
However, it is social responsibility, with particular regard to the private sector that instills investor confidence and assuages integration concerns.
We must look to ensure the future of the next generation of African leadership in public and private life is one of equal and ample opportunity. The Robert Gumede Family Keni Foundation (RGFKF) was formed in 2010 and is a wholly broad based, black empowerment family trust, with a key role being to contribute to vulnerable communities, give back and thereby create a climate conducive for sustainable development, with societal value throughout.
Any last words?
For Africans to continue to thrive, we need certainty, rule of law, stability, overarching opportunity and determined leadership. Leaders like President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia (once a war-torn country, this strong woman is the first democratically-elected female President on the continent) and private sector thought leaders marking their own path will steward Africa’s renaissance.
We need to industrialize Africa, as this is Africa’s century.