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Drop sanctions for access to lithium

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United States entrepreneur Glenn Jakins says there is an urgent need to lift targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe, paving the way for access to the country’s lithium resource. He has warned the US government against maintaining the hard-line stance, arguing that this will only leave a vacuum which competitors like China, Russia and other Eastern Europe nations will exploit. Zimbabwe has Africa’s largest lithium resource and ranks fifth globally amid indications that the “white gold” could be the country’s sanctions busting card. Sanctions are the government’s convenient, ongoing excuse for Zimbabwe’s dire economic situation.

Zim dollar implodes, retail prices double

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Zimbabwe’s free-falling currency, the Zimbabwe dollar, is imploding, forcing retailers to scramble for answers by doubling prices compared to last week and causing fresh headaches for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration ahead of elections scheduled for later this year. Chiedza Madzima, head of Africa research at Fitch Solutions, said in an interview on Monday: “The best means to fight volatility for Zimbabwe will be through an improvement in governance, stronger anti-corruption efforts, and a reduction in risk of debt monetisation and fiscal slippages.”

Authoritarian rule deepens ahead of elections

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“Zimbabwe is witnessing the deepening of authoritarian politics that is likely to mark the country’s political character for the foreseeable future,” writes acclaimed Professor Brian Raftopoulos, a leading Zimbabwean scholar and activist. He warns that: “The combination of a new chapter in a long history of gold and other mineral exploitation and plunder, and a suffocating closure of democratic spaces by the latest constellation of elite brigands, provides a dire setting for the 2023 elections.” The elections are scheduled to take place in July or August 2023 in the wake of Al Jazeera’s explosive ‘Gold Mafia’ exposé.

Gold, the curse of Zimbabwe

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Cathy Buckle, writing in her latest newsletter from Zimbabwe, reports that: “The big ‘hush-hush’ subject, the gold mafia operating in and out of Zimbabwe, continues to be exposed in a four part series of documentaries produced by Al Jazeera. It is utterly sickening. Gold is hemorrhaging from every pore in Zimbabwe, carried out through airports in bags that are not inspected and by people who are not questioned. The smugglers are arrogant and boastful as they smirk, laugh and brag about their exploits. They talk not about ounces but about kilograms of gold; they talk not about millions but about billions of dollars….”

“The Gold Mafia”4-part exposé by Al Jazeera

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“The Gold Mafia”, a four-part investigation by Al Jazeera’s acclaimed Investigative Unit, exposes one of the largest smuggling operations in the world, operating across Africa. Some of southern Africa’s biggest gold smuggling gangs plunder their countries to enrich themselves and those at the top who facilitate the criminal activities . Undercover reporters pose as Chinese criminals to infiltrate these gangs, which offers them options to wash dirty dollars using Zimbabwean gold which is then smuggled to their headquarters in Dubai. Here are the links to each of the four episodes, with brief write-ups on each.

Reversal of US dollar domination predicted

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Zimbabwean economics professor, Gift Mugano, predicts a reversal of the current scenario where US dollars rather than Zim dollars are dominating transactions in the economy. He warns that the economy could be heading towards another “painful currency circle,” probably the third in five years, and that this would have serious implications on investments and confidence. He noted that the banking system and Government, combined, were facilitating a process for the creation of “fake” US dollars or US dollars in RTGS through the process of issuance of loan creation and treasury bills which are later discounted.

SA banks agree to fund US$193m Zim hospitals project

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Zimbabwe is to raise US$193 million in offshore lending to implement a 2019 agreement with UK infrastructure company NMS for the construction of hospitals and clinics in the country. South African banks ABSA and Standard bank of South Africa are the joint arrangers for the transaction, which will be insured by Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa (ECIC). To get the backing of the foreign banks, Zimbabwe is using US$35 million of International Monetary Fund (IMF) SDR (Special Drawing Rights) funds as cash cover. NMS plans to build five 80-bed District Hospitals and thirty 20-bed clinics.

Pressure mounts on Zim govt cover “Gold Mafia” documentary

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Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), a leading corruption watchdog, has piled pressure on government and the Financial Intelligence Unit to act on politically-connected individuals implicated in a gold smuggling/money laundering ring exposed by Part 1 of Al Jazeera’s ‘Gold Mafia’ documentary series. In ‘Gold Mafia’, President Mnangagwa’s Ambassador at Large to the Americas and Europe, Uebert Angel, is shown as the face of gold smuggling. TIZ says that licences of individuals implicated should be revoked pending an investigation into the allegations by Al Jazeera’s internationally respected Investigative Unit.“

Unseating failed liberation movements

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As the tide of liberation movement failure in Africa rises ever higher and the masses realise they’ve been conned, how do you make politics competitive enough to incentivise them to change their ways? “In the case of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU PF party, it’s the old, brutal face of authoritarianism, involving beatings and assassinations,” note Dr Greg Mills and Ray Hartley of the Brenthurst Foundation in South Africa. They warn that: “you have to recognise that the ruling party won’t go easily, and that you have to win big enough that the vote rigging would be so extreme that even the shameless inside and outside would notice.”

Land Crash – Zimbabwe beyond title deeds

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This deeply moving documentary, produced by the Southern African Agri Initiative (SAAI), is a powerful and poignant examination of the ongoing struggle for justice and the protection of human rights in Zimbabwe. Throughout history, the story of land grabs always ends the same: in the end, the dispossessed need to be compensated. Zimbabwe is no exception. It is now 23 years since Mugabe’s Zanu PF started to drive white farmers off their farms brutally and almost three years after the Global Compensation Deed (GCD) with agricultural organisations was signed. However, no compensation has materialized yet. 

Zim ranked the world’s fourth unhappiest country

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Zimbabwe is the world’s fourth unhappiest country, after Afghanistan, Lebanon and Sierra Leone, according to the latest World Happiness Report. On the other end, Finland is the world’s happiest country, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Israel, and the Netherlands. The annual World Happiness Report ranks global happiness in more than 150 countries around the world. Millions of Zimbabweans have left the country to escape poverty over the past two decades, with the majority of those left behind, including civil servants, living in abject poverty. Zimbabwe currently has the highest inflation in the world at 230 percent.

Great Zimbabwe, our greatest treasure

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In Cathy Buckle’s latest newsletter, she revisits one of the country’s primary tourist attractions, Great Zimbabwe, with its towering, hand-carved stone walls, once an ancient capital populated by 12-15,000 people. She also writes of the grinding poverty en route, noting that “the Diaspora is keeping us alive: from family there to family here, propping us up, helping us pay our bills and buy our food while our leaders grow ever richer and their opulence gets ever grander. Seventeen years later we are rushing headlong back to 2005-2009: queuing for money, power cuts of 18 hours a day and inflation that is now 480%.”

MCF’s latest newsletter from Zimbabwe

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In our executive director Ben Freeth’s latest newsletter from Zimbabwe, he writes that, with the excellent rains, the rivers are flowing and the dams are filling. The MCF hopes this year to produce enough free seed packs to donate to 15,000 desperate families across Zimbabwe who have no reliable income at a time when food inflation is the highest in the world and commercial seed is unaffordable. The MCF is gearing up towards our regular update event at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Tuesday 20 June.  Please diarise the date. It will take place at a critical time ahead of Zimbabwe’s 2023 elections.  

A new political settlement, not elections

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Elections will not solve the socio-economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe, warned SAPES Trust in their latest webinar titled: “Is election violence in 2023 increasing ahead of the poll?” In the face worsening ruling party violence, escalating intimidation and clear indications already that the elections will not be free and fair, SAPES Trust recommends a regionally and internationally supported political settlement and a transitional arrangement. This would have to include substantial reform of the State and return of the military to civilian control, leading to elections under a new social contract.

Derek Matyszak, legal & political analyst: tribute

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It with great sadness that the Mike Campbell Foundation has learnt of the passing of Derek Matyszak. Derek was a founding member of the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) in Zimbabwe, and a former chairperson of the Amani Trust, as well as a Board member of multiple NGOs. Tony Reeler, a senior researcher at RAU, who worked with Derek for many years, writes that Derek was a well-known lawyer and academic, but was best known for his legal activism.  He authored more than 80 research papers, legal opinions, detailed election analyses and Op-Eds for RAU, the Institute for Security Studies and others. 

Food inflation highest globally: World Bank

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Zimbabwe now has the highest food inflation rate globally which now stands at 285%, according to the latest World Bank (WB) report. The development comes after prices of basic foodstuffs and other commodities have soared in the country, while some food items are being charged in United States dollars at a time when most workers’ earnings are in the local currency. Last year, Zimbabwe was ranked second to Lebanon, but it has since overtaken the Middle East country. In this WB report, Venezuela is ranked second at 158% followed by Lebanon at 143%.

Too broke to offer free education, govt says

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The Zimbabwe government says it is not yet ready to fully implement the free basic education policy due to severe budgetary constraints. While it promised to progressively provide free primary education starting this year, the programme is yet to take off, more than a month after schools opened on 9 January. In 2020, President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed into law the Education Amendment Act which compels the State to provide free basic education in line with provisions of section 27 of the Constitution. This was also one of President Mnangagwa's promises during his 2018 election campaign.

Human rights lawyer’s murder a regional trend

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The assassination of Eswatini (Swaziland) human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko is also a feature of countries like Zimbabwe where opposition – and opposition parties - are treated as an enemy. SADC’s response has been “typically weak-kneed”, as has its failure to take both countries to task for gross human rights abuses. The notion of the predatory state, which has been well described in  Zimbabwe’s case, applies equally to Eswatini under the rule of King Mswati III, denouncing legitimate political activity, abusing the resources of the country for a privileged elite, and now increasingly reliant on coercion and repression.

UN expresses alarm over PVO Bill

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The UN’s Human Rights Special Rapporteurs in Geneva have released a statement expressing concern that Zimbabwe’s oversight regime in the Public Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Bill provides for “disproportionate and discretionary powers” to the newly established Office of the Registrar of PVOs. The Bill has been widely criticised because it will enable the crucial operations of non-government organisations (NGOs) to be curtailed by the government ahead of the country’s general elections, expected later this year. The PVO Bill awaits President Mnangagwa’s assent before it becomes law.

AfDB to meet Mozambique’s Chissano re Zim debt

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The African Development Bank (AfDB) president, Akinwumi Adesina, and former Mozambique president, Joaquim Chissano, are due to meet again at the end of February 2023 to map out key actions regarding Zimbabwe’s debt clearance and arrears. Last year they agreed on three main pillars:  (i) economic reforms, (ii) governance reforms and (iii) compensation of former commercial farmers. As of September 2022, Zimbabwe’s public debt stood at US$17,63 billion. Zimbabwe is the only regional member country of the AfDB Group under sanctions due to arrears amounting to about US$736 million.

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MCF invitation: “2023 Breakthrough Elections” event

The Mike Campbell Foundation (MCF) extends an invitation to our update event titled: “2023 Breakthrough Zimbabwe Elections? Seeds of Hope”. It will be held at The Royal Geographical Society in London on Tuesday 20 June, 2023 from 7.15pm to 9.30pm. Our excellent speaker line-up includes Dr Theo de Jager, Chairman of the Southern African Agri Initiative (previous president of the World Farmers’ Organisation), Baroness Kate Hoey, former chair of the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Forum on Zimbabwe, Hopewell Chin’ono, award-winning filmmaker and acclaimed journalist, and Ben Freeth, executive director of the MCF.

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