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  • Election Review Report – October 1st – 31 October 2013
    The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
    November 15, 2013

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    Private media highlight Zim’s economic decline

    The private media widely reported Zimbabweans’ hopes for a quick economic turnaround under the new ZANU PF government as fading fast as more reports on symptoms of economic deterioration emerge almost on a daily basis.

    Among them was news of further company closures; retrenchments; high unemployment levels; failure to significantly increase civil servants salaries; persistent water and power cuts; acute food shortages; deterioration of infrastructure; and outbreaks of water-borne diseases.

    These problems continued to persist more than 100 days after the July 31st election despite promises by ZANU PF during the campaign period that the party would prioritize the revival of the country’s economy if Zimbabweans gave it the sole mandate to govern.

    Under its manifesto entitled: Indigenize, Empower, Develop and Create Employment, ZANU PF outlined its goals over the next five years. These included the creation of more than two million jobs, unlocking US$7,3 billion from the indigenization of 1,138 companies; raising $7 billion to stimulate agricultural productivity, and financing the rehabilitation and construction of infrastructure; increasing the average GDP growth rate to 9%, up from the current 4,4%; construction of 250,000 low income housing units, 2,500 shell factories, the creation of new market stands, 610 schools and clinics; the rehabilitation of 1,250 government owned buildings; eliminating corruption; and ensuring food security for all Zimbabweans “as a central pillar of Zimbabwe’s sovereignty...”

    These pledges also appeared to form part of President Mugabe’s speech during the official opening of the First Session of the Eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe on September 17th. During this event Mugabe outlined 14 Bills to be debated, 11 (79%) of which were on socio-economic recovery programmes. But such hopes appeared to have been dampened by disturbing reports about the deterioration of Zimbabwe’s socio-economic situation.

    Among them was a story that appeared in the Zimbabwe Independent (18/10), indicating that “scores of big companies that used to employ tens of thousands of workers are either on the verge of collapse or have closed down completely, leaving workers stranded”.

    The report was based on a July 2013 National Social Security Authority (NSSA) Harare Regional Employer Closures and Registrations Report for the period July 2011 to July 2013, which revealed that 711 companies in Harare had closed down, rendering 8,336 workers jobless.

    Among the companies that were downsizing and retrenching were platinum miners, Zimplats and Unki, and Bindura Nickel, Spar supermarkets, Dairibord, Cairns, Olivine Industries and PG Industries.

    In another report, Studio 7 (24/10) reported Zimbabwe as having missed the third-quarter budget revenue targets “as economic growth slows and mineral royalties diminish, indicating a tough task ahead for the ZANU-PF government in turning around the economy”.

    In a statement, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) said it collected $897 million between July and September against a target of $905 million. It attributed the shortfall to company closures and firms that are scaling down due to lack of capital to revamp operations.

    ZIMRA chairman Stanford Moyo said the economy continued to face challenges, such as erratic power supplies, liquidity constraints, and depressed industrial capacity, among other issues.

    Moyo indicated that company tax collections were 3% percent short of the target and mining royalties were 39% below projections. He blamed this on fluctuating mineral prices and failure by some diamond mines under Western sanctions to sell their gems.

    Moyo further noted that individual tax collections rose 23% after ZIMRA extended its net, but that company closures were expected to have “a huge impact on such taxes”.

    Earlier, Studio 7 (22/10) reported that Zimbabwe’s plans to quickly turn around the economy had “hit a snag due to mounting debts and lack of foreign direct investment”. This story was based on revelations by Treasury that the country recorded “a $74 million budget deficit for the month of July as recurrent expenditure continued its upward trend”.

    The station (22/10) also reported Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa as having told the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank the previous week that “it will be difficult to turn around the economy without additional loans”. But the two organizations told him that Zimbabwe “has to settle its external debt totalling more than $10 billion before asking for additional funding”. The private media’s coverage of Zimbabwe’s economic troubles was reflected by reports with such headlines as:

    • Biti: Zimbabwe Economy Shrinking, Debts to Increase (Studio 7, 29/10).
    • Are Bank Queues Resurfacing in Zimbabwe? (Studio 7, 1/11).
    • No Progress in Civil Servants' Salary Negotiations (Studio 7, 31/10).
    • Zim Govt, Civil Servants Brace for Clashes Over Pay Increase (Studio 7, 23/10).
    • $200 Million Debt Haunts Harare Council (Studio 7, 30/10)
    • Harare council plunged into debt after bill write-off (SW Radio Africa, 29/10).
    • Hwange Colliery workers put on unpaid leave after 6 months without wages (SW Radio Africa, 31/10).
    • Jobs crisis: University graduates turn to vending (Daily News, 5/11).
    • Zim seeks budgetary support from China (Daily News, 4/11). • NRZ to retrench 6,000 workers (Daily News, 1/11).
    • Zim tumbles on World Bank rankings (Daily News, 31/10).
    • Manufacturing sector in crisis (Daily News, 31/10).
    • Zimbabweans feel the pinch….as cost of living goes up (Daily News, 21/10).
    • Harare City Council fails to pay workers (Daily News, 18/10).
    • Depressed investor confidence dogs Zim (Daily News, 29/10).
    • Foreclosures dramatically increase (Daily News, 28/10).
    • Industry crisis worsens, and, Uncertainty dogs Zim’s economic growth (Daily News, 3/10).
    • Zim’s economic growth receding: IMF (Daily News, 9/10).

    Meanwhile, the government media widely reported the ZANU PF government as not only making positive strides in reviving Zimbabwe’s economy, but also in total control of the situation.

    This was summed up with The Sunday Mail’s news feature (3/11): Team Zanu- PF - 54 days in office, which celebrated the “achievements” of the President’s 26-member Cabinet since its swearing-in on September 11th.

    The weekly reported the President as having tasked Cabinet with “steering the country’s economy back to full functionality and reviving social services”.

    Having promised to “hit the ground running”, The Sunday Mail reported the new ZANU PF government as having “since initiated a raft of povertyalleviation programmes and revived a number of key capital projects aimed at injecting fresh impetus into the country’s struggling economy”, in line with the revolutionary party’s election promises.

    Since assuming the reins of government, several critical projects, such as the rehabilitation of water supply infrastructure in several towns and cities across the country have taken off, reported The Sunday Mail.

    The weekly observed that, a few weeks after the elections, “Zimbabwe witnessed a series of morale-sapping power outages across the board, drawing a barrage of criticism against the new establishment from many sections which predicted that the power situation would become an albatross around the new Government’s neck”.

    Critically, though, The Sunday Mail reported, “the new Government moved with speed to address the erratic power supply, which has somewhat stabilised”.

    The weekly reported: “Furthermore, after years of sustained insidious attacks and funding cuts for the agricultural sector during the four-year tenure of the ill-fated inclusive Government, Team Zanu-PF has already sent a clear message that agriculture will receive unfettered support over the next five years”, adding: “To date, a number of sector-specific support schemes for agriculture have been availed through various economic cluster ministries and the President’s Office injected the much-needed oomph into the key economic driver.”

    The government media’s positive coverage of government efforts to revive the economy was also evident in reports with the following headlines:

    • Blockbuster economy beckons for Zim, and, Zim economy set for top 10 by 2020 (The Sunday Mail, 3/11).
    • Bonus for civil servants, and, Zim economy set to grow (The Herald, 2/11).
    • Govt to reorganise mining sector, and, Lending to private sector marginally up, (The Herald, 1/11).
    • Govt to settle RBZ FCA debts, Govt in bid to recapitalise IDC, and, Multi-currency to anchor Zim Asset (The Herald, 31/10).
    • Zanu-PF starts work to fulfil promises, and, Govt to address liquidity: VP (The Herald, 25/10).
    • US$300m projects approved (ZTV, 25/10, 8pm).
    • Antwerp engages Zim on gems, and, Zim welcomes AWDC engagement (ZTV, 25 & 27/10, 8pm).
    • Govt to deal with corruption (The Herald, 24/10).
    • Cabinet endorses blueprint (The Herald, 23/10).
    • Zanu-PF’s master stroke, and, Market confident of Chinamasa (The Sunday Mail, 20/10).
    • Mining targets on course: Govt (ZTV, 19/10, 8pm).
    • Govt sets 9,9pc economic growth target (The Herald, 18/10).
    • Govt prioritises Air Zim viability (ZTV, 18/10, pm).
    • Economic blueprint unveiled (The Herald, 17/10).
    • Forget the past, investors told (The Herald, 16/10).
    • ZUPCO return to viability on course (ZTV, 16/10, 8pm).
    • Zim on track to economic recovery: WB (The Herald, 15/10).
    • Govt to expedite rebates for tourism sector (The Herald, 11/10).
    • Zim can turn the tables (The Herald, 4/10)

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