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Posts tagged ‘Diamond Land of Zimbabwe’

Cheering Zimbabweans greet country’s new leader Mnangagwa

November 24, 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Exuberant Zimbabweans greeted the swearing-in Friday of new President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who takes power after an extraordinary series of events that ousted the world’s oldest head of state.

Mnangagwa, fired earlier this month as vice president, will lead after the resignation of 93-year-old Robert Mugabe, who succumbed to pressure to quit from the military, the ruling party and massive demonstrations amid fears his unpopular wife would succeed him.

A smiling Mnangagwa greeted a stadium crowd of tens of thousands with a raised fist, and he promised to devote himself to the well-being of the people. The military, fresh from putting Mugabe under house arrest just days ago, quickly swore its loyalty to the new leader.

Mnangagwa, a former justice and defense minister, was a key Mugabe confidant for decades until they fell out because of the presidential ambitions of Mugabe’s wife, Grace. Despite his long association with the government that has presided over Zimbabwe’s decline, including economic collapse and human rights abuses, Mnangagwa has promised democracy and reached out to other countries for help.

Mugabe, one of Africa’s last remaining liberation leaders, quit Tuesday amid impeachment proceedings. In the end, he was isolated and showing few of the political skills that kept him in power for 37 years and made him a prominent but polarizing figure on the world stage. He had led since Zimbabwe’s independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Mugabe did not attend Friday’s swearing-in, and ruling party officials have said he will remain in Zimbabwe with their promise that he is “safe” and his legacy as a “hero” will stand after his fight for an independent Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper reported that Mnangagwa assured Mugabe and his family of their “maximum security.” The report said the two men agreed Mugabe would not attend Friday because he “needed time to rest.”

Some people ahead of the inauguration began to dance in the stadium stands. Banners erected in read “Dawn of a new era” and “No to retribution,” even as human rights activists began to report worrying details of attacks on close allies of the former first lady and their families. Mnangagwa has warned against “vengeful retribution.”

Tendai Lesayo held a small Zimbabwean flag as she sold drinks from a cooler outside the stadium. She said she would welcome a fresh start, saying “life now is impossible.” Elsewhere in the capital, long lines formed outside banks, a common sight in a nation struggling with cash shortages and other severe economic problems that the new president will have to confront.

“Right now, nothing has really changed for me. I still cannot get my money from the bank,” said Amon Mutora, who had been in line since 6 am. “Attending the inauguration will not bring food for my family,” said Kelvin Fungai, a 19-year-old selling bananas from a cart. Many young people are well-educated but jobless, reduced to street vending to survive. Others have left the country.

Elsewhere, there were signs of hope amid the uncertainty. Black market rates for cash have tumbled since Mugabe left office. Before he stepped down, one had to deposit $170 into a black market dealer’s bank account to get $100 cash. On Friday, $100 cash was selling for between $140 and $150.

As the inauguration crowds streamed by, Sharon Samuriwo sat on a ledge, watching. She said she hoped Mnangagwa would learn from the errors of his predecessor, and she acknowledged that the path ahead for Zimbabwe is unknown.

Still, “after 37 years, we’ve got someone different.”

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Robert Mugabe resigns as Zimbabwe’s president after 37 years

November 21, 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who once vowed to rule for life, resigned on Tuesday, succumbing to a week of overwhelming pressure from the military that put him under house arrest, lawmakers from the ruling party and opposition who started impeachment proceedings and a population that surged into the streets to say 37 years in power was enough.

The capital, Harare, erupted in jubilation after news spread that the 93-year-old leader’s resignation letter had been read out by the speaker of parliament, whose members had gathered to impeach Mugabe after he ignored escalating calls to quit since a military takeover. Well into the night, cars honked and people danced and sang in a spectacle of free expression that would have been impossible during his years in power, whose early promise after the end of white minority rule in 1980 was overtaken by economic collapse, government dysfunction and human rights violations.

“Welcome to the new Zimbabwe!” people chanted outside the conference center where the lawmakers had met. “This is the best day of my life,” one man declared as euphoric citizens celebrated on top of cars, clustered around a tank and shook hands with soldiers who were hailed as saviors for their role in dislodging Mugabe, a once-formidable politician who crushed dissent or sidelined opponents but, in the end, was a lonely figure abandoned by virtually all his allies.

“Change was overdue. … Maybe this change will bring jobs,” said 23-year-old Thomas Manase, an unemployed university graduate. It was a call echoed by many, and which pointed to the challenges ahead for Zimbabwe, which used to be a regional breadbasket but has since suffered hyperinflation, cash shortages, chronic mismanagement and massive joblessness. And, while Zimbabweans seemed almost universally united in their wish to see an end to the Mugabe era, the hard work of building institutions and preparing for what they hope are free and fair elections scheduled for next year has yet to begin.

Mugabe, who was the world’s oldest head of state, said in his resignation letter that legal procedures should be followed to install a new president “no later than tomorrow.” “My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire for a smooth, non-violent transfer of power,” Mugabe said in the message read out by parliamentary speaker Jacob Mudenda.

Recently ousted Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was to take over as the country’s leader within 48 hours so that he can move “with speed to work for the country,” said a ruling party official, Lovemore Matuke. Mnangagwa, who fled the country after his Nov. 6 firing, “is not far from here,” Matuke added.

Mugabe’s resignation ended impeachment proceedings brought by the ruling ZANU-PF party after its Central Committee voted to oust him as party leader and replace him with Mnangagwa, a former justice and defense minister who served for decades as Mugabe’s enforcer, a role that earned him the moniker, “Crocodile.” Many opposition supporters detest Mnangagwa and believe he was instrumental in the army killings of thousands of people when Mugabe moved against a political rival in the 1980s.

So far, Mnangagwa has used inclusive language, saying in a statement before Mugabe’s resignation that all Zimbabweans should work together to advance their nation. “Never should the nation be held at ransom by one person ever again, whose desire is to die in office at whatever cost to the nation,” Mnangagwa said.

Zimbabwe’s military commander, Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, warned people not to target old adversaries following Mugabe’s resignation. “Acts of vengeful retribution or trying to settle scores will be dealt with severely,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Zimbabweans to maintain calm. The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe said Mugabe’s resignation “marks an historic moment” and that “the path forward” should lead to free and fair elections. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Mugabe was “a despot who impoverished his country” and his exit is a “moment of joy” for Zimbabwe.

The end for Mugabe came when his wife, Grace Mugabe, positioned herself to succeed her husband, leading a party faction that engineered Mnangagwa’s ouster. The prospect of a dynastic succession alarmed the military, which confined Mugabe to his home last week and targeted what it called “criminals” around him who allegedly were looting state resources — a reference to associates of the first lady.

In his early days as leader, after a long war between black guerrillas and the white rulers of Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was known before independence, Mugabe stressed education and built new schools. Tourism and mining flourished. But in 2000, violent seizures of thousands of white-owned farms began, causing agricultural production to plunge. A land reform program was supposed to take much of the country’s most fertile land and redistribute it to poor blacks, but Mugabe instead gave prime farms to ZANU-PF leaders and loyalists, relatives and cronies.

As the years went by, Mugabe was widely accused of hanging onto power through violence and vote fraud, notably in a 2008 election that led to a troubled coalition government after regional mediators intervened. Still, he cast himself as a voice of pride and defiance in modern Africa, a message that resonated in many countries that had experienced Western colonialism or intervention.

Mugabe once said he wanted to rule for life, expressing a desire to live until he is 100 years old. He also said he was ready to retire if asked to do so by his supporters. A year ago, he said: “If I am to retire, let me retire properly.”

Zimbabwe ruling party says Mugabe goes or impeachment starts

November 19, 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s ruling party Central Committee fired longtime President Robert Mugabe as party leader Sunday, saying that if he doesn’t resign as the country’s president by noon Monday they will begin impeachment proceedings when Parliament resumes the following day.

Clinging to his now virtually powerless post, Mugabe was set to discuss his expected exit with the army commander who put him under house arrest days ago, in a second round of negotiations. But the world’s oldest head of state was increasingly isolated in his lavish mansion, with allies departing, arrested or, like his wife, now expelled from the ruling party.

A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in the capital, Harare, for the 93-year-old Mugabe to go, members of the ruling party’s Central Committee stood, cheered and sang as Mugabe was recalled. Meeting chair Obert Mpofu referred to him as “outgoing president” and called it a “sad day” for Mugabe after 37 years in power.

“He has been our leader for a long time and we have all learned a great deal from him,” Mpofu said. But Mugabe “surrounded himself with a wicked cabal” that brought him down. The meeting replaced Mugabe as party chief with the vice president whose firing nearly two weeks ago led the military to step in, and recalled the unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe as head of the women’s league.

That former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is expected to lead a new government after the ruling party named him as its nominee to take over as the country’s president when Mugabe goes. Without the military’s intervention, the first lady likely would have replaced Mnangagwa as vice president and been in a position to succeed her husband.

The party accused the first lady of “preaching hate, divisiveness and assuming roles and powers not delegated to the office.” She was removed as head of the women’s league. The party’s decisions will be formalized at a special congress next month.

Impeaching the president is the next step when Parliament resumes Tuesday, and lawmakers will “definitely” put the process in motion, the main opposition’s parliamentary chief whip told The Associated Press.

Innocent Gonese with the MDC-T party said they had been in discussions with the ruling ZANU-PF party to act jointly. “If Mugabe is not gone by Tuesday, then as sure as the sun rises from the east, impeachment process will kick in,” Gonese said.

The ruling party Central Committee also expelled several high-level members close to the first lady, including minister of higher education Jonathan Moyo, finance minister Ignatious Chombo, Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao, local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, foreign affairs minister Walter Mzembi and several others.

Mugabe’s talks with army commander Constantino Chiwenga are the second round of negotiations on an exit as the military tries to avoid accusations of a coup. Zimbabwean officials have not revealed details of the talks, but the military appears to favor a voluntary resignation by Mugabe to maintain a veneer of legality in the political transition. Mugabe, in turn, could be using whatever leverage he has left to try to preserve his legacy as one of Africa’s liberation leaders or even protect himself and his family from possible prosecution.

Chris Mutsvangwa, head of the country’s liberation war veterans, said he was concerned that the military could end up opening fire to protect Mugabe from protesters. He vowed to “bring back the crowd” if the president didn’t step aside.

“We would expect that Mugabe would not have the prospect of the military shooting at people, trying to defend him,” Mutsvangwa said. “The choice is his.” Sunday’s negotiations do not appear to include the South African government delegation that took part in the first round. The southern African regional bloc will hold a four-country summit in Angola on Tuesday to discuss the Zimbabwe situation.

On Saturday, most of Harare’s population of 1.6 million poured into the streets in an anti-Mugabe demonstration that just days ago would have brought a police crackdown. They clambered onto tanks moving slowly through the crowds, took selfies with soldiers and surged in the thousands toward the State House building where Mugabe held official functions, a symbol of the rule of the man who took power after independence from white minority rule in 1980.

The euphoria came after years of watching the once-prosperous African nation fall into decay, with a collapsing economy, repression of free speech, disputed elections and international sanctions. Even as concerns remained about who next would be in charge and what freedoms might be available if the military lingers in power — or if Mnangagwa succeeds his longtime ally Mugabe as leader — people reveled in the rare chance to express themselves freely.

Let us have this moment, Zimbabweans said. If the next leader becomes trouble, they vowed to return to the streets again.

Zimbabwe army has Mugabe and wife in custody, secures capital

AP, AFP and Reuters

Wednesday 15 November 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe: At least three explosions were heard in Zimbabwe’s capital early Wednesday and military vehicles were seen in the streets after the army commander threatened to “step in” to calm political tensions over 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe’s possible successor. The ruling party accused the commander of “treasonable conduct.”

An army source confirmed it is in charge of a paramilitary police support unit depot in Harare and has disarmed police officers there.

“They are now in charge of all armory, all gates and roads leading in or out of the camp. Arcturus Road (which leads to the camp) is closed and all Support Unit details with guns have been disarmed,” the source said.

The US Embassy closed to the public and encouraged citizens to shelter in place, citing “the ongoing political uncertainty through the night.” The British embassy issued a similar warning, citing “reports of unusual military activity.”

For the first time, this southern African nation is seeing an open rift between the military and Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state who has ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980. The military has been a key pillar of his power.

The Associated Press saw armed soldiers assaulting passers-by in the early morning hours in Harare, as well as soldiers loading ammunition near a group of four military vehicles. The explosions could be heard near the University of Zimbabwe campus.

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe’s army said Wednesday it has President Robert Mugabe and his wife in custody and is securing government offices and patrolling the capital’s streets following a night of unrest that included a military takeover of the state broadcaster.

The night’s action triggered speculation of a coup, but the military’s supporters praised it as a “bloodless correction.”

Armed soldiers in armored personnel carriers stationed themselves at key points in Harare, while Zimbabweans formed long lines at banks in order to draw the limited cash available, a routine chore in the country’s ongoing financial crisis. People looked at their phones to read about the army takeover and others went to work or to shops.

In an address to the nation after taking control of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, an army spokesman said early Wednesday the military is targeting “criminals” around Mugabe, and sought to reassure the country that order will be restored.

Meanwhile South Africa on Wednesday urged Zimbabwe to resist any “unconstitutional changes.”

President Jacob Zuma “has expressed hope that developments in Zimbabwe would not lead to unconstitutional changes of government,” said a statement released in Pretoria.

Zuma appealed for “the country to resolve the political impasse amicably and has urged the Zimbabwean defense force to ensure… the maintenance of peace,” it added.

South Africa is an influential neighbor of Zimbabwe, with millions of Zimbabweans living in the country to seek work and flee Mugabe’s regime.

It was not clear where Mugabe, 93, and his wife were Wednesday but it seems they are in the custody of the military. “Their security is guaranteed,” the army spokesman said.

“We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover,” the army statement said. “We are only targeting criminals around (Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.”

The spokesman added “as soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.” The army spokesman called on churches to pray for the nation. He urged other security forces to “cooperate for the good of our country,” warning that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”

The statement called on troops to return to barracks immediately, with all leave canceled.

Overnight, at least three explosions were heard in the capital, Harare, and military vehicles were seen in the streets.

The military actions appear to put the army in control of the country. Army commander Constantino Chiwenga had threatened on Monday to “step in” to calm political tensions. Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party responded by accusing the general of “treasonable conduct.” But now Chiwenga appears to be in control.

The army has been praised by the nation’s war veterans for carrying out “a bloodless correction of gross abuse of power.” The military will return Zimbabwe to “genuine democracy” and make the country a “modern model nation,” said Chris Mutsvangwa, chairman of the war veterans’ association, told The Associated Press in Johannesburg.

Mutsvangwa and the war veterans are staunch allies of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was fired from his post of vice president by Mugabe last week. Mnangagwa fled Zimbabwe last week but said he would return to lead the country.

The US Embassy closed to the public Wednesday and encouraged citizens to shelter in place, citing “the ongoing political uncertainty through the night.” The British Embassy issued a similar warning, citing “reports of unusual military activity.”

For the first time, this southern African nation is seeing an open rift between the military and Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state who has ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980. The military has been a key pillar of his power.

Mugabe last week fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and accused him of plotting to take power, including through witchcraft. Mnangagwa, who enjoyed the military’s backing and once was seen as a potential president, fled the country and said he had been threatened. Over 100 senior officials allegedly supporting him have been listed for disciplinary measures by a faction associated with Mugabe’s wife, Grace.

The first lady now appears positioned to replace Mnangagwa as one of the country’s two vice presidents at a special conference of the ruling party in December, leading many in Zimbabwe to suspect that she could succeed her husband. Grace Mugabe is unpopular with some Zimbabweans because of lavish spending as many struggle, and four people accused of booing her at a recent rally were arrested.

The president reportedly attended a weekly Cabinet meeting Tuesday as the military vehicles were first sighted. It was not clear where his wife was.

On Monday, army commander Constantino Chiwenga issued an unprecedented statement saying purges against senior ruling ZANU-PF party officials, many of whom like Mnangagwa fought for liberation, should end “forthwith.”

“We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in,” the army commander said. The state-run broadcaster did not report on his statement.

Showing a generational divide, the ruling party’s youth league, aligned with the 52-year-old first lady, on Tuesday criticized the army commander’s comments, saying youth were “ready to die for Mugabe.”

On Tuesday night the ruling party issued a statement accusing the army commander of “treasonable conduct,” saying his comments were “clearly calculated to disturb national peace and stability” and were “meant to incite insurrection.” It was not clear whether the commander still had his post.

State broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation read out part of the ruling party statement late in the nightly news, which was led by a report on regional tourism.

The army spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

“Yes, given the past two weeks’ political events, it is tempting to speculate that there is a connection between the deployment of military personnel and the comments of the army chief of staff on an ‘intervention’ — but there are very real dangers of violence breaking out as a result of rampant and unfounded speculation,” African Defense Review analyst Conway Waddington wrote Tuesday evening, saying there appeared to be no other signs of an “organized coup” and that it could have been an act of intimidation instead.

Mugabe in the past has warned military commanders from interfering in succession politics. “Politics shall always lead the gun, and not the gun politics. Otherwise it will be a coup,” he told supporters in July.

Frustration has been growing in once-prosperous Zimbabwe as the economy collapses under Mugabe. The country was shaken last year by the biggest anti-government protests in a decade, and a once-loyal war veterans association turned on the president, calling him “dictatorial” and blaming him for the economic crisis.

“Mnangagwa was held out by many as the best hope within ZANU-PF for piloting an economic recovery,” analyst Piers Pigou with the International Crisis Group wrote Tuesday.

Now, “Mugabe will have to employ all his guile if he intends to ensure continued accommodation with the armed forces.”

Source: Arab News.

Link: http://www.arabnews.com/node/1193606/world.

Zimbabwean talk about who will follow Mugabe gets murkier

October 06, 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — He was viewed as a likely successor to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, a longtime ally whose close association with the 93-year-old leader dates to the struggle against white minority rule, Now Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa appears to be falling out of favor, deepening the mystery over who will take over from a man who has ruled since independence in 1980.

Mugabe has led attacks on his old friend, reflecting turmoil within the ruling ZANU-PF party in a country where political uncertainty has fueled problems in a deteriorating economy and increased hardship for many Zimbabweans. The criticism of the vice president, one of two presidential deputies, comes ahead of Mugabe’s re-election bid next year and amid a rise in prominence of Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, whose name is popping up more often as a possible successor.

On Thursday, Mnangagwa pledged his “unflinching loyalty” to Mugabe following accusations from Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe, and others that he had misled the country by saying recently that he fell ill because he was poisoned.

The fractured opposition, meanwhile, has been unable to channel national discontent into a strong play for power. The main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has health problems and recently received treatment in neighboring South Africa.

“Mugabe survives on pitting one faction against the other. He elevates one faction, discards it when it begins to feel comfortable and props up another one,” said Gabriel Shumba, a Zimbabwean political analyst and human rights lawyer based in South Africa.

The machinations are eerily similar to those that augured the 2014 dismissal of Vice President Joice Mujuru, another former ally of Mugabe who is now an opposition figure. A dominant figure in the ouster of Mujuru who has now set her sights on Mnangagwa is Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe, whose calls for the appointment of a female vice president intensified talk that she eventually wants to take over the top spot from her husband.

So Mnangagwa has dutifully sat through political rallies where the Mugabe couple accused him of leading a faction that seeks power and has endured humiliating barbs from his boss. President Mugabe, for example, told a crowd about allegations that the vice president once left a rival for a woman’s affections paralyzed after forcing him to jump from a multi-story building.

“He was told to make a choice between sitting on a hot stove or jump out of the window. He chose to jump and now he is disabled. He could have refused both options but I guess he was afraid,” Mugabe said at a rally in Bindura town on Sept. 9.

During the remarks, Mnangagwa and his wife sat stone-faced on the dais. And that wasn’t all. Grace Mugabe then piled on, warning Mnangagwa that he might face a similar fate to that of Mujuru, who was also accused of plotting to oust the president.

“I am begging the VP to stop this. I once warned Mujuru and she thought I was joking. Where is she now?” the first lady thundered. The other vice president, Phelekezela Mphoko, has joined in criticism of his colleague, even though he is not considered a front-runner to succeed Mugabe because he lacks a strong political base.

Zimbabwe’s constitution says that if the president dies, resigns or is removed from office, the vice president who last stood in as acting president takes over for 90 days, following which the ruling party must appoint a person who takes over until the expiry of the former president’s term. Mnangagwa was acting president during Mugabe’s trip to the United Nations last month, while Mphoko has previously assumed the role.

Some analysts point to Sekeramayi, the low-key defense minister, as a possible successor. A medical doctor, Sekeramayi appears acceptable to those wary of Mnangagwa, who was in charge of state security when Mugabe unleashed a North Korean-trained brigade to crush dissent in western Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Sekeremayi’s name was first brought to the fore by Jonathan Moyo, an ally of Grace Mugabe and a critic of a faction associated with Mnangagwa.

At the Bindura rally, Mugabe said he invited Mnangagwa and Sekeremayi to join the independence war at around the same time, making neither of them senior to the other. His wife said Mugabe summoned Sekeremayi when he suffered diarrhea and thought he was dying; she didn’t say when that happened.

“The first family is using the rallies to reconstruct Mnangagwa’s image from a war hero to a careless, cruel and divisive individual, unfit to take over. At the same time, he is painting Sekeremayi as equal to Mnangagwa in terms of seniority in the party,” said Alex Rusero, an analyst based in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital. He speculated: “All this is to cast Sekeremayi as the chosen one.”

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe turns 93, says he will stand in 2018 polls

February 21, 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who turned 93 years old on Tuesday, described his wife Grace, an increasingly political figure, as “fireworks” because of her feisty remarks in his defense.

A large celebration is scheduled for Saturday in tribute to Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980. Grace Mugabe has defended her husband against critics who say it is time for him to step down, saying the ruling party should field him as a corpse if he dies before elections next year.

In an interview marking his birthday that was shown late Monday on state broadcaster ZBC, Mugabe noted that his wife’s remarks were shown on television. “Fireworks, isn’t it?” he said, laughing. Grace Mugabe’s political rise has been a source of consternation for opposition figures as well as some officials within the ruling ZANU-PF party who suspect she is positioning herself for a more powerful role in the government. The president described her as “very much accepted by the people” and said the women’s wing of the ruling party had chosen his wife as its head because of her political ambitions.

He described her as “well-seasoned” and “a very strong character.” Mugabe also repeated his pledge to stand in elections in 2018 despite calls from some Zimbabweans for him to quit amid economic turmoil in the once-prosperous country and numerous allegations about human rights and election irregularities. The president said he was still popular and nobody is qualified to replace him.

“The volume of wishes for the president to stand, the number of people who will be disappointed is galore and I don’t want to disappoint them,” he said. During the interview, Mugabe often gestured to emphasize points. He spoke slowly and was slumped into a leather armchair most of the time.

Zimbabwe issues new currency, bond notes

November 28, 2016

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe has issued its own currency for the first time since 2009 to try to ease biting shortages of the U.S dollar. Banks started issuing the new currency, called bond notes, Monday. Previously the U.S currency had been Zimbabwe’s main medium of trade.

The new bond notes sparked a mix of hope and apprehension among a population desperate for a solution to the cash crisis but also skeptical of the ability of President Robert Mugabe’s government to manage a currency.

In 2008 and 2009 the state’s central bank printed so much of its currency, the Zimbabwe dollar, that the country experienced mind-boggling hyperinflation that reached 500 billion percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. People’s savings and pensions were wiped out. The inflation was only brought under control when the government abandoned the Zimbabwe currency and began using the U.S. dollar and several other foreign currencies as legal tender.

But this year the government has not had enough U.S. dollars to make timely payment of the salaries of civil servants, police and army. Banks have been so short of the U.S. currency that people have slept outside branches in the hope of getting a few dollars. Monday the banks began issuing people with bond notes.

“I am happy that I have finally got some cash after days of sleeping in a bank queue,” said Tenson Tigere, a Harare man who received a combination of bond notes and U.S. dollars from his bank. “At the same time I am not sure that these bond notes are the solution. They might soon become worthless just like the Zimdollar,” he said outside a major bank in Harare after he was given $40 in bond notes and $10 in greenbacks.

The central bank, The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, said the new notes will come in $2 and $5 denominations, although only $2 notes are being issued Monday. The Reserve Bank has also introduced $1 bond coins.

The currency is pegged at par with the U.S. dollar and is backed by a $200 million bond facility with Afreximbank, said the Reserve Bank in a statement Saturday. Some vendors readily accepted the new currency but said they are cautious and will stop if the notes begin to lose value.

Harare-based economic consultant John Robertson said the introduction of bond notes could lead to shortages of commodities and price hikes. “Anyone who needs foreign currency for imports will have to go to the black market. Inevitably the bond notes will lose their value,” he said. “It is back to the Zimbabwe dollar scenario.”

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