Malawi floods disaster, Zimbabwean government steps in to offer aid
BY BRENDA NCUBE
Zimbabwe has formed a Disaster Relief Committee to assist the government of Malawi following Cyclone Freddy storm that claimed over 400 and caused extensive damage to homes and social services infrastructure.
The pledge, at it’s final craft plans, was presided over by president Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday while Local Government and Public Works ministry was mandated to lead the lobby.
In the aftermath of the storm, thousands of victims suffered injury and displacement, while the affected areas were rendered impassable.
“In response to the appeal for assistance by Malawian President His Excellency Lazarus Chakwera to his fellow SADC Heads of State and Government, Cabinet has constituted a Disaster Relief Committee led by the Minister of Local Government and Public Works to draw up a comprehensive assistance package for disaster-stricken Malawi, ” post cabinet minutes read.
“The Committee will liaise with the Government of Malawi on modalities for conveying the relief package.”
Cabinet directed that the mobilization of relief assistance should commence immediately and include 10 000 metric tonnes of mealie meal; cooking oil; blankets; clothing; construction material for cabins; sanitisers, detergents, bath soaps, stationery and other learning materials.
“To widen the scope of donations to Malawi, the government is encouraging the private sector, national institutions and citizens to donate generously to this worthy cause.”
According to the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs, the devastating toll of the floods in Malawi has continued to rise, with at least 438 deaths reported, 918 people injured and 282 missing as of March 17.
The report says that nearly 345 200 people, almost half of them being children, were displaced and sheltered in over 500 camps across flood affected areas, where the risk of cholera in overcrowded camps is high. The Malawian government’ search and rescue operations have continued with more than 1,000 people evacuated by 17 March.
A report by the United Nations Satellite Centre indicated that in an area of 5,000 km² flood waters had increased by about 60km² between March 14 and 17.
Zimbabwe turn towards black market as inflation rises
Zimbabweans are feeling the wrath of high inflation. The rate of inflation in the southern African country now stands at 131.7 percent in the month of May.
Locals are now helpless as they are now forced to search for cheaper products as a way to survive the overpriced goods at major supermarkets.
In these shops they call trucks, lie the solution to their demise as they can buy cheaper products compared top large supermarkets.
“We buy at the truck shop because they are cheap, their price is not even expensive because there, in the big shops these days, they are expensive. Even their rate is less (than in supermarkets, ed.), at the truck shop they give us the good rates, that’s why we prefer to buy at the truck shop because they are cheap,” a customer said.
Zimbabwe has endure years of fluctuating value of currencies worsened by adoption of US dollar. Many Zimbabweans are now shunning away from major stores that experience frequent fluctuating currency rates when converting to the local Zim Dollar.
“Its cheaper for customers to buy from out here, for instance for a dollar they can get two drinks, instead of one from a supermarket. It’s also because our exchange rate is better than the official rate,” said one vendor.
The black market is also taking a toll on the local Zim Dollar with economists warning of a further deterioration of the local currency if not regulated.
“What we have witnessed over the past weeks is a massive increase in pricing, Zim dollar pricing. This has largely been caused by the very significant depreciation of the local currency that we have seen on the black market or on the parallel market,” said Prosper Chitambara, an economist.
Zimbabwe’s economy is inching toward “full dollarization,” with the local currency facing collapse, local investment firm Inter-Horizon Securities said. It slumped by 34% in April alone-Source: Africa News.
Zimbabwe releases more than 4 000 prisoners in presidential amnesty
HARARE – About a fifth of all prisoners in Zimbabwe were released on Thursday under a presidential amnesty a few months ahead of crunch general elections.
A total of 4270 inmates were let out, according to the country’s correctional service, which described the reprieve as a “noble gesture” by the president.
“We would like to appeal to… society at large to embrace and accept the inmates who have been released,” Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) said in a statement.
“Those aggrieved are encouraged to forgive them”.
The move brings down overcrowding in the country’s more than 50 detention centres, which have capacity for about 17 000 people but held more than 22 000 before the amnesty.
Yet, ZPCS spokesperson Meya Khanyezi told AFP “it was not about decongestion”.
“This was just a noble gesture by the president,” she said.
The amnesty was granted to various categories of prisoners including those who have served at least three-quarters of their sentence, or one tenth if over the age of 60.
Violent criminals as well as those serving time for robbery, treason and public order and security offences were excluded.
Those released will be able to vote in presidential and legislative elections that are to be held in August, although no date has been announced yet.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is struggling to ease entrenched poverty, end chronic power cuts and rein in inflation.
He granted a similar amnesty at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 in a bid to curtail the spread of the virus in detention facilities.- AFP
Free elections key to Zimbabwe’s debt settlement, says AfDB
HARARE – Zimabwe’s upcoming presidential election and compensation of white farmers whose land was seized two decades ago are key to efforts to restructure its crippling debt, the African development bank chief said Monday.
African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina and Mozambique’s ex-president Joaquim Chissano, are leading efforts to help Zimbabwe re-engage with the West to clear its US$8.3 billion bilateral and multilateral debt.
“The success of the efforts we have all put into this process will depend on what happens with the upcoming presidential elections,” Adesina said at debt resolution talks with President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare.
He said the international community will be “watching very closely” the vote.
“The full weight of re-engagement with the international community will depend on this… (and) the entire electoral process that guarantees a credible election”.
“Success on the political and electoral reforms, and a free and fair election, are crucial to clear the pathway towards arrears clearance and debt resolution for Zimbabwe,” he added.
Rights groups and opposition parties have complained of a clampdown ahead of elections, whose date is yet to be set.
Chissano, a respected statesman said holding “free and fair elections” and settling the issue of compensation for white former commercial farmers were among “low-hanging fruits” in advancing dialogue with the West and international financial institutions.
“Harvesting these low-hanging fruits is critical as they are likely to trigger decisive action towards arrears clearance and debt resolution,” he said.
Chissano and Adesina last week met members of the US Congress, State Department, Treasury among other agencies to discuss Zimbabwe.
Adesina revealed that the AfDB is working with Zimbabwe to develop “innovative financial instruments and structures that can be used to front-load the mobiliSation of the US$3.5 billion for compensations”, without getting into further debt.
“It is important that we find a mechanism to try to fast-track…the payment of these compensations”.
Zimbabwe’s late ex-president Robert Mugabe launched land reforms in 2000, grabbing white-owned farms to reverse a historical land ownership imbalance that favoured the white minority population.
More than 4,000 of Zimbabwe’s 4,500 white commercial farmers were evicted from their properties, which were given to black tenants.
But in 2020 Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe following a military-led coup, signed a US$3.5 billion deal with dispossessed farmers to compensate them for infrastructure developments on their former land. – Eyewitness News
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