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Editor’s Memo: Budget’s top priority list – The Zimbabwe Independent

Ncube’s task at hand, in a country grappling with high inflation, power cuts, currency volatilities, high unemployment rate and a depreciating local currency, is both challenging and vital.

AS the national budget announcement draws near, my focus this week is on what Finance and Investment Promotion minister Mthuli Ncube has to priotise to boost economic growth in Zimbabwe.

My last two instalments on the upcoming national budget announcement were on poor public service delivery and the high tax burden that is suffocating business and ordinary Zimbabweans.

The appeal in the two were to Ncube to announce pro-poor budget, where the government priotises healthcare, education and provision of clean water to the country’s over 15 million population. It was also to lessen the tax burden on business and individuals.

Ncube’s task at hand, in a country grappling with high inflation, power cuts, currency volatilities, high unemployment rate and a depreciating local currency, is both challenging and vital.

In addition, Zimbabwe is beset by a myriad of challenges, including widespread poverty, political tensions, and corruption.

Ncube has to present an economic blueprint that promotes economic development, job creation, foreign direct investment, and social development.

Zimbabweans are looking for hope from the new administration, which is serving its second five-year term, after President Emmerson Mnangagwa won the tightly contested August election.

So Ncube is under pressure to alleviate poverty and announce policies that will propel the country forward. The task is even more daunting, as the country is facing an El Nino-induced drought.

The budget should include provisions for social safety nets to protect vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and children, from poverty and food insecurity.

With a high unemployment rate among the youth, who are battling depression and substance abuse, Ncube really needs to come up with programmes that target youth employment, including apprenticeships, internships, and entrepreneurship opportunities.

The government needs to engage the youth, which currently feels hopeless and helpless. He needs to announce a budget that gives them hope.

One way is skills development. More investment must be put into vocational training and educational programmes that align with industry needs, which can empower and address unemployment.

It is estimated that between 80 to 90% of Zimbabweans are engaged in informal economic activities. The informal sector accounts for 40% of the country’s gross domestic product, which makes it a key player.

So how can Ncube ensure that government supports the informal sector, small and medium-sized enterprises? This can be through affordable loans.

The rural folk, despite voting in their huge numbers at each general election have always been disenfranchised.  The least that Ncube can do in this 2024 budget is to show gratitude to the rural voters.

He needs to ensure that rural areas benefit from economic development initiatives. The government must invest in rural infrastructure, education, and healthcare to improve living conditions and bridge urban-rural disparities.

Another critical area that the budget should prioritise is infrastructure development.

This includes improved roads, energy, and telecommunications infrastructure, as these are vital to facilitate trade and attract foreign investment.

Business has been reeling from 18-hour blackouts. Investment and promotion of renewable energy sources such as solar and gas should be a top priority in the 2024 national budget to reduce electricity shortages and attract investors in this rapidly growing sector.

On industrialisation, it must provide incentives for industries, which include tax breaks and streamlined regulations that improve ease of doing business.

An investment-friendly environment is critical. Policies and regulations should be made more transparent, consistent, and investor-friendly.

Well-targeted tax incentives can encourage foreign businesses to invest in Zimbabwe.

On debt, the budget should include a clear strategy for debt reduction and responsible borrowing.

Maintaining fiscal discipline is critical. Ncube must address budget deficits through responsible fiscal measures.

One low hanging fruit is promoting tourism. The country is blessed with rich cultural heritage and natural beauty. The budget should allocate resources for tourism development, including marketing, preservation of heritage sites, and infrastructure improvement in key tourist areas.

With the world focus on climate change effects, Ncube needs to spell out conservation and green Initiatives. It can be by providing incentives that encourage eco-friendly practices and conservation.

This can have long-term economic and ecological benefits.

Corruption is a deterrent to foreign direct investment. Ncube needs to strengthen anti-corruption efforts in order to build trust in the government and attract investors.

Ncube truly has a difficult task on his hands to heal the ailing economy, create jobs, reduce poverty levels and more importantly give hope to the nation and the youth.



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Mawaba primary school unveils e-learning classroom block – The Zimbabwe Mail

The Bulawayo City Council (BCC), Thursday, commissioned an e-learning classroom block at Mawaba Primary School in Lobengula West.

The new facility will provide learners with access to information and communication technologies (ICTs).

The classroom block was renovated for US$5,000 through a collaboration between the school and its parents. The classroom is equipped with 45 laptops, which the school won under a merit award from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

Speaking during the commissioning ceremony held at the school under the theme, “Empowering Learners Through E-Learning,” Ward 14 Councillor Dumisani Netha, who was standing in for Mayor David Coltart, said that the city of Bulawayo strives to be a leading smart and transformative city by 2024. He said that empowering education through e-learning facilities is essential to achieving this vision.

Netha applauded the school and the parents for putting together the resources to convert the classroom into such a magnificent learning facility.

“This is a befitting facility to train our learners in Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) as set out in the smart city concept, national outcomes and requirements provided for by the National Development Strategy (NDS1) and Vision 2030,” said Netha.

“We might pride ourselves on providing our children with such remarkable facilities for e-learning, this is because it is a powerful tool in the modern-day learning experiences as it is a convenient and flexible platform for individuals to acquire skills.”

Netha said that e-learning has great accessibility potential as it offers a wide range of courses and resources. “This accessibility ensures that no one is left behind and learners have an opportunity to enhance their knowledge and skills while being flexible in scheduling and pacing,” he said.

He said that, unlike traditional fixed classrooms with fixed timetables, in e-learning, individuals can balance education with other responsibilities such as home, sports, and family chores. This allows learners to take control of their learning journey, resulting in a personalized learning experience and increased motivation.

“In the face of envisaged high breed learning, we congratulate Mawaba school and credit to all schools with such projects or are in the process of putting up their internet classrooms. The Education Sector Strategic Plan demands that all schools have user-friendly facilities including disability ramps, ECD classroom blocks, and libraries among other facilities,” said Clr Netha.

“I desire to ensure all council schools and others in our beautiful city implement these requirements as we strive for a smart Bulawayo,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Provincial Education Director for Bulawayo, Sibongile Khumalo, congratulated the school for successfully venturing into e-learning, saying that it is a powerful way to achieve good results.

“Schools are encouraged to embrace online learning as we might appreciate, it comes with several benefits. E-learning is about being able to access education whenever one needs to and from wherever one is. Our competency-based curriculum has embraced ICT and the concept of e-learning is topical,” said Khumalo.

She said that the curriculum has seen the transition of education from being predominantly a face-to-face approach to digital learning platforms where a teacher has merely become a facilitator.

“Through e-learning, learners should be able to take responsibility for their educational progress and access the numerous Ministry endeavours to expose them to as much educational material as possible. These include such platforms as online catch-up strategies, e-learning passport, imfundo endlini, and blended learning, just to mention a few, which are all digital learning programs,” Khumalo said.

She encouraged all schools and their communities to make e-learning a priority in their school development committee budgets.

Source: Cite

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Continued detention of Job Sikhala a travesty of justice – Amnesty International

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By Staff Reporter

HUMAN Rights body Amnesty International has condemned the continued pretrial detention of former legislator Job Sikhala at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.

Responding to Tuesday’s High Court ruling overturning the politician’s conviction of obstruction of justice, Amnesty International said the opposition member should have been not detained in the first place.

“We welcome the High Court’s ruling. However, it has come only after Job Sikhala has lost more than 500 days of his life in pretrial detention based on trumped-up charges of obstruction of justice.

“Job Sikhala should never have been detained in the first place. That he will remain in prison on other baseless charges of incitement to commit violence and disorderly conduct is a travesty of justice and a violation of his human rights.

“This is yet another example of the Zimbabwean authorities’ ongoing weaponization of the law to target activists and opposition figures to silence dissent,” said Amnesty International deputy regional director East and Southern Africa, Khanyo Farise.

Farise said Zimbabwean authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Sikhala and drop all charges against him as he is detained solely for peacefully exercising his human rights.

Sikhala, an opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) party Change Champion, was arrested on June 14, last year after attending the funeral of political activist, Moreblessing Ali.

He was convicted on May 3, 2023, for obstruction of justice and given a suspended six months sentence with an option of paying US$600 or spending six months in jail.

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Students from Africa have expectations and doubts about COP28 – University World News


During preparatory events ahead of COP28, youth perspectives have been deliberately sought and are expected to be amplified by the 2023 presidency which intends to “centre youth perspectives in international climate policy-making, setting a model for future COPs”, according to YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

University World News spoke to students who are attending the 2023 United Nations climate change conference, COP28, which is being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), from 30 November to 12 December.

Christabel Mhiribidi, who has just graduated from Zimbabwe’s Midlands State University, is one of them. She studied geography and environmental studies and will pursue a climate-related masters degree in future. She recalls meeting the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last year when COP27 took place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Christabel Mhiribidi, Image provided

“l have always read about him and his tireless efforts to create a conducive environment for all. So, getting to see him in person was like a dream come true,” Mhiribidi told University World News.

At COP28 Mhiribidi said she would be representing the voices of children and young people to make sure their perspectives were taken into consideration during decision-making processes.

She was chosen by the UAE-sponsored International Youth Climate Delegate Program that selected 100 young people from an applicant pool of 11,000 from the Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States, indigenous peoples and other minority groups to follow climate negotiations and discussions about carbon credits and just transition processes at the conference.

“It is important for university students to attend climate conferences as they will develop an appreciation of global climate issues which informs the action taken thereafter. They will interact with like-minded peers, share climate stories, challenges and collectively offer solutions,” she said.

Nyasha Milanzi, Image provided

Focusing on just energy transition

Another Zimbabwean student, Nyasha Milanzi, who is pursuing a masters degree in sustainable communities at Michigan Technological University in the United States, told University World News she is attending COP28 as a delegate of her university to complete a research paper as well as learn about other climate topics such as environmental justice for indigenous peoples, carbon credits and adaptation.

She will co-moderate a session on 2 December with Emma Loizeaux from the University of Colorado about ‘Fossil Fuel Divestment at University’.

Milanzi said her interdisciplinary research focuses on equitable and just energy transitions in under-served communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and in rural communities.

Milanzi said she will be attending as an observer and will be able to participate in sessions or negotiations with themes related to indigenous communities, carbon financing and adaptation.

She said that, during her first year in Michigan as a graduate student, she got the opportunity to enrol in a climate and energy policy class where students could potentially attend COP28.

She said that, through this course, she learned about many of the complex global climate science, politics, governance, and law issues, which she believes are essential for understanding the gravity of the problem at hand as well as the challenges encountered when trying to solve a global challenge without a ‘world government’.

Milanzi said her initial area of interest in climate advocacy was to work with like-minded individuals and organisations to eradicate energy poverty in Africa, starting in her country, Zimbabwe.

“However, during my undergraduate studies at Ashesi University (Ghana), I learned about the impact of the energy sector on our environment and how that sector, alone, is responsible for close to a third of the greenhouse gases emitted into our atmosphere.

“After that, my approach to the topic of electrification pivoted. I realised that we needed to build more grid systems that emit less greenhouse gases than fossils.

“Most African countries, including Zimbabwe, increasingly need more energy to power their economies. Unfortunately, burning fossil fuels is harmful for our planet and can be dangerous to the communities that live in proximity to these power plants.

“In 2019, air pollutants killed about 1.9 million people in Africa, according to the World Health Organization,” she said.

Milanzi said she is now conducting research and investigating equitable and just pathways for implementing energy transitions to renewable energy sources as they are less detrimental to the environment and they are better for human health.

She said the global effort outlined in the Paris Agreement, aimed at limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030, faces a critical challenge and the current progress is far from where the world needs to be.

What to expect from COP28

But what are her expectations when it comes to COP28?

Milanzi said a key priority for her is the successful implementation of the Loss and Damage Fund at COP28. The fund, established at COP27, aims to provide financial assistance to nations most vulnerable and impacted by the effects of climate change.

She said Africa, in particular, requires substantial financial support to meet the costs associated with adaptation efforts.

Milanzi said that, furthermore, it is critical to address the systemic underrepresentation of indigenous communities and other vulnerable groups in negotiations.

“A poignant example is a community in Kenya that, just a few months ago, was forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands to make way for carbon market forests.

“This situation is regrettable, particularly considering that these communities were not included when the provisions and terms of operation for carbon markets were established in the COPs. Now, they find themselves uprooted from their homes and livelihoods to facilitate their government’s engagement in carbon forest trading.

“The injustice is twofold: not only were they excluded from the initial decision-making processes, but they are also now bearing the brunt of the consequences,” she said.

“To rectify this, it is imperative that the platform instituted for indigenous peoples around the world receives substantial resources. Only through such proactive measures can we hope to correct the historical oversights and ensure that those most affected by climate change have a meaningful and inclusive role in shaping the solutions.”

The Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples’ Platform was set up in 2021.

Wandipa Mualefhe, Image provided

Learning the stories of the most vulnerable

In an interview with University World News, Wandipa Mualefhe, a student from Botswana, who is in the third-year of a PhD study in environmental and energy policy, also at Michigan Technological University, said COP28 will be her first major climate conference.

Mualefhe said that, as an undergraduate, she studied civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University.

She said the environmental aspect of the degree exposed her to climate change and the focus was more on how to adapt to it and how to mitigate the effects.

“Adaptation work is very important. For me, I think, the most important thing in the climate change conversation is finding the most vulnerable people and learning their stories; learning, not just about them, but from them, too,” she said.

Mualefhe said she comes from a privileged background in Botswana where her family is in the middle class, hence she has mostly been cushioned from the effects of climate change.

She has, however, noted that Botswana has a long-running history of droughts that are getting worse and, in recent years, floods have also been experienced.

“The project I’m pursuing for my dissertation is an ethnographic exploration of climate change in Botswana, where I’m from. I’m going to COP28 as a component of one of the classes I took this semester, an international climate policy class.

“I chose it mainly for this opportunity. My research interests are in climate change, climate justice, climate/environmental/energy policy, gendered power, public policy-making, and policy analysis,” she said.

However, with access to the conference, she plans to attend events and discussions relating to adaptation, just transition, capacity-building, gender, and other discussions focusing on Africa and the Global South in general.

But does she think COP28 will achieve much?

“I have felt some disappointment about the UN Climate Change Convention in general and climate conferences, of which COP is the biggest one. I just don’t think enough is happening, considering what is known. I think there is an awful focus on politics at these conferences that takes away some of the work that needs to be done,” said Mualefhe.

Tafadswa Kurotwi, Image provided

Book targets young people

Tafadswa Kurotwi, in her fourth year at the Catholic University of Zimbabwe, attended COP27 and told University World News she is also making her way to COP28.

She said there is a gap in climate education which she has tried to bridge by writing a book targeting young people.

She said the climate change book which she wrote with fellow youths Elizabeth Gulugulu and Priyanka Naik will be launched during COP28. She could not say more about the book until its launch.

“My attendance is to amplify my voice as well as to represent young people from my country and from the Global South, who are being impacted by the climate crisis,” she said.

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