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Zimbabwe’s Commonwealth return bid: Opposition says NO! – New Zimbabwe.com

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By Pindai Dube & Sharon Mazingaizo for The Sunday Times

“For Zimbabwe to rejoin the community of nations, it is very important for us to stop abusing citizens. You know that there are political prisoners who have been in pretrial detention for more than 140 days.


It’s crunch time for the government as a delegation from the Commonwealth landed in Zimbabwe this past weekend to assess the human rights situation, more than three years after President Emmerson Mnangagwa asked to be readmitted to the body.

The visit by the delegation, led by assistant secretary-general Prof Luis Franceschi, comes as election violence is on the rise ahead of next year’s presidential polls.

It also comes as two main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) MPs, Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole, have been in Chikurubi prison for five months alongside 14 party members on allegations of political violence after organising a wake for slain party member Moreblessing Ali. Sithole was released on Friday night ahead of the delegation’s arrive yesterday.

In addition, 34 Apostolic Church members have been held in remand prison for four months. They were arrested for marching on Harare’s CBD to pray for the country’s economic revival.

Two weeks ago, political violence also hit Matebeleland during municipal by-elections. CCC MP Jasmine Toffa and a number of party supporters were injured and hospitalised after being attacked, allegedly by Zanu-PF supporters.

In a statement ahead of their arrival, the secretariat said it would be in until Thursday on a visit that is part of an “informal process of assessment”.

Commonwealth Assistant secretary-general Prof Luis Franceschi

The delegation said it would meet the president,  members of the government and senior officials, as well as members of opposition political parties, heads of diplomatic missions in Harare, and civil society organisations such as the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) and the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’ Association (ZWLA), alongside media and business associations.

“The process of readmission entails several rigorous steps that all countries wishing to join the Commonwealth must undertake and includes countries’ adherence to the values enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter,” it said. These include peace, freedom and democracy.

Zimbabwe was suspended from the 56-nation organisation in 2002 for breaching the Harare declaration and withdrew the following year after the body refused to lift the suspension.

Zanu PF information director Tafadzwa Mugwadi said: “We welcome the Commonwealth delegation which is coming to do its assessment.”

He said the assessment would focus on conditions that had been put in place so  Zimbabwe can return to the Commonwealth.

“We welcome them and hope their stay in Zimbabwe will expose them to the reality of our democracy, the reality of our peaceful existence as a country and as a people.

“Most importantly, to the tailoring efforts that tell the story of the second republic under the leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa,” Mugwadi said.

CCC spokesperson Fadzai Mahere said her party believed Zimbabwe should not be readmitted because of continuing human rights violations.

“For Zimbabwe to rejoin the community of nations, it is very important for us to stop abusing citizens. You know that there are political prisoners who have been in pretrial detention for more than 140 days.

“Violations of the constitution, violations of property rights, corruption, the escalation of violence by Zanu-PF against citizens, journalists and members of political opposition and civic society, the shrinking democratic space and the continued promulgation of repressive unconstitutional legislation — that does not bode well for Zimbabwe to be received back into the community of nations,” she said.

CCC national spokesperson Fadzai Mahere

While the Commonwealth delegation is in the country, a court battle looms between the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZRC) which has been accused of misconduct and manipulation as the country heads towards the presidential election.

This after the gazetting, in August, of hefty nomination fees for aspiring presidential and parliamentary candidates. Presidential candidates have to pay US$20,000 to qualify to run for office next year, and would-be MPs are required to cough up US$1,000.

The ZEC said a hard copy of the 187,000-page national voters’ roll will cost $1 a page. An electronic copy costs a comparatively cheap $200 but the elections authority won’t provide one, for “security” reasons.

Last week, the ZEC demanded that the ERC pay it US$187,238 for a printed copy of the voters’ roll.

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“We advise that for the time being the voters’ roll can only be furnished in printed form as the commission is working on enhancing the security of the electronic voters’ roll and same would be availed on a platform at a date to be advised,” the ZEC said in response.

On Wednesday, the ERC gave the ZEC an ultimatum to provide it with an electronic copy within 10 days or it will take it to court. The ERC has engaged Zimbabwe Human Rights Lawyers to fight the case on their behalf.

Late last month, the ZEC told opposition MP Rusty Markham it was only able to provide him with a hard copy of the roll “upon payment of the prescribed fee”, and that it would be sent to him within 30 working days from the date of payment.

Markham has also challenged the ZEC to withdraw the exorbitant nomination fees and told the Sunday Times the electoral body was using delaying tactics to avoid a voters’ roll audit.

“It is clear that ZEC are delaying for as long as possible to supply a clean voters’ roll that can be audited and assessed. Under no circumstances can anyone believe or trust ZEC with their voters’ roll if they are not prepared to have it audited. What ZEC is doing is exactly what they did in 2008 when there was a very strong possibility of the opposition winning the elections, so they are doing exactly the same thing of going back to their default setting of trying to cheat their way out of it. I have no confidence in ZEC at all,” Markham said.

The Herald quoted ZEC spokesperson Jasper Mangwana saying the high price of a hard copy of the voters’ roll was intended to guard against its manipulation and abuse.

“It is US$1 per page as it will have security features to avoid tampering and duplication. Some people have been abusing the voters’ roll by taking critical personal information of voters, including their national identity numbers and addresses,” he said.

National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) party leader Prof Lovemore Madhuku told the Sunday Times the nomination fees were unfair.

“The exorbitant nomination fees are both undemocratic and unlawful. They will unlawfully interfere with our political party’s participation in the 2023 elections,” said Madhuku.

“I do not think the fees will be allowed … It would mean the ZEC is now governing the country instead of merely conducting free, fair and credible elections. If we raise such monies for being nominated, how much more is required for political campaigns? I think that the ZEC, on its own, ought to revise the fees substantially downwards.”

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Biden: Willing to Talk to Putin About Ending War in Ukraine – VOA Zimbabwe

WHITE HOUSE AND WASHINGTON —

U.S. President Joe Biden raised the possibility Thursday of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin to negotiate an end to Moscow’s war against Ukraine but said he had yet to see any willingness on Putin’s part to halt his 10-month invasion.

“I’m prepared to talk to Putin but only in consultation with NATO allies,” Biden said at a White House news conference after holding several hours of private talks with French President Emmanuel Macron about Ukraine and other issues. “I have no immediate plans to contact Mr. Putin. I’m not going to do it on my own.”

“There’s one way for this war to end, Putin to pull out of Ukraine,” Biden said. “It’s sick what he’s doing. If he’s looking for a way to end the war, he hasn’t done that.”

Macron said he was confident the U.S. would continue to support Ukraine with more military and humanitarian assistance.

“It’s about our values,” the French leader said. “Having the U.S. support Ukraine … is very important.”

Biden said the U.S. “will never ask Ukraine to compromise” to end the war without the consent of the Kyiv government.

Earlier, before their private discussions, Biden said as he welcomed Macron for the first state visit of a foreign leader during his presidency, “France and the United States are facing down Vladimir Putin’s ambition.”

“The alliance between our two nations remains essential for our defense,” Biden said. “The U.S. could not ask for a better partner than France.” He described France as “our oldest ally and unwavering partner in freedom’s cause.”

Macron, speaking on a sunny but chilly morning in Washington, said, “As war returns to European soil with Russian aggression against Ukraine, and in light of the multiple crises facing our nations and societies, we need to become brothers-in-arms once more.”

He said Washington and Paris “share the same faith in freedom and democratic values.”

While agreeing on their determination to support Ukraine, Macron expressed sharp concerns to Biden about the U.S. leader’s Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, approved by Congress earlier this year that provides billions of dollars to support the U.S. clean energy industry, and a separate measure that bolsters U.S. semiconductor manufacturers.

Macron told congressional leaders Wednesday that the measure was “super aggressive” toward European companies.

“The consequence of the IRA is that you will perhaps fix your issue, but you will increase my problem,” he said, noting that France makes “exactly the same products as you.”

At the news conference, Biden said the legislation was “never intended to exclude” European trading partners. “We’re back in business,” he said of U.S. economic advances. “Europe is back in business.”

Macron said, “France wants the same new manufacturing jobs.”

Biden acknowledged that some aspects of the legislation might need to be tweaked, as he put it, and said he was confident that U.S. and European negotiators could work out differences so both the U.S. and European economies can prosper.

The pomp and circumstance of a White House state visit for a foreign leader was on full display, with Biden and first lady Jill Biden greeting Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, and then watching as a band in colonial uniforms played the national anthems of both countries. A 21-gun salute for Macron’s visit rang out.

The two leaders and their wives waved from the White House balcony before Biden and Macron went inside for substantive talks. A state dinner was planned for the evening.

The Bidens took the Macrons to Fiola Mare, an upscale Italian seafood restaurant overlooking the Potomac River, on Wednesday evening.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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Bid for more MICE events: ZTA – Zimbabwe Independent

ZIMBABWE Tourism Authority Chief Executive, Ms Winnie Muchanyuka has urged players in the tourism and hospitality players to collaborate with government in bidding for Meetings Incentives Conferences Exhibitions Tourism (MICE) events.

Muchanyuka was speaking at the 2022 edition of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe Congress which kicked off in Victoria Falls yesterday. 

“I would like to encourage the hospitality industry to continue working closely with the ZTA and other government arms to jointly formulate strategies to bid for more MICE business. We must find strategic ways to collaborate in our quest to promote Zimbabwe as a first choice MICE destination,” said Muchanyuka. 

“There is a lot of potential for us to create more MICE businesses locally. We just need to have a more collaborative approach as a sector. If you look at our statistics for this year, you will find out that MICE contributed quite significantly to the general recovery of the sector.

Muchanyuka said hoteliers have indicated that most of the MICE business was generated from the domestic market which was mostly constituted of government agencies, the corporate sector and nongovernmental organisations.

“MICE business continues to be the dominating force in generating room occupancies for hotels,” she said. 

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Zim traverses globe to reclaim tourism markets – NewsDay

THE battle to reclaim tourism markets have accelerated since governments eased Covid-19 pandemic restrictions this year. In an interview with our business reporter Freeman Makopa (FM) this week, Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Mangaliso Ndlovu (MN) tells us the strides the country has made. Below are excerpts of the interview:

FM: What is the outlook for the tourism industry?

MN: Since the beginning of the year, global tourism has continued to exhibit signs of consistent recuperation from the adverse consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Current trends for Zimbabwe have shown recovery, which has been supported by the bouncing back of worldwide inbound travel and growth in domestic tourism.

FM: How has the industry performed this year?

MN: The first nine months of 2022 saw a 165% rise in tourist arrivals. Arrivals increased to 693 498 during the period, from 261 415 during the same period in 2021. This is more than double the number of international arrivals received during the first nine months of 2021.

FM: This means hotel room occupancies have also improved

MN: Yes, on average, occupancies for the first nine months of 2022 grew by 21 percentage points. Occupancies rose from 21% in 2021 to 42% in 2022. Overall, this performance has been reinforced by domestic tourism, which is dominant, contributing 95% of tourism business in 2022.

FM: How has Zimbabwe managed to drum up domestic tourism during this difficult period, economically?

MN: Like any other country, Zimbabwe is traversing through the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the on-going war in Ukraine. These have affected global economies, travel and trade. Given this economic situation, the tourism sector is implementing the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy (TRGS), which is driving the growth of tourism. This is mainly through campaigns to accelerate meetings, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) and domestic tourism. The ZimBho, MeetInZim and InvestInZim campaigns have stimulated domestic and business tourism.

FM: Please share the investment levels into the sector attributable to these campaigns

MN: These campaigns have contributed to tourism growth doubling for January to September 2022 as alluded to earlier. There have been investments totalling US$306,7 million during the period, from US$90,4 million. This was mostly invested into accommodation facilities and vehicle hire.

FM: How do you plan to sustain this growth trajectory?

MN: The tourism sector is guided by the National Development Strategy (NDS) 1, 2021 to 2025 and the TRGS. NDS1 agitates for the growth of the tourism sector through increased investment into diversified products, while TRGS seeks to grow the tourism economy to US$5 billion by 2025. The ministry has the following programmes in place, in its endeavour to achieve the NDS1 goals: product development and diversification, instituting ease of doing business reforms, climate proofing of the tourism sector and establishing a tourism satellite account.

FM: Tell us about the role of the private sector in these initiatives

MN: Zimbabwe’s tourism sector is government-led and private sector driven. The ministry and the private sector already have synergies to promote the country through bilateral agreements signed with other countries in the region and abroad. The ministry is currently implementing memoranda of understanding on cooperation in the field of tourism with South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These provide the public and private sectors the opportunity to jointly market and promote destinations, exchange of programmes for professional in the sector and joint collaboration of private sector associations. Government also supports private sector participation at international travel fairs through subsidising participation fees of operators. The ministry through the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), jointly with the private sector, participates annually at fairs such as World Travel Market in London, International Travel Bourse in Berlin, Germany and Indaba Travel Fair in Durban, South Africa. 

FM: What else is the government doing?

MN: Over and above the synergies, the ministry is establishing market presence in the country’s key tourism source markets. Two tourism attachés were deployed in August and September 2022 to China and the United Arab Emirates. An additional nine tourism attachés were recently appointed and are expected to be deployed in the first quarter of 2023 to Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, India, South Africa, China and Japan. Physical presence in key source markets and the joint synergies with the private sector will aid government in promoting the destination internationally, attracting more tourists to the country.

FM: Tell us about financial support to the industry.

MN: The government of Zimbabwe has put in place several incentives to help the tourism sector. These include duty rebates on capital equipment for use in tourism development zones.  We also have SI 10 of 2022, which spells out rebate on duty for safari vehicles and tour buses and SI 279 of 2019, which spells out rebates in respect of new capital equipment for expansion, modernisation and renovation of hotels and restaurants within hotels.

The funding also supports boat equipment imports, among others. There are also tax breaks in tourism development zones and tax exemptions for investments into the Victoria Falls tourism special economic zone. 

FM: What are the developments on the electricity front, with regards to tourism?

MN: Electricity and water are already subsidised by the government. As a result, Zimbabwe has one of the cheapest utilities in the Sadc region in this respect. The government of Zimbabwe in 2018 launched the National Tourism Masterplan, which is an overarching guide to the development of tourism in Zimbabwe. The master plan identified potential tourism nuggets to grow new tourist attractions in Zimbabwe. The plan has identified 11 tourism development zones in Harare, Eastern Highlands, Chimanimani, Gonarezhou, Limpopo, Great Zimbabwe, Midlands, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Kariba and Mavhuradonha. Government has put in place incentives to support investments into special economic zones and tourism development zones that investors can take advantage of.

The national tourism policy agitates for an enabling environment to attract investment into the sector. It also uses tourism to attract foreign direct investment into the country. At the same time, the government will ensure the industry is protected from disinvestment through primary and secondary legislation.

FM: Are you happy with accessibility?        

MN: Accessibility is the backbone of the growth of tourism destinations. And air accessibility contributes significantly to the growth of regional and international tourist arrivals to any destination. Air Zimbabwe, therefore, plays a critical role in providing direct access to Zimbabwe from key source markets and an instrumental role in national identity. The airline connects Harare with local destinations such as Victoria Falls. To strengthen the role of Air Zimbabwe in connecting travellers, the government has allowed private sector players such as Fasjet and Kuva Air to fly from Harare to Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and Kariba. We are fully behind the capacitation of the airline and the massive investment in the expansion of the ports of entry.

FM: We have seen more airlines returning to this market. Please share with us what has been happening

MN: The cross-cutting role of infrastructure development, such as the expansion of airports has a huge impact on all sectors of the economy. Airport expansion will boost the country’s growth and transformation in trade and tourism as part of strides. Airport expansion, as seen with at Victoria Falls International Airport, will attract new aircrafts and airlines.

The expansion of Victoria Falls International Airport saw African airlines like Ethiopian Airlines, Air Botswana, Fastjet, Airlink and Kenya Airways increasing flight frequencies to the resort town.

It also attracted new airlines like Eurowings from Germany and Mack Air from Botswana.

This also increased the airport’s passenger handling capacity from 500 000 a year to about 1,5 million. 

Expansion will, therefore increase regional and international tourist arrivals into the country, tourism receipts and the sector’s contribution to gross domestic product as well as attainment of the US$ 5billion tourism sector by 2025.

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