Cigarette smugglers put Air Zim under a cloud
BRITAIN has threatened to ban Air Zimbabwe from landing at its airports because of rampant smuggling of contraband by its staff, according to the Zimbabwe Independent.
Airline sources said the British authorities recently wrote to the national carrier to express concern over the prevalence of cigarette smuggling incidents involving Air Zimbabwe employees over the past year.
A spokesman for Air Zimbabwe, Moses Mapanda, confirmed the British Customs service had written to the national carrier. "Her Majesty's Customs have recently impounded cigarettes which were apparently being smuggled by Air Zimbabwe staff into the United Kingdom," said Mapanda.
"They indeed have advised the airline that they could take punitive action against staff of the airline or both. These actions could involve confiscation of goods, fines, expulsion of staff or impounding of the aircraft," he said. In desperate attempts to restore its battered image, Air Zimbabwe's acting senior manager responsible for flight operations, Solomon Musikavanhu,
warned all captains of dire consequences if flight crews were caught smuggling. Meanwhile Air Zimbabwe chief executive Brendon Donohoe has reportedly tightened control on spending Flight crews say this has resulted in the airline offering sub-standard in-flight entertainment and leading to an acute shortage of spares as well as uniforms for staff.
They say morale is low at the national carrier is being prepared for commercialisation and subsequent privatisation.
Air Zimbabwe executives however flatly denied the allegations.
The airline wants to trim its present bloated staff of about 1700 by at least 400 through a staff rationalisation exercise inaugurated in October last year.
A Zimbabwean traditional healer managed to wipe the disbelieving smirks off the faces of officers at a small rural police station recently when he turned up to hand in tools he said he used to make lightning. The officers laughed at his claim that he could control lightning at will. So the man decided to demonstrate his powers by directing a lightning bolt to hit a tree at the police camp and the tree was hit by a flash from the sky.
N'angas in south-east Zimbabwe, home of the country's Shangaan people, are renowned for their alleged powers to call lightning to strike targets of their choice.
About 400 people are killed by lightning every year in Zimbabwe, one of the highest rates of lightning deaths in the world.
Ministry nails VIP housing scam debtors
THE Zimbabwe Ministry of Local Government and National Housing has recommended that the Attorney General's office take legal action against 36 senior government officials who jointly owe it nearly $12 million for houses built for them under a facility initially meant to benefit low income earners, the Zimbabwe Independent has reported.
Letters of demand have already been sent to the officials who include a senior minister, a judge, a newspaper editor, and several permanent secretaries.
Documents in the possession of the Independent, which first broke the story detailing abuse of the scheme in May 1997, show that 47 other letters of demand are being prepared for a second batch of government officials who benefited from the scheme.
The revelations are a result of an investigation set up by the Minister of Local Government and National Housing, John Nkomo, who last year appointed a team led by a SRM Hoza to look into the abuse of the facility, popularly known as the VIP housing scheme.
The findings of the investigating team were submitted to Nkomo in November. However, Nkomo could not immediately be reached for comment on whether government had accepted the recommendation to sue the debtors. His office said yesterday he was attending a funeral in Bulawayo.
Documents in the Independent's possession show that altogether 185 senior government officials benefited from the illegal housing scheme at the expense of the intended beneficiaries, some of whom were said to be still contributing to the facility suspended by the government.
The documents provide a full list of the 36 senior government officials who have already been sent letters of demand.
Apart from the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, who had a house built for her at 221 Armthwaite Road, Quinnington, Borrowdale, other senior state officials who benefited from the scheme include High Court judge Justice Paddington Garwe, Foreign Affairs minister Stan Mudenge, and Ambassador Tichaona Jokonya. The late William Gumbochuma and Herald editor Bornwell Chakaodza were also beneficiaries, according to a memorandum, reference 69/10, sent to the Secretary for Local Government and National Housing, Finny Munyira.
As of November 24 1998, Garwe of plot number 14209 Gunhill, Harare, owed the government $109 115, Mudenge of 31 Brelades Road, Greystone Park, owed $13 778, Jokonya of 72 Rhodesville Avenue, Highlands, $917 060, the late Gumbochuma of 2312 Musasa Road, New Marlborough, $768 592, and Chakaodza of 82 Goodrington Rd, Bluff Hill, $584 146.
The same document shows that the 36 beneficiaries owed the govern-ment
a total of $11 568 355.
"It is recommended that the above names be forwarded to the Civil Division for legal action since there is very little or no response at all from the debtors," said Hoza, the team leader charged with investigating the scam in a confidential report outlining progress on the probe.
Nineteen other beneficiaries had by November 24 1998 reimbursed the state a total of $22 579 308, including Mrs Mugabe who is listed as having paid $5 846 333 for her property in Borrowdale.
Zimbabwe's economy 'most unstable'
Barclays Bank has said Zimbabwe has the most unstable peacetime economy in Southern Africa due to continuously plummeting public and business confidence. In its economic bulletin for December, the bank said most households had become much poorer in the wake of a more than 200 percent decline in the value of the local currency and rising inflation which is currently the highest in Southern Africa at 45,1 percent. Interest rates are at a whopping 48 percent.
Cool Britannia gets Mugabe hot under collar
ROBERT MUGABE has hit back at Britain after receiving a cold reception during a recent visit to London, where some newspapers described him as a tyrant and suggested he should be arrested for human rights abuses.
Mugabe was quoted by government-controlled media in Harare as saying that the British were at the forefront of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe during a century of colonialism - when the country was called Rhodesia - but were now masquerading as champions of democracy.
"Goodness me," said Mugabe. "What do the British actually think they are doing - building good relations between ourselves or destroying them?"
He said Britain had "oppressed us for a whole century. We were put in prison. Others were killed, and it was all in the name of British colonialism."
The Herald said that during his tour of Europe in December, Mugabe was "well received in France and Italy.
"But when the presidential entourage passed through London, news-papers there called Comrade Mugabe all sorts of names including 'tyrant, dictator, despot and even Pinochet', among others."
Some British papers had suggested that Mugabe should be arrested in the same way as former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who was detained during a visit to Britain in October.
Mugabe said there were no longer detention camps in Zimbabwe, as there were during white-minority rule, which ended in 1980 after a bloody guerrilla war.
He pointed out that even former prime Minister Ian Smith remained free and was protected by the laws of the country.
Referring to Zimbabwe's land reform programme - one of the issues which has caused friction between the two countries recently - Mugabe said he was determined to go ahead with plans to take land from whites to give to blacks.
"Those British lords who have their 'Little Englands' and are absentee landlords will lose their 'Little Englands'," he said.
Thousands try for army
More than 3000 school leavers on Monday thronged Imbizo barracks, 25 kilometres east of Bulawayo, where the Zimbabwe National Army is recruiting.
Warrant Officer Shelter Ndlovu said the huge turnout was despite the fact that the recruitment exercise was never advertised in the press.
She said the army was looking at recruiting 1000 school leavers with at least five ordinary level passes to be trained as general soldiers.
She said the recruitment had nothing to do with the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo where Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Chad are fighting alongside DRC President Laurent Kabila's troops against the forces of Uganda and Rwanda, who are backing Tutsi-led rebels seeking to oust Kabila.
The recruitment will be completed next week.