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Morgan Tsvangirai: The quiet man forced into the wrong job

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Morgan Tsvangirai

Anyone who ever stood up for principle and paid for it in pain will mourn the passing of Morgan Tsvangirai, the man who never wanted to be president but wore himself out trying on behalf of his suffering people.

Tsvangirai, who succumbed to colon cancer in a Johannesburg hospital on February 14, never wanted the power that many leaders in Africa crave. His heart was in his humble rural roots in Buhera in eastern Zimbabwe – where he was born the eldest of nine children to a miner – and in the trade union movement. Tsvangirai followed his father down the mine and when independence came, in 1980, he joined the ruling party, Zanu-PF, and rose swiftly through the ranks becoming a staunch supporter of President Robert Mugabe. History is littered with such ironies.

It was as head of the mighty Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions that Tsvangirai enjoyed his annus mirabilis at the head of hundreds of thousands of workers. With his trademark cowboy hat, he could hold a crowd with fiery oratory and hold a strike in place against the odds. With a handful of faxes he could close the country down, which he did in 1997 and 1998 with mass stay-aways as economic hard times and President Mugabe’s indifference hurt the people.

READ MORE: Will Mnangagwa usher in a new democracy? The view from Zimbabwe

It was this skill that led him up the greasy pole of politics; yet, even in his pomp you could tell that he didn’t want to.

One hot afternoon, in 1998, amid a spate of strikes, my TV crew and I received a frantic call from Tsvangirai’s office for us to come and save him. By this time, he had raised the ire of thugs loyal to Zanu-PF, calling themselves war veterans, who stormed his office and tried to throw him out of a third-floor window. Tsvangirai asked his secretary to call us instead of the police because, sadly, in the politically charged atmosphere, he didn’t trust them.

Luckily, as we arrived, the thugs fled. As we calmed Tsvangirai down, I asked him why he didn’t go ahead and run for president as he had the power of the workers at his elbow.

“No, Chris, if you run for president even your grandchildren will be persecuted,” said Tsvangirai.

And so it turned out. Activists shepherded Tsvangirai into forming the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), setting into motion years of vilification, intimidation and abuse that left him battered and bloody in mind and body. Tsvangirai tried to keep his feet on the ground through his stable home life. In the early days he used to hold press conferences in his front garden where his charming wife, Susan, who died tragically in a car accident in 2009, used to bring us tea with a smile.

Yet, worse times came after tea. Tsvangirai, egged on by the west, became the world’s champion against the growing horror of Mugabe and paid for it by being arrested, beaten and charged with treason. Even the Mugabe-leaning judges in Harare dismissed the trumped-up charges.

Undoubtedly Tsvangirai won the presidential elections against Mugabe in 2008, but the conniving election authorities refused to release the results. Thus stolen election led to a power-sharing agreement, the following year, under which Tsvangirai became a pretty much powerless deputy president. He was never to reach the top spot not that, deep down, it really bothered him.

READ MORE: Zimbabwe urgently needs a new land administration system

Those who had stood against the bullies and suffered may prefer to remember Tsvangirai by another tale related by one of my colleagues in Zimbabwe.

A top level delegation of MDC officials had gone to see their political counterparts in Zambia. Zanu-PF apparatchiks in Harare lent on the Zambian government to deport them and the MDC group ended up stranded and angry under a tree, with phones with flat batteries, on the Zimbabwe side of the Chirundu border. Tsvangirai’s colleagues attacked their leader under the branches of the tree.

“What is the point of this political movement?” says one.

Tsvangirai seized the moment and ordered his empty-pocketed colleagues to sing as they marched to a village a few kilometers away. A few hours later, villagers were surprised to see Tsvangirai, in full voice, walking into their village at the head of a phalanx of suited comrades. A cell phone in the village summoned transport and they drove home in good spirits.

A fleeting taste of the leadership that Zimbabwe was destined to never see.

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Coca Cola South Africa Improves SME Role In Value Chain

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Coca Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) launches an R20 million fund for small supplier development and procurement, annually, for the next five years.

This was announced by the Financial Director, Walter Leonhardt at Gallagher Convention Centre at the third annual Supplier Development Conference.

CCBS is the South African-based subsidiary of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA).

Leonhardt said the purpose of this fund is to assist young upcoming black entrepreneurs in the Coca-Cola value chain.

“We are, today, launching the CCBSA supplier fund of access to funding. To address the issue of access to funding which most SMEs experience,” said Leonhardt.

This will enable the entrepreneurs’ procurement process to be easier.

“It is to help them buy equipment, fund working capital and to help them overcome something we have identified as a challenge for upcoming businesses, which is access to capital on quit lenient terms,” said Leonhardt.

Budding entrepreneurs can visit their website to find out how they can access the funds.

There were over 120 suppliers of CCBSA in attendance.

Managing director of CCBSA Velaphi Ratshefola said they spent R2.35 billion last year, supporting 567 black-owned suppliers, of whom, 265 were black female owned suppliers.  

“So for me, it is clear that this is working. We have helped create a very inclusive economy. We need to play our part and we need to ensure that only through an inclusive growing economy we can create a stable environment where businesses can flourish.

“If we do not have a stable environment, a stable economy, we will have a lot of disturbances which are never good for business,” said Ratshefola.                      

“So for all of us, we should not do it just for social reasons, we must do it for the success of businesses and imperative,” said Ratshefola. 

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Zimbabwe Central Bank Borrows $985 Million From African Banks

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Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank has borrowed $985 million from African banks to purchase fuel and other critical imports with current reserves covering imports for just four weeks, underscoring the severity of dollar shortages, governor John Mangudya said.

The southern African nation last month ditched a discredited 1:1 dollar peg for its surrogate bond notes and electronic dollars, merging them into a lower-value transitional currency called the RTGS dollar.

Mangudya said the central bank borrowed $641 million from the African Export and Import Bank, $152 million from Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank, and $25 million from Mozambique’s central bank, among others.

The loans, which would be repaid from future gold earnings, have a tenure of between three and five years and attract an interest of up to 6 percent above the Libor rate, Mangudya said.

Gold is Zimbabwe’s single biggest mineral export earner, accounting for a third of its $4.2 billion earnings last year after a record output, central bank data shows.

“These loans are well structured facilities contracted last year. They will be paid from future (gold) export receivables,” Mangudya told a parliamentary committee.

The central bank takes 45 percent of dollar sales from gold producers and half from other miners to fund imports like fuel and power and repay foreign loans.

But the miners only have 30 days to keep their dollar balances in local foreign currency accounts, after which they must sell them. The companies have asked the central bank to extend the period they may keep their dollars to 90 days, according to mining executives.

OVERDRAFT LIMIT

Unable to get funding from foreign lenders like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank due to arrears of more than $2.4 billion, Zimbabwe has looked to financiers from the continent and local banks to shore up its budget.

The central bank chief said Zimbabwe had just $500 million in reserves, enough to purchase four weeks’ worth of imports.

Mangudya said government borrowing from the central bank reached $2.99 billion in December, about three times its permissible overdraft limit.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has promised to curb borrowing in 2019 under reforms to revive the southern African economy, after the budget deficit soared last year following a spike in spending ahead of elections.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said last week that the local RTGS dollar, Zimbabwe’s new de facto currency, will be backed up with fiscal discipline and the government would allow it to fluctuate but would manage excessive volatility.

On the interbank forex market on Monday, one U.S. dollar fetched 2.5 RTGS dollars, the same rate as on Feb. 22 when the central bank sold some dollars to banks. That compares to a rate of 3.5 RTGS dollars per U.S. dollar on the black market. -Reuters

-MacDonald Dzirutwe

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Volvo To Limit Car Speeds In Bid For Zero Deaths

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Volvo Cars said on Monday it will introduce a 180 km per hour (112 mph) speed limiter on all new vehicles as the Swedish automaker seeks to burnish its safety credentials and meet a pledge to eliminate passenger fatalities by 2020.

While Volvo, whose XC90 flagship SUV currently has a top speed of 212 km/h, has made progress on its so-called “Vision 2020” target of zero deaths or serious injuries, Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said it is unlikely to meet the goal without additional measures to address driver behavior.

“We’ve realized that to close the gap we have to focus more on the human factors,” Samuelsson said. Volvo did not elaborate on the data but said its passenger fatalities were already well below the industry average before the goal was announced in 2007.

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In addition to the speed cap, Volvo plans to deploy technology using cameras that monitor the driver’s state and attentiveness to prevent people driving while distracted or intoxicated, two other big factors in accidents, Samuelsson said.

The company is also looking at lower geo-fenced speed limits to slow cars around sensitive pedestrian areas such as schools, while seeking to “start a conversation” among automakers and regulators about how technology can be used to improve safety.

Volvo, which is owned by China’s Geely, announced the new speed limitation policy on the eve of the Geneva auto show, where its new Polestar performance electric-car brand is showcasing its second model, the Polestar 2.

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While Volvo buyers often choose the brand for its safety, Samuelsson conceded that the speed cap could be a turn-off for a few in markets such as Germany, where drivers routinely travel at 200 km/h or more on unrestricted autobahns.

“We cannot please everybody, but we think we will attract new customers,” the CEO said, recalling that the roll-out of three-point seat belts pioneered by Volvo in 1959 had initially been criticized by some as intrusive.

“I think Volvo customers in Germany will appreciate that we’re doing something about safety,” he said. -Reuters

– Laurence Frost; additional reporting by Esha Vaish

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