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Cablegate: Zim Notes January 11, 2008

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R 111030Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2370
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1813
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1717
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RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
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RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0970
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000018

SIPDIS

AF/S FOR S.HILL
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B.PITTMAN
TREASURY FOR J.RALYEA AND T.RAND
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND E.LOKEN
COMMERCE FOR BECKY ERKUL

SIPDIS

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC PHUM ECON ZI

SUBJECT: Zim Notes January 11, 2008

1. The Embassy Harare Political/Economic Section began producing
Zim Notes in July, 2007 to present a perspective on current events
in Zimbabwe. Suggestions are always welcome. If you would like to
receive Zim Notes by email, as well, please contact Frances Chisholm
at chisholmfm@state.gov. Distribution is restricted to U.S.
government employees.

2. Parallel rate for cash: ZW$2.5 million:US$1; For bank transfers:
Z$4.5 million; Official rate: ZW$$30,000:US$1
Sugar on the parallel market fell to Z$2.6 million/2kg vs.
controlled price of Z$247,000/2kg
Cooking oil on the parallel market rose to Z$9 million/750ml vs.
controlled price of Z$440,000/750ml
Petrol rose to Z$3.6 million/liter vs. Z$60,000/liter at controlled
price

-----------------------------
On the Political/Social Front
-----------------------------
3. Countdown to Elections... SADC talks are stalled over ZANU-PF's
refusal to postpone elections and implement an agreed-upon draft
constitution before elections. Faced with an uneven electoral
playing field (delimitation of new constituencies favoring ZANU-PF
and obstacles in registering new voters), continuing political
intimidation, and difficulties in organizing for a March election,
the MDC has considered a boycott of the elections which it fears may
serve to legitimize Mugabe in the likely event he wins. But it
appears the two MDC factions will contest the elections, which
probably will take place on March 29, as a coalition.

4. Indigenization and Empowerment Bill... Dead?... The
Indigenization and Empowerment Bill passed by parliament in October
2007, appears to have died a natural death as a result of President
Mugabe's failure to sign it within the statutorily prescribed time.
The Bill sparked heated debate when it was first introduced in
August. It mandates over time 51% indigenous ownership of
businesses. We understand the controversial Bill was transmitted to
Mugabe on November 15th 2007. There is speculation that he declined
to sign it now because he feared the reeling economy could not
withstand yet another shock. The government will undoubtedly
revisit this subject.

5. Hefty Raise Ends Judicial Strike... Magistrates, prosecutors
and other court staff head back to work after a three-month strike
for better pay and working conditions. State media reported that
the government raised salaries by 2,200% to between ZW$460 million
and ZW$1 billion (about US$180 - US$400 at the parallel market
rate). The lowest paid magistrate previously earned ZW$20 million
per month. The strike brought the judicial system to a halt across
the country as nearly all court cases were delayed, and pretrial
detainees languished in Zimbabwe's overcrowded remand prisons.
Prior to the strike, there was already a reported backlog of 350,000
cases in the judicial system.

6. Teachers Get 1,000% Pay Raise... The government also opened the
wallet for teachers who had threatened to remain home when the next
school term starts on January 15. The lowest paid teacher's base
salary went from ZW$15 million to ZW$150 million (about US$6 to
US$60). A Progressive Teacher's Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ)
representative said that while the increase will help struggling
teachers in the short-term, it is not nearly enough given
deteriorating economic conditions. PTUZ plans a new round of
consultative sessions with members. The government may have bought
a few weeks of labor peace, but it faces additional labor actions in
coming months as the increasingly restive civil servants, including
doctors and nurses, continue to press for wages that keep up with
galloping inflation.

7. Ag Workers Get A Raise, Too... The National Employment Council

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(NEC) for Agriculture and its social partners (including the farm
workers union and the farmers unions) agreed to a wage increase
starting December 1. The lowest paid worker in general agriculture
received a 300% increase in the monthly wage to ZW$10 million (about
US$4 on the parallel market), in horticulture a 414% increase to
ZW$18.5 million (about US$8), and in timber a 414 percent increase
to ZW$19.5 million. Hyperinflation, however, will quickly erode the
value of these slim increases, and commercial farmer tell us that
the labor shortage is acute, at least at these wages.

8. Deteriorating Water and Sanitation Situation... The water and
sanitation situation in urban areas of Zimbabwe is rapidly
declining, with the potential for severe public health consequences.
While the primary focus of humanitarian water, sanitation, and
hygiene assistance to date has been on Bulawayo, there are reports
of increased incidences of diarrhea in Harare's high-density
suburbs. The number of diarrhea cases in both cities is considered
manageable for now, but close monitoring is needed. Contingency
supplies are in place to handle a small-to-moderate size
diarrhea-related outbreak in one or two urban areas, with full
stocks to address a large-scale crisis to be in place by the end of
January. Next steps, including mid-to-long term strategies to
address water, sanitation, and health concerns, are being considered
by the UN, GOZ, and donors, including USAID. See Harare 0009

--------------------------------------------- ----
On the Economic and Business front
--------------------------------------------- ----
9. Cash Crunch Continues... Despite the introduction of new,
higher-denominated bearer checks on December 31 intended to solve
the cash crisis that has gripped Zimbabwe since early November, the
cash shortage is still severe and widespread. A survey of the banks
in downtown Harare this week found longer queues forming outside
most bank branches in the early hours of the day than a week ago,
reflecting the growing transaction demand for cash arising from a
rate of inflation rate that ended the year as high as 130,000%
according to one respected private report. While the RBZ is
apparently reluctant to increase the money supply and fuel inflation
further by injecting liquidity, it's clear that the amount of cash
in circulation is still woefully inadequate to satisfy transaction
needs.

10. Zimbabwe - One of World's Best-Performing Stock Exchanges -
Even In Real Terms... The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) was one of
the best performing stock markets in the world in real terms in 2007
despite the sharply deteriorating state of the economy. The mining
and industrial indices recorded staggering increases of 619,656% and
332,258% respectively between January 2 and December 31, 2007.
Robust demand came from both institutional and individual investors
seeking a hedge against inflation. Foreign investors have also
started to return to the ZSE, attracted by the significant discounts
arising from undervalued Zimbabwean assets following years of
under-investment. Almost all industrial and mining counters
recorded huge increases on the year. The stampede into equity is
likely to persist amid unrelenting economic instability.

11. More Land Put Under Crops This Summer... The FAO-led
Agriculture Coordination Working Group reported the following
agricultural season highlights as of December 14, 2007:
-- Total land area prepared for planting: about 1,149,407 ha
-- Area put under crops: 944,528 ha compared to 681,348 ha in the
same period last year
-- 475,901 ha planted to maize as compared to 361,497 ha in same
period last season
-- About 39,417 ha of tobacco planted; 66% of the targeted 60,000
ha
-- An estimated 123,396 ha of cotton planted (90,953 ha same time
last year)
-- Area planted to small grains: around 153,495 ha (75,407 ha same

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time last year)
-- Area planted to small grains: around 153,495 ha (75,407 ha same
time last year)

12. December Rains Break Record, And It's Still Pouring...
December was the wettest month in the country's 127 year history of
recorded rainfall patterns according to Zimbabwe's Meteorological
Services Department. Preliminary reports from the Government's
Civil Protection Unit indicate that over 8,000 people in Zimbabwe
have been affected by floods so far, and approximately 25 deaths
have been attributed to flooding. More rain is forecast over much
of the country in the next days. USAID's Famine Early Warning
System Network (FEWSNET) predicts a "low to moderate" tilt in the
odds for less than average rainfall for the remainder of season.

13. Rainfall to date has caused extensive waterlogging of fields,
but it is too early to ascertain the full impact on national food
production. Nevertheless, there are indications that late planting,
lack of top dressing to compensate for leaching, and the incessant
rains will affect yields, despite increased land put under
cultivation this season.

14. Quote of the Week, from the Financial Gazette of January 10-16.
John Worsley Worswick, chief executive officer of Justice for
Agriculture (JAG), on the outlook for this growing season: "It will
be the mother of all disasters"

MCGEE

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