Mugabe is warning off foreign firms

Will the new model work for Zimbabwe?

Following their recent election win, Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF government has issued a new warning to foreign firms. They ran a full-page advertisement in local papers this week saying that their comprehensive election win was an endorsement of their “indigenisation plans” that will see all foreign owned companies forced to give up 51 per cent of their equity to black Zimbabweans.

It is expected that this means that Mugabe will force the remaining 1100+ white and foreign owned companies left in the country, as well as local banks with foreign interests, to hand over 51 per cent of their businesses to the Zanu PF government.

"Over the next five years, Zimbabwe is going to witness a unique wealth transfer model that will see ordinary people take charge of the economy," the adverts read.

Saviour Kusukwere, one of Mugabe’s ministers, revealed separately that the country planned to seize 51 per cent of foreign-owned mines, worth an estimated US$7bn without any compensation. He warned that mines that refused to surrender more than half of their assets would lose their licences.

Recent Economic Trends

Following the 2000 referendum, Zimbabwe experienced 7 years of negative economic growth, with GDP per capita figures falling from US$535 in 2000 to US$415 in 2008. Then after introducing the US dollar as it currency in February 2009, the country witnessed a resurgence, with GDP per capita levels rising to US$788 by 2012 (Source: World Bank).

However, despite this small improvement, most African countries have surged ahead of it over this twelve year period as reflected in the table below.

Timeline: Mugabe’s 33 years in power

  • Mugabe and his Zanu PF party took power following the 1980 general elections.
  • Following droughts in the country in the late 90s and slowing economic growth, Mugabe was coming under increasing pressure to step aside.
  • Mugabe then held a referendum in 2000 in order to extend his powers. This referendum was unexpectedly defeated by a new opposition party formed from a labour union movement, the MDC and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
  • Months after the referendum, the MDC ran a candidate in every district in the country and emerged with nearly half the seats in parliament.
  • Zanu PF responded by launching a campaign of violence to intimidate the MDC. It also destabilized the country by ordering the invasion of commercial farms by so called War veterans.
  • Following the invasions and general public outcry, new media laws were passed prior to the 2002 elections which led to the closure of all independent newspapers in the country.
  • Zanu PF won majorities in the 2002 and 2005 elections. These results were heavily disputed by the MDC and international bodies.
  • MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was severely beaten by government officials in 2007 and his bodyguard, Nhamo Musekiwa, was killed.
  • The MDC won a majority in the 2008 election but they did not achieve over 50 per cent of the vote and a run-off election was therefore required.
  • Prior to the run-off election, Zanu PF launched another campaign of violence against MDC supporters, forcing the MDC to pull out of runoff elections and effectively handing power back to Mugabe.
  • Susan Tsvangirai was killed in a car crash in 2009, which is believed by many to be the work of Zanu PF officials who were attempting to assassinate her husband Morgan Tsvangirai, who was in the same car at the time. He survived.
  • In a deal brokered by South African president Thabo Mbeki following the 2008 elections, Mugabe remained president and kept control over the army and the country as a whole.
  • Mugabe won the recent elections held on the 31st July 2013, taking over 60 per cent of the presidential vote and over two thirds of parliamentary vote. These results have been heavily disputed by the MDC, as well as by various independent bodies and the UK and US government. However, most regional powerhouses including the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the South African government said the elections were free and fair. In fact, the only African country to officially speak out against the result was Botswana.
Robert Mugabe. Photograph: Getty Images

Andrew Amoils is a writer for WealthInsight

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Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

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Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.