Muckraker: Lieutva And The Tourism Boom

AN evil spirit has possessed Zimbabwe’s retail sector. Consumers have become its biggest victims of late. Only very tough measures can exorcise it.

 

There are so many outrageous prices charged for the same commodity by different retail outlets that it’s hard for the consumer to know what to pay. And the same item in the same shop can have at least three prices.

Retailers now say they have a “cash” price, a “swipe” price and a “cheque” price for the same item. Consumers have been phoning with harrowing tales.

One irate guy says he went into a supermarket where he was told a kg of chicken cost $1 080. After it was weighed on the scale and found to be slightly over a kg, the price shot to $1 500.

Fair, so thought the guy. He told them he wanted to use his ATM card, and he was told he was most welcome. Then the price leaped to $21 500.

Another victim of this extortion wanted to purchase medication for an ailing mother. He went to a pharmacy and was told he would need to part with $50 000 for cash. When he said he could not raise that kind of money, he was offered an alternative. He could “swipe”, where upon the price ballooned to a staggering $200 000.

What exactly are consumers expected to do with daily cash withdrawal limits set at $500? We know raising this on its own won’t help because the same unscrupulous retailers will just peg their cheapest item on the next withdrawal limit the following day. Where is the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions or the National Incomes and Pricing Commission?

It is an understatement to say this is daylight robbery. Tough action is needed yesterday to deal with these robber barons.

Recently Dusty Miller, who covers food, drink and travel for us, wrote about the upcoming ZTA Travel Expo, mentioning, in passing, he hoped sponsored buyers and journalists, this time, didn’t all come from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Albania or Anatolia: an alliterative aspiration, hinting the tourism body seems to spend an awful lot of time and money attracting, well….not exactly world class players here.

Lo and behold in Monday’s Herald of Total Honesty, we see ZTA bossman Karikoga Kaseke beaming on the front page, welcoming travel writers, described as “influential media personalities”.

Turn to page 2 and read some of them are from Latvia and Lieutva!

Where?

All can be revealed by stamp-collector Muckraker: Lieutva is what Lithuanians call Lithuania!

Muckraker somehow doubts Zimbabwe will be inundated with travellers from Lithuania, Latvia or fellow Baltic statelet, Estonia, all fairly recently freed from the yoke of Soviet communism, after previously being Nazi puppet states…and communist before that.

Meanwhile The Herald’s Saturday city.com issue tells us that Akon (named by Kaseke as a Zimbabwe tourism ambassador) faces trial in Fishkill, New York, charged with second degree harassment and endangering the welfare of a child!

Some ambassador!

Can we expect to see page one pictures of influential media personalities “jetting in” from Shqiperia as the controversial tourism shop window in Bulawayo draws closer?

Where?

Shqiperia is what Albanians call Albania!

The special guests from Lieutva, Lithuania and Estonia have been brought to Zimbabwe courtesy of Kaseke’s tourism “post-election perception management programme”. The boss man must however make sure that visitors can go through immigration at Harare International Airport first before flying in the holiday-making journos.

On Sunday afternoon travellers from South Africa and Singapore were treated to a spirited exhibition of inefficiency and sloppiness by airport staff. For a good 15 minutes passengers shifted from one foot to the other as they waited for the officers to man their desks and stamp passports.

Eventually two officers started stamping passports but it took more than an hour to clear passengers from South Africa. Then it took forever for the baggage claim machine to disgorge bags. This is the picture of Zimbabwe a number of elderly tourists got on Sunday.

As if aware of Zimbabwe’s inadequacies, Kaseke, in a show of bravado, told the visiting journalists to report truthfully on the situation in the country. He said he did not expect the reporters to be the country’s “solidarity messengers” when they return to their countries.

“If you see people being strangled to death in the streets of Harare, or someone being thrown in a crocodile dam in Victoria Falls, please I beg you to report that without fear because we want the world to know the truth of the situation here in Zimbabwe,” exhorted Kaseke. What hints and news leads was he sharing with the foreign scribes?

Quite convenient for him to say so now that the bloody elections are over. But we hope the journalists will take him at his word and report that inflation is more than 10 million% , the shops are stocked with imported goods the poor cannot afford, that everyday you run the risk of being stranded because the country has no fuel and that without foreign currency, it is nearly impossible to purchase anything on both the formal and informal market. Thank you Kaseke.

The journalists can also report that it is an offence to go to an Internet café with foreign currency. The Herald of Monday had a story about eight Internet foreign currency dealers who had appeared in court charged with flouting Exchange Control regulations. They were arrested at an Internet café in the Harare central business district after police were tipped off about their dealings.

All of them were searched and found in possession of various amounts of foreign currency. Is it a crime against the law to be found in possession of foreign currency? In which case every Zimbabwean would almost certainly be arrested at some point because the rand and the US dollar have become the most reliable store of value. Who wants to keep Zimbabwe dollars with inflation at more than 10 million % yet honest citizens can access only $500 a day –– not enough to buy a loaf of bread.

You need four trips to the bank to be able to buy a 1kg of beef at the cheapest price of $2 000. Let’s get serious please. This will definitely attract visitors from the East.

Not quite as sweet as it sounds. Opposite Kaseke’s exhortation was a sabre-rattling Information permanent secretary George Charamba threatening to kick International Federation of Journalists secretary-general Aiden White for interfering in Zimbabwe’s domestic affairs. White had attempted, reports the Herald, to present to government “a draft model law on media regulation”.

Charamba accused White of prejudice because he had met MDC-T spokesperson and not Tafataona Mahoso of the Media and Information Commission or officials from the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe. Charamba felt slighted and flew into a royal rage.

“I also told him he was taking a political position and that I was ready to kick him out of my office.”

That should be wonderful copy for the visiting journalists and a major drawcard for tourists.

There was good news on agriculture front. The forthcoming season had “received a double boost”, said the Herald, after the meteorological department “predicted” a normal rainy season and government said it had acquired adequate inputs for maize production this year. Who wouldn’t want something positive out of this House of Hunger?

But in Zimbabwe you are safe to suspend belief after a bitter experience with former Agriculture Joseph Made and last year’s predicted “Mother of all Agricultural Seasons”. It turned to be a Harvest of Thorns.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has warned he will not be hurried into signing a bad deal. He told his supporters at a function to mark his party’s 9th anniversary in Gweru that they were the “winners” and would rather “not have a deal than to have a bad deal”.

In a reference to the inter-party talks and the unity government, Tsvangirai complained about being given “responsibility without authority”.

He went on: “In any case, the whole issue is not about the signature of Morgan Tsvangirai, it is about the signature of the people of Zimbabwe who want food, jobs, better health care and education.”

He ended with an enigmatic statement on his signature and why he was withholding it: “As long as that signature does not unlock the crisis and to resolve people’s expectations, there will not be any deal.” Is that what he really said or was something lost in translation? We don’t get it.

The circus around ANC president Jacob Zuma’s trial for fraud, racketeering and corruption is fast getting out of hand, especially since it was joined by the party’s youth militia led by one Julius Malema. The youth have vowed to “kill for Zuma”.

They want all the charges against him dropped; they want him as the next president, otherwise they will kill someone for it, including judges.

But the madness to subvert justice has also infected the nation’s elders. The Sunday Times reports that the South African Congress of Trade Unions (Cosatu) has threatened a two-day job stay-away if corruption charges against Zuma are not dropped today.

Cosatu general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said if the charges are not dropped they will picket National Prosecution Authority offices throughout the country because they believe their hero will not receive a fair trial.

“We fear what could happen should something happen to him (Zuma),” Vavi told the Sunday Times. “The belief among workers and South Africans that the ANC president is a target of machinations runs deep,” he said, without explaining ANC leaders’ role in trying to use mob rule to influence the justice system.

We thought our own Joseph Chinotimba and his gang of thugs had performed the worst stunts when they invaded the Supreme Court at the height of land invasions. They have envious admirers across the border.

On the other hand there is growing uneasiness in South Africa about Zuma’s ability to control his gang of often violent supporters. They have turned into a Frankenstein monster threatening to visit anarchy on the nation. Even those who chanted his slogans and were ready to give him his machine gun on the march to Polokwane are now having second thoughts about the country’s president in the making.

We can only say it’s been a pretty short honeymoon. As for the ANC youth league, we need not be surprised by their wayward behaviour. The second name of its leader sums up everything in Zulu –– idiots.