The Ides of March
Three months into the year, Zimbabwe was already shooting itself in the foot. At the launch of the anti-sanctions petition, President Robert Mugabe told supporters that Zimbabweans should take over foreign companies in retaliation to the sanctions imposed on the country.
Some days later, the ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment gazetted the empowerment regulations governing the mining sector, throwing the industry into uncertainty.
Such was the uncertainty that Zimplats shares took a tumble on the Australian Stock Exchange and the platinum miner had to write a letter to the stock exchange explaining the possible causes.
By the end of the year, things had stabilised with miners agreeing with government on how they would proceed and comply with the law.
KP okays Marange gems
The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) finally gave Zimbabwe the nod to unconditionally sell diamonds from Marange at its plenary session last month ending years of intense lobbying by government which felt it had met the minimum conditions to be allowed to trade diamonds.
Revenue from diamonds has been identified as the saviour for the economy and is set to contribute US$600 million under the 2012 national budget.
Capacity utilisation up
In industry activity is picking up with capacity utilisation now 57, 2%.
At the same time, there are companies such as Delta that has recorded capacity utilisation of over 70%.
The beverages manufacturer is minting money after recording increased volumes spurred on by rising demand notwithstanding the harsh economic environment where people are urged to tighten their belts.
With total volume of 3,427 million hectolitres in the half year, the beverages manufacturer targets 7 million hectolitres in the full year 2012.
Some of the hectolitres might have spilled into Megawatt House where there is a belief that money grows on trees.
Zesa has the guts to call for tariff increase next month despite the fact that even with the current rate it can’t supply industry and households.
Mixed fortunes for van Hoog
Yet the year itself had corporate fights as shareholders battled to stamp authority.
One such shareholder is Nicholas van Hoogstraten who has been fighting to have his nominees on the Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG) board.
At a stormy meeting of shareholders the British businessman lost after key ally, the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) dumped him on the eve of the AGM.
But the British businessman got his way at Hwange where he ganged up with government and fired the entire board led by Zanu PF activist Tendai Savanhu.
Banks’ bad boy
ReNaissance Merchant Bank was put under curatorship in May after a Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) investigation unearthed that the bank is technically insolvent and founding directors had allegedly spirited away depositors’ money.
The revelations came after Indian businessman Jayesh Shah blew the whistle on Patterson Timba after the ReNaissance founder failed to honour his obligation over a US$5 million.
When RBZ governor Gideon Gono wielded the axe, it fell on top executives and some board members who were banished from the institution. The problems were to affect Afre Corporation since Timba was the executive chairman of the composite group. Timba was fired and a forensic report accused the banker of butchering corporate governance.
The RMB debacle was to hit the indigenously-owned banks as an RBZ investigation established that there was US$1,2 billion in capital flight from indigenous banks to perceived safe institutions.
NSSA is now on the verge of assuming a controlling shareholding in RMB and rescue it from possible liquidation.
It’s the law stupid
A parliamentary portfolio committee on Mines and Energy said the Reconstruction law used to wrest Mutumwa Mawere’s empire needs to be reviewed arguing that such legislation exposes citizens to the risk of losing assets to the state without meaningful judicial oversight.
Send them home: fortunes dwindle for RBz workers
RBZ finally culled its staff to concentrate on its core business and in the process put some of its assets for sale.
However, the retrenched staffers are still to be paid their full packages and the matter has spilled into the courts.
RBZ was finally given money to resume the lender of last resort role it had stopped in 2008.
The initial amount of US$7 million had no takers due to the absence of a user-friendly collateral.
In the 2012 budget, it was allocated US$100 million amid fears that the money would lie idle in the absence of treasury bills that can be lodged as security.
Going, going, gone
Two debilitating industrial actions by pilots occurred at Air Zimbabwe as the airline continued sinking in the abyss.
In another low for the airline, one of its planes was impounded at Gatwick International Airport over a US$1,2 million debt and there are fears that creditors would feast on the airline since it owes over US$100 million.
Should taxpayers continue sustaining such mess? MDC-T says no.
The irony is that Zimbabwe is preparing to co-host with Zambia the 2013 UNWTO General Assembly meeting in Victoria Falls. There was good news for tourism after Emirates said it would resume flights to Zimbabwe starting February 1 in a vote of confidence in the country as a tourist destination.
Beggars on a beach of gold
Problems at RioZim accelerated after shareholders proposed the US$59 million rights issue and the debt to equity swap to extinguish the gold and diamond miner’s US$29 million debt.
A question that begs an answer is how the company is enmeshed in such problems at a time gold prices are high on the world markets? It’s not RioZim alone as the entire gold sector is struggling with capacity utilisation at 44% and small-scale miners are contributing over half of the total gold production.
Cash crunch again?
Last week, the nation woke up to bank queues reminiscent of the 2007 era as depositors tried to withdraw money ahead of the festive season. Banks say they have adequate cash but the queues tell a different story. There are now fears that the cash crunch could spill into the New Year.