Thursday, March 31, 2016

Japanese Support in Roads Rehab Welcome in Zimbabwe
March 30, 2016
Opinion & Analysis
Zimbabwe Herald

President Robert Mugabe is visiting Japan and on Monday he witnessed the signing of some agreements.

His tour is meant to consolidate the bi-lateral relations between our friendly countries. In addition to extending a $5 million grant to Zimbabwe, the Asian powerhouse pledged to fund the development of roads here.

Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, speaking after meeting the President on Monday said they committed themselves to a framework to guide future co-operation in broader areas.

“More specifically,” said PM Abe, “we will render our co-operation for the improvement and development of road infrastructure in Zimbabwe’s north-south corridor.  It is a great pleasure for me that I state our further co-operation after our last year’s grant aid ($15 million), the first of its kind in 15 years.  Japan established diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe in 1980, the year of independence of Zimbabwe, a country with abundant resources and great nature, and has built friendly relations ever since.”

Road construction, rehabilitation and maintenance is a central part of Zim-Asset.  It makes up a sub-set of one of the four pillars that anchor the 2013-2015 economic recovery and growth plan, the cluster of infrastructure and utilities.

Railways, communication and energy generation systems are other components of the Zim-Asset pillar of infrastructure and utilities.

Therefore any new investment into our roads, such as that we have been promised by Japan will go a long way in putting in place the enabling physical conditions for the economy to recover and grow.

Broadly our roads are decrepit, having been in use for longer than their design periods. Many of them are too narrow for the growing volume of traffic.

This results in accidents as well as lower speeds in the movement of cargo, which impacts negatively on economic revival and growth.

Our roads are extensively potholed, which causes accidents and slows down movement of cargo too. The extent of coverage of the highways is not to the level that is ideal.  Furthermore, only a fraction of them are tarred with most rural areas connected by gravel roads. Only the main urban centres are linked by paved ones.

An economy like ours that is developing cannot fully function on potholed, gravel highways but on modern roads that make movement of cargo and human traffic faster, safer and more efficiently.  At least $5 billion is needed for our roads to be in that state, according to official estimates.

PM Abe did not specify the roads to be worked on using Japanese resources, but dropped a hint when he spoke about the “north-south corridor.”

We can justifiably speculate that the corridor that he meant was the 922km Beitbridge-Masvingo-Chivhu-Harare-Nyamapanda road, the country’s busiest, most important, yet the most dilapidated for the high volume of traffic that uses it.

Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Joram Gumbo recently said the $2 billion dualisation of that trunk road was a priority for the government.  A tender dispute pitting the government and a consortium of 14 local construction firms that stalled progress appears to have been resolved, he said recently, paving the way for work to begin.

“Beitbridge-Chirundu Road is a priority for the Ministry and His Excellency the President is eager to see to it that we start work on this road which was delayed because of the wrangle that was there between the Ministry and a contractor —ZimHighways,” Minister Gumbo said.

“We are at the moment narrowing the list (of bidders) from about 12 and we are now left with three companies, which we are considering now.  There are many things to consider. We want companies that will also have local companies working on these roads.

“There is also plan to work on the Beitbridge-Gwanda through Bulawayo to Victoria Falls road and the Harare-Nyamapanda Road. We want to see to it that all these roads refurbished because they bring in a lot of money. They connect Central Africa and East Africa.”

Other roads that should be dualised include the Harare-Bulawayo one, Bulawayo-Masvingo-Mutare and Harare-Mutare ones.

We look forward to seeing work beginning as soon as possible on our road infrastructure.  Japan has the financial capacity to invest not only in the Beitbridge-Masvingo-Chivhu-Harare-Nyamapanda road but many others as well.

The financial outlay that is required is too much for the government and local companies therefore Japanese support would be very much welcome.

Toll fees are a useful revenue stream, but are inadequate to build a new road, hence the government’s active search for strong financial backing.
Call to Defend Legacy of Independence
March 31, 2016
Felex Share in Kyoto, Japan
Zimbabwe Herald

There is need for African leaders to re-examine their policies politically and economically as some of them are now reversing the gains brought by the continent’s founding fathers, President Mugabe said yesterday.

Africa’s founding fathers, the President said, never “vacillated” on matters of principle but current leaders had lost ground and are allowing their erstwhile colonisers to dominate them.

President Mugabe made the remarks when he met the 38 African ambassadors resident here led by their dean, Eritrea’s Ambassador Estifanos Afeworki.

“I think we should re-examine ourselves with regards to our policies in Africa,” the President said.

“That is an area where we still need a struggle and freedom. We are still under domination in some cases and we have lost ground on what our founding fathers stood for. They freed us but we who have taken over from them are reversing everything.”

He added: “They say I am an ageing voice, the voice of those gone. Yes, I am the voice of those gone – the Senghors, Nkrumahs, Nyereres. They spoke with one voice – that is a free Africa, a sovereign Africa. Let us always remember where we go and talk the language of togetherness.”

President Mugabe said while friendships and partnerships were needed with foreigners, the continent’s resources were for Africans and should benefit them.

In any case, he said, resources and freedom were the major reasons why the founding fathers waged the struggle against imperialists.

“For one reason or another, although intellectually we are engineers, experts and professors, we are not able to organise ourselves,” he said.

“Our engineers should do the exploitation of resources but we want the white man, and they will be happy to come and give you a small percentage. That is what France has done in some of our countries and we have said, yes. You say ‘yes’, but what was the fight for independence for? What does sovereignty mean when we have no sovereignty of our natural resources?”

He went on: “It just means we can have political parties and have presidents. A President Mugabe who doesn’t own the diamonds in his country, that his people do not own the diamonds, gold, copper and chrome? Having said that, I am not suggesting that we should not have friends at all. We should have friends who understand and appreciate what we are as an African people.”

He said Africa should be wary of the British and Americans who used all sorts of tricks and lies to loot resources as what happened to Libya and Iraq.

“We should never agree to outside forces interfering in African affairs,” President Mugabe said.

“We have our own forces, and if we make mistakes, let them be our own mistakes. If they are military mistakes, let them be committed by our own forces, by our own interventions than outsiders. Outsiders will have ulterior motives all the time.”

He said in pursuit of regime change, most African countries had been flooded with non-governmental organisations funded by the West.

“All countries, we have NGOs for this and that, just to weaken us,” he said.

“We still have to grapple with an Africa that is now being dominated by outside powers through their NGOs. Sometimes through aid, controlling our systems. When shall we ever be free?

“Yes, we are Francophone, Anglophones, Lusophones but that does make us French, Portuguese, French, Italians or Spaniards? We have a legacy to defend Africa, a legacy not to accept to be inferiors.”

President Mugabe said the so-called powerful nations were spreading this inferiority complex even at international organisations like the United Nations by denying others permanent seats with veto power.

“In the Security Council, they don’t want to accept our proposal for reform, and we say Africa should have just two additional members with a veto but we have France, US and Britain saying no,” President Mugabe said.

“Our friend Japan had said let us campaign for our permanent members to be admitted first, then we campaign for veto powers, but I said we must have the veto first. Why should we always have the five as the bulls of the world? If they are to accept us, they must also accept us as bulls also.”

Meanwhile, President Mugabe – who is here on an official visit – also visited the Kyoto Imperial Palace yesterday where he met the Governor of Kyoto, Mr Keiji Yamada.

The two leaders agreed to have cultural interactions as well as exchanges in the field of higher and tertiary education.
Foreign, Domestic Interests Must Co-exist
March 31, 2016
Zimbabwe Herald

LAYING DOWN THE LAW . . . Minister Patrick Zhuwao addresses a Press conference where he explained the modalities of the law in relation to indigenisation

Tafara Shumba

Following Government’s decision to withdraw operating licences of companies that will not submit their indigenization implementation plans by March 31 2016 (which is today), there has been an unprecedented outcry, coming mostly from the usual “hired mourners” who have now developed a knack for crying more than the bereaved.

The Government’s decision has been very topical in the media, opposition political parties and civic society. The decision received undue and vicious attack from a constituency that seems to be in total darkness of the contents of the recently fine-tuned law. It is, however, refreshing that the responsible minister, Cde Patrick Zhuwao, dedicated a day to shedding light on those who care to be enlightened.

Unfortunately, the hired mourners will be certainly nowhere near the venue to be schooled on the law they are blindly attacking. At times it is necessary to separate a message from the messenger in the national interest. Parochial interests must not always blight good ideas. Like him or not, the idea that Cde Zhuwao is advancing on behalf of Government is great.

Some companies have read the modified Act and managed to pick up the sensibleness in it, resulting in 50 of them submitting their plans in the nick of time. It’s better late than never.

It therefore makes business sense for companies that have not yet complied with the statutory directive to do so and avoid unnecessary loss of business and profit. The prime reason for their existence is profit making. Thus, that profit must be made within the confines of the laws governing the environment they are operating in.

During Zanu-PF’s 15th Annual People’s Conference in Victoria Falls, President Robert Mugabe reiterated that Government would not tolerate companies that refused to comply with indigenisation. As the Chief Executive Officer of this country has already declared, companies have no choice but to comply. Of course, the indigenisation law might still have some rough edges; nevertheless, it still remains a law whose terms must be met. In military parlance, one is supposed to complain after duty. The concerned firms must meet the terms of the law first and raise their objections, concerns and suggestions later. In this way, chances of getting an audience with authorities are high.

These affirmative laws are not peculiar to Zimbabwe. Every country has its own way of making sure that the natives participate in the economy. According to economic history, every successful economy has used nationalistic policies. In the UK, for instance, the government is set to deport all migrant workers who earn less than £35 000 per year. This is meant to protect the local job market. The highest shareholding interest that Germany can give to a foreign investor is a mere 8 percent.

Despite their barrage of criticism of the Zimbabwean indigenisation programme, most of the rich European countries – at one a time – embarked on some form of indigenisation programmes. Indigenisation and economic empowerment programmes were a success story in recently emerged economic giants such as Japan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and even South Africa as well as Namibia.

Zimbabwe as a nation upholds the rule of law. This is despite criticism and false accusations that the country does not respect same. It is rather these impudent companies and those that are cheering them into crime which do not respect the rule of law.

As Friedrich Hegel noted, we have learnt from history that we do not learn from history. The destructive path that these firms want to take is a cul-de-sac. The Daily News trod it in 2003 when it refused to register with the then Media and Information Commission (MIC) in accordance with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). As a result of this senseless defiance, the paper closed shop in September 2003 and sent dozens of scribes on to the streets. Ironically, the major victims were the very scribes who incited the paper’s proprietors to flout the law.

The closure of companies defying the law will render more workers jobless. They will join thousands of other workers who lost their jobs following a Supreme Court ruling which gave employers a blank cheque to fire employees willy-nilly. Zimbabwe cannot afford to witness another spate of job losses, more so when Government is struggling to avail jobs promised in the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset).

What this means is that the issue must be approached with caution. There must be a balance between IEE and attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). During his visit to China last year, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa assured Chinese investors that indigenisation was not a threat to the interests of investors. As such, Government must stick to that assurance. Both the Government and the companies must consider the risk of job losses which their decisions on this issue are likely to cause. The companies must not take advantage of the country’s desperate need for investment and job creation to hold Government to ransom.

On the other hand, Government must not be lost to the economic environment prevailing in Zimbabwe. The indigenisation policy is a great policy that must be implemented methodically. Government must do away with all the stumbling blocks that will give credence to the arguments advanced by detractors against the indigenisation policy. For instance, ridding the country of corruption and creating stable political and economic environments must be prerequisites for a successful indigenisation of the economy.

The indigenisation programme must prove wrong detractors who always claim that the initiative benefits the elite and the well connected. The initiative is a process and five years down the line, Government should be able to pick a beneficiary from Murambinda or Mutoko. Indigenisation must not only replace white capitalists with black ones.

Hopefully, the indigenisation programme will maximise local retention of profit and curb the externalisation of national resources as witnessed in the diamond mining sector.
Zimbabwe Acting President Slams Property Auctions
March 31, 2016
Zimbabwe Herald
Bulawayo Bureau

ACTING President Phelekezela Mphoko yesterday described as “criminal” the wave of business property auctions in Bulawayo and other parts of the country, saying this was a deliberate ploy to frustrate economic growth.

The demise of Bulawayo industries, he said, was largely engineered by corrupt individuals who connived with errant judicial officers to strip companies and attached their properties, which they proceeded to sell for a song.

Responding to concerns over the slow pace of revitalising the city’s industry during a briefing at Mhlahlandlela Government Complex yesterday, the Acting President also challenged the business community to play their part saying “not everything could be blamed on the Government”.

“We all have a task to do and we can’t allow Bulawayo to collapse,” he told ministers, MPs, top government officials and business executives.

“Bulawayo problems are mainly a result of corrupt tendencies. We’ve people who connive with the Sheriff and the lawyers to attach business properties, which they sell for a song. That’s criminal! There’s a lot we can do in this city but some people are just crooks.

“It’s possible to turn the economy of this city around because the necessary infrastructure is still there. So, let’s work together to bring transformation and return Bulawayo to what it was.”

Dozens of companies including State enterprises such as the Cold Storage Company (CSC) and Hwange Colliery Company Limited have lost properties and equipment through auctions over debts to various creditors.

Some of the affected companies have suffered total collapse, with surviving ones struggling to keep afloat.

Lobby groups and unions have partly blamed the development for loss of jobs as they urged adoption of a moratorium to protect company assets.

“It’s a pity Bulawayo people have kept quiet and let thieves take away and sell your properties.

“The MPs that are here must work hard and see this as a challenge. You shouldn’t go to Parliament for prestige and just to get cars. It’s a service to the people,” said the Acting President.

He reiterated that Bulawayo was a strategic economic city with a proud history of a robust manufacturing industry that should be urgently revived.

A businessman in his own right, Acting President Mphoko urged entrepreneurs to come up with viable business proposals and pledged Government support in securing funding through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

“The RBZ governor (Dr John Mangudya) is a good man. He has plans to assist us. There’s much more we can do and we only need to avail bankable projects in seeking funding,” he added.

Bulawayo Provincial Minister of State Cde Eunice Nomthandazo Moyo made a presentation highlighting the city’s diverse challenges covering low industrial activity, unemployment, accommodation shortages, service delivery and challenges in accessing funding.

The Minister of State in Vice President Mphoko’s Office, Cde Tabetha Kanengoni-Malinga, Members of the House of Assembly and top Government administrators attended the briefing.

The Acting President later toured the city’s companies where he was appraised about the state of industry, the challenges and opportunities.
Zimbabwe Farmers Expected to Rake in $700m
March 31, 2016
Elita Chikwati and Brenda Ziga
Zimbabwe Herald

THE tobacco auction floors opened on a high note yesterday with the first bale fetching $4,50 per kg, which is an increase of 21 percent on last season’s opening price of $3,50, raising hopes the lucrative crop will generate millions of dollars in foreign currency and put smiles on the faces of thousands of farmers.

Although volumes of tobacco are expected to be lower this year due to the El Nino-induced drought, farmers are optimistic their earnings will be higher than the previous seasons as buyers compete for the high quality but scarce commodity.

If the expected 160 million kg is auctioned at an average price of $4,50 per kg, then farmers are likely to pocket over $700 million compared to the $580 million they earned from selling 198 million kg last season.

However, as usual, scrap tobacco fetched low prices as little as $0,11 cents per kg yesterday while those who brought good quality tobacco pocketed as much as $4,50 per kg.

Farmers expressed mixed reactions to the prices offered by buyers, with those with low quality crop complaining and threatening to withdraw it while the ones who got good prices celebrated.

Officially opening the marketing season at the Tobacco Sales Floor yesterday, the Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Dr Joseph Made, said tobacco merchants were this season likely to pay fair prices for the crop that would enable farmers to have sustainable income to take them back to the field.

“Government views tobacco as an anchor crop for the economic empowerment of our farmers and as an engine for rural development. Every year, at this time, tobacco farmers after having toiled for over 12 months look forward to getting a just reward for their efforts.

“It is therefore expected that tobacco merchants will pay fair prices for the tobacco to enable farmers to have sustainable returns. The expectation is that buyers will match quality tobacco with high prices at both auction and contract floors. Farmers deserve better prices for them to re-invest in tobacco production this coming season,” he said.

Dr Made urged growers to use the recommended agronomic practices to improve both the chemical and physical integrity of the crop. He raised concern over the issue of corruption, that had become rampant and was being promoted by some people within the tobacco industry.

“I instruct TIMB in collaboration with ZRP as well as other security organs to be vigilant and curb these detestable practices,” he said.

This season, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduced a new payment system for tobacco farmers, where they will no longer get cash, but paid through bank accounts.

Most farmers welcomed the development and said it would ensure they do not lose money to thieves and conmen while others felt they should be given a choice to choose the convenient method for themselves.

Others complained that they did not have banks in their farming areas and were also restricted to withdrawing a maximum of $1 000 per day.

The farmers called on the central bank to ensure the banks did not introduce many charges for transactions as the system would become expensive for them.

The new payment system has also affected traders from the informal sector who used to benefit from the tobacco farmers.

They said they had prepared adequately for the tobacco marketing season, but were no longer sure if they would get to their targeted income as the farmers would no longer spend their money at the floors.

TIMB chairperson Mrs Monica Chinamasa said the proliferation of corruption and illegal activities at the tobacco selling points was disturbing.

“Nothing will unlock the tobacco sector’s potential more than ending the cancer of corruption at the selling points. Corruption is draining millions of dollars from the growers. This money could be used by growers to further investments in tobacco growing.

“It cannot be accepted to coerce a grower to pay a bribe just to facilitate sales as this undermines the integrity of the tobacco industry. The most powerful antidote for stamping out corruption is for stakeholders to work together for a common action. TIMB will establish a hotline for reporting any corrupt activities as well as placing suggestion boxes at all selling points and I urge everyone to make use of the facilities and report any issues related to corruption,” she said.

TIMB licensed three auction floors, namely Premier Tobacco Floors, Boka Tobacco Floors and Tobacco Sales Floor. The board also licensed 16 contractors.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Let’s protect our tobacco farmers

March 31, 2016
Opinion & Analysis

AS the tobacco selling season, an annual phenomenon on the domestic economic calendar, starts, we trust there has been meticulous planning to ensure everything will be flawless.

Tobacco has grown to become an integral part of the socio-economic fabric of this economy, earning the country millions and transforming lives of farmers in a profound way.

Although production is this year anticipated to be 20 percent lower due to the effects of drought and low prices last season, all things being equal we should still earn well over half a billion dollars.

This, therefore, makes tobacco the single biggest foreign currency earner for Zimbabwe, if mining is regarded in terms of individual minerals, that way gold and platinum come a close second and third.

This means that tobacco is strategic to the wellbeing of the domestic economy and efforts to turn around the economy, driven by one of the success stories of the land reform.

As such, it goes without saying that as the marketing season has started, it must be all systems go and we expect little to no hitches to be encountered, especially by the farmers.

At this point, we applaud measures taken by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board to improve security by restricting entry into auction floors, allowing only bona fide farmers on to the floors.

In the past, farmers cried foul after losing their crop to crooks, including unscrupulous middlemen who buy tobacco from farmers at low prices and resell it at much higher prices.

It is our fervent hope that this year we will not hear the same old story of the nuisance of these middlemen, a cancer that may not just prejudice farmers, but could destroy the industry.

We are already aware that the small size of hectarage put under crop this year and expected yield, lower than the 198 million kilogrammes sold last year, are partly due to farmers who have decided not to grow the crop this year, angered by low prices last season.

It is our belief that there will be no connivance between officials, buyers and middlemen at auction floors meant to manipulate prices to the detriment of our farmers.

Tobacco farming is now serious business; farmers either borrowed or used their hard-earned savings to be able to return to the fields and should therefore be duly rewarded for their sweat.

It must be remembered that those who borrowed need to repay to get more loans in future.

It is against this background that we also hope all measures put in place are water tight, effective and conceived to ensure optimal benefit for farmers and also s return for buyers.

But in order to sustain the future of tobacco farming, it is crucial to guarantee mutual benefit.

It is paramount that farmers will be paid a fair price that is proportionate to the quality and quantity of their crop.

It was heartening to learn from Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made that this year’s crop is generally of very good quality.

As such, there should never be unsubstantiated claims of poor quality crop designed to justify ridiculously low prices for the sole intention of ripping off farmers by paying them peanuts.

The middlemen, also known as Class B buyers, have hitherto caused havoc and ripped off unsuspecting farmers, including through false promises to influence high prices on the floors.

We also implore officials to ensure farmers are not inconvenienced by new systems, especially the need for all farmers to open bank accounts into which their money will be deposited.

It must be seen that the new requirement that farmers have bank accounts achieves its objective of financial inclusion, security for farmers’ earnings and creating track record for bank loans.

This will help the farmers from impulse buying and overspending helping them to plan for next season than a situation where proceeds from tobacco are wasted on luxurious gadgets.

We implore our farmers to be on the lookout for unscrupulous middlemen seeking to rob them of their earnings from the sale of the golden leaf having toiled for the entire season.

Farmers must shun temptations to engage in illegal activities. They should remember that the earnings from tobacco should be used for future investments and meeting the needs of their families.

Let us protect the goose that lays the golden eggs.
SACP Welcomes Decision to Appeal Against the Release of Janusz Walus on Parole
30 March 2016

The South African Communist Party (SACP) welcomes Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha`s decision to appeal the 10 March 2016 ruling by the North Gauteng High Court Judge Nocoline Janse van Nieuwenhuizen setting aside the Minister`s decision to deny Janusz Walus parole. The Judge ordered that Walus, who cold-bloodedly murdered SACP General Secretary and ANC leader Comrade Chris Hani on 10 April 1993, must be released from prison on parole within 14 days and that the Minister must determine conditions for his parole.

The SACP has said from the outset after studying the judgement by Judge Nocoline Janse van Nieuwenhuizen that there were serious legal difficulties and loopholes with it. The Party reaffirms its belief that there are reasonable grounds for a successful appeal against the judgement.

As part of the proceedings and as an interested party, the SACP awaits receipt of the Minister`s application for leave to appeal. After perusing the papers working together with Comrade Chris Hani`s family, the two interested parties will determine whether there is a need to file additional papers.

Walus remains an unrepentant murderer. He does not show adequate remorse. He has not demonstrated any understanding of the enormity of the murder he has committed together with his accomplice, Clive Derby-Lewis, who was released on medical parole. The murder pushed our country to the brink of a civil war. The two unrepentant murderers applied for and were denied amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to which they made unreliable submissions. They challenged the outcome in the court of law and their attempts to overturn the Commission`s determination were dismissed. To this day they have not made full disclosure of the truth surrounding the murder.

Issued by the SACP

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South Africa to Get Second Stock Exchange
31 March 2016

South Africa is to get its first new stock exchange in more than a century. ZAR X Stock Exchange announced yesterday that the Financial Services Board (FSB) had granted it conditional approval for a stock exchange licence.

The licence had been granted under the Financial Markets Act and the conditional approval was granted subject to certain suspensive conditions being met to the satisfaction of the Registrar of Securities Services, said ZAR X.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange has been South Africa's only bourse. It was founded in Johannesburg in 1887, during the Witwatersrand gold rush. It is Africa's biggest and most liquid stock market.

ZAR X intends to start operating in September, and aims to enable more lower- income investors to trade shares. According to the company, ZAR X will help "you to grow your financial potential through investment and saving".

ZAR X, the company explains, is a platform that will let "everyday South Africans transact shares quickly, cheaply and conveniently, even if they have never formally invested money or opened a bank account before. The platform is designed to empower those who don't have skills or experience in investing, to easily and safely build a brighter financial future for themselves and their families."

It will also give business enterprises a flexible, transparent and affordable way to list their restricted or limited share offerings, so that ordinary South Africans can take advantage of them. The idea will be to give South Africans access to restricted share listings, to help them secure investment opportunities in order to build financial security.

Bloomberg news agency reports that ZAR X plans to run three sections: a main board for company listings, an over-the-counter stock-trading business, and an investment products market.

"A more flexible and practical listings process will ensure greater simplicity and less complexity for companies making use of the ZAR X Stock Exchange," chief executive officer Etienne Nel said in a company statement. "We also make investing simpler and affordable for the public, especially the lower income groups."

In a Moneyweb report, Nel said a big cost advantage for investors was that there would be no custody fees. These are fees paid by investors towards brokers who execute trades on their behalf. Although there will be brokers on the ZAR X, investors will not have to execute trades directly through them.

Instead they will be able to log their trades via a call-centre, online, or through a mobile app, the online financial news portal reports.

ZAR X will be based in Bryanston, Johannesburg, although there will not be a central market itself. Investors will be able to monitor the performances of their shares on the company's website.

It will be in good company. The JSE rates among the top 20 exchanges in the world by market capitalisation.

The JSE is regarded as a mature, efficient, secure market with world-class regulation, trading, clearing, settlement assurance and risk management. It has harmonised its listing requirements, disclosure and continuing obligations with those of the London Stock Exchange and offers superb investor protection.

The World Economic Forum's 2015-16 Global Competitiveness Index rates South Africa first in the world – out of 140 countries – for financing through the local equity market, and second for the regulation of securities exchanges.

South reporter

Read more:
South African Economy is On the Brink of Junk Status
Robyn Dixon
Los Angeles Times

This country teeters on the edge of an economic cliff. At the bottom is the debt rating known as junk, which economists say is a distinct possibility in coming months.

South Africa would have to pay much higher interest rates to borrow money. Spending on health and education, already squeezed by falling revenue, would have to be cut, heightening widespread unrest.

What happened to Nelson Mandela's plucky and inspiring African nation?

The answers include many things beyond its control: a worldwide decline in commodities prices; waning demand from China, its biggest trading partner; and the worst drought in 50 years.

But there is a consensus among analysts that one of the biggest problems is President Jacob Zuma.

After apartheid ended in 1994, the ruling African National Congress and business adhered to an unwritten agreement: No matter how much socialist rhetoric the government used publicly, it would always maintain fiscal rectitude and a strong central bank.

His critics point to a litany of misdeeds, starting with expanding the civil service and stacking state enterprises with his allies to the point that nearly 40% of the budget goes to paying government workers.

His sprawling Cabinet includes 35 ministers and 37 deputy ministers, whose perks include first-class international air travel, two cars each, free housing and domestic workers.

His government has guaranteed state-owned companies $14 billion in loans, even though many of those enterprises are in distress and may not be able to pay it back.

It has also introduced a raft of bills — some of which have been approved by the Parliament — that raise doubts about the ownership rights and safeguards that had long helped draw foreign investors.

Some analysts point to one political move that seemed to sum up Zuma's economic mismanagement: his firing late last year of Nhlanhla Nene, the finance minister, who was widely respected by investors.

Nene was replaced with a former mayor of a small municipality with little experience in finance. Four days later — after the currency and the stock market tumbled and bankers warned of a financial meltdown — Zuma backed down and removed the official, replacing him with a former finance minister.

This month, evidence emerged suggesting that a powerful business family close to Zuma may have had a hand in the firing.

Several ANC members have come forward to say that the Gupta family — which has joint ventures with one of Zuma's sons — had offered them top government jobs on the condition that they act to advance the family's commercial interests, which include mining, media and aviation. One was the deputy finance minister, who alleged that the family had offered him Nene's job days before the firing.

The allegations, which Zuma and the Gupta family deny, have ignited a bitter struggle within the party between Zuma supporters and opponents.

The clash is likely to paralyze the government, leaving it incapable of much-needed economic reforms, said Justice Malala,a political analyst and author of a book on South Africa, "We Have Now Begun Our Descent."

"There's no real governance in South Africa," he said. "And you have a country that's just not working."

Foreign direct investment plummeted to $5.8 billion in 2014, a 29% drop from a year earlier. Barclays Bank recently announced it was selling most of Barclays Africa, the vast majority of which is in South Africa. The mining giant Anglo American is also reducing its South African holdings.

About 950 millionaires moved out of the country last year, according to one survey.

The International Monetary Fund is predicting growth of 0.7% this year, with some analysts forecasting a recession.

In December, business confidence fell to its lowest level since the end of apartheid, according to the South African Chamber for Commerce and Industry.

That in large part is Zuma's fault, analysts say.

Zuma's rise to the presidency of Africa's most industrialized nation is an unlikely story. The son of a domestic worker, he didn't learn to read until he served time in prison with Mandela, who admired the way he sang and joked to keep spirits up. Charisma and street smarts carried him up the ranks of the ANC.

He was acquitted of rape charges and escaped corruption charges — prosecutors dropped them — before his election in 2009. He was reelected to a five-year term in 2014.

The 73-year-old has some unorthodox economic views. He has said, for example, that he would prefer a system in which the price of goods is determined by how long they took to make rather than the free market.

Business leaders are afraid to talk about him publicly, but off the record they say that new leadership is needed.

Zuma is also an embarrassment to the black middle class and a disappointment to the poor, Malala said.

There has been little improvement in education or healthcare, and in terms of wealth distribution, South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies. More than two decades after the end of institutionalized racism, unemployment is 40% among young blacks.

Violent demonstrations are a daily occurrence, as protesters set up roadblocks, burn tires and government buildings, flip cars or throw stones at police to register their frustration with interruptions in basic services such as electricity.

Arguing for Zuma's removal, Allister Sparks, a longtime political analyst, recently wrote that Zuma's continuation in office carries "the risk of triggering a populist political uprising leading to chaos and violence."

But Zuma keeps a tight hold on the ANC national executive committee, the only body that could dismiss him. A network of patronage also keeps him in power, experts said.

Without structural changes that renew business confidence and spur growth, the country's debt rating is unlikely to avoid junk status, they said. "The traders are already expecting that it's a fait accompli," said business analyst Alec Hogg, director of the website BizNews.

Standard & Poor's rates South Africa's credit as BBB-minus, or one notch above junk, and in December changed its economic outlook from "stable" to "negative," a move that often precedes a rating downgrade. Fitch Ratings also ranks South Africa BBB-minus.

Peter Attard Montalto, a London-based emerging markets analyst with Japanese investment bank Nomura, said a downgrade was likely late this year or the middle of next year. Although the budget that was introduced in February cut spending, he said, it did not cut deeply enough or include policies to sufficiently increase growth.

Jakkie Cilliers, an executive director at the Institute for Security Studies, an African think tank, said in a briefing note last week that the necessary reforms were not possible "with a president prepared to see the entire governance edifice collapse in order to protect himself."

"Today, only the early departure of Zuma has the potential to stave a downgrade," he wrote.

Pravin Gordhan, the new finance minister, said this month that South Africa had just three months to persuade ratings firms it was serious about solving fundamental problems.

"Once you get downgraded, on average it takes you five years or more to work your way up again, so you don't want to end up there as a country," he told reporters.

Gordhan has won respect from the business world by condemning the government's failings, saying that some people believe "state-owned entities are toys for personal profit" and warned of the dangers of corruption.

But it remains unclear whether Gordhan has the political clout to take on his boss.
South Africa’s Justice Minister Is Objecting to Parole for the Killer of an Anti-Apartheid Hero
Mark Rivett-Carnac @mrivettcarnac
4:01 AM ET    

Members of the African National Congress demonstrate outside the Constitutional Court in protest over the parole granted to Janusz Walus, the killer of the anti-apartheid hero Chris Hani on March 14, 2016

The 1993 assassination of Chris Hani sparked mourning and riots across South Africa

South Africa’s Justice Minister Michael Masutha will appeal a judge’s decision to grant parole to the killer of Chris Hani, an anti-apartheid leader who was assassinated in 1993.

“The Minister believes that the honorable court erred in its judgment,” the justice ministry said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Earlier this month, a Pretoria court ruled that Janusz Walus could be freed within two weeks. The Polish immigrant has served more than 20 years of a life sentence. His co-conspirator, who provided the murder weapon, right-wing politician Clive Derby-Lewis, was granted medical parole last year.

Hani, a Communist Party member and a popular figure in the African National Congress, was shot in his driveway in 1993. His death came at a delicate moment in South Africa’s transformation into a multiracial democracy after decades of a brutal white-minority rule, sparking riots across the country.
South Africa's Top Court Orders Zuma to Reimburse State
MAR 31, 2016 - 15:57
By Nqobile Dludla

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's top court ordered President Jacob Zuma on Thursday to pay back some of the $16 million (£11.1 million) of state money spent upgrading his private home, in a stinging rebuke that hits the scandal-plagued leader financially and politically.

The unanimous ruling by the 11-judge constitutional court, a central pillar of the democracy established at the end of apartheid, also said Zuma had failed to "uphold, defend and respect" the constitution by ignoring Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's findings on his sprawling residence at Nkandla in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

In 2014, Madonsela, a constitutionally mandated anti-corruption watchdog, identified a swimming pool, cattle enclosure, chicken run, amphitheatre and visitor centre as non-security items that Zuma must pay for.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng gave the Treasury 60 days in which to determine their "reasonable cost", after which Zuma would have a further 45 days to pay. Early estimates of the costs were 10 million rand (£472,300), Madonsela said.

Besides hurting Zuma, the ruling is a vindication for the soft-spoken but steely lawyer described by Mogoeng as "the embodiment of the Biblical David" fighting against the Goliath of state corruption.

"The office of the Public Protector is one of the true crusaders and champions of anti-corruption and clean governance," Mogoeng said. "Hers are indeed very wide powers that leave no lever of government power above scrutiny."

In a short statement, Zuma's office said it respected the ruling and would determine the appropriate action in due course.

Madonsela said the ruling should help restore the shaken faith of South Africans and others, including investors, in the state of democracy in the continent's most advanced economy.

"The judgement was something that many of us as lawyers will cherish for the rest of our lives," she said. "I always said that our democracy is built to last. When part of the system fails, you can't say the entire system has failed."


The uncompromising nature of his verdict - Mogoeng said it carried a "profound lesson" for South Africa - piles more pressure on Zuma, whose second term in office is due to end in 2019.
Zuma was also ordered to pay costs.

Standing outside the court in downtown Johannesburg, opposition leader Mmusi Maimane told reporters Zuma should be removed from office and said he would table a parliamentary motion to have him impeached.

Zuma, a 73-year-old polygamous Zulu traditionalist, has been under intense fire since December when his abrupt sacking of finance minister Nhlanhla Nene sent the rand into a tail-spin.

The rand firmed to a near-four month high against the dollar as Mogoeng delivered his ruling.

The African National Congress (ANC) called an emergency meeting of its 'Top Six' leaders - who include Zuma - to discuss the "serious nature" of the court's findings.

Its majority in parliament will almost certainly give Zuma political cover against any attempt to impeach him, but the judicial rebuke may embolden anti-Zuma factions within the ruling party to mount a challenge.

"It's a major decision that is going to have a significant impact on our political environment," said Gary van Staden, political analyst at NKC African Economics.

"In most other places in the world it would be terminal for President Zuma but we will have to wait and see how the balance of forces are playing out in the ANC."


Much of the court ruling focused on whether Madonsela's 2014 findings and recommendations on Nkandla were legally binding.

Mogoeng made it very clear they were, saying it would be pointless if the public protector's findings could be ignored "willy nilly".

Over the last two years, Zuma has refused to comply, instead ordering parallel investigations by the public works and police ministries that exonerated him, based on declarations that included calling the swimming pool a fire-fighting reservoir.

As president, Zuma's annual salary is 2.7 million rand. If any payments are made on his behalf, they would be liable for income tax at 41 percent.

Last month, Zuma's legal team admitted they were worried about political fallout from the case in mid-year provincial elections, urging the court not to wander too far from its explicitly legal mandate.

"This is a delicate time in a dangerous year," his lawyer, Jeremy Gauntlett, told the court. "It will be wrong if this court makes a ruling which may result in a call for impeachment."

(Additional reporting by Johannesburg bureau; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by John Stonestreet and Giles Elgood)
The “Good” Obama?
Much more is revealed by what Obama didn’t say in Havana, than the little he did, no matter how choice his words. This is the same Obama who could do much more given his Presidential powers and yet has not.

dario machado |
March 30, 2016 09:03:35

If Barack Hussein Obama had proven impractical to the powers that govern the U.S., it would have been very difficult for him to have been elected president in 2008. Photo: Yander Zamora
LIKE many others, I followed the visit by Barack Obama to our country and experienced mixed feelings: on the one hand, the healthy patriotic and revolutionary pride of witnessing a U.S. president rectifying the policy toward Cuba and repeating on our own soil that the blockade must be ended, reaffirming respect for our sovereignty and independence, which we Cubans have earned with our sacrifice, our sweat, our blood, our history; and on the other hand, the danger posed by those who believe that with these lukewarm changes, the contradiction between the interests of U.S. imperialism and the Cuban nation has disappeared. But it was only after listening to his speech that Tuesday morning that I decided to write this, because, as Fidel warned over half a century ago, from now on everything will be more difficult.

Who could doubt the enormous complexity of U.S. society, where black and white analysis is of little value?

A turbulent history in which battles for independence against British colonialism and genocidal onslaughts against the indigenous population intermingle; an impetuous industrial development and a cruel internecine war that killed more than 600,000 human beings; paradigmatic creativity and inventiveness in science and technology and a warmongering and expansionist military apparatus of which Mexico and Cuba – to take just two examples from our region – have been nearby victims; a society with extraordinary cultural expressions in music, literature and film along with a messianism that does not honor those assets; industrious and enterprising citizens over whom, however, an imperialist state machinery rests heavy; the richest and the most indebted country in the world; the country that demands human rights of others and least respects them itself, as evidenced by over half a century of economic blockade against Cuba; a society in which violence serves as the guiding principle throughout its history.

In short, a country full of contractions in which it would be naive to think that the current rapprochement with Cuba is simply the result of the thinking, will and resourcefulness of Obama, and not an integral part of the interests of the real power in the U.S. - that of big business.

If Barack Hussein Obama had proven impractical to the powers that govern the U.S., it would have been very difficult for him to have been elected president in 2008 and reelected in 2011, and the change of policy toward Cuba would not have initiated.

This is the same Obama who just two months after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, sent tens of thousands of soldiers to Afghanistan; the same who has authorized hundreds of drone attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in several countries across the world; the same who participated in the plot that destroyed Libya; he who has armed the so-called Syrian opposition strengthening the self-named Islamic State; he who approved the supply of arms to Kiev after the coup; the President behind the “Arab spring” of fatal consequences in that area of the world. This is the same Obama, as the poet would say, who could do nothing to surprise you.

In effect, there are two Obamas, a “good” one and a “bad” one. We’re not talking about a bipolar personality, but a single person, a career politician, who beyond his personal characteristics and history, his way of doing domestic politics, and even his individual inclinations, and his likely aim of leaving a legacy as the U.S. President who changed policy toward Cuba, he has always been and continues to be functional to the strategic interests of the powers that govern the U.S.

It must be recognized that he is a politician with charisma, stage presence, a sense of media opportunity, communication skills - probably the best and most capable at hand today to disguise the strategic objectives of U.S. imperialism toward Cuba, Latin America and the Caribbean.

During this visit to our country, President Obama did not miss any opportunity to call for an end to the blockade, which ultimately are the words of someone who will soon disappear from the U.S. government, phrases that he can state now, that he can claim responsibility for, as he does not aspire to, nor could he, run for another Presidential term. He can make this call as the formalities of the northern country's political system allow him to present himself as someone with no responsibility whatsoever for the blockade, as someone opposed to the blockade, as the advocate of a new policy, when for almost all of his term he endorsed the blockade with his inertia.

But back to his deficient speech. Since a thorough analysis can not be undertaken in a short article [1], I will only highlight some aspects that stand out at first glance while, as expressed by various analysts, much more is revealed by what he didn’t say, than the little he did, no matter how choice his words. This is the same Obama who could do much more given his Presidential powers and yet has not.

This is precisely the point, to read between the lines of his statements, which is important especially for young people whose lived experiences of this northern neighbor do not include criminal sabotage, Playa Girón, the October crisis, counterrevolutionary groups, attacks against our leaders, biological aggression, and so on, and for whom the effects of the blockade have been mitigated by the protection offered by society and their families.

There is no doubt: Obama is the gentle and seductive face of the same danger. He made no apology for crimes against Cuba, he did not mention the Guantánamo Naval Base, he did not speak of the Cuban Adjustment Act, he did not explain why he hasn’t done more to dismantle the blockade, given the powers he possesses to do so, and there were many other incredible omissions.

Meanwhile, it was clear that he does not want to cooperate with Cuba, but rather with that part of our society which offers the best conditions for the strategic interests he represents. He hoped to seduce youth, encourage selfishness and the thirst for purely individual improvement, presenting capitalist growth as a universal panacea and not the cause of the crises, or the danger of the destruction of the environment and the disappearance of the human species. He hoped to contribute to the fragmentation of Cuban society in order to recover U.S. hegemony here and in our region. In his speech the conceited tone of someone who “grants us the right” – that no one need grant us – “to solve our own problems” was evident. We must now explain and demonstrate this.

Obama's visit is a victory of the Cuban people and all peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, as it demonstrates that the United States of America has been forced to recognize that it was thwarted by our dignity, and has now chosen to concoct a detour. As such, we should recall the words of Julius Fučík at the end of its historical Report from the gallows and “be vigilant”.

Obama concluded his visit to Cuba. He was – along with his beautiful family for whom Cubans have a natural affection – welcomed, treated and bid farewell politely by a people and authorities who are proud of their hospitality, respect and willingness to dialogue without impositions, but whose majorities are well aware of the land on which they stand, and are bursting with the sovereign spirit of Martí and Fidel, that spirit which was evident as the entire Latinoamericano Stadium chanted: “Raúl, Raúl, Raúl…”

 [1] In a book due to be published by the Editorial de La Mujer de La Habana, I dedicate an entire chapter to analysis of Obama’s speech at the White House on December 17, 2014, aspects of which I take up again here.
U.S. Department of State Allocates $800,000 Dollars to “Train” Cuban Youth
Despite Obama’s words in Havana, it would appear that the U.S. continues to believe that Cuban youth require money and instructions from the same country where police kill on average three people a day, mostly youth

Cubadebate |
March 30, 2016 09:03:33
Photo: Ismael Francisco

DURING his speech to Cuban civil society in Havana’s Grand Theater, President Barack Obama stated:

 “I’ve made it clear that the United States has neither the capacity, nor the intention to impose change on Cuba. What changes come will depend upon the Cuban people. We will not impose our political or economic system on you. We recognize that every country, every people, must chart its own course and shape its own model.”

 He also said:

“There’s already an evolution taking place inside of Cuba, a generational change. Many suggested that I come here and ask the people of Cuba to tear something down -- but I’m appealing to the young people of Cuba who will lift something up, build something new. El futuro de Cuba tiene que estar en las manos del pueblo Cubano (Cuba's future must rest in the hands of the Cuban people).”

It appears that this “evolution” and Obama’s “appealing” are not enough, and in order to “lift something up”, the Cuban youth require money and instructions from the same country where police kill on average three people a day, mostly youth. U.S. journalist Tracey Eaton published the following information on her blog “Along the Malecón”: “Just three days after Barack Obama left Cuba, the State Department today announced a $753,989 community internship program targeting ‘young emerging leaders from Cuban civil society.’”

According to the funding opportunity announcement, non-profit organizations and educational institutions are invited to submit proposals. The deadline is May 20 and the first awards are expected in late July or early August.

The Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs will manage the program, which aims to “include specialized training and an internship with a nonprofit organization in the United States, which will fuel the participants’ development of action plans for nongovernmental community activities in Cuba” over a period of two to four months.

The announcement states:

“Cuban civil society is not formed into well-established organizations that would typically be found in a society with a strong democratic tradition. Through participation in the program, participants will develop a set of leadership tools and skills to manage and grow civil society organizations that will actively support democratic principles in Cuba.”

More information available at “Along the Malecón” blog.
(La pupila insomne)
End to the Blockade Demanded in Washington
Cuban leader Fidel Castro with Rev. Lucius Walker of IFCO.
On the heels of Obama's historic visit to Cuba, advocates to gather in Washington April 18-20 to demand a definitive end to the blockade

Granma International news |
March 29, 2016 09:03:33

The International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity is returning to Washington next month to increase pressure on President Barack Obama to do more to reduce the impact of the failed 55-year-old blockade against Cuba, and to encourage Congress to pass legislation to eliminate it entirely.

President Obama and the executive branch continue to announce new regulations that ease restrictions against Cuba in such areas as travel and commerce, yet the teeth of the criminal blockade against Cuba remain intact.

The International Committee, accompanied by dozens of supporters from across the United States and beyond, will descend on Washington April 18-22 for a second "Days of Action against the Blockade."

They not only will undertake grassroots advocacy visits to the offices of Senators and members of the House of Representatives, but also stage a community forum, "Through Cuban Eyes," to provide Americans with a Cuban perspective on what's been happening in Cuba and the real state of U.S.-Cuban relations.

The key note speaker at the April 22nd community forum will be Cuban Ambassador José Ramón Cabañas. Invited guests from Cuba include medical professionals who took part in the fight against Ebola in West Africa and in restructuring the health infrastructure in Haiti, the Director of Havana's Literacy Museum, a representative of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People (ICAP), and a Cuban journalism student with his own dramatic story to tell. Jorge "Jorgito" Jérez was born with cerebral palsy in Cuba in 1993, but today - thanks to Cuba's health care and education system - he has become a "self-sufficient, independent young journalist." The Power of the Weak, a documentary by German filmmaker Tobias Kriele about Jorgito's life and the social supports available to him in Cuba, will be screened during the Days of Action.

While acknowledging the significance of President Obama's decision in December 2014 to end, in his words, the United States' "outdated approach [to Cuba] that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests," and the President's recent historic visit to Cuba, Alicia Jrapko of the International Committee explained there is much more Obama can do to help normalize relations with Cuba. "Although we applaud many of the steps taken, we urge the President to use his executive power to close Guantanamo Prison and return to Cuba the land it sits on. He should also end the preferential "Wet Foot, Dry Foot" Policy that encourages Cubans to embark on illegal and unsafe migration; end the Parole Program for Cuban Medical Professionals that encourages Cuban doctors to abandon Cuba's medical programs abroad; and stop funding USAID and National Endowment for Democracy programs aimed at fomenting dissent in Cuba."

Netfa Freeman from the Institute for Policy Studies, one of the groups organizing the upcoming April events in Washington DC, noted that a majority of Americans, including Cuban Americans, support ending the blockade. "Part of this support," says Freeman, "is from heightened awareness of the hypocrisy in U.S. claims of wanting to encourage change for a Cuban society that is not experiencing a national epidemic of killings of people of color by police and mass incarceration or social ills like rampant homelessness. The overwhelming majority of Cubans are guaranteed shelter and healthcare as human rights."

Freeman pointed to the success of a recent whirlwind 10-day visit to the West Coast by Miguel Fraga, the first secretary of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., as another sign of the changing mood. Fraga spoke to close to 1,500 people at 20 different events, and was even introduced on the California State Senate floor. "The cold war is over!" declared Los Angeles State Senator Isadore Hall III as the Cuban flag was displayed in the chambers. "It is time to look forward and to look ahead to a future where Cuba is a partner, not an enemy to the United States."

As part of the tour of the Cuban diplomat speaking at a conference in Seattle, Washington State's veteran 7th District Rep. Jim McDermott urged the audience to "go to Washington in April to lobby to end the blockade."

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Party Congress Less Than a Month Away
The Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, scheduled April 16-19, will discuss six important documents, including an evaluation of progress in the updating of the country’s socio-economic model

Granma |
March 28, 2016 20:03:11

Less than a month remains before the 7th Party Congress, which will begin next April 16, when the 55th anniversary will be celebrated of the proclamation of the socialist character of the Revolution, and exactly five years since the opening of the 6th Congress. The Congress will continue through the 19th, thus fulfilling one of the objectives (number 17) approved at the First National Conference: Maintain time frame established in the Statutes for holding Party congresses.

This past February 29, Granma published a full report on the process of electing delegates to the Congress, and the following day noted the simultaneous beginning in all provinces of consultation meetings to discuss the documents which will be submitted to the Party’s maximum authority.

The editorial office of this newspaper has received, by various means, expressions of concern from Party members (and non-members, as well) inquiring about the reasons for which, on this occasion, plans were not made for a popular discussion process, similar to that held five years ago regarding the proposed Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and Revolution.

The fact that such opinions and doubts were expressed is in no way reproachable, much less when they come from people who are genuinely concerned about the work of the Party and the country’s destiny. On the contrary, this is a demonstration of the democracy and participation which are intrinsic characteristics of the socialism we are building. Army General Raúl Castro himself, during the closing session of the First National Conference, called for “fomenting a climate of maximum confidence and the creation of required conditions at all levels for the broadest and most sincere exchange of opinions, both in the heart of the organization and in its interactions with workers and the population…”

And it has been a tradition (or rather, a political right won) throughout the long history of the Revolution that the people have always been consulted, when big decisions are made. The First and Second Declarations of Havana were adopted in José Martí Pla­za de la Revolución, and with similar popular participation, that of Santiago de Cuba was approved in the 1960s. The overwhelming vote of approval of the vast majority provided our Republic with a socialist Constitution. In the most difficult days of the Special Period, Workers Parliaments throughout the length and breadth of the country reiterated that Cuba would continue being an eternal Baragua.

Still fresh in the memory of all Cubans is the exemplary fashion in which discussion of the original 291 Guidelines was organized. They were published November 9, 2010, and over a three month period (December of 2010 through February, 2011) they were debated by the entire people, in 163,079 meetings with 8,913,838 participants. Some 3,019,471 comments were made, which were grouped in 781,644 areas of opinion. All were analyzed in detail, and as a result, 94 guidelines (32%) were maintained as proposed; 197 were modified or incorporated into others (68%); and 36 new guidelines were added. The resulting 311 were first discussed at the provincial level, and later in Congress sessions by delegates and invited experts. Eighty-six guidelines were modified at that time (28%) and two new ones approved. Thus the definitive 313 Guidelines were written, as a genuine expression of the people’s will, reaffirmed with approval by the National Assembly of People’s Power.

The Congress agreed on procedures to ensure that the approved guidelines would not simply be filed away, advising the government to create a Standing Commission for Implementation and Development, which, without derogating the roles of Central State Administrative Bodies, would guarantee coordination and comprehensiveness in the complex process of updating the country’s model. The Congress likewise indicated that the Party, at all levels, would supervise, promote, and demand the fulfillment of the approved guidelines.

Since then, both in Central Committee Plenums and the National Assembly, the practical implementation of what was approved has been analyzed twice a year, discussions about which ample information has been provided by different media, as has been the case with Council of Ministers meetings which have approved policies to assure the guidelines’ implementation.

It has always been clear that this would not be an easy task, since this was no experiment in a sterile laboratory, but rather a fundamental transformation at the social level, based on the unassailable premise of not applying shock therapies, so common in capitalist countries, or leaving anyone unprotected. All of this set in the context of an international economic crisis and the pernicious, ever-present blockade.

Raúl alerted in the Central Report he presented to the Congress, “We are convinced that the task we have before us, on this and other issues linked to the updating of our economic model, is full of difficulties and interrelations which touch, to one degree or another, all facets of society as a whole, and thus we know that it is not a question to be resolved in a day, not even in a year, and that it will require at least five years for implementation to unfold with the harmony and comprehensiveness needed…”

And this is how it has gone. The balance sheet on what has been accomplished in five years reveals that 21% of the guidelines have been implemented, while 77% are in the process. The remaining 2% (five guidelines) have not been carried out for different reasons. It must be taken into account that the implementation of a number of the most complex changes began in 2014 and 2015, and the initial results are just beginning to be seen.

Given all of the above, rather than launching another process of discussion on a national level, half way along the road, what is more appropriate is finishing what has begun - continuing to carry out the people’s will expressed five years ago, and continuing to advance in the direction charted by the 6th Congress.

In this way, the 7th Congress will culminate discussions held in assemblies at the grassroots, municipal and provincial levels. The reports presented in the provinces were published in full in local newspapers, and their content debated in hundreds of meetings around the country.

The documents which will be submitted to the Congress are the result of a collective drafting process, with the participation of dozens of officials, researchers in economics and the social sciences, and professors. They have been analyzed by the Implementation Commission’s Scientific Council composed of more than 130 highly qualified experts.

Subsequently, in the Central Committee Plenums of December, 2015 and January, 2016, the documents were discussed, after several drafts had been perfected. Observations and proposals made by this Party leadership body were taken into account in new versions of each of the six texts which were finally submitted to the consultation meetings of delegates, held simultaneously in all provinces, the first week of March.

Present at these meetings were all delegates, nominated at the grassroots level and elected democratically, representing the Party’s membership and the Cuban people as a whole. Women have a significant presence (43%), and while for logical reasons given an event of this kind, many men and women with a great deal of experience were elected, there are 55 young Party members under the age of 35 among the delegates.

Also attending the consultation meetings were more than 3,500 invited guests who likewise made proposals to enrich the documents. Among those participating were all National Assembly deputies, representatives from Central State Administrative Bodies, university professors, researchers from scientific centers, veterans, grassroots leaders of mass organizations, representatives of our civil society, religious leaders, students, farmers, intellectuals and artists, including non-members of the Party.

One of the documents evaluates the national economy’s performance during the five year period, 2011-2015; another, progress in the implementation of guidelines; and a third, an updating of these for 2016-2021.

A fourth document of profound theoretical importance is the conceptualization of Cuba’s socio-economic model of socialist development; while the fifth presents the Economic Development Program through 2030. These last two are both focused on the country we want, and constitute an expression of the nation’s economic and social strategy - with the guidelines approved by the 6th Congress serving as the tactical approach to reach our aspirations, reflecting their continuity and development. These documents do not, therefore, represent anything different in terms of the road taken, but rather a higher level expression based on what has been discussed and submitted for consultation to all Party members and the people.

The sixth document evaluates the implementation status of the First National Conference’s objectives approved in January of 2012. It includes a generally favorable balance sheet, and projects continued work on these goals.

One can imagine the complexity of drafting these documents, which in some cases required more time than initially supposed.

They are all closely interrelated, analyzing what has been accomplished to date, what remains to be done, and charting the future on the socio-economic and political-ideological planes. They cannot be seen through a static lens; they will be debated at the 7th Congress and, as was the case with their antecedents, they will be submitted to periodic reviews.

The 7th Congress will give continuity to the previous Congress and the First National Party Conference, and provide a much more precise definition of the path to be taken by our country - sovereign and truly independent since the triumph of the Revolution, January 1, 1959 - in order to build a prosperous and sustainable socialism.
Brother Obama
We don’t need the empire to give us anything. Our efforts will be legal and peaceful, because our commitment is to peace and fraternity among all human beings who live on this planet.

Fidel Castro Ruz |
March 28, 2016 12:03:14

The kings of Spain brought us the conquistadores and masters, whose footprints remained in the circular land grants assigned to those searching for gold in the sands of rivers, an abusive and shameful form of exploitation, traces of which can be noted from the air in many places around the country.

Tourism today, in large part, consists of viewing the delights of our landscapes and tasting exquisite delicacies from our seas, and is always shared with the private capital of large foreign corporations, whose earnings, if they don’t reach billions of dollars, are not worthy of any attention whatsoever.

Since I find myself obliged to mention the issue, I must add - principally for the youth - that few people are aware of the importance of such a condition, in this singular moment of human history. I would not say that time has been lost, but I do not hesitate to affirm that we are not adequately informed, not you, nor us, of the knowledge and conscience that we must have to confront the realities which challenge us. The first to be taken into consideration is that our lives are but a fraction of a historical second, which must also be devoted in part to the vital necessities of every human being. One of the characteristics of this condition is the tendency to overvalue its role, in contrast, on the other hand, with the extraordinary number of persons who embody the loftiest dreams.

Nevertheless, no one is good or bad entirely on their own. None of us is designed for the role we must assume in a revolutionary society, although Cubans had the privilege of José Martí’s example. I even ask myself if he needed to die or not in Dos Ríos, when he said, “For me, it’s time,” and charged the Spanish forces entrenched in a solid line of firepower. He did not want to return to the United States, and there was no one who could make him. Someone ripped some pages from his diary. Who bears this treacherous responsibility, undoubtedly the work of an unscrupulous conspirator? Differences between the leaders were well known, but never indiscipline. “Whoever attempts to appropriate Cuba will reap only the dust of its soil drenched in blood, if he does not perish in the struggle,” stated the glorious Black leader Antonio Maceo. Máximo Gómez is likewise recognized as the most disciplined and discreet military chief in our history.

Looking at it from another angle, how can we not admire the indignation of Bonifacio Byrne when, from a distant boat returning him to Cuba, he saw another flag alongside that of the single star and declared, “My flag is that which has never been mercenary...” immediately adding one of the most beautiful phrases I have ever heard, “If it is torn to shreds, it will be my flag one day… our dead raising their arms will still be able to defend it!” Nor will I forget the blistering words of Camilo Cienfuegos that night, when, just some tens of meters away, bazookas and machine guns of U.S. origin in the hands of counterrevolutionaries were pointed toward that terrace on which we stood.

Obama was born in August of 1961, as he himself explained. More than half a century has transpired since that time.

Let us see, however, how our illustrious guest thinks today:

“I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas. I have come here to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people,” followed by a deluge of concepts entirely novel for the majority of us:

“We both live in a new world, colonized by Europeans,” the U.S. President continued, “Cuba, like the United States, was built in part by slaves brought here from Africa. Like the United States, the Cuban people can trace their heritage to both slaves and slave-owners.”

The native populations don’t exist at all in Obama’s mind. Nor does he say that the Revolution swept away racial discrimination, or that pensions and salaries for all Cubans were decreed by it before Mr. Barrack Obama was 10 years old. The hateful, racist bourgeois custom of hiring strongmen to expel Black citizens from recreational centers was swept away by the Cuban Revolution - that which would go down in history for the battle against apartheid that liberated Angola, putting an end to the presence of nuclear weapons on a continent of more than a billion inhabitants. This was not the objective of our solidarity, but rather to help the peoples of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and others under the fascist colonial domination of Portugal.

In 1961, just one year and three months after the triumph of the Revolution, a mercenary force with armored artillery and infantry, backed by aircraft, trained and accompanied by U.S. warships and aircraft carriers, attacked our country by surprise. Nothing can justify that perfidious attack which cost our country hundreds of losses, including deaths and injuries.

As for the pro-yankee assault brigade, no evidence exists anywhere that it was possible to evacuate a single mercenary. Yankee combat planes were presented before the United Nations as the equipment of a Cuban uprising.

The military experience and power of this country is very well known. In Africa, they likewise believed that revolutionary Cuba would be easily taken out of the fight. The invasion via southern Angola by racist South African motorized brigades got close to Luanda, the capital in the eastern part of the country. There a struggle began which went on for no less than 15 years. I wouldn’t even talk about this, if I didn’t have the elemental duty to respond to Obama’s speech in Havana’s Alicia Alonso Grand Theater.

Nor will I attempt to give details, only emphasize that an honorable chapter in the struggle for human liberation was written there. In a certain way, I hoped Obama’s behavior would be correct. His humble origin and natural intelligence were evident. Mandela was imprisoned for life and had become a giant in the struggle for human dignity. One day, a copy of a book narrating part of Mandela’s life reached my hands, and - surprise! - the prologue was by Barack Obama. I rapidly skimmed the pages. The miniscule size of Mandela’s handwriting noting facts was incredible. Knowing men such as him was worthwhile.

Regarding the episode in South Africa I must point out another experience. I was really interested in learning more about how the South Africans had acquired nuclear weapons. I only had very precise information that there were no more than 10 or 12 bombs. A reliable source was the professor and researcher Piero Gleijeses, who had written the text Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976, an excellent piece. I knew he was the most reliable source on what had happened and I told him so; he responded that he had not spoken more about the matter as in the text he had responded to questions from compañero Jorge Risquet, who had been Cuban ambassador and collaborator in Angola, a very good friend of his. I located Risquet; already undertaking other important tasks he was finishing a course which would last several weeks longer. That task coincided with a fairly recent visit by Piero to our country; I had warned him that Risquet was getting on and his health was not great. A few days later what I had feared occurred. Risquet deteriorated and died. When Piero arrived there was nothing to do except make promises, but I had already received information related to the weapons and the assistance that racist South Africa had received from Reagan and Israel.

I do not know what Obama would have to say about this story now. I am unaware as to what he did or did not know, although it is very unlikely that he knew absolutely nothing. My modest suggestion is that he gives it thought and does not attempt now to elaborate theories on Cuban policy.

There is an important issue:

Obama made a speech in which he uses the most sweetened words to express: “It is time, now, to forget the past, leave the past behind, let us look to the future together, a future of hope. And it won’t be easy, there will be challenges and we must give it time; but my stay here gives me more hope in what we can do together as friends, as family, as neighbors, together.”

I suppose all of us were at risk of a heart attack upon hearing these words from the President of the United States. After a ruthless blockade that has lasted almost 60 years, and what about those who have died in the mercenary attacks on Cuban ships and ports, an airliner full of passengers blown up in midair, mercenary invasions, multiple acts of violence and coercion?

Nobody should be under the illusion that the people of this dignified and selfless country will renounce the glory, the rights, or the spiritual wealth they have gained with the development of education, science and culture.

I also warn that we are capable of producing the food and material riches we need with the efforts and intelligence of our people. We do not need the empire to give us anything. Our efforts will be legal and peaceful, as this is our commitment to peace and fraternity among all human beings who live on this planet.

Fidel Castro Ruz

March 27, 2016

10:25 p.m.
DPRK Worker-Peasant Red Guard Members Vow to Annihilate Provokers
Pyongyang, March 28 (KCNA) -- With huge aggression forces and nuclear strategic means, the U.S. imperialists and the Park Geun Hye puppet group of hooligans have staged in south Korea the largest-ever joint military drills aimed at preemptive strike on the key facilities of the DPRK and surprise attack on its supreme leadership, despite the DPRK's crucial warning.
Enraged at such hideous provocations, all members of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards (WPRG) in the DPRK are now hardening their will to wipe out the provokers without mercy.

Satanic Hordes Can Never Escape Severe Punishment: Catholic Association

Pyongyang, March 29 (KCNA) -- Now all the Catholics in the DPRK bitterly condemn the Park Geun Hye group for unhesitatingly conducting vicious provocations as satanic hordes. They are burning their hearts with the will to deal the most deadly sledge hammer to the Park group.
A spokesman for the Central Committee of the Catholic Association of Korea said this in a statement on Tuesday.
The DPRK is the paradise of mankind where everyone lives in harmony with nothing to desire more under the leadership of the peerlessly great man, supreme incarnation of love and trust and protector of justice and peace, the statement said, and went on:
The Park group of villains worse than worms recklessly runs amuck to hurt the savior of the nation looked up to by all Koreans. This is the high treason and the worst evil that deserves the severest punishment.
All the service personnel and people of the DPRK who value the dignity of its supreme leadership more than their own lives have turned out in the sacred battle to devotedly protect the leader. We Catholics, too, have bravely turned out in the sacred just struggle
It is high time the Korean Catholics mercilessly punished the satanic hordes as they fear nothing for justice and truth.
We will throw the Park group of villains into the cauldron of hell without fail as they bring disasters to the country and nation, doing everything evil.
DPRK Foreign Minister Interviewed by TASS Foreign News Editor
Pyongyang, March 29 (KCNA) -- DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong gave the following answers to the questions put by the foreign news editor of TASS Tuesday as regards the DPRK's stand to cope with the situation prevailing on the Korean peninsula:
The U.S. extremely hostile policy and nuclear threat to the DPRK have been the root cause of escalating tensions on the peninsula and compelling the latter to bolster up its nuclear deterrence.
The U.S. has posed a nuclear threat to the DPRK since long before the latter's access to nuclear weapons and adopted it as its policy to mount a preemptive nuclear attack and staged ceaseless nuclear war drills to put it into practice.
It attempted to mount a nuclear attack on the DPRK already in the past Korean war. Since the 1950s, it has threatened and blackmailed the DPRK by shipping huge nuclear weapons into south Korea.
The Bush administration listed the DPRK as "part of the axis of evil" and target of its preemptive nuclear attack. This policy remains unchanged till now.
This is clearly evidenced by the fact that the Obama administration excluded the DPRK from the list of the countries for non-use of nuclear weapons in April, 2010 and declared a preemptive attack on the DPRK while staging joint military drills with huge nuclear strike means involved in south Korea.
The U.S. is now staging nuclear attack drills against the DPRK by amassing all its strategic nuclear strike means in south Korea and in its vicinity. No country in the world has been exposed to such serious and potential nuclear threat as what Pyongyang is now experiencing.
It is quite natural for the DPRK to counter the U.S. nuclear weapons in kind.
As the U.S. has worked hard to stifle the DPRK with nuclear weapons, the latter was compelled to have access to nukes to protect the sovereignty and vital right of the nation to cope with it.
The U.S. is the arch criminal who pushed the DPRK to have access to nuclear weapons. The decades-long U.S. nuclear threat and blackmail have prompted the DPRK to do so.
The only way to cope with the constant nuclear threat and war provocations of the U.S., the world's only user of nuclear weapons and biggest nuclear weapons state, is to achieve the equilibrium of strength by bolstering up nuclear armed force.
The DPRK has tremendous military muscle capable of fighting any type of war desired by the U.S.
It opened to public real miniaturized and light nuclear warheads to be mounted on ballistic rockets and showed the capability of the atmospheric re-entry of inter-continental ballistic rocket.
The DPRK will further strengthen the state defence capacity with the nuclear force as its pivot to cope with the reckless hostile moves of the U.S. and its undisguised nuclear threat.
In the future, the development speed of the DPRK's nuclear force will depend on how the U.S. will behave and how its viewpoint on the former will change.
The U.S. is now busy with madcap largest-ever Key Resolve and Foal Eagle 16 joint military maneuvers targeting the DPRK across south Korea despite its repeated warnings.
The war rehearsals in which hundreds of thousands of armed forces and various nuclear strategic means are involved are now under way under the simulated conditions involving nuclear preemptive attack on the DPRK and "beheading operation" aiming at a the supreme headquarters and "regime change," in particular.
The U.S. unhesitatingly declared that the joint military drills were aimed to finally examine the feasibility of a war of aggression against the north, thus completely discarding the deceptive and shameless cloak of "annual and defensive ones" though they have been billed outwardly so far.
The situation of the Korean peninsula is driven to the brink of war as the U.S. is making a preemptive attack an established fact while staging actual maneuvers under the simulated conditions of all kinds of surprise attack against the DPRK.
It has become quite obvious that the DPRK can never remain a passive onlooker to the imminent U.S. threat of aggression.
The DPRK has shifted all the military counteraction modes to preemptive attack ones to cope with the U.S. nuclear war hysteria and declared the will to mount a decisive preemptive nuclear attack.
In a word, the Korean peninsula is standing at the crossroads of a thermonuclear war and peace.
The extremely tense situation prevailing on the Korean peninsula is something unprecedented and the whole world including your country is closely watching it with great concern and uneasiness.
In order to prevent the vicious cycle of ever-escalating tension on the peninsula, defuse the danger of war and ensure peace and security, one should not just watch phenomena in sight but properly judge their root cause and take measures for rooting out them, to begin with.
All the countries desirous of peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region should watch with vigilance the moves of the U.S. regarding the DPRK as its primary target of attack after shifting the strategic pivot for world domination to the Asia-Pacific region and make due efforts to prevent them.