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Provincial Slaughterhouse Provokes Feud In Zimbabwe Government

Another feud has developed within the Zimbabwean government's top ranks over an order by President Robert Mugabe to his ministers to restore a slaughterhouse in the Mashonaland East province town of Marondera that has lain idle for seven years.

Mugabe ordered Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa and Agriculture Minister Joseph Made to revive the abattoir, a facility of the state-controlled Cold Storage Company, but the move is opposed by officials of the ruling ZANU-PF party in Mashonaland West and Bulawayo provinces which benefited from the plant's shutdown.

Murerwa reportedly has raised only Z$10 million of the $2 billion required to put the abattoir back on an operating basis. Party insiders say the facility is not viable given the near-collapse of the beef sector and stiff competition from private abattoirs.

Cold Storage Company CEO Ngoni Chinogaramombe said the firm used to earn more than US$50 million annually from beef exports to the European Union. But Zimbabwe has been struggling to meet its EU export quota of 91,000 tonnes.

Zimbabwe's export-quality herd stood at about 1.6 million cattle in 2000, but experts say that since then it has declined in size by more than 70%.

Those opposed to the investment said Mr. Mugabe is trying to appease one of the ZANU-PF provinces that failed to line up behind a proposal to give him an extra two years in in office. Eight out of 10 ZANU-PF provinces - Mashonaland East and Harare were the exceptions - backed putting off the 2008 presidential elections until 2010.

Mashonaland East Governor Ray Kaukonde and Marondera parliamentarian Sydney Sekerami, also the minister of defense, have appealed to Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, which has increased tensions between Gono and Murerwa.

Marondera residents have not forgiven the ruling party for closing the abattoir, which was the town's only meaningful source of employment.

Finance Ministry sources said Gono has batted the question back to Murerwa, saying that he is not inclined to help someone who only recently took him to task publicly for for printing money to keep the government and state enterprises running.

But Agriculture Ministry Permanent Secretary Shadreck Mlambo told state media that the Cold Storage facility will indeed open next week as ordered by the president.

The proposed restoration of the Marondera facility also has critics in the opposition.

Ernest Mudzengi, director of the National Constitutional Assembly, told reporter Blessing Zulu that Mr. Mugabe’s directive was self-serving.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...