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Mugabe Said To Chafe As Ministers Fail To Reopen Slaughterhouse

President Robert Mugabe is said to be fuming over the failure of two senior ministers to carry out his order to reopen a slaughterhouse in Mashonaland East province by the last day of 2006, less than a month after Mr. Mugabe issued the directive.

The president's order that Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa and Agriculture Minister Joseph Made reopen the Cold Storage Company slaughterhouse after seven years of disuse has increased tension with Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party.

The project is opposed by ZANU-PF officials in Chinhoyi and Bulawayo who benefited from the closure of the Marondera, Mashonaland East, plant.

Political analysts and economists describe the initiative as an attempt to mollify ruling party brass in Mashonaland East who failed to line up behind the majority of ZANU-PF provincial organizations last month in backing an extension of Mr. Mugabe's term.

The ruling party proposal to "harmonize" the 2008 presidential election with a general election in 2010 by postponing it for two years received the backing of eight out of 10 ZANU-PF provinces. The ZANU-PF central committee will now weigh the plan, which domestic and foreign critics say is a further subversion of the democratic process.

Finance chief Murerwa has raised just Z$10 million of the Z$5 billion experts say will be required to get the slaughterhouse-refrigeration plant back on line. Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono has not been receptive to appeals for a disbursement; he and Murerwa have been in a feud over fiscal and monetary policy since late 2006.

Cold Storage Company Chief Executive Ngoni Chinogaramombe disclosed this week that the state enterprise needs recapitalization to the tune of Z$82 billion, but only $10 billion has been allocated to this purpose under Murerwa's 2007 budget.

Chinogaramombe said CSC had operated under 15% of capacity in 2006. Zimbabwe's export cattle herd has dwindled from 1.6 million head in 2000 to some 500,000 today.

Economist John Robertson told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 that the president's order to reopen the CSC facility does not make economic sense.

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