Accessibility links

Breaking News

Zimbabwe

FILE: A man in Harare holds bond notes issued by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Oct. 15, 2018. The introduction of bond notes - a currency Zimbabwe started printing two years ago to ease the situation -- has not helped. (C.Mavhunga/VOA)

HARARE (Reuters) - A Zimbabwean treasury official accused exporters on Monday of keeping $900 million of their earnings in offshore banks - money that he said should be repatriated to ease dollar shortages and help stabilise the exchange rate.

The southern African nation is gripped by a severe dollar crunch which has triggered shortages of fuel and medicine. The local currency has fallen, sending prices of basic goods soaring.

George Guvamatanga, permanent secretary for ministry of finance told a parliamentary committee that $500 million out of last year’s $4.3 billion export earnings was still being kept offshore.

Another $400 million was outstanding from the January to May 2019 exports, which earned $1.4 billion, he said. Exporters were also keeping $800 million in local foreign currency accounts, he added.

“There is $1.7 billion that should be available in this economy to pay for the pharmaceuticals, to pay for the fuel and all the requirements we need as an economy,” Guvamatanga said.

“The issue is how do we enhance the interbank market so that those export proceeds can be liquidated on the interbank market,” said Guvamatanga, who appeared with Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube.

Exporters have 90 days to repatriate earnings to the country, but some of them take longer.

Some, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were reluctant to sell their money on the official market, where traders have said the central bank is influencing the exchange rate.

They also said they were worried that once they had sold their money, there would be delays in getting dollars again on the local interbank market when they wanted to pay for imports.

Guvamatanga said the government “does not have the intention whatsoever to grab exporters’” dollars.

On Monday, the local RTGS dollar was trading at 5 to the U.S. dollar compared to 5.5 on Friday. On the black market, the unit was weaker at 7.50 versus 7 on Friday, traders said.

The central bank last week ended subsidies on fuel and directed oil companies to start to buy dollars on the official intermarket. It also told banks to ensure the exchange rate reflected market conditions

The apex bank said it had also accessed a $500 million loan from international banks that would be used to stabilise the interbank market. A first tranche of $40 million had been injected into the market last week, the central bank said. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Malawi President Mutharika addresses his supporters during his swearing-in ceremony, May, 28, 2019, in Blantyre. (L. Masina/VOA)

President Peter Mutharika was sworn in for a second term Tuesday after beating six other candidates in the tightly contested presidential election.

There was jubilation and ululation from hundreds of people who trooped to Kamuzu Stadium, in Blantyre, to witness Mutharika and his vice president Everton Chimulirenji taking the oath from Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda.

"I Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, do solemnly swear that I will well and truly perform, the functions of high office as president,” Mutharika said.

Hundreds of people made the trip to Kamuzu Stadium, in Blantyre, to witness Mutharika and his vice president Everton Chimulirenji taking the oath on May 28, 2019. (L. Masina/VOA)
Hundreds of people made the trip to Kamuzu Stadium, in Blantyre, to witness Mutharika and his vice president Everton Chimulirenji taking the oath on May 28, 2019. (L. Masina/VOA)

Mutharika, the leader of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), narrowly won the May 21 presidential election. The incumbent leader got 38.57% while his opponent, Lazarus Chakwera, leader of opposition Malawi Congress Party trailed with 35.41%.

Vice President Saulos Chilima of the opposition United Transformation Movement Party came third with 20.24%.

In his short acceptance speech Mutharika asked political leaders who contested the May elections to move forward.

"I also want to thank leaders of various political parties who competed with me in this election,” Mutharika said. “Most of them have accepted that there is only one winner at a time. So, it's now time to move on. The election is over; there is a time to fight, there is a time to unite."

Malawi's new vice president, Overtone Chimulirenji, was sworn-in to replace Saulos Chilima, who finished third in the May 21, 2019 elections. (L. Masina/VOA)
Malawi's new vice president, Overtone Chimulirenji, was sworn-in to replace Saulos Chilima, who finished third in the May 21, 2019 elections. (L. Masina/VOA)

A local radio station reported Tuesday that police dispersed Malawi Congress Party supporters who protested the official results. However, the party, which originally demanded a recount, has no further plans to challenge the vote tally.

The leader of the United Democratic Front, Atupele Muluzi, finished fourth in the presidential race. Muluzi told state media Tuesday that he is looking forward to Mutharika's leadership in the next five years.

"I hope that his government will be able to continue to make sure that he stabilizes the economy and provide quick wins especially jobs for young people and re-unify our beautiful country following such a challenging election,” Muluzi said.

Some Mutharika supporters said although the president has performed well in the past five years, they expect even more.

Jane Chiwamba is one of the Mutharika supporters.

She said she would like to see more rural technical colleges which Mutharika administration started establishing in rural areas, because these, Chiwamba said, will help empower youths to be self-reliant citizens.

The official inauguration ceremony for Mutharika is scheduled for Friday.

Load more

XS
SM
MD
LG