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Zimbabwe election 2018: Five things

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Zimbabwe Election

More than five million Zimbabweans are going to the polls on 30 July to vote in historic Zimbabwe elections. But what makes it different from previous votes?

1) The first election without Mugabe

Since Zimbabwe’s birth in 1980, only one person has ever won an election to lead the country – Robert Mugabe. He was prime minister until a presidential system was introduced in 1987.

But the 94-year-old was ousted from power last year by the army and those in his own party who were angered at moves to allow his wife Grace Mugabe to succeed him.

A few weeks before the military takeover in November, Mr Mugabe had fired his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and was manoeuvring for his wife to be appointed in his place.

But it ended in his downfall and Mr Mnangagwa became president. He is now the Zanu-PF’s presidential candidate.

And there is a change in the air when it comes to campaigning as all parties have been able to hold rallies and marches without hindrance or intimidation, unlike in previous polls.

International election observers from Europe and the US have been welcomed for the first time since 2002.

The media scene is also vibrant, with different views being expressed – though state media is still seen as the mouthpiece of the ruling party.

2) Longest ballot paper

Robert Mugabe’s exit from the scene has led to a flourishing of political ambitions – and 23 names will appear on the presidential ballot.

Fifty-five parties are also contesting the parliamentary election. Commentators say this shows how feared the former president had become during his 37-year rule.

Some of those trying their luck have returned from the diaspora to relaunch their careers. But the main presidential contenders are Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling Zanu-PF and Nelson Chamisa of the opposition MDC Alliance.

However, there is a controversy over the two-column design of the presidential ballot paper, which has Mr Mnangagwa appearing at the top of the second column.

The opposition says this is illegal, but electoral chief Priscilla Chigumba said if it was done as a single column when folded, a voter wouldn’t be able to post it into a ballot box as it would be too thick for the slot.

Evan Mawarire is not standing on the presidential ballot, though he is vying for a seat as a councillor in the capital, Harare.

The charismatic pastor became famous for his courageous criticism of Mr Mugabe’s rule. His viral #ThisFlag movement was sparked after he spontaneously posted a video expressing his frustration at the woeful state of the nation – and urged Zimbabweans to be proud of their flag and demand change.

He then organised a two-day shutdown in July 2016 – the biggest strike action in more than a decade – and was charged with trying to overthrow the government.

He was acquitted a week after Mr Mugabe resigned.

3) Ghost voters ‘banished’

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has introduced a fingerprint ID system to register voters, which it says has been able to identify when people register more than once.

It says the new system, which required everyone to re-register, means the voters’ roll is now “clean” and free from ghost voters.

In total 5,635,706 people are registered – 238,409 fewer than in 2013, despite an annual population growth of more than 2%.

In the past, one way in which people have allegedly rigged elections was by using the identities of dead people still on the voters’ roll.

The commission has denied recent allegations that 250,000 ghost voters have managed to get on to the new list.

It cited the example of a woman in Mutare, in the east of the country, who had registered three times, giving a different address in each case. But Zec said the ID system had spotted it was the same voter and her duplicate entries had been removed.

In total Zec says 92,000 people who initially registered have been excluded because of various anomalies.

4) ‘Witchcraft’ animals banned

The Zimbabwe election commission has banned a whole host of things from candidates’ logos, including some animals and weapons – though guns are allowed.

This is the full list of outlawed symbols, in the order it appears on the Zec website: Flame Lily, cheetah, elephant, secretary bird, flaming torch, leopard, lion, buffalo, griffon (mythical creature), owl, bird of prey, cobras, sword, rhino, laurel wreath and axe.

No official explanation has been given for why they are not allowed. Historian Pathisa Nyathi told Zimbabwe’s state-run Chronicle paper that witchcraft may have been a contributing factor in some cases: “From an African point of view, for example, an owl is associated with witchcraft. A snake can equally be associated with witchcraft. Also, depending on the type of snake, it could be related to ancestral spirits.

He added that plants and animals are seen as having “national significance” might also be a reason for the ban. The flame lily, for example, is Zimbabwe’s national flower.

The ruling Zanu-PF uses an image of Great Zimbabwe ruins as its emblem – an iconic stone tower from an ancient empire between two trees to symbolise unity; the opposition MDC has an open palm of a hand to depict openness.

5) The decline in anti-gay hate speech

The director of a gay rights group says there been “a sharp decline in the use of hate speech and harassment of the LGBT community” during campaigning in Zimbabwe, where homosexual acts and gay marriage are banned.

Mr Mugabe once infamously said gay people were “worse than pigs and dogs” and claimed homosexuality was unAfrican.

“LGBTI issues have been used as a tool to divert Zimbabweans from discussing other pressing issues affecting them and a convenient ploy for political leaders facing rampant unemployment, political unrest, and a downward economic spiral,” Chester Samba, from Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz), told the BBC News website.

Elections in the past have been characterised by scapegoating a largely invisible and unpopular minority, creating a moral panic, which at times easily escalated into a witch-hunt.”

He admits that no party’s manifesto has anything specific on gay rights, though Zanu-PF did invite Galz for a meeting to gauge the challenges the LGBT community faces.

Gay people face widespread stigma in Zimbabwe – it has been too dangerous to live as openly homosexual and as a result, many have been too scared to go to hospitals for treatment when they get ill.

In another sign that attitudes may be changing, the body that coordinates the treatment of HIV and Aids in Zimbabwe has announced that it is opening up five drop-in centres nationwide for gay men.
BBC

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INTERNATIONAL

UK makes citizenship offer to Hong Kong residents

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Hong Kong British citizenship

Up to three million Hong Kong residents are to be offered the chance to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship, Boris Johnson has said.

The PM said Hong Kong’s freedoms were being violated by a new security law and those affected would be offered a “route” out of the former UK colony.

About 350,000 UK passport holders, and 2.6 million others eligible, will be able to come to the UK for five years. And after a further year, they will be able to apply for citizenship. British National Overseas Passport holders in Hong Kong were granted special status in the 1980s but currently have restricted rights and are only entitled to visa-free access to the UK for six months.

Under the government’s plans, all British Overseas Nationals and their dependents will be given right to remain in the UK, including the right to work and study, for five years. At this point, they will be able to apply for settled status, and after a further year, seek citizenship.

The PM said Tuesday’s passing of a new security law by the Hong Kong authorities was a “clear and serious breach” of the 1985 Sino-British joint declaration – a legally binding agreement which set out how certain freedoms would be protected for the 50 years after China assumed sovereignty in 1997.

‘New route’
“It violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and threatens the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration,” he said.
“We made clear that if China continued down this path we would introduce a new route for those with British National (Overseas) status to enter the UK, granting them limited leave to remain with the ability to live and work in the UK and thereafter to apply for citizenship. And that is precisely what we will do now.”

Foreign Office permanent secretary Sir Simon McDonald expressed the government’s “deep concern” about the new law to China during a meeting with the country’s ambassador Liu Xiaoming.

The UK government has been raising concerns about the national security law and very publicly trying to pressure Beijing into a change heart.
That has clearly failed – so ministers are now fulfilling their promise to allow some three million British Overseas Nationals to come to the UK. This is a significant move and the government wants to send a strong message.

But there will be more pressure now to rethink other elements of our relationship with China – not least the deal to allow Huawei to build parts of the UK’s 5G structures.

Many Tory MPs have been lobbying against that for some time – and this will only add to their concern. Updating MPs on the details, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said there would be no limit on numbers or quotas and the application process would be simple.

“This is a special, bespoke, set of arrangements developed for the unique circumstances we face and in light of our historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong,” he said.

Speaking to ITV’s Peston programme, Mr Raab acknowledged there “would be little we could do to…cohesively force” China to allow British Overseas Nationals to come to the UK.

Downing Street said further details of the scheme will be detailed “in due course”.

In the meantime, British National Overseas Passport holders in Hong Kong will be able to travel to the UK immediately, subject to standard immigration checks, the prime minister’s official spokesman said.

They will also not face salary thresholds to gain their visas, he added. Hong Kong’s new national security law, which targets secession, subversion and terrorism with punishments up to life in prison, came into effect on Tuesday.BBC

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CRIME

Ghislaine Maxwell arrested by FBI

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Ghislaine Maxwell arrested by FBI

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, an ex-girlfriend of convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, is facing charges in the US after being arrested by the FBI. She is accused of assisting Epstein’s abuse of minors by helping to recruit and groom victims known to be underage.

She was reportedly arrested in New Hampshire and is due in federal court later on Thursday. Ms Ghislaine Maxwell has previously denied any involvement in or knowledge of Epstein’s alleged sexual misconduct. Jeffrey Epstein died in prison on 10 August as he awaited, without the chance of bail, his trial on sex trafficking charges.

He was arrested last year in New York following allegations that he was running a network of underage girls – some as young as 14 – for sex. His death was determined to be suicide.

Four of the six charges relate to the years 1994-97 when Ghislaine Maxwell was, according to the indictment, among Epstein’s closest associates and also in an “intimate relationship” with him. The other two charges are allegations of perjury in 2016.

The indictment says Ms Maxwell “assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom and ultimately abuse victims known to Maxwell and Epstein to be under the age of 18”.

Specifically, she is charged with: Conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts. Enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

She is accused of grooming multiple minor girls to engage in sex acts with Epstein. She allegedly attempted to befriend them by asking about their lives and families and then she and Epstein built the friendships by taking minor victims to the cinema or shopping.

Having built a rapport, Ms Ghislaine Maxwell would “try to normalise sexual abuse for a minor victim by discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed, and/or being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein”.

“Maxwell and Epstein worked together to entice these minor victims to travel to Epstein’s residences – his residence in New York City on the Upper East Side, as well as Palm Beach, Florida, and Santa Fe, New Mexico,” Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, told reporters.

“Some of the acts of abuse also took place in Maxwell’s residence in London, England.”The perjury counts relate to depositions she gave to a New York court on 22 April and 22 July 2016. The charge sheet says she “repeatedly lied when questioned about her conduct, including in relation to some of the minor victims”.

“Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable,” said Ms Strauss.”Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her, then delivered them into the trap that she and Epstein had set for them. She pretended to be a woman they could trust. All the while she was setting them up to be sexually abused by Epstein and, in some cases, by Maxwell herself.”

What is the background?
Allegations against Epstein had dated back years before the parents of a 14-year-old girl said he had molested her in 2005. Under a legal deal, he avoided federal charges and since 2008 was listed as level three on the New York sex offenders register.

But he was arrested again in New York on 6 July 2019 and accused of sex trafficking of underage girls over a number of years.
Some of Epstein’s alleged victims have accused Ms Ghislaine Maxwell of bringing them into his circle to be sexually abused by him and his friends.
One told the BBC’s Panorama that Ms Maxwell “controlled the girls. She was like the Madam”.

Ms Maxwell has denied any wrongdoing. Earlier this year she sued Epstein’s estate seeking reimbursement for legal fees and security costs. She “receives regular threats to her life and safety”, court documents in that case said.

Another of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Giuffre, has accused Ms Maxwell of recruiting her as a masseuse to the financier at the age of 15.
Details of that allegation against Ms Maxwell emerged in documents unsealed by a US judge last August in a 2015 defamation case but are not part of the charges against Ms Maxwell unveiled in July 2020.

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?
Ms Maxwell is the daughter of late British media mogul Robert Maxwell. A well-connected socialite, she is said to have introduced Epstein to many of her wealthy and powerful friends, including Bill Clinton and the Duke of York (who was accused in the 2015 court papers of touching a woman at Jeffrey Epstein’s US home, although the court subsequently struck out allegations against the duke).

Buckingham Palace has said that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors” by the duke was “categorically untrue”.
Ms Ghislaine Maxwell has mostly been out of public view since 2016. In a BBC interview last year, the Duke of York said he had met Ms Maxwell last year before Epstein was arrested and charged. However they did not discuss Epstein, he said.

Last month a US prosecutor said Prince Andrew had “sought to falsely portray himself” as eager to co-operate with the inquiry into Epstein.
US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said Prince Andrew had “repeatedly declined our request” to schedule an interview.

The duke’s lawyers previously rejected claims he had not co-operated, saying he offered to help three times. Prince Andrew stepped away from royal duties last year. Asked about the prince on Thursday, acting Attorney Strauss said: “I am not going to comment on anyone’s status in this investigation but I will say that we would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us, we would like to have the benefit of his statement.”BBC

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BUSINESS

Old Mutual’s Share Price Is Focus in Zimbabwe’s Currency War

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Old Mutual Shares Zimbabwe

The share price of one of Africa’s oldest insurers is taking centre stage in Zimbabwe’s battle to bring order to its chaotic foreign-exchange system.
In the latest in a series of attempts to stabilize its currency, the government wants to eradicate the Old Mutual Implied Rate.

The gauge, used by domestic companies to determine the future cost of goods and services, calculates a potential forward rate for the Zimbabwe dollar by measuring the difference between Old Mutual Ltd.’s share prices in Johannesburg, London and Harare.

The indicator is among many “contrived phantom exchange rates” in use that “conspire to defeat fiscal policy,” the government said in a June 26 edict that halted trading on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and stopped most mobile-banking transactions.

The OMIR is one of the multiple exchange rates Zimbabweans use daily to navigate the nation’s myriad economic challenges, including annual inflation of almost 800%.

A perennial shortage of cash means anyone who has physical banknotes is able to negotiate exchange rates with brokers who pay the funds onto mobile-money platforms. The brokers can then sell the hard cash at an even higher rate.

That’s resulted in a widening gap between the official rate of 63.7 per U.S. dollar, and the amount at which it trades on the streets of Harare, which is now at 100.

“People have relied on making money from buying and selling Zimbabwe dollars, and not from any real production,” said John Robertson, an independent economist based in Harare. “It’s what has created these distortions.”

The OMIR also feeds into the black-market Zimbabwe dollar rate, which the nation’s bourse uses, along with the official rate, to determine the value of stock prices.

Old Mutual, founded in Cape Town in 1845, is not involved in determining the rate. Market participants take the company’s share prices in South Africa, the U.K. and Zimbabwe, convert each of them into the U.S. dollar, which should typically trade near par.

The finance minister, however, in March restricted trading in the shares of Old Mutual and two other companies by making the stocks no longer fungible or regarded as being equal in value to those traded on other exchanges, in a bid to prevent outflows caused by the dual listings.

Despite the move, investors poured into Old Mutual, using it as a proxy to the U.S. dollar because of its offshore listings, pushing the Zimbabwe-listed stock up 90% since the beginning of May. The shares in Johannesburg and London were little changed, resulting in the implied rate doubling to 122 as the gap between the securities widened.

Zimbabwe’s benchmark industrial index has risen more than sevenfold this year, reaching a record on June 24, and giving the overall bourse a market value of about 229 billion Zimbabwean dollars ($3.6 billion). None of the stocks in the 57-member index has declined this year as Zimbabweans seek a haven from runaway price increases and the weaker currency, which has slumped to 63.7442 per U.S. dollar after a 25:1 peg put in place since March was abandoned.

Suspend Listing
Authorities now want to eliminate the OMIR before allowing any trading to resume on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified because the talks are private. The OMIR was the focus of various meetings on Monday between members of Zimbabwe’s stockbrokers’ association, the stock exchange, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Treasury, the people said.

Measures being considered to include suspending Old Mutual’s shares from the Harare-based bourse, having the securities traded only in dollars, or moving the listing to the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange, a market that will only trade in foreign currency once it opens later this year, the people said.
Nick Mangwana, the government’s spokesman, referred queries to the finance ministry. Several calls and text messages sent to Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and central bank Governor John Mangudya seeking comment weren’t answered.

“There has not been any official communication from authorities in Zimbabwe to Old Mutual,” the Johannesburg-based company said in an email “We have asked our local subsidiary to reach out to our stakeholders in Zimbabwe to try and understand the circumstances around ZSE closure and other related matters.”

Discussions over the halting of trade on the stock exchange are ongoing and the outcome is still uncertain, SEC Chief Executive Officer Tafadzawa Chinamo said by phone. Zimbabwe Stock Exchange CEO Justin Bgoni said on Sunday that the bourse would wait for guidance from regulators.

In comments at a briefing after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the finance minister said that stockbrokers should assure their clients that their investments in the stock market are safe and that the bourse will reopen once investigations are complete. Bloomberg

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