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Power cuts force night-time productivity in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe introduced rotational power cuts forcing many to do their ironing or cooking in the dead of night

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Zimbabwe power cuts

Zimbabwe’s worsening electricity shortages mean power is often only available for a few hours in the middle of the night – forcing furniture maker Richard Benhura to start work at 11:00 pm. It is just one aspect of the country’s dire economic difficulties as official inflation nears 100 per cent and supplies of daily essentials such as bread and petrol regularly run short.

“If you want to work, you have to be here overnight and start when the electricity comes on until it goes off around 4:00 am,” Benhura, 32, narrated as he made some wooden backrests for chairs. At the open-air Glen View furniture market in Harare, Benhura welds steel frames for chairs and grinds off rough edges in the darkness, and then returns to do his manual woodwork in the daylight.

Zimbabwe – where the economy has recently lurched into a fresh crisis – introduced rotational power cuts of up to 19 hours a day earlier this year, forcing many to do their ironing or cooking in the dead of night. For Eugenia Chiwashira, a resident of the poor Harare suburb of Mbare, the outages are a grim burden.

The mother of three in her 40s says she can barely afford to feed her family, let alone pay for a generator.

Related: Zimbabwe at risk of power cuts as dam levels fall

We are in darkness

“To cook porridge for my children needs electricity, also for me to prepare myself something to eat,” Chiwashira said while stoking a fire she had made outside her house to prepare supper. “We are always in darkness. It’s not easy. Life in the city is tough without electricity. You have to buy firewood unlike in rural areas where you can fetch it in forests.

“I can’t afford to buy both wood and candles, so my children cannot do their schoolwork in the evening.”

Zimbabwe last month introduced rolling electricity power cuts known as “load-shedding” due to low water levels at the Kariba hydro-power station, as well as the country’s crumbling power infrastructure and lack of funds to pay for energy imports.

The ZESA power utility said cuts would be imposed between 5:00 am and 10:00 am and 5:00 pm and 10:00 pm, but they often last longer. “Last week we had no electricity on Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Chiwashira said. “We only got supplies back on Monday afternoon.”

Energy minister Fortune Chasi has pledged the outages would be reduced, and urged consumers to pay their bills to enable ZESA to buy more power from neighbouring countries. 

“We will be turning the corner pretty soon,” Chasi told a post-Cabinet briefing this week, adding that ZESA had just paid a $20-million debt to neighbouring South Africa. South Africa’s state-owned energy company Eskom on Friday denied the money had been paid.

Related: Zimbabweans happy with sack of energy minister over power cuts

No post-Mugabe upturn

One of few to see an improvement in his business is Simba Vuremu, a stationery shop owner who has added solar lighting units to his stock. “They are selling and selling fast,” he said.

After Robert Mugabe was ousted from power in 2017, many Zimbabweans hoped that their country’s long economic decline would be reversed under his successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa promised to end the country’s international isolation, attract investors and create growth that could fund the country’s shattered public services. But the economy has declined further, with shop prices rocketing at the fastest rate since hyperinflation wiped out savings and pensions ten years ago.

For Caution Kasisi, 45, another furniture-maker in Glen View, the power cuts have only added to his worries. “We have a small petrol-powered generator which cannot run for a long time,” he said.

“The price of food and other things like school fees are going up and we are not getting much money because we can’t deliver our goods. We have got a problem.”

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Mali’s new mining rules end tax exemptions

The regulatory change seeks to bring a “substantial increase” in the contribution of the mining sector

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New Mali mining law removes tax exemption

Mining companies operating in Mali will no longer be exempt from value-added tax during production and will only be protected from fiscal changes for a shorter period.

The regulatory change seeks to redress the “shortcomings” of a 2012 law by bringing a “substantial increase” in the contribution of the mining sector to the economy, the Mines Ministry said in a statement.

However, some industry watchers view the code change as a new instance of so-called “resource nationalism” and will likely spark tensions between the Malian government and mining companies.

Mali is currently Africa’s third-largest gold producer.

The regulation shortens the “stability period” during which mining companies’ existing investments are protected from changes to fiscal and customs regimes.

Changes to regulatory stability clauses have been strongly opposed by international mining companies elsewhere in Africa, most notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo where miners spent months at loggerheads with the government.

Under Mali’s previous law, stability was ensured for 30 years. It was however not made clear what the length of the new stability period would be, but the Economy Ministry said last year that the government aimed to reduce those protections to the lifespan of a mine.

“It’s the reality of the playing field at the moment, a lot of companies in Mali will have looked at what happened in DRC and Tanzania and they will have to be very cautious,” said Warren Beech, partner and head of mining at Eversheds Sutherland in Johannesburg.

Mali’s government had been negotiating with a working group of mining companies to draft a new code but said last year that it would move to implement a new law unilaterally if no compromise was reached.

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Forbes lists South Africa’s Trevor Noah as world’s 4th-richest comedian

Noah, whose ranking makes him the richest comedian in Africa, earned a whopping $28m in the period between June 2018 and June 2019

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Forbes lists South Africa's Trevor Noah as world's 4th-richest comedian
U.S-based South African comedian, Trevor Noah. (Comedy Central/AFP)

South African comedian, Trevor Noah is the fourth-highest paid comedian in the world, according to the Forbes Rich List 2019.

This is the first time the 35-year-old star has made it into the magazine’s top 10 since he began his work.

Noah, whose ranking makes him the richest comedian in Africa, earned a whopping $28m in the period between June 2018 and June 2019 from various projects, including his day job as the TV host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show”.

Most of his income, however, came from his 70-stop world tour as a stand-up comedian, making him eligible for the list of richest stand-ups.

In the 2019 list, the South African came behind Kevin Hart ($59m), Jerry Seinfeld ($41), Jim Gaffigan ($30m).

Other than his tour, sources of Noah’s 2018 income were his two shows on Netflix, and book sales from his bestselling autobiography “Born A Crime”, which is still ranked No. 1 on the New York Times’ bestseller list for paperback nonfiction.

Forbes lists South Africa's Trevor Noah as world's 4th-richest comedian
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images/AFP

As a group, the top 10 best-paid comedians raked in $272m, that’s $20m less than the previous period.

The reduction in earnings among the top comedians has been attributed to reduced action among some, including Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, who came in at $30m and $35m last year, respectively.

Trevor Noah’s ‘The Daily Show’ has become quite popular, with the South African inspiring laughter from topics ranging from politics to daily life events.

Noah joined the show in 2014 as a contributor, some two years after making his U.S. television debut on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

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Zimbabwe to issue new currency notes to counter cash shortage

Zimbabwe abandoned the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009, after a bout of hyperinflation in favour of currencies like the dollar and rand

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Zimbabwe to issue new currency notes to counter cash shortage

Zimbabwe will issue new notes and coins soon to replace the country’s quasi-currency that was introduced three years ago in a failed attempt to counter a crippling shortage of cash.

The return to a fully-fledged local currency exchangeable outside the country’s borders will be backed by an undisclosed amount of foreign-exchange reserves, gold and loans, according to the country’s finance minister, Mthuli Ncube.

Zimbabwe abandoned the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009, after a bout of hyperinflation in favour of a basket of currencies including the US dollar and the South African rand.

In a bid to deal with the subsequent cash shortages, it introduced so-called bond notes and RTGS dollars in their electronic form, which are not accepted outside the country.

Ncube re-introduced the Zimbabwe dollar in June, accompanied by a ban on the use of foreign currencies-leading to a rapid erosion of spending power with the local dollar trading at almost 10 to the greenback.

Bond notes were officially said to be at parity as recently as February.

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