Monday, November 21, 2005

Eddie Cross: A Tidal Wave of Destruction and Misery

Eddie is prominent business leader and top advisor to MDC president, Morgan Tsvangirai

When operation "Murambatsvina" was at its height, I was walking through a bus depot in a small regional town looking at the devastation - about 2000 small businesses had been destroyed that morning and behind me was the astonishing sight of police, assisted by home owners, destroying accommodation. As I walked back to where my vehicle was parked two young men spoke to me from the side of the road "this is a Zanu Tsunami" they said in Shona.

A Zanu PF Tsunami! Looking back on the past 6 years, we could say that about the whole sorry story of Zimbabwe. After 20 years of independence and many decades of promise, the leaders who have controlled this country since 1980 have simply destroyed not only what they achieved in the first decade of their government but at least 30 to 40 years of hard work before they took over. The achievements of the past are still there - monuments to what sort of people our forefathers were, modern cities, tall buildings, a national network of infrastructure that would do a more developed State proud. But inside this historical fa├žade, the factories are silent and many people dead or absent.

What is more astonishing is that this whole sorry tale was a deliberate and planned exercise in self destruction, carried out with savage efficiency and determination by educated and sophisticated men and women. One could say the same thing about the "Great Leap Forward" in China under Mao, or the globally destructive swathe of German aggression in the 30's and 40's. Today is the 60th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials at which the Nazi leaders, responsible for the physical destruction of Europe and perhaps 60 million deaths - the deaths of a whole generation of young men in the Soviet Union, central Europe and millions of others from other continents. Looking at that row of men in an Allied Court it was difficult to understand how such men could have done such things to their own people and to others. But they did.

Under the leadership of Robert Mugabe, a team of men and women, many of them holding PhD's from reputable Universities in the West, have almost wiped out commercial agriculture, created near perfect conditions for the spread of HIV/Aids, destroyed much of the medical and educational system that at one stage delivered the best social services of this kind in Africa. They have overseen the largest and most continuous fall in national economic output in any country in the world, they have reduced exports to the stage where we can no longer sustain our economy or pay our bills.

In social terms we now have one of the highest rates of maternal and child mortality in the world. This means that if you were born in this country today - your mother would have a 1 in 7 chance of dying in the process of giving you birth and then you would face a new world where your own chances of survival were 50/50. We have seen the flight of millions of our people to other countries, airlines fly full every day from Harare airport and return half empty. The Limpopo River has become a broad road to Egoli and a desperate life in the slums of South Africa.

Our children attend school hungry and when they are there they try to learn in classrooms without windows, sometimes even roofs, no school books, no chalk, with teachers so badly paid and poorly motivated that they do not give a damn if the kids pass or fail. Children are sitting exams after 14 years of schooling and achieving pass rates of 2 or 3 percent at some High Schools. We note in business, a rapid decline in the standard of education in the average school leaver. Neither functionally literate nor numerate, many school leavers are little use in a factory or retail environment.

We are a nation of professional mourners - we attend the funerals of family and friends every week. Sometimes the stories are just devastating - this past week I know of one young man whose wife was discharged by a District Hospital with cancer of the stomach. The hospital could do nothing for her and told the young husband to take her home to die. He carried her from the hospital to the nearby roadside and begged a lift in a long haul truck, and then he carried her from the road to his rural home some 15 kilometers off the main road. It was over 40 Celsius in the shade at the time; the wife has two children. To hire a car to take her 200 kilometers to her home would have cost the young man Z$9 million. An impossible sum for them today.

Over 80 per cent of our basic foods are now imported, half our population requires food aid and tens of thousands are sick with tuberculosis, malaria and other Aids related diseases. With prices doubling ever three months and incomes shrinking in line with the economy and the declining value of the money we earn, life has become a nightmare for the average person here. We cannot feed our babies with the food they need, our children go to school hungry or hang around the homestead because we cannot pay the school fees and our hospitals are mortuaries where underpaid nurses and doctors struggle with few drugs and little else.

And then, because Zanu PF perceived that the urban poor in the informal sector were a continuing threat, they launched operation Murambatsvina -during which they destroyed a million small businesses, perhaps 300 000 homes and displaced a third of the total urban population who are now homeless, destitute and even more desperate. And when the American Ambassador gets his staff to prepare a detailed stark summary of all this destruction, he is vilified in the press, told to "go to hell" and
threatened with expulsion - pure political intimidation. But he was right to speak out and we ask, "Where are the others".

Instead of threatening Mugabe and his cronies with another Nuremberg trial for their gross violations of our human and political rights, the UN pleads with these thugs for permission to feed our people and house our displaced. It's an absolute disgrace and a complete travesty of everything the UN stands for in the world today. All those associated with this sham and abdication of responsibility should be ashamed of themselves.

After 1945, we never thought the United Nations would allow it to happen again - but we did not understand, the determination of those in charge there only applies to their own essential interests and not those of the poor in places like Zimbabwe.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 20th November 2005


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