Monday, February 27, 2006

As if that wasn't Enough Already

Arthur Mutambara, the new leader of the pro-senate breakaway faction of the MDC stunned delegates at his caucus' national congress declaring that,
"So, what is the news headline tomorrow my friends in the media? “Mutambara becomes the President of the Pro-Senate MDC faction.” Are you sure about that description? How many of you here actually know my position on that divisive Senate debate in October 2005. Yes I had views, very strong ones indeed. My position was that the MDC should have boycotted those Senate elections. Not only that, I was for the total withdrawal from Parliament and all the other election based institutions. This to me would have constituted a consistent and effective regime de-legitimization strategy. I guess then that makes me the Anti-Senate leader of the Pro-Senate MDC faction!
Hat tip: ZW News via This is Zimbabwe

Not only did Mutambara's reentry into Zimbabwean politics triger a controversy that threatened to discombobulate the faction, his entiree recruitment and ascension to leadership is predicated upon a principle that is antithetical to the very existence of the group. If they'd tried to recruit Mutambara in November, Ncube and Sibanda would have been told to go to jump off a cliff because he agreed with Tsvangirai. I wonder how that treats them? Read the whole speech you'll find that Mutambara didn't hide his intentions to ameliorate his (and the factions) relationship with Tsvangirai who he admires as a true Zimbabwean "hero" either.

What this means for future of the MDC (as we used to know it), for Ncube in Sibanda, and ZANU-PF we will only find out if Arthru G.O. Mutambara sticks to his words.

For his part, Tsvangirai has welcomed the Mutambara's sentiments. Said Nelson Chamisa Tsvangirai's spokseman,
"The president of the MDC, Mr Tsvangirai has been very clear that unity is fundamental in our efforts to dislodge ZANU PF dictatorship.

"Professor Mutambara's comments are quite welcome and in sync with the aspirations of Mr Tsvangirai of bringing a new dispensation to the struggle for democracy. Mr Tsvangirai has an open door policy which is often misconstrued by others for weakness."

So far Mutambara has done exactly what Woodpecker, the Standard's sattirist, would do if he were Mutambara,
I would say: "Look here Welsh and you Gibson; you are good people. You have brought me into the picture and I shall forever be grateful. But now let me do the honourable thing."

Then I will pick up the phone and dial Morgan. I will say: "Look here Morgan, you have done a great job for Zimbabwe. But really Morgan, I think this is not the time to bicker because the enemy is neither mortally wounded nor vanquished.
"Yes, the enemy is feeling the pressure: he is being daily harassed by matters of his own creation. He is almost drowning on the man-made lake of corruption that he helped to build. We need to strike while the iron is hot and to do that, we need to work together. How can we work together?"
Will he or won't he, that is the question.

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  • Friday, February 24, 2006

    Eddie Cross: "Getting it all Wrong"

    In business we call it a learning curve. It is supposed to happen to those who are in business and to enable people to cope with their jobs more adequately as they learn the ropes. In Zimbabwe the government does not follow these precepts - in fact if there is a curve it is negative, rather than positive.

    Just this month we have seen the following really serious breeches of common sense in Zimbabwe.

    The government paid off its outstanding arrears to one of the funds of the IMF. In doing so they spent US$209 million, enough money to pay for our essential food imports for 9 months, or our fuel imports for 10 months and our electricity imports for two years or our requirements for all essential drugs for 4 years.

    What did we get for this effort? Absolutely nothing! The IMF issued a statement last week saying that while the payments meant that we were no longer a candidate for expulsion we still owed the fund many millions of dollars against other obligations and would still be suspended in terms of our voting and access rights at the IMF. They would not even re-open their office in Harare.

    As a direct consequence of this act by the Zimbabwe regime, we have had virtually no maize meal in our shops for over a month. The World Food Programme is feeding about 5 million people every day now, but this still leaves 6 million people without their basic staple food. This is a catastrophe in any sense of the word. The Presidents remark that Zimbabweans can eat potatoes or rice is just an insult, both are three times as expensive as maize meal and not nearly as satisfying to the Zimbabwean palate. We also now have to sit in the dark for several hours every second day or so as we suffer "load shedding". Fuel now costs nearly Z$200 000 a litre and is in short supply everywhere. As for essential drugs - just try and find these in our pharmacies and hospitals.

    We owe external creditors US$5 000 million. Paying US$209 million to the IMF is 0,04 percent of our liabilities. By paying the IMF we avoided expulsion -but so what? It changes nothing on the ground and just exacerbates our humanitarian and economic crisis. If we were expelled we would have been only the second country in the history of the IMF to be so, but if we then put our house in order and brought back the policies we need to implement to get back on our feet, they would have come back in within months and our membership would have been restored - together with all our rights as a member.

    Then we found out that to make the last payment to the Fund the Reserve Bank simply printed local currency and bought hard currency on the street and from exporters. In doing so they pushed the parallel market up to $220 000 to one US dollar at one stage last week with it falling back to 200 000 to 1 now. That is it lost half its value in about 10 days.

    Bread today is selling at Z$60 000 to Z$70 000 a loaf, flour allocations to bakeries have been reduced to 30 per cent of normal and prices again increased by 25 per cent this week. Eggs are now approaching Z$250 000 a dozen, beef is Z$400 000 a kilo and when I went to the dentist week for a tooth to be pulled I came away Z$13 million poorer! We gave a lift to Harare last week to a railway pensioner who gets Z$38 000 a month to live on.

    Looking at the parallel market prices for hard currencies it is now quite clear that for the first time we are really into hyperinflation. The curve on my graph of market prices is now exponential in every sense of the word.

    On Sunday night the President (who has 6 University degrees - including law and economics) told a local journalist "we will print money to meet our essential needs". This makes it clear that they have no intention of doing any of the things that are needed to affect a recovery in the economy and curb inflationary pressures. By doing so the regime has committed us to massive inflation and it is anyone's guess as to where we are now headed. Even the IMF thinks our official inflation numbers are being manipulated -the rate for January was a laughable 18 per cent, month on month -in fact in our factory our prices are now most certainly rising by at least 50 per cent a month.

    Parliament has opened and closed until March - with nothing either achieved or done about the national economic and political crisis we are in at present. In fact the President said in the long rambling interview on Sunday night that there "is no crisis in Zimbabwe that warrants intervention." Behind the high security walls of his home that may be true - it's certainly not true for the rest of us.

    A member of my own staff this past week lost two members of his family to tuberculosis - and you know what that means. In fact the one was a widow about 40 years old who had her house destroyed in the Murambatsvina exercise and as a result lost her sole source of income. She never recovered. She is one of millions who continue to be homeless and without an income as a result of this campaign. I still have 10 families living in a company workshop - only one has found accommodation in 9 months. The UN has condemned the government for this inhuman action - but nothing else has been done.

    Tony Blair was in the region ten days ago. Flew from a summit of G8 leaders in Moscow to Pretoria where he spent the whole weekend with the President of South Africa and others in a luxury lodge just outside the City. On Sunday night he was interviewed on South African television - an exclusive. He and a very glamorous TV presenter talked for 40 minutes - about everything except the tragedy 500 kilometers to the north of where they were sitting. Not one word, not a single question - it must have been by prior agreement.

    That means either they did something about the Zimbabwe crisis that weekend or they did nothing and like the United Nations, the African Union and the SADC, they chose to simply ignore the problem. I rather think they did talk about us and did discuss what to do next and agreed not to talk about it in public. But I have yet to see or hear of any new initiative that might, just might, turn our situation around. In the meantime time is running out.

    My dentist said to me "I am scared of the potential for violence". I said that could only be prevented by giving the people a reason to think that their problems will be addressed in a comprehensive fashion and in the immediate future.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo, 23rd February 2006

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  • Thursday, February 23, 2006

    Earthquake Rocks Zimbabwe

    As if that's already going on in the country isn't enough, Zimbabwe was hit by an earthquake measuring up to 7.5 on the Richter scale late last night. The quake's epicenter was in western Mozambique. The US Geological Survey has details here.

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  • Split within the Splinter Group

    The meteoric rise of Arthur Mutambara as Zimbabwe's savior is already checked with controversy after reports of infighting with the Ncube/Sibanda camp of the MDC over who they should select for a leader. With just a few days remaining before the faction's congress, this, the pro-senate faction, is apparently in search of a candidates that will appeal to people across the country. This from the Financial Gazette,
    So far, all candidates reported to be vying for the post of president to be contested at the faction’s congress scheduled for this weekend are Shona. This has fuelled speculation that the faction, which was labelled a breakaway group by people mostly from Matabeleland, may be more interested in striking a regional balance to portray a national outlook. The leading contenders for the post of president are Arthur Mutambara, a former student leader who is now a renowned academic; Gift Chimanikire, a former trade unionist and deputy secretary of the MDC; and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Glen Norah and the faction’s parliamentary spokesperson.
    "They are desperate to get a Shona, but he has to be a reputable leader,” political scientist John Makumbe said."
    This begs the question aren't the three leading candidates thus far, Priscilla Misihairabwi, Arthur Mutambara, and Gift Chimanikire only pawns in Ncube and Sibanda's play for power? It seems patently clear that Ncube and Sibanda are nothing more than shrewd, contriiving, manipulating politicians bent on using others to get what they want. Ask Morgan Tsvangirai, he knows.
    When the MDC was founded in 1999, it was largely due to Tsvangirai's ability to mobilizes the working class when he was the secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). So when the MDC was launched the division of tasks was as follows: Tsvangirai would devote his energies to mobilizing the grassroots base and establishing a national party structure.

    On the other hand Welshman Ncube and the technocrats were tasked with coming up with a party constitution and ironing out any institutional issues. And that's just what they did. As most intellects are prone to do, the technorats in the MDC decided Tsvangirai's contribution to the party didn't warrant any internal power in the party. So the MDC constitution was written making Tsvangirai nothing more than a ceremonial leader who couldn't do anything as simple as call a meeting (any meeting) without checking with secretary general's office first.
    He too was used, thankfully he discovered this in time. Now Gift Chimanikire seems to be in the process of making this jarring realization as you read this.
    The plan by Ncube and Sibanda to rope in Mutambara appears to have triggered a damaging split with MDC deputy secretary Gift Chimanikire, yesterday accusing his two colleagues of plotting behind his back to recruit the former student leader and of wanting to behave like "Shona king-makers".

    "The group has been calling clandestine meetings behind my back and they invited Arthur Mutambara without even consulting me and other party officials in their attempts to be Shona king-makers," a fuming Chimanikire told ZimOnline on Wednesday.

    Chimanikire, who is Shona and seems to have banked on that factor to land him the leadership of the Ncube/Sibanda faction of the MDC, vowed to resist attempts to make him step aside for Mutambara, who he called an "expatriate" who had not contributed anything to Zimbabwe or the MDC.
    As for Mutambara, just like Tsvangirai and Chimanikire before him, I don't think he realizes what he is putting himself into. From an article that appeared in the Herald,
    Is he his own man?

    That aside, his candidature is a serious indictment of the leadership in the
    Sibanda-led faction. Here are people who, for the past six years, claimed
    that they had what it takes to lead Zimbabwe but who could not find a leader
    from among themselves when push came to shove.

    They had to look outside to rope in someone who was not even in the trenches
    during the formative stages of their party. Someone who is clearly out of
    touch with existential realities in Zimbabwe. Politics by its nature
    presupposes gradual development; if the top-four in the Sibanda-led faction
    failed to develop over the past six years what guarantee is there that they
    will ever develop?

    A lot has been said about Mutambara's leadership qualities based on his days
    in the UZ Student Representative Council (SRC). However, after perusing
    reports of his exploits, one is persuaded to believe the late MDC Spokesman,
    Learnmore Judah Jongwe's constant refrain that, "Mutambara's only claim to
    fame as a student leader was that he was arrested and detained by police."
    Read more of this here. This weekend is setting up to be an interesting one after all.

    One thing is clear now more than ever: Mr/Dr./Professor Mutambara is best advised staying out of Zimbabwean politics. You're very good at what you do sir, and that is robotics.

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  • Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    Is Mutambara the Answer?

    I hope you read Eddie Cross' insightful post from a couple days ago. He does an excellent job of painting the context surrounding Arthur Mutambara's reemergence in Zimbabwean politics.

    If you didn't know, Zimbabwe's uninspired media is caught up in the "Hail King Arthur frenzy." Mutambara grabbed headlines after his formal return to Zimbabawean politics over the weekend. He joins the Welshman Ncube or what used to be known as the pro-senate faction of the MDC (read post below for more context).

    It is only fitting to ask if the new kid on the block is for real. To figure out some of that we must delve into his past. Mutambara rose to national prominence during 1989 as a student leader at the University of Zimbabwe. Then a firebrand "toyi-toying" radical, Mutambara's leadership shook ZANU-PF grip on Zimbabwe when they led riots on the University Campus and issued a statement which said among other things,
    Who in this government can have the audacity and credibility to criticise the De-Klerk regime in South Africa? Or are we even worse than De-Klerk? Ian Smith never banned political seminars at this university…That one fought for this country does not justify them to loot, plunder and wreck the economy of Zimbabwe and let alone stifle people’s democratic rights….You can’t push a cat into a corner- after all we are not cats but tigers! Defeat is not our agenda!
    In short, Mutambara captured the nation's imagination as a young volatile intellect who was not content with the status quo. He was rhetorically captivating, had a dazzling charisma and was enigmatic. Nostalgia from these days is the impetus behind the cultic worship he is receiving from many in Zimbabwe's media corps.

    Since then, he gone on to attain global acclaim for his intellectual prowess in robotics. He earned his Ph.D from Oxford has taught at MIT, FSU, Florida A&M, Carnegie Mellon University, and UNISA. He has worked for NASA, McKinnsey & Co., Standard Bank in South Africa, and the Africa Technology and Business Institute, which he currently is in charge of.

    Far from the haze of glory shrouding Mutambara's meeting with the MDC faction over the weekend, those know the man from his days of old seem critical at best of his success in this endeavor. Itai Zimunya, a former student leader and activist notes,
    It is from this history that we draw our assertion that, whilst we celebrate Mutambara’s entry into full time politics, his past may haunt his future. Firstly, the statement of October 2 1989 remains true today and the first question is, shall Mutambara remain so confrontational and militant in his political approach to Zanu PF? Any deviation from this mass based political approach, which does appear to be the idea of the MDC pro-senate, might soil his revolutionary history.

    Secondly, Mutambara might find it challenging to work with people whose past was at variance with the principles he espoused. A senior official of the MDC pro-senate was a senior legal officer of the University of Zimbabwe, and contributed immensely to the suspension of other student leaders like Brian Kagoro and Tendai Biti, among many who championed the same cause as that of AGO.

    Thirdly, Mutambara, though he has every right and freedom to join and associate with any person of his choice, must not forget that political power comes from the people. It is the same Morgan Tsvangirai who was not educated in 1989 who came to his rescue and was incarcerated for that. He remains the same uneducated fellow and while not suggesting that Mutambara must pay back Tsvangirai by siding with him, any moves towards negotiating with Zanu PF will quickly discredit him that he will go to the political abyss like Jonathan Moyo, whose rich political past was soiled by his fellowship with Zanu PF.
    In a way Mutambara has almost gone full circle by returning to the movement that once stood up for him, and whose DNA is structured on some of work he did at the University of Zimbabwe.

    Now we wait to see if he is the phoenix that will rise from the ashes that are Zimbabwe. Is Arthur G.O. Mutambara the answer?

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  • Monday, February 20, 2006

    Eddie Cross: "Deliberate Confusion"

    I attended the National Council of the MDC on Saturday and Sunday in Harare. Driving into the City on Sunday morning I was struck by two headlines "MDC gets Z$8 billion from the State" and "Mutambara to head up the MDC". The first purported to say that the government had decided to award the annual grant for opposition parties to the pro Senate group led by Welshman Ncube and the second referred to the arrival in Harare of a former student leader who was tipped to be elected the leader of the break away group at its congress this weekend.

    I do not blame you if you are confused by all this but the facts are quite simple and it is time that everyone connected with this dispute were made aware of these facts and started to behave accordingly. That includes the editors of the Standard and the Independent.

    The facts are as follows: -

    On the 12th October last year the Council of the MDC met in Harare and voted against the wishes of the President of the Party to support the submission of candidates to the elections for a Senate. The President refused to abide by this decision and at the following meeting of the MDC Council, attended by two thirds of its membership, this decision was reversed unanimously.

    Since then we have held 4 subsequent Council meetings - all attended by over two thirds of its membership and 4 National Executive meetings attended by a clear majority quorum. At all these meetings all decisions have been unanimous and have supported the call by the leadership of the Party to boycott the Senate Elections and to support new strategies now being finalized to challenge the Mugabe led regime.

    The faction of the leadership that broke ranks with the membership of the MDC after the 12th October has attempted once to secure legal Judgment against the MDC for its stand and been rebuffed by the Courts. The MDC has chosen not to go the legal route but simply to follow its own constitution and to get on with its own business. It has consistently said that those who have broken ranks with the MDC may return without prejudice.

    There is no question that the name "The Movement For Democratic Change" or the "MDC", the symbols and the flag as well as its slogans for Change are the lawful property of the MDC. Application to register these with the Registrar of Trade Marks as carried out in December and there can be no doubt that they are the legal property of the MDC.

    The break away group is still using the Party symbols and slogans and even the name although they are well aware of both the political and the legal position. The MDC legal team will write this week to the break away faction listing their violations of the MDC constitution and pointing out that they have no right to use the name or the symbols of the Party.

    You might then ask why they persist in doing so - well that is quite easy, if they admit that they are not the MDC and adopt a separate name, it will strip them of the right to occupy and use MDC property - which they are now doing. It will also condemn them to finding their own space in the political spectrum and acceptance for their strategies and policies. The MDC has no fears about its own position either legal or political and welcomes political competition from any quarter.

    The truth of the matter is that no decision has been taken as to the eventual beneficiary of the Z$8 billion which is paid out by the State to help political parties fund their activities and Mutambara has not returned to lead the MDC. The MDC has established leadership and we see no possibility of any changes at that level at the MDC Congress set for the 17th to the 19th March 2006.

    What the break away group is claiming to be the MDC Congress and which will be held this weekend in Bulawayo, is in fact just an extended rally of the break away group. It has not been properly called, the notice given and the delegates attending have no foundation in the Party and any decisions taken there will have no influence or effect on the MDC itself. The group does not even have a valid constitution - this is to be adopted by the meeting this weekend. So the advert carried in the Independent on Friday to the effect that this was the "Second MDC National Congress" is simply nonsense.

    In the MDC itself, we have now concluded the holding of all 12 Provincial Party Congresses at which leadership has been elected at this level by representatives of our 4500 branches, 1900 Ward Committees and 120 Districts. In all some 8000 delegates attended these Congresses and the new leadership is now preparing for delegates to attend the main Party Congress on the 17th March. We anticipate that 12 000 delegates will attend out of the total number of those eligible of 17 000. Notice of the Congress has been properly given and the required press notice placed.

    Intense lobbying is taking place across the country for the 9 senior Party leadership posts that are up for election - while we expect that Morgan Tsvangirai will stand unopposed, all the other positions will be contested. At yesterdays Council meeting we had a full house again - the breakaway leadership at Provincial level have all been replaced and all 12 Provinces were fully represented. Council agreed the agenda for Congress, as were amendments to the Party Constitution, which are due for adoption.

    The Council also instructed the leadership to seek an amicable separation from the activities of the break away group. We do not want to waste time and resources on a futile scrap that just leaves people confused and does nothing about the crisis confronting the country and its people. As far as the MDC is concerned it is long past the time when the break away group should form a new political Party and decide on its own agenda and programme.

    The MDC Congress in March will be a celebration of our achievements over the past 6 years - we have survived, we have beaten Zanu PF at the elections even though we were frustrated by the rigging and electoral fraud on all three occasions. We are the first opposition political party in Zimbabwe's short history to show that it is capable of taking on the ruling Party and beating it in a free and fair election.

    By contrast Zanu PF is in a shambles, the countries economy has collapsed, there is insufficient food, fuel and electricity to keep the nation running. They are at the end of their tether and the MDC is still in fighting form. We are no longer going to fight futile electoral contests where Zanu is the referee and the judge. We now want a clean break with the past, a new constitution and a transitional administration tha t will take us to free and fair democratic elections in 2007 under international supervision. Then we will find out who has the people's trust and who gets the responsibility to put Zimbabwe back on the map.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo, 20th February 2006

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  • Global Voices Roundup up

    The bi-weekly roundup of blog news from the deep south (a.k.a. southern Africa) is up over at Global Voices Online. Read it here.

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  • Friday, February 17, 2006

    Viral Email: "Don't Panic"

    I found this in my inbox. This is the uncanny humor making rounds among Zimbos right now.

    In Germany after the First World War, prices were doubling every 49 hours. Workers were paid daily or more often with bundles of cash, and would dash out to buy something before it grew more expensive. Someone could buy a bottle of wine, and the next morning the empty bottle could be sold for more than it had cost full. The largest denomination was a 100-billion mark bill, which would buy two postage stamps.

    In Bolivia during the mid-eighties, inflation was at 25,000 per cent annually. The stack of money needed to buy a chocolate bar far outweighed the candy.

    In Argentina in 1989, prices for some things would double overnight. Many restaurants and stores refused to accept credit cards, because the charges paid at the end of the month were worth much less than they were at the time of purchase.

    In Yugoslavia, the rate of inflation was 5 quadrillion per cent between Oct 1, 1993 and Jan 24, 1994. (A quadrillion is a 16-digit number). At the time, it was against the law to refuse personal cheques. Some people wrote them, knowing that in the few days it took for the cheques to clear, inflation would wipe out as much as 90 per cent of the cost of covering the cheques.

    Imi muchiri pa (You're only at) 622% and you are complaining?

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  • Much ado about Nothing

    Zimbabwean media reports are today awash with reports of the gracious welcome Mugabe has extended to the new British ambassador to the country. In fact, he's been so nice to Dr. Andrew Pocock, he's asked him to build bridges to London,
    "We need a bridge with the British. We politicians come and go, but the people are there at all times."
    That apparently threw the media for a loop.

    Commence unbridled worldwide frenzy: "Mugabe wants new British envoy to help build bridges with Harare," screamed South African based Zimonline. South Africa's Independent Online said it this way, "Mugabe asks British envoy to build bridges." "Mugabe asks Britain for closer ties," was the Scotsman's rendering. Swissinfo was telling its' readers, "Mugabe wans to mend bridges with Britain." Another Swiss news outlet, Reliefweb, was a little more down to earth claiming, "British envoy asked to report true facts about situation in Zimbabwe." In the US readers of ABC online were told, "Mugabe wants to mend bridges with Britain." New Zealand broadcaster, TVNZ could not refrain from this insane refrain repeating, "Mugabe wants to mend bridges." Eventhe Zimbabwean government sponsored Herald in its report, "Let's build bridges, president tells UK," was in rare form avoiding it's seven year old scandalously malicous view that all things British are diabolic tentacles of the devil himself.

    But there's another Mugabe newsbit that didn't get nearly as much play across the globe today; it is that the old man is 18 going on 82 come Tuesday. Think these two aren't connected? I beg to differ.

    Like most senior citizens, Mugabe is a senile gerriatric lost in the somewhere in that abyss between his old vital and rational self, and the daunting realities of a body that is literally suspending all functions ahead of an imminent shutdown. From time to time though, the senile humans' brain in this convulsive anguish has been reported to shed light on it's vitality and glory of old. That's just what this all about.

    Sadly, MSM, with characteristically poor discretion fell for the bait. Mugabe hasn't suddenly decided he's going to be contrite and seek to resolve relations he's worked so hard to bend.

    There's no need for this hullabaloo, it's just glimpses of old glory from a defunct former statesman, not a change of heart.

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  • Thursday, February 16, 2006

    IMF Debt Cleared, Now What?

    Zimbabwe yesterday revealed that it had paid off it's debt to the IMF weeks ahead of of the March deadline set by the Bretton Woods institution. The Herald waxes sentimental;
    ZIMBABWE has cleared its arrears to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe yesterday paid the outstanding US$9 million, casting away speculation that the country could be expelled from the Bretton Woods institution.

    The fund’s managing director, Mr Rodrigo de Rato, said in an oral statement to the IMF executive board that he would be withdrawing his complaint against Zimbabwe.

    In view of yesterday’s payment, Mr de Rato said the fund would be cancelling the compulsory withdrawal procedure initiated in February 2004 following Zimbabwe’s failure to settle its overdue obligations in the General Resources Account (GRA).

    Over the past 13 months, Zimbabwe has repaid US$193 million to clear its outstanding debt on the critical general resources account.

    Though the IMF board claimed that Zimbabwe should be expelled for being in protracted arrears since February 2000, nothing has been done against three other African countries — Liberia, Somalia and Sudan — that it said have been in arrears since the mid- 1980s.

    On August 24 last year, the IMF revealed that, in addition to Zimbabwe, these three countries were also in protracted arrears.

    The IMF said as of June 30 last year; Liberia owed US$512,4 million, Somalia US$224 million and Sudan US$1,057 billion; thus Zimbabwe with US$199,6 million then, owed the least.

    The arrears of Liberia, Somalia and Sudan accounted for 90 percent of total arrears, while Zimbabwe accounted for a mere 10 percent.
    You know how I feel about the choice Zimbabwe's macro policy makers made to pay off the IMF while the people starve. In the words of Eddie Cross,
    I find this whole thing rather nauseous - like the head of a family in a starving village, throwing food over the fence to baboons waiting on the outside, while the children of the village die of hunger, malnutrition and disease. Too stark an image? Just think of what we could have done with that money over the past 5 months - we could have bought enough food and raw materials to resolve all the shortages of basic foods in the country. We could have imported enough liquid fuels to overcome the persistent fuel shortages that are crippling our public transport system and pushing transports costs through the ceiling. We could have satisfied the needs of all our hospitals for disinfectants, cleaning materials, drugs and essential medical supplies.

    Instead we go on paying this money to the IMF - they do not want the money, they do not need the money, it does not change our status as a country under threat of its membership because we are not servicing anyone's debt - least of all the IMF and its sister institutions of the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
    While Zimbabwe is already talking boldy about reclaiming her voting rights at the IMF, a move which they hope will allow them to open up the aid flow from the west, the IMF finds itself in an interesting position. For months it has seemed the IMF was going to succeed in it's quest to expel Zimbabwe. The reason they've always give for this protracted quest was that of arrears. Given the country's somewhat shocking propensity to settle and the facts given towards the end of the quote above, this whole claim has been blown out of the water.

    In the aftermath of the Live 8 concerts I quotedJoseph Stiglitz, Clinton's former Chief Economic Advisor, author of Globalization and it's Discontents, and a 2003 winner of the Economics Nobel Prize for his "no holds barred" critique of the IMF,
    His main argument is that the IMF foists wrong policies on the rest world while it protects the interests of its major constituency (i.e. the US Treasury). Among his many disagreements with the IMF is the institution’s resiliency in trumping radical establishment of the free markets above all else. Stiglitz is a proponent of the gradual introduction capitalism because, “Capitalism requires a transformation of society.” It’s more than just having the right institutions and infrastructure, the whole structure of society endures critical change when capitalism comes about. Another of his discontents with the IMF in addition to the idea that they constantly seem to be pushing the wrong policies, is the lack of parity and transparency on the IMF’s part. In negotiations with countries seeking help, the IMF dictates requirements instead of listening. Stiglitz also notes that at the same time the IMF advocates for transparency from governments it helps, it is not a very transparent entity itself.
    Given this, it came as no surprise late last month that the Zimbabwean government accused the IMF of "shifting goalposts" on them,
    The IMF, which has threatened to expel Zimbabwe from the fund over debt arrears, is shifting its goalposts as part of a drive to punish President Robert Mugabe's government, a state-controlled newspaper said on Sunday.

    Zimbabwe says it has been making regular payments to the International Monetary Fund and will clear its crucial arrears before a March deadline set by the fund to pay up or risk expulsion.

    The Sunday Mail newspaper said an IMF team now in Harare to review the country's economic problems and programmes had suggested Zimbabwe's difficulties with the fund were not over debt arrears but fiscal and monetary policies and targets.
    Interestingly, the IMF has still not yet responded to these charges. The IMF is now faced with the dilemma of either sticking to their malevolent intentions while denying much needed assistance to a bad government that has rendered themselves bustling hereos and the IMF brute villians.

    Either way, the the IMF cannot escape tarnishing it's credibility and transparency with this episode. Now what?

    *Make no mistake, I'm not defending Mugabe & Co., I just don't think the IMF has been saintly, at least not in it's dealings with Zimbabwe.

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  • Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    "We Deserve Roses not Hunger!" Zimbabwean Women Tell Mugabe on Valentine's

    Yesterday was valentine's day and in Zimbabwe as was the case in most places around the world, women made a big deal of of the quasi romantic commercial indulgence, only perhaps for different reasons than most women. Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), a brave civil protest group which was founded to give voice to women held their third consecutive annual valentine's day protest march in Bulawayo the country's second city. During the march, the women handed out roses and cards sharing in the spirit of the day, but also spoke out on why they were on the streets, not at home receiving the gifts.

    For years now, WOZA Zimbabwe's most vocal non violent protest movement, has modelled the art organizing and staging non violent protests in a country where civil action has been undermined by poor organization. WOZA protests have always been well organized, a farcry from other failed protests in Zimbabwe. Yesterday was no exception. Fellow blogger, This is Zimbabwe described how Bulawayo's city center was awash with fliers promoting the march on Monday;

    WOZA - Women of Zimbabwe Arise - hit the streets today in the form of flyers everywhere. Two very busy city streets that I saw (there may have been more) were liberally strewn with flyers and small cards at peek lunch hour. These areas were a flurry of activity as passers-by picked them up and some even sat down on the pavement to read them.

    They are planning to march tomorrow, as they do every year on Valentines Day. Last year the police harrassed the women before the march even started - some were arrested in their homes long before anything took place. I hope these intrepid souls are safe tonight! Keep WOZA in your thoughts tomorrow, and join them in their efforts if you can.
    The theme of this year's march was "a march for roses and bread." WOZA coordinator Jennifer Williams,who was arrested along with 180 other members of the group for violating Mugabe's repressive anti-protest laws, described the march this way,

    "We were marching for bread and roses. We deserve roses and the dignity they stand for. Our message to the regime, Mugabe in particular, is that he has failed and should just leave office. We are tired of starvation."
    "Seven men and 13 babies were arrested along with the women for marching. The forefront men in Zimbabwe's mainstream anti Mugabe movement have failed the nation and continue to squabble aimlessly. Thankfully there a few good men around who are willing to be counted among the numbers of participants in a women led initiative. This is a welcome turn in tides in Zimbabwe, a traditionally patriarchial society. I think it's smart for Zimbabwean men to do, I know I'd love hang around these intelligent, strong, and defiant woman. Wouldn't you?

    I've written about WOZA before, you can read that here.

    Since my conclusion to that piece fits this one perferctly, I will use it here too:

    Hell hath no fury like a woman spurned they say. The only thing worse is several thousands of them angered by a brutal regime that is wreaking havoc on their families. Mugabe & Co. are surely learning that lesson.
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  • Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    Gideon Gono:Chasing after the Wind

    Zimbabwe's faltering economy under seige from record inflation coupled with unreliable energy and fuel supplies has backed the Reserve Bank into an airtight corner. Inflation is set to surpass the 600% mark for 613% setting a record in Zimbabwe's seven year recession. This according to the Herald means that,
    The minimum required for a family of five to survive — went over $20 million a month.

    According to the Central Statistical Office (CSO), which calculates both the official inflation figures and the Poverty Datum Line, the average five-member Zimbabwe family must now spends at least $7,8 million a month on food if it is to remain healthy.

    This average family will need to spend just over another $12 million a month for accommodation, transport to get to and from work to earn this money, fees to educate children at the cheapest Government schools, clothes and shoes.
    Gideon Gono, the once celebrated now controversial governor of the toothless Reserve Bank has proved beyond any measure of doubt that he is either an uncreative thinker whose mental faculties deny him the ability to save Zimbabwe's failed economy or that he is Mugabe's personal banker and an inept one at that especially when it comes to staving off the country's current crisis until the old man makes his much awaited departure. Gono on Sunday scrapped the foreign currency fuel purchasing scheme which had allowed the precious liquid to trickle into the country albeit errantly essentialy admitting that we the people had once again beaten him at his own game.

    The scheme set up last August, allowed foriegn currency holders to purchase fuel coupons in various denominations from the reserve bank at US$1 per liter (approx. US$4.40 per gallon) on a no questions asked basis. This facility often meant that Zimbabwean currency holders (which, since the country is Zimbabwe are a significant proportion,) were many times unable to buy fuel for their cars because the coupons were sold only in exchange for foreign currency. Off course the system was a futile attempt by Gono to lure foreign currency out of the hands of creative Zimbabweans into the Reserve Bank's coffers because the unrealistic exchange rates governing formal trade in foreign currency were so far removed from the real exchange rates that almost all foreign currency dealings were happening on the spurious informal market. So Gono and the government were left out of the trade loop, powerless and most importantly with empty pockets (especially after emptying nation's last foreign currency reserves to pay off their debt to the IMF.)

    Don't you just love that about the market system? It alone can circumvent elected officials' and policymakers' authority. The power of the capitalist free market system lies not in the rules they formulate or trade standards they stipulate. The power and magic of the free market lies in the peoples minds were sometimes it can be inaccessible to the Gono's and the Mugabe's of this world especially when they are this bad.

    As Gono clamped down harder on "illicit" foreign currency deals, the fuel coupons conveniently lent themselves malleable in the "new" foreign currency trade. People who had foreign currency went and bought more coupons than they needed only to turn around and sell them at the price they would have sold the foreign currency for. It was easy. The irony is that while trade in foreign currency outside of the bank's depressed exchange rates was illegal, fuel coupon sales were so legal people have been posting classifieds in the government mouthpiece the Herald! The coupons had become proxies, another foreign currency if you will. People were making hundreds of millions of dollars in short amounts of time turning around the coupons in this manner. In fact the most popular Mugabe joke we enjoyed last Christmas (as we are so apt to do) was our aged leader's response to questions about the precarious state of fuel supplies in Zimbabwe, he said
    "Let anyone who thinks there is no fuel in Zimbabwe go lie in the middle of Samora Machel Avenue and will if they are alive after three seconds. If they are not run over by car after that long they can come and tell me that there is no fuel in Zimbabwe."
    So now we return to life as it was before last August. The informal market is simply going to revert back to direct foreign currency exchanges. Here's the truth about Zimbabwe's informal market,
    I've said it many times before and I'll say it again Zimbabwe's "black" market isn't black at all. It is doing what the formal market is unable to do--source funds for some so that they can go on with their lives.
    In fact we had Gono figured out months ago in this regard. Exactly six weeks ago I opted not use fuel coupons but sell my foreign currency directly. So I called up my good friend "Bruce" who has an office on George Silunduka Avenue, and went over there to make our transaction.

    Listen up Mr. Gono or is Dr. Gono you are not going to stopping from trading in foreign currency outside of the paltry exchange rates your bank has gazetted. You can't stop us.

    Until you are ready to give fair value on the formal market for foreign currency, trying to curb informal or as you call it "blackmarket" activity in foreign currency will remain for you "a chasing after the wind."

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  • Monday, February 13, 2006

    Africa's Bloggers Respond to the Rise of China in Africa

    This entry is cross posted over at Global Voices. I think we should be paying a lot more attention to the rise of China in Africa. Tell me what you think.

    There’s no doubt about it China has emerged as the newest economic force fast embroiled in the global race for markets and raw materials. No where is this more apparent than in Africa where the Chinese are converging on the continent intent on reaping economic benefits of all sorts from the continent’s vast resources and vastly potential markets. This new phenomenon carries many wideranging implications for Africa some of which could be ominous.

    Africa’s bloggers, wary of the consequences and the experiences of the continent’s last colonization, that by the western world through the late 20th century, are keeping a watchful eye on China’s new proliferation on their continent. Emeka Okafor writing on Africa Unchained puts it this way;

    China is in desperate need of oil as the number of private owned vehicles increasess from 56% in 2002 to 75% in 2003. Presently growth is between 10 and 15%. As part of its drive for new sources of oil, PetroChina International and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) have recently signed an agreement in which NNPC will sell 30,000 barrels of oil per day. (Nigeria’s oil production is presently estimated at some 75 million bpd).

    China is not stopping its commerical relationship with Nigeria there. According to the China View Online, China has also submitted bids for two oil blocks starting in August and is considering building a Hydro-station and has expressed an interest in taking over the Kaduna oil refinery if it is privatised.

    Nigeria is not the only African country courted by China. China is actively involved in Sudanese oil where it has a number of concessions. 60% of Sudan’s oil is exported to China and China is involved in all aspects of oil exploration and production.

    And in April of last year Chippla writing about the start of African-Asian Summit commented on the nature of current Chinese interests in Africa thus,

    China’s main interest in Africa is raw materials. Driven by the need to satisfy its humongous population with the trappings of a modern life, China seems to be stretching out its tentacles all across the globe grabbing markets.”
    Chippla concludes the entry with this warning to continent’s leaders about how they should be responding to the opportunities presented by China’s interest in the continent,

    “In my opinion, African governments need to concentrate on two facets of society education, primarily science education, and healthcare. An uneducated populace simply cannot fit into the sphere of today’s world. With a highly educated workforce, such governments will eventually see growth. There is more to economic development than foreign investments.”
    Last July Emeka Okafor pointed to this lucid description of the economic exchange going on between Africa and China

    Why all the interest in the forgotten continent? A goodie bag of exploitable markets and exploitable resources. China has flooded Africa with cheap textiles, rice, and electronics…Africa, in turn, is feeding the insatiable Asian thirst for energy.
    It’s not that Africa is unwillingly being exploited and pillaged. To the contrary, some of the continent’s leaders are actively turning to China in response to the West standing firmly behind it’s decision not to prop up the continent’s corrupt despots. In The Little Red Emailit is sattirically put this way,

    What do you do when you are an internationally reviled administration in search of cash, and armed with plenty of raw materials? Why, head to China of course for a warm embrace with the Chinese Communist Party. Whereas the G8 gives financial aid to African states on the condition of improvements in human rights (and easy multinational access to domestic markets), the CCP offers its support to dictators without moral stipulations.

    According to Zimpundit Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe’s isolated leader has been telling his economically distraught nation, “Go east young nation, go east.” Mugabe is apparently ordering large portions of the “Asian invasion” as tonic for Zimbabwe’s anaemic economy. Zimpundit cautions

    While good for the ailing economy, the Asia inertia impacts the Zimbabwean crisis in a unique way, and deserves delicate and diligent evaluation of it’s function in the advance of democracy here and the excaberation of the global “east-west rift.”
    But not all Africans are jubilantly hopping and skipping their way to the bank rejoicing over the emergence of “the beast from the east.” Zimbabwean blog This is Zimbabwe posted a circular on a protest vigil by exiled Zimbabweans at the Chinese embassy in the UK in an attempt to stop China from aiding Zimbabwe’s malicious leaders.

    Little doubt remains over this fact: the Chinese are in Africa and are going leave their marks there.

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  • Sunday, February 12, 2006

    Eddie Cross: 'Racist Rantings of a Senile Old Man'

    Just this past week one of the old guard of Zanu PF, Didymus Mutasa, made a statement about the remaining white farmers who somehow have survived the agricultural holocaust launched by Zanu PF in 2000. He said far from considering allowing white farmers to come back and occupy their farms under leasehold arrangements, the State was bent on taking all land from white farmers.

    We have about 600 of the former large scale commercial farmers still farming - many are dairy farmers where they still provide 90 per cent of the output of the industry, for some reason dairy farming is not an attractive option for the thugs in Zanu PF. Someone once said that to be a success in dairy farming you have to love your cows - that may be a problem for Zanu-PF, hate cows, that is another matter - that comes naturally! There are 200 or so large scale tobacco farmers trying to stay in the industry and this year they will grow 35 000 tonnes out of the 50 000 tonnes of tobacco expected to be grown and marketed.

    The old guard of Zanu PF - the equivalent in Zimbabwean terms of the "survivors of the long march" in Mau Tse Tung's China - are now a shrinking elderly minority in the Party - still in control because of the Presidents position and influence and power, but now on their way out. Mutasa is one of those and is a particularly nasty bit of work. Right now he runs both the CIO and the Lands portfolio and of late has become a euro phobic racist of the worst kind.

    This is a strange turn of events because there is no one in Zanu PF who owes more to the former liberal white minority who fought Ian Smith and the Rhodesian Front all those years ago, than Mutasa. He was very much the protégée of Guy Clutton Brock who was a thorn in the side of the old Rhodesian government and who worked all his life for the rights of the black majority. Now Mutasa is probably a worse racist that the men and women who ran the Rhodesian government 50 years ago when he was just a young man growing up outside the capital city of Salisbury.

    He is also not a very nice man in his personal life - he has prospered under Zanu PF patronage like all the others, lives a life of comparative luxury and knows no shortages. I traveled with the man on a flight to Europe in the late 80's and was disgusted at his behavior even then. His behavior on the plane was no advert for the government he represented.

    African governments and human rights movements must acknowledge this aspect of the recent activities of the Zanu PF regime in Harare. I am one who has spent his whole life fighting racism in this country. I suffered for it under the Smith government and lost many good friends as a result amongst my community. My family also made sacrifices for our stand. Now I see no reason why we should stand by and be silent when those who have benefited from the struggles of the 20th Century espouse the very evils we fought against in the 60's across the world. Black racism against whites in Africa is no more acceptable than white racism in Europe or the USA against the minorities in those communities.

    Mutasa also made a racist remark about the whites in the MDC - there are a
    few of us, no more than a couple of hundred in a membership that runs to two
    million. But Zanu PF continues to claim that we "run the MDC". Nothing could
    be further from the truth; we sometimes wished we had a little more
    influence. But we are in the MDC because we are committed to the principles
    on which the Party was founded and we find a home in the MDC as white
    Africans, which was never offered to us by Zanu PF. In his statement Mutasa
    called us "Mabhunu", a derogatory term that has come down from the days of
    the Boer farmers. If I was to use a similar term to describe him I am sure I
    would find myself on the receiving end as a "racist".

    The truth of the matter is that white Africans like myself have a right to be accepted as just ordinary citizens in African States. Regimes like the one that is in power here have no right to deny us that - it is our birthright or our right as adopted citizens. If that were not so then why should we demand the reciprocal rights of black migrants and their families in their own adopted countries?

    It is also true that without security over assets no economic progress is possible. The question of title rights is not something to be protected by special agreements between countries on a bilateral basis but rather by the State as an obligation to its productive citizens. By denying white farmers those rights, the Zanu PF regime has undermined the rights of all farmers -including the 800 000 small scale peasant farmers in Communal areas and the 25 000 black commercial farmers on freehold land. That is why output has collapsed not only in the sectors previously dominated by large-scale white farmers but across the board.

    The same principles apply to mining rights, to industrial assets and to private homes. If you deny these rights on a racial basis to anyone, you deny them to all. Any attacks on private property are an attack on all private property and will therefore constrain investment and savings and encourage capital flight. Most of the latter is no longer generated by fleeing white and Asian minorities but by black Zimbabweans who see no future for themselves or their families in a Zimbabwe governed by a self destructive Zanu PF minority government.

    I think we can brush aside the remarks by Mutasa as the rantings of an out of date racist who will soon just be a bad memory. In the past month things have become so much worse here - shortages of food, fuel and electricity are crippling our ability to continue to operate. The regime simply has no idea as to what to do to halt and reverse the decline because anything they do will create the conditions they fear most.

    Inflation in January went over 1000 per cent against January 2005 and shows no signs of slackening. At this pace soon, no one will be able to cope and changes will start to come. When that does, a trickle will soon become a flood and will wash away all the debris we have accumulated over the past 25 years. It was like that in South Africa, it will be no different here.

    Hopefully we can then start to rebuil d our lives and our country.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo, 12th February 2006

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  • Thursday, February 09, 2006

    Corruption Blemishes the Cleanless Cleanup

    More than half a year later, the dust raised by Mugabe's "cleanup operation" Murambatsvina still has not yet settled. Large portions of Zimbabwe's urban dwellers continue to live undocumented lives outside of the meagre infrustructural support offered by the failing government.

    SW Radio has a sad story of 150 Murambatsvina victims living under the open sky with no amenities and without ablution facilities in this age of cholera outbreaks.
    About 150 people displaced by Operation Murambatsvina are living as destititutes along the Mukuvisi river in Glen Norah C where they drink contaminated water and use the bush as a toilet.

    Combined Harare Residents Association information officer Precious Shumba said the victims have built shacks using plastic and broken pieces of furniture which they use as their houses.

    ‘This lifestyle goes unabated yet the government has told the whole world that Operation Murambatsvina victims have been assisted with shelter and food,’ said Shumba.

    Shumba also cited cases where the victims sleep together, irrespective of gender. Children sleep together with their parents on the open ground covered with either cardboard boxes or plastic.
    The explanation for how this is happening can be found in this telling article from the Standard,
    In Gwanda, two children of the Deputy Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Abednigo Ncube - Leslie and Colleta Thabiso Ncube - whose addresses are listed as 82 Senondo were allocated houses last Thursday.

    Ncube, who is also the Member of Parliament for Gwanda, used to stay at number 82 Senondo suburb before he moved to Jacaranda low-density suburb following his appointment as deputy minister.

    Leslie, an employee of the Gwanda Rural District Council and currently staying at his father's former residence, is listed as number 9323 on the town's housing waiting list which currently stands at more than 27 000, while his sister, Colleta, does not appear on the list at all.

    Other luminaries appearing on the housing list include Acting Officer Commanding Matabeleland South Assistant Commissioner Munorwei Shava Matutu; Etoile Silayigwana; provincial executive members of the ruling party Esau Moyo and Rabson Mpofu Mafu; and senior civil servants Calvin Nzima and Joseph Kamuzhanje.

    Several prison officers and their juniors also appear to have been allocated houses in Gwanda in what seems to have been a free-for-all for government workers.

    Nzima and Kamuzhanje are the provincial heads of the Central Mechanical and Equipment Department (CMED) and Physical Planning Department respectively.
    This whole operation thing was never a good idea from the start. Months ago, I wrote about its preliminary failings here. In that piece I concluded thus: it is clear the clean up was never about improving people's lives.

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  • Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    "Quiet Diplomacy" Disquietly Unravels

    After insisting for months that he was working via "quiet diplomacy" to quell Zimbabwe's debilitating crisis, South Africa's Thabo Mbeki finally admitted Sunday that he's failed to normalize relations between Zimbabwe's feuding political parties. In an interview televised nationally in South Africa, a distraught Mbeki said,
    "But then, as I say, new problems arose among themselves. So we watch the situation and to the extent that we can help in future, we will,"
    referring to his failure and clearly withdrawing any prospects current involvement in mediating his northern neighbors ongoing stalemate.

    In the interview Mbeki also speculates that ZANU-PF and MDC had come up with a new constitution, a claim both factions of the MDC have united to deny;
    The leaders of the two rival factions of the MDC, who spoke to ZimOnline separately, strongly denied ever agreeing with ZANU PF on a new constitution for Zimbabwe, let alone submitting such a document to Mbeki.

    "As a party we are not aware of what he (Mbeki) was talking about. We are in shock," said MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai.

    MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube, who together with party vice-president Gibson Sibanda is battling to wrestle control of the party from Tsvangirai, admitted leading an MDC delegation that held "informal talks" with ZANU PF officials over a new constitution.
    Months ago, I doubted the effectiveness of Mbeki's highly tauted "quiet diplomacy" here, here, and here.

    The timing of Mbeki's admission of failure comes at a rather curious juncture given that rumors are rife that South Africa's government has ordered an immediate embargo on fuel and electricity exports to Zimbabwe. See this and this too.

    What does all this mean for bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and South Africa? South Africa has up till now been Zimbabwe's largest trade partner. I wonder if that's about to change....

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  • Monday, February 06, 2006

    Hot News is reporting an assination attempt on the life of vice-president Joyce "Teurai Ropa" Mujuru two weeks ago. One Joseph Mutima, an alleged soldier who is reportedly being held by the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) fired shots at Mujuru's motorcade. The exact location of the attempt is not known. This report has not yet been verified.

    In other hot news, Morgan Tsvangirai the MDC president was ejected from the Zambian border town of Livingstone late last week amidst unclear circumstances. Tsvangirai's delegation reportedly in Zambia to discuss strategy away from the badgering surveillance of Mugabe's secret service the CIO, was apparently deported three days into their trip to Zambia. It is widely believed that deportations were effected at the behest of pressure from Harare.

    Monday the Herald, a government mouthpiece ran a headline claiming that the Tsvangirai delegation is under investigation for meeting with Freedom House delegates on the Zambia trip. The Herald is suggesting that Tsvangirai & Co. met with delegates from Freedom House which the Zimbabwe government alleges is comprised of former FBI and CIA operatives. "We are very interested in the meeting and we are making a follow-up. We want to know what is going on," said national security minister Didymus Mutasa.

    2-7-06 10:30 a.m. Update: VOA's special Zimbabwe project, Studio Seven, is reporting that Freedom House is denying meeting with MDC in Zambia and that they are a front for the CIA.

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  • Global Voices Roundup Up

    This just a reminder that the once-in-two weeks round up I do for Global Voices is now up. Here's an excerpt,
    "In a satiric critique of this article, Congogirl relates the DRC to the superbowl noting that Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren’s wife will miss the big game to go on a medical mission trip in the DRC. “Sports columnists should not write about health statistics, at least not without asking,” she chides after noticing that the author claims that the DRC has a “92% infant mortality .”
    Read the full post here.

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  • Eddi Cross: What Next?

    I think we can all see that this regime has not got long to go. Inflation at 50 per cent per month, spiraling expenditures that cannot be stopped or they will trigger the inevitable retribution, food shortages of every sort and a universally hostile global community. Something is about to break; when it does it will be fast and unexpected.

    Why am I so sure of the above statement? Simply because history shows that this is what happens to governments that screw up to the extent that the Mugabe regime has done. Never imagine they get away with their madness -they do not, eventually it catches up with them and they are consumed by it. I recently heard an account of life in the Hitler bunker in Berlin in 1945 as the Allies were closing in on that particularly nasty blot on human history. It was not pleasant and you could almost feel sorry for Hitler and his closest compatriots.

    What would be a tragedy at this juncture is if it happens and we are not ready and do not have a plan. They say we are a very resourceful people -we can "always make a plan". Well what is ours? We in the MDC have just emerged from a nasty split in our leadership. This is just about over and discussions are taking place as to the possible basis of a divorce. The people who have effectively left the MDC will now go off and start a new political party and those of us who have remained in the MDC
    will get on with what we have always seen as our task - that of removing Zanu PF from power and replacing them with a democratically elected, law abiding government that will respect all our rights as a people. The main distinguishing features of these two party's will be that the new group will continue to fight elections and we will not - at least not until we have a new constitution and can be assured of a level playing field.

    People must now decide where they belong and go off and join the new group or stay with the MDC. For me there has never been any question as to where the people are - they are still with the MDC. Under the surface of this storm, the water has been quite calm and undisturbed. I am always amazed and pleasantly surprised at the wisdom, insight and understanding of the ordinary voter.

    The MDC is busy deciding (never a short process in any democratic movement) what to do but the outline of the way forward is emerging - we are not going to play games with Zanu PF anymore - we will resolve at Congress to withdraw from the democratic process until we have change. In the light of this growing consensus we have decided we will not contest two elections coming up this month in Bulawayo. Both certain MDC seats, we still feel that not only is this a waste of time, it will in fact do nothing to secure our primary goal.

    Yesterday we held a major consultation with civil society in Manicaland - a prelude to starting a campaign of democratic resistance to the Mugabe regime in that region. Once this programme is under way it will spread to other areas, gradually increasing the domestic pressure on the regime.

    Soon we will meet with civil society to debate the way forward and to try and secure agreement on our goals and strategies. This meeting will include all the organisations that made up the Working People's Convention that launched the MDC on its way in the late 90's. At this meeting the MDC, as a child of this group, will report its progress and failures as a party. We will be able to point to our victories and admit our mistakes, but most of all to say that the electoral system here is now so subverted that it no longer offers us a route for change. Remember the WPC gave us a mandate to pursue change by democratic, peaceful, legal means.

    Does this mean that we are now turning to violence? Not at all and the
    regime here knows that - just this past week when the MDC held a short strategy session in Zambia and Zambia was asked to evict us, when the Zambian army, police, intelligence and immigration officers came to our hotel to comply with the request from the Zimbabwe regime, they did not bother to search us, our rooms or our luggage. They knew full well we were there purely on political business and that all we wanted was 48 hours free of CIO surveillance and monitoring. So much for SADC commitments to normal democratic activity.

    In fact our road map has not changed at all - all we are demanding is that we are allowed to hold a national all stakeholders constitutional conference, agree on implementation procedures and a transitional administration and then are allowed to hold free and fair elections for our leadership under international supervision. Simple.

    The question is how do we get there and when. Well the economy and the dollar are doing their bit - both are in steep decline. We have effectively devalued by more than 50 per cent in the past two weeks. Prices are spiraling out of control and the shortages are becoming more acute daily. Power outages are now the norm and we are close to almost complete collapse.

    We are going to ask our people to also do their bit. If we all start in a small way to disobey the State - stop paying our bills to the State, helping distribute information to each other and to persuade the armed forces to join the people's campaign for a new constitution. Write funny messages on walls and stop buying the State controlled newspapers - we can all do something.

    We are going to ask our civil society partners (parents) to adopt the MDC road map to change. Then to decide what they can each do to help push the agenda forward. We will ask the Churches to devote Easter this year to prayers for change and renewal. We will ask the Unions to get workers to demand a new constitution, we will ask the Chiefs to do the same and will initiate a campaign in the armed forces. If they join us in our struggle for a new Zimbabwe, then it is over; they are the only remaining pillars supporting Zanu PF power.

    We will be going to the international community, including the UN to demand that they come with us on this new agenda. Do they have an alternative? This is democratic; it could be peaceful and will then enable us to restore the rule of law and all human and political rights so that a new Zimbabwe can rise from the ashes of the old. We will demand that the SADC back us in this initiative and just as they did in 1979, force all local political leaders to attend the conference and to participate until agreement is reached on a consensual basis. Zanu PF has no choice but to come to the conference and to negotiate its survival and future.

    And this is where you come in - we need money and people. You cannot survive for long in politics without both. We have the people - but no money! Ncube stole what we had, the State denies us what is ours and our business leaders are scared of their shadows and trying to survive the economic storm that rages here. We have stopped wasting our time on the recent spat inside the MDC and are now working flat out on the implementation of the MDC road map.

    We will not make progress without funds and we must all stop sitting on our chequebooks because we are uncertain about which faction the money will go to or what will be done with it. There is only one MDC, its leader is Morgan Tsvangirai and it is the only possible vehicle for change - no one else has the people on their side. For those in South Africa - remember Zimfund.

    Account Name- Zimfund
    Account Number - 1589406079
    Branch Code 158952
    Bank-Nedbank (South Africa)
    Swift Code - NEDSZAJJ

    For those in Zimbabwe - just contact us. In the US and the EU contact your nearest (MDC)branch. Remember 10 pounds is now worth Z$2,5 million. It all helps.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo, 5th February 2006.

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  • Friday, February 03, 2006

    Misconceptions and Conceptions of the African Dilemma

    I didn't pay much attention to Bush's State Of The Union address (SOTU) Tuesday night, and hadn't intended to respond to it--just wasn't interested. I must confess that I have now spent the last couple of days mulling over the speech, or at least what light it shed on the west's concerns for the world's oppressed and poor people.

    After the speech in which Bush referred to Zimbabwe as one of the places where "the other half" of the world's population are living denied both justice and freedom, Zimbabwe's government like Iran's fired back their own salvos labelling the American both a "warmonger" and "bully." This didn't surprise me. In fact I'm still waiting to hear from old Uncle Bob himself as he hasn't entered his voice in this the latest chapter in his longrunning feud with Bush and Blair.

    What shocked me was that moments after Bush's reference to Zimbabwe as one of the places where "the other half" of the world's population exists derived both freedom and justice, my phone and inbox were set alight by angry Zimbabweans. "How can he compare us to Iran and Syria. Can't he see that Zimbabweans are bigger victims of poverty than they are of oppression," was the question that has been posed to me most over the last few days.

    More than just a patriotic knee jerk response, I sensed a deep seated dissdain for the apparent misconception of the crisis in Zimbabwe from the concerned Zimbo's that called and emailed me.

    In my humble opinion, I think a fair comparison could be made between the events transpiring in Iran and Syria and Zimbabwe's catastrophic leadership. One could even draw some parallels to some of the world's worst dictators, Hitler and Polpot to name a couple, with Mugabe's heartless leadership. At the same time, I can also see how our nation's recent history can seem totally unrelated to the nuclear ambitions of the former, or the latter's facilitation of militant attacks in Iraq, especially to those worst affected by the Zimbabwean meltdown.

    Bush's speech awakened me to a chasm that exists between how these people, often victims of the malignent intentions of some of the worlds worst despots, percieve themselves differently from how outsiders understand their predicament.

    A case in point is Zimbabwe. What Bush said in his speech is the ethos of the western outlook on Zimbabwe i.e. that Zimbabweans are an oppressed people just like the Iranians. But according to the Zimbabweans that have registered their anger with the Bush speech, the main complaint in Zimbabwe is that of poverty and hunger rather than that of freedom and justice. How can we talk about oppression when people are so hungry they can barely stand?

    From the west's neo-conservative paradigm, poverty and hunger result from a lack of both freedom and justice. Off course the leftists in the west counter to the contrary. Most important is that the very victims, in this case we the people of Zimbabwe, rarely think of ourselves in that mould. My first, my most basic concern for my family isn't that they can't go where they want to whenever they want to, or that they can't access or express information deemed harmful to government; no, it is that they find something to eat, that they have clothing on their backs, and a roof over their heads.

    We the people think of ourselves as victims deprived not only of our freedoms and indeed justice, but most importantly of our livelihood. To Zimbabweans, the concern for the wellbeing of Zimbabweans people is much more immediate than that for the wellbeing of the Zimbabwean democracy. Bush's sentiment didn't reflect that.

    Sadly, his efforts and outbursts on the Zimbabwean people's behalf will always be viewed cynically by Zimbos regardless of how benovelent they might be because they are not fully congruent with what the people are feeling about themselves.

    It seems clear to me that a true understanding of how some of the world's worst afflicted view themselves is most basic to any undertaking to alleviate their suffering.

    It seems to me that we the people are seeing our predicament, and most certainly ourselves differently from how we are viewed from without. And if you go back over my writings from the past year or read other Zimbo bloggers, you'd find that we are saying this exact thing, "The freedom and democracy Zimbabweans want are the kind that will put food back on their tables, and not just the right kind of government in office."

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  • Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    Eddie Cross: The Crunch has Arrived

    When I think about what is happening right now I wonder - when will the crunch come? This morning I was in one of the largest food companies in Zimbabwe. Parked outside were long lines of 30 tonne trucks - all empty, the drivers standing by waiting for food aid to arrive. The company staff told me that they had not had a delivery of maize for four weeks. Other millers tell the same story. In town I passed a man with a small sedan vehicle - he was selling 10 kg bags of maize meal at Z$350 000 per bag. He was surrounded by a couple of hundred desperate customers.

    Bulawayo has been without maize meal for the past fortnight - the Sunday
    News headlined the shortage this last weekend. The GMB has a national monopoly over the purchase, storage and sale of raw maize in Zimbabwe. We consume about 1,2 million tonnes a year as maize meal for human consumption - it is the national staple food. That is 110 kilograms of maize per capita.

    The financial numbers of this exercise are huge. A tonne of maize from South Africa lands here in Bulawayo at about R1500 per tonne. At official exchange rates this is Z$24 million dollars per tonne. The GMB sells it at Z$600 000 a tonne - a direct subsidy of Z$23 400 000 per tonne - a 97.5 per cent subsidy. Take into account the costs of the GMB - interest, transport, and staff, silo management costs, unloading and loading, sales costs and you are probably looking at a direct subsidy per tonne of Z$28 million per tonne -Z$33,6 trillion a year or nearly a third of total revenues from all taxes.

    This is clearly not sustainable and how the Government will deal with this is anyone's guess but the profiteering going on in the trade is equally stunning. That 10 kilogram bag of maize meal probably used 11 kilos of maize at a cost to the miller of Z$6 600. His gross margin is Z$343 400 per bag -his costs probably about Z$70 000 leaving him a profit of Z$273 400 or 78 per cent of his selling price. Not bad.

    If they were to charge an economic price for maize of Z$28 000 a kilo, the product would probably end up on the shelves at about Z$413 000 for a 10 kilo bag. So the bulk of the subsidy on maize is actually going to the middlemen. I run a supermarket as one of my concerns, we cannot buy maize meal from the GMB mills and have to buy from intermediaries who put a substantial mark up on the product. This sort of thing is going on across the country.

    So we are left to wonder - when will the crunch come - Maize imports at US$250 a tonne will require us to find US$350 million this year for our net import needs. If the State cannot find this money - we will go hungry. If they do find it and continue to sell at present prices, then the subsidy to the GMB will, by itself, push the budget deficit over 20 per cent of GDP. This is simply not sustainable.

    By my own calculations inflation in January is well over 900 per cent and still rising. Inflation, a runaway budget deficit, the impossible demands of the patronage system in a shrinking economy, a hungry angry people. We are close to breaking point in every sense. Perhaps the crunch has come.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo, 31st January 2006

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