Monday, October 31, 2005

Zimbabwe's discouraged voting citizens

Months ago, yours truly joined the ranks of the prophets of doom when I wrote that,
"After weeks of speculation about the real reason behind Mugabe & Co.'s cleanup operation, Zimbabwe's Financial Gazette has released the most complete explanation of why the poor urbanites are the real targets behind the exercise. Why are they targets? Because they have denied ZANU-PF control of the urban centers by their vote."
This script is playing out right to the tee in Zimbabwe where hundreds of thousands of displaced voters will not be able to vote.

ZANU-PF is desperate to reign back control of the country so this time, they are not holding back any punches. For that perfectly nasty halloween surprise, the registrar general announced that permanent residents and non-citizens will not be allowed to vote. This means that 150,000 will be struck off the voters role this time around. Desperation, that what this is.

The sad part is that most of these people are eligible voters. After 25 years of hassle free voting, they didn't have very much incentive to process their papers and become citizens. They had voting rights. Now with three weeks remaining, they won't be able to regularize citizneship and register in time to vote. To ensure that none of these potential voters pull of any last minute antics, the list of the abolished names won't be announced until Saturday.

Question; if you knew your government was doing everything it can to keep you from voting instead of protecting your access to this sacred act of democracy, would you be excited to vote? The senate elections will be marred by a low voter turnout, but Mugabe & Co. have no one else to blame but themselves.

Zimbabweans are a discouraged voting public.

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  • Eddie Cross: The dark ages

    We tend to forget that Europe went through a long period of history, which is now loosely described as the "dark ages". During this time the main form of State administration was feudal in character and this resulted in massive, absolute poverty for the great majority and enormous wealth for a tiny elite who owned the assets of the countries affected by this episode in European history.

    The historical evidence of that era is still seen today in the massive houses and mansions that litter the European landscape. The human suffering of those times is well documented and remembered even today. Modern conflicts such as the IRA insurgency in Ireland and the ideological conflicts that caused such suffering in the 20th century are testimony to the legacy of the "dark ages".

    Could it be that Africa is going through such an era? It is of course different in many ways - the underlying culture is different, the global context is totally changed and there is the influence of travel, communications and education as well as the legacies of a 100 years of colonial occupation when for a short time the influence of local culture and history was subdued and an imposed colonial subculture prevailed which was more "European" than African.

    With the sudden collapse and subsequent withdrawal of such imposed influences, Africa has progressively slipped back into a form of tribal feudalism that allows a small elite to dominate and in fact use the legacies of colonial administration to loot national resources in the pursuit of wealth.

    So Africa slides back into poverty and decay associated with some of the greatest fortunes in terms of personal wealth, in the world. Mabutu in the old Zaire, with a fortune estimated at the size of his countries GDP. The Nigerian President's family taking US$1 billion a year from the exchequer and their children arriving in European capitals with suitcases of hard currency. The government of Angola, a "Marxist" regime, stealing a third of total oil revenues. The list goes on and on - fortunes being accumulated with scant regard to the welfare or interests of the countries and the peoples being governed. The term kleptocratic state takes on new meaning in modern Africa.

    But is this any different from the conditions that prevailed in Europe a scant 200 to 500 years ago? We may be late in coming to the party but it is that same play - different actors, different stage. It also will not last hundreds of years. Our dark age will be decades, rather than centuries -appropriate in a world that measures progress by the speed of change.

    But that does not make any excuses for people like Robert Mugabe - because they really have had all that it takes to enable them to avoid the pitfalls that have created these nightmarish conditions in many African countries. He is well educated - a classical Catholic education in the hands of the dreaded Clergy, well traveled, he gets his suits from Saville Row, he is above all an Anglophile and has several University degrees.

    Do not for one-minute think he does not understand what he is doing - he is highly intelligent and astute. He is also totally ruthless - but then so are the Mafia in modern Europe. The great difference is that he claims to be a Marxist, a modern socialist and a Pan African humanist. He is actually none of those things in reality and his behavior of late has simply branded him as a tsarist thug who has looted his countries wealth in pursuit of personal gain and power. His actions under the guise of the Murambatsvina programme are in line with Stalin's genocide against the Kulaks. He cares little for the suffering of the majority - only for the welfare of those who can ensure he remains where he is and has the continued capacity to rape and pillage.

    But in any "Dark Age" you have your islands of enlightenment and hope. And so it is in Africa and in places like Zimbabwe. You can find such places by visiting our private schools where dedicated teachers and administrators are maintaining a small but effective system of education that continues to produce outstanding athletes, sportsmen and women and fine academics. Above all they produce achievers - men and women who go out into the world and succeed wherever they go. You can find them by visiting certain business organisations - I have a friend here who runs a globally competitive clothing factory - he exports the great majority of his output to the most sophisticated markets in the world. Another friend manufacturers fruit drinks and chemicals - walk through the doors of his business and you are in a clean, modern environment, which is comparable to any in the world. Staff are motivated and work hard and their product is expensive, but always good quality.

    Another person I know has all 32 members of his family here - they meet weekly to discuss problems and opportunities and to agree on any thing that needs action. They support each other, help with school fees and medical costs and they ensure that the family has what it needs to prosper and enjoy a life style that is second to none. Walk through the doors of one of our modern private clinics or hospitals and you are in a first world environment - you do not have to wait a year for a procedure as in the UK, you pay and it gets done. And remember I am talking about life in Zimbabwe -
    that collapsed State created by bad government.

    Recently our local Catholic Hospital suffered a serious fire that destroyed the top floor and the roof and damaged some of the rest of the building. Volunteers rescued the patients, the local fire department was there in a few minutes and now - just six weeks later, the roof is back on and the tiles are being laid - much of the work, design and construction done by volunteers. Islands of hope and enlightenment in a sea of despair and human suffering.

    To be frank, we are yet to see similar islands of enlightenment in the political realm in southern Africa. The Congo is a mess, Zambia and Malawi are struggling with internal problems, South Africa has its problems with Jacob Zuma and corruption in high places, even little Botswana now shows signs of political intolerance and studied neutrality when it comes to the problems of its neighbor - Zimbabwe.

    Unless the MDC gets its act together, and soon, it too might lose its image as a beacon of hope in an otherwise dismal morass. While I accept that much of the MDC problems can be sourced in the Zanu PF Secret Police who are the African equivalent of the East German Stasi, we are guilty of shooting ourselves in the foot over the Senate issue and are not exhibiting a great deal of maturity right now.

    As for the consequences of Gono's revelation last week - this week the gold price quadrupled, the stock market nearly doubled in value and the improved flow of resources into many of those small centers of excellence and hope began to improve. This will, if they stick to their guns, bring new life back into the private sector across the country and help us to keep things going while we sort out our political leadership.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo, October 29 2005.

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  • Friday, October 28, 2005

    Why some in the MDC are in favor of the elections

    I've been involved in an interesting discussion (read comments) about why any Zimbabwean would want to involve themselves in Zimbabwe's "flawed electoral system. The following is an amalgam of my remarks there. If you want, read this first.

    The Ndebele, have been intetionally and consistently marginalized by Mugabe since independence. Remember the Gukurahunde? (This was the brutal massacre of Ndebeles post independence carried out by the infamous Five Brigade.) For five years these people, my people, were heartlessly murdered forcing them into political soltitude. Need I say more?

    Since then, ZANU-PF has kept a steady stream of Ndebele puppets in it's ranks to pacify the potentially mutinous southern half of the country. But this hasn't given the people any representational access to the government. So both Matebeleland provinces have become the least developed regions of the country. If you've been anywhere beyond Bulawayo, you know what I'm talking about.

    Make no mistake, the people have seen right through this ZANU charade and have harbored growing aspirations for true representation in government. In a real sense Zimabwe's short lived independence is yet to come for some of us, that is.

    This very fact is the reason why the MDC swept all the parliamentary seats in both Matebeleland provinces (even in the flawed March parliamentaries!)This is why they (the Ndebele) voted that turncoat, Jonathan Moyo, into parliament. Bad as he'd been at least he brought banks, electricity, and roads right to center of their long forgotten hinterland.

    Hence again these people have high hopes for the senate candidates. We the people would rather take a shot with people we trust and know will voice our concerns (which has never happened before) albeit in a flawed, nay, biased election. Even if only one of our representatives is voted into senate, at least we'll have someone that really represents us--one of the very few since 1980.

    Let me remind you that we the people realize that just folding over and admitting defeat is tantamount to voluntarily returning to those days were our voice and disparity were muted by the Mugabe regime. We can't do that. We will never go back to that. Our voices and concerns shall be heard.

    It might be ok from your vantage point to wait for democracy to descend on us before we agree to participate in an election, but we can't wait. We know and are going to abide by that famed principle that freedom/democracy is never voluntarily given by an oppressor, it must be forcefully taken.

    To me (and off course the Ndebele too), democracy is not a utopian ideology upon which we wait for the mitigation of our present circumstance. No, Zimbabwean democracy is about survival. It's about improving the way we've done life for years, and it's about improving it now. It is the difference between who gets food aid in a country ravaged by famine and who doesn't. In fact it is the difference between life and death for many.

    Notice I said that the hope I'm talking about is about finally realizing Zimbabwe's independence for some. It's not even about getting Mugabe out of there, these people just want to catch up with the rest of the country.

    It is wildly inaccurate to say that "90% of the country want Mugabe out." Again, in an idealistic vacuum this would be nice. In Zimbabwe reality dictates otherwise. There's an undeniable "mutuality" between ZANU-PF and much of the country.

    Most people look at the government and see their leaders; people who come from the same places they do and who, in a sense, represent them. And in a way, this idea that these are "our leaders" has become Mugabe's surety. Many Zimbabweans are reluctant to remove Mugabe & Co. because they are not "they" per se: they are part of "us." I posit that to many a lay Zimbo, "Mugabe is a Zimbabwean just like me." Given in shona,"mwana wevhu seni." Hence removing him would essentially be confirmation that "we" cannot lead ourselves; a deeply ironic self fulfilling fallacy.

    This is true for most Zimbabweans, but not the marginilized (and even at times maligned) Ndebele. See, these people haven't had leaders who are "our leaders" to them. Mugabe and his mostly Shona allies (and even some Ndebele stooges) remain to these people; "their leaders." I'm not trying to stoke the tribal tensions here. I'm exposing the deep seated, justified excitement that (mainly the Ndebele in the MDC) have in the opportunities of the senate.

    Ethnicity does matter. And yes while I may entertain the idea that "we've all suffered," it is true that some have suffered more than others. The senate presents an opportunity to gain lost ground for some however flawed may seem.

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  • Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    Cross posted on Global Voices: Voices from Zimbabwe Plus

    Beginning this week yours truly will be doing a weekly Voices from Zimbabwe Plus, a roundup of the latest from blogs in/on Zimbabwe and a handful of other small African blogospheres. Check it out every Tuesday over at Global Voices.

    Welcome to the inaugral edition of the “Voices from Zimbabwe Plus 3″ where I hope you’ll findnnews from several small African blogospheres.

    Zimbabwe:-In what has now known as the MDC Senate Debacle, the Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe’s main opposition party is locked in a stalemate over whether they should participate in the senate election late next month.
    The Bearded Man moans the MDC’s infighting thus,
    “Sadly the fighting within the ranks of the MDC continues. Gift Chimanikire has publicly labasted the MDC leader, stating that the party WILL contest the senate elections and anyone who thinks otherwise should just ’shut up’. Mugabe has been quoted as saying that the fighting within the opposition party show it to be an ‘irrelevent party’.”

    Eddie Cross, a top political advisor to Morgan Tsvangirai the MDC leader, shared some of his views on the crisis with readers at zimpundit.

    Reknowned author Chenjerai Hove uses the disease analogy to explain what is happening with the MDC.Meanwhile Boinky of of Mugabe Makaipa lauds the fact that the Zimbabwean dollar is going to be scrapped “at a date to be announced.”

    Jonathan Moyo the one time Mugabe critic turned top Mugabe henchman and ditched by Zimbabwe’s strongman charges that the MDC is a party founded on “protest politics” and lacks ideology hence it’s frequent failures. You can find more on this and other startling developments in Zimbabwe in zimpundit’s Monday post.

    Finally, Sokwanele, the civic action blog shares one of the many valuable lessons he’s learnt from life in Zimbabwe.

    Malawi:-Geeta points out the irony of the season’s first rains while hunger threatens to make life tougher in the country.

    Rwanda:- George Conard writes about the vast potential cell phones have to change life in the developing world as more and more people use the cell phone “a platform rather than just an application.” Some in Rwanda are already using cell phone airtime in place of the currency.
    Burundi:- RW chronicles the loss of civilian life at the hands of Agathon Rwasa’s Forces nationales de libération (FNL) during September. Here’s another extensive list of atrocities.

    More from ZimPundit next week!

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  • Silent hope

    On Tuesday, August 30 Zimbabwe's parliament passed the controversial 17th Amendment bill amidst cries that the bill's passage would be our nation's undoing. Needless to say, the bills passage spawned off deeper levels of hopelesness; Zimbabwe was set to become Mugabe's totalitarian domain. One could say we the people had lost all hope when Constitutional Amendment No. 17 was rushed upon us. Ironically, one of the bills main provisions has become the improbable harbinger of a silent hope for Zimbabwe's hard pressed citizenry.

    The overbearing legislation set out to limit the movements of citizens deemed hostile to national security, protect the government from domestic litigation over their botched land reform, and reinvoke an upper house or senate. The latter has been the impetus behind the silent hope of which I speak, and it might well be avenue that ushers in our realization of said hope. Let me explain.

    It became clear during the three years leading up to 1999 that Zimbabweans are on a quest to replace the iron hand rule of ZANU-PF. In 1998 a three day nationwide strike ground the nation to halt. Shortly thereafter the liberation war vets, feeling the pinch of a weakening economy, threatened to retrieve their arms if their lives weren't improved. At the next opportunity we got to express distaste of the government i.e. the constitutional amendment referundum, we did so rejecting the ZANU-PF propagated amendments. And when the 2000 parliamentaries rolled around, we did the same handing the MDC close to half the seats--a first in Zimbabwe's history. This feeling of resentment hasn't disappeared since. It may have ebbed and may have been placated by ZANU's devious favors, but make no mistake we the people want different leadership.

    In just a matter of weeks, on November 26 we the people will have another opportunity to speak up when we elect representatives for senate. Our hope is manifest in the 26 MDC candidates who've filed their papers for the elections. In them we find an alternative. In them is our opportunity to express what we've been saying an feeling for the past ten years. They are the symbols of our silent hope to oust the Mugabe regime.

    Unwilling and unknowingly ZANU-PF has given us reason to hope.

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  • Tuesday, October 25, 2005

    Twenty-seven MDC members file senate papers!

    This just in; 27 MDC members from six provinces have filed papers with the Nomination Court for their respective provinces according to and Zimonline.

    Not to be startled, Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC president announced that he doesn't recognize the candidates as members of his party. He's clearly standing by his (Mugabe-like) threat to oust anyone who defiled his decision.

    Here's the real question; how are the standing political parties going to respond to these renegade candidates? Assuming (and this is unlikely), that the MDC will indeed expel those that did file papers without their party leader's sanction, the candidates are now outsiders to the party. They leave it with their resources and supporters, making MDC a much weaker political party. Let's not forget that the candidates are from the same provinces that the MDC has been walloping ZANU, we're talking a large chunk of their rural base.

    As for ZANU who'd been enjoying the infighting of it's opponent, the worst case scenario could be well on its way to fruition. Now ZANU's largely geriatric candidates are facing stiff challenges for provinces that ZANU-PF was hoping to regain from the MDC. Regaining those provinces is not going to happen as easily as hoped if ever. All of sudden the senate idea doesn't appear as great as ZANU had hoped it would. And if the MDC decides to sanction the election and field candidates across the country (which they did for the parliamentaries in March), get ready ZANU for another bitterly contested election.

    As if we need more drama in Zimbabwe let's not forget that we're still awaiting the launch of the much talked about "Third Force." Can you imagine what this would mean if somehow the 26 senate elections bonded with other former ZANU and MDC members to become Zim's third political party right now. It might happen.

    There's a lot that could happen. This whole senate thing is turning out to be much more compelling than I had expected!

    More later.

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  • Eddie Cross: Life on a roller Coaster

    Instead of my usual review of Zimbabwe's latest economic policies, it does me great pleasure and honor to have Eddie Cross (someone who is better qualified and experienced than I) do the review. Feel free to leave comments for Eddie.

    I have only been on one roller coaster in my life - I thought it was an exhilarating experience and was not at all apprehensive when we sped through the air - in parts upside down and over hills and valleys. But I am not sure that I would choose to live on one, just too much of an experience and a short term ride was enough.

    Well here in Zimbabwe life is very much like a roller coaster. One minute we are up and the next down, we are upside down and then can see the world from the dizzy heights of a crest - only to be plunged back down again by something that someone says or does.

    Just when I thought I could not be surprised, this past week Gideon Gono came up with a stunning "monetary policy statement" that said and does much of what we know has to be said and done if we are to turn this ship around. The main thrust of what he said was that he was scrapping the foreign exchange regime that he introduced a couple of years ago and which has done so much damage. In its place he has he introduced a market driven system and at the same time has allowed exporters to trade 70 per cent of their export receipts at the new market driven rates. The balance of 30 per cent will have to go to the Reserve Bank at a controlled exchange rate - currently 26 000 to 1 against the US dollar.

    This is a big shift in policy and will have an immediate and massive impact on the private sector. What a pity it had not been done earlier. What it means is the average exporter, hotel operator and any one else who generates foreign exchange in Zimbabwe will see their average local currency earnings rise from an approximate average of 39 000 Zimbabwe dollars for each US dollar earned to nearly 65 000 Zimbabwe dollars on Monday - a rise of 64 per cent in domestic earnings overnight.

    On exports of US$1,4 billion a year, this injects an additional 35 trillion dollars into the trading accounts of exporters each year. With the total value of the stock market here worth Z$114 trillion at present, this represents a massive 64 per cent increase in their revenues while costs remain more or less constant. The value of this injection in earnings is equal to 30 per cent of their total capital holdings. Wow - watch this space next week!

    But the statement does not only deal with this key issue - it promises that the official exchange rate of 26 000 to 1 will be adjusted gradually over time until the average exchange rate of both markets is the same - the so-called "convergence" factor. He also promised the same with interest rates, but with less clarity. So a huge boost to earnings by exporters and the promise of more to come as the convergence policy kicks in. At that stage average earnings in local currency will have risen by over a 100 per cent compared to what it was last week - and all that at the stroke of a pen.

    Then Gono turned his attention to the gold industry and he has at last grasped the reality that you have to pay a market related price for gold -or it goes elsewhere. So the new regulations now provide for gold producers to receive full value for their product - this should boost total foreign exchange earnings through official and banking circles very substantially. The same impact will occur in the tourism sector where foreign visitors will now be able to pay for their accommodation at much more reasonable rates than before. Tourism operators will also enjoy much higher local revenues than previously.

    The statement takes on the other tough issues - security of assets, the full acceptance of the rights of investors. The need to stop the farm invasions and allow recovery in agriculture. The Reserve Bank Governor goes so far as to say that if we want the economy to recover, we have to start playing by the rules. He actually went so far as to say that those who continue to disrupt commercial agriculture were in fact criminals - he said it, not a commercial farmer!

    But we know that these remarks are unlikely to resonate where it matters. The thugs and criminals who are responsible for so much harm are in fact politically sponsored and are immune to rational argument and prosecution. Until that changes it will be impossible to start to turn agriculture around.

    The statement and the data it contains reveals an honest appraisal of the economic situation. It has many weaknesses - the estimate of inflation in the remaining two months of the year is hopeless. We are headed for a very tough Christmas - perhaps worse than 2003 in that respect. It is also completely unrealistic in terms of this coming agricultural season and the outturn of the winter crop. The Bank claims that 61 000 ha of wheat was planted. If that was true we should be looking at 350 000 tonnes of wheat. Instead the largest miller in the country predicts that its intake will be a paltry 20 000 tonnes.

    Gono calls on the country to ensure that we will not have to "contract out" food production in 2006. He needs to understand it is just too late for that - we will again import two thirds of our food needs in 2006, even if we have a perfect season. Tobacco plantings are already down 30 per cent and half of the new growers who came into the industry when the commercial growers were displaced, have shut their doors. Even as he spoke, tobacco farms were being invaded and destroyed across the country.

    But what the report does show is that this is a resilient country. Despite all that we have been through, we are still functioning. Give us a market driven environment and security over our person and assets and this economy could fly. What Gono did this week was to lift the curtain on what that might just mean if we had the right leadership. And while this was all going on, the MDC continued to tear itself apart, Zanu PF continued its willful destruction of what is left of the economy and our social infrastructure and the economy continued to shrink. No one, it would seem wants to take the time to consider just what would happen if we all said, enough is enough. We need new, democratic institutions and new leadership.

    Gono's statement was silent on the issue of the continued collapse of the country - but his figures showed the stark reality compared to the other countries in the region that are all doing well. But as one businessman said to me - it is a start.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo, 22 October 2005

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  • Monday, October 24, 2005

    Moyo to MDC, "Act!"

    Maverick politician, Jonathan Moyo, whose rants appear to have declined in proportion with the demise of his influence since his fall from glory weighed in on the hottest controversy in Zimbabwean politics--the MDC senate stalemate. Just like his days in government, the former cabinet minister thrust his failing star into the limelight by latching onto the most talked about issue in Zimbabwe. He did so not because he has anything valid to offer (even if he did he long abused the priviledge of his power stripping himself of any credibility to comment on any national matter), but because he wants to be heard and will do anything to have himself heard.

    Well, we heard. There really was nothing said. It was, to quote the words of Otto Von Bismark, "A high sounding nothing." Moyo's (hardly) scintillating analysis surmounts to this: a long lecture on the essence to of ideology to politics, and that MDC should participate in the elections if for nothing else, as a defensive move. What blinding wisdom--not! Read the garrulous thing here.

    What else is new?

    Like it's former defacto chief editor, the Herald has also lurched onto the MDC crisis. Monday's edition claims,
    "OUTSPOKEN MDC Member of Parliament for St Mary’s Mr Job Sikhala has revealed that the opposition party was given a total of US$2,5 million by Taiwan, Ghana and Nigeria in illegal political funding, which he says is responsible for the current infighting within the party."
    The potshot article, by none other than defamed one time geography teacher Caesar Zvayi gloats endlessly about the MDC's problems. Question; if Zvayi and his bosses in Herald House are such stringent rule obsevors that they've studied Zimbabwe's electoral laws enough to notice that financial contributions to the opposition are "illegal," what have they to say about ZANU-PF's perennial looting of state coffers? How come it is all of a sudden easier to see that the MDC is funded illegally and not ZANU? Oh wait a minute, maybe I'm asking too much of Zvayi, journalistic integrity doesn't exist inthe same realm he does.

    Oh well.

    In other news reserve bank governor, Gideon Gono, made his third quarter policy announcement late last week. Surprise surprise he admitted that inflation is going to close out the year anywhere near where he'd claimed it'd be. Late in 2004 Gono said he expected inflation to drop below 80% by this year's end. Not so. And in what is becoming a wind chase for him, he announced yet another change to how forex receipts will be traded on the formal market in the country. Don't overlook this, it's nothing short of an admission of the failure of his sytems to lure foreign exchange to the formal 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.

    Watch for another great epistle from our friend Eddie Cross and my debut "Zimbabwe+ weekly roundup" over at Global Voices tomorrow.
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  • Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    The truth doesn't lie

    The last two days have seen some of the most dizzying developments in the evolution of Zimbabwean politics in a long time. ZANU-PF is turning back to it's sages of old for leadership into the future. And the MDC is set to oust their first leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

    The party that is new and supposedly "progressive," on a mission to catalyze Zimbabwe rejection of the Mugabe leadership doesn't want their own leader. Meanwhile Mugabe & Co. are looking back instead of ahead to safeguard the country's fragile shades of democracy. This is the state of Zimbabwe's sad politics. And the people, they are muted. But as with most situations like this, the situation speaks for them.

    Old school cronysim will not work in the 21st century, ask the Bush regime in Washington. But neither will MDC's inept leadership and assumption of ZANU tendencies.

    Consipicous by it's absence is either party's sense of the national agenda. ZANU-PF doesn't care about Zimbabwe nor her people. The only Zimbabweans they care about are those that have given up their authentic livelihoods for the sake of the party. It is all about self and power presevation with ZANU. Which is why they are obsessed with looking back in order to go forward. It is not the sacred spirit of Sankofa. It is pure unbridled ambition and selfishness among ZANU's ruling elite.

    MDC is no better. They've comfortably assumed their role as Zimbabwe's manikin party. They look the part, dress part, but don't have the creative nor mental resources to be an alternative to ZANU. Like everything else they've copied from their sometimes bitter rival sometimes bigger brother, they too have imitated a selfish lust for power and have forgotten the people that made them a party. All of a sudden it is now all about 'what is right for the party,' not what is right for the people.

    Zimbabwean politics is fraught with controversial chaos. Both parties are steeped in a frenzied mania reminiscent of the behavior of an army of ants, before they move their nest permanently. Maybe that's just what it is, these two parties that have monopolized our country's political agenda might well be on a self procured one way ticket to oblivion. Sadly, it is their bitter aversion for each other that is the impetus for their sure destruction.

    And in a laughable twist of events, the irony that is all this political craziness, is perhaps introspective of the mindset of the muted and ignored people. Suffice it to say that the MDC as it is currently constituted is not in Zimbabwea's future; neither does ZANU-PF's retro politics dictated by cronysim.

    This time the truth has spoken for itself; both these parties as they are today cannot lead Zimbabwe into future. Beware! The ides of November are nigh!

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  • Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    Eddie Cross: Green Hills Far Away

    Those of us who have chosen to stay in Zimbabwe and to "tough it out" are variously regarded as "heroes", "stupid" and all sorts of things in between. The truth is, we each have our own reasons for staying and fighting it out. I sometimes wonder if the grass is greener on the other side? Last time I seriously looked was 25 years ago. At that time "the other side" did not impress me. The one thing it did do for me was to reinforce my feeling of being "African". There was no doubt when I got off the plane in Harare that I was "home". That has not changed for me and most who have flown the nest have found themselves hankering after their African roots.
    This past week, while the MDC seems to have been on the path to self destruction over the Senate issue, I was in South Africa, not in a city, but out in a rural district taking a break on a small farm with my wife and daughter and our grandson. I should have been at the MDC bun fight but this short holiday had been planned for some time and in my life, family comes first whenever I can chose.

    It was instructive to see the South African underbelly - not the sort of face that it puts on for the world to see and not in a mainstream tourist area. It was not encouraging. I saw a major tea estate abandoned by its owners, the tea rank and in some areas dying from the withdrawal of irrigation. I asked why and was told that the estate was the subject of a land claim and was also a target by local Labor Unions who were demanding conditions of service for staff that the estate simply could not meet.

    The farm we stayed on was also the subject of a land claim - mounted by some of the staff on the farm. The owners who had been there for 23 years said that there was no basis for the claim and that the organisation dealing with land claims had ruled in their favor. However there was ample evidence that they were holding up maintenance and the replacement of assets on the farm with a consequential loss of production and damage to the local economic environment.

    But it was in the social sector that I was most disturbed by what I saw. The wounds of apartheid are still there for all to see. Racist's attitudes persist, the staff housing on farms is generally appalling and worst of all are the "homeland" slums created by the apartheid regime over the previous 40 years are still there with little or no sign of any form of transformation. The housing being built by the State was simply a more sophisticated (and probably less comfortable) shack under a bare tin roof. No sign of any sort of security of tenure that would encourage the occupants to upgrade their shacks or even build their own homes. A wide modern highway connected these sprawling rural slums to the nearby provincial capital, a modern City with all the trimmings. People still had to commute 30 kilometers to work each day - not the urban middle class or rich, but the absolute poor.

    For a country in a hurry to transform itself after decades of oppression and discrimination, South Africa is simply not moving fast enough. Big companies are building up their relationships with the new elite and exporting their surplus cash abroad as an insurance against any future shocks. Many are now major global players - South African Breweries are now number three in the world, Anglo is a resources giant with as much invested in the USA as in South Africa. Rembrandt is a global tobacco company - one of the eight majors and Barlow's stretch across the globe. But they are not investing anything like what they could be investing in South Africa itself. New legislation for the diamond industry seems like a warning shot across their bows, that caution is justified. The fact that De Beers is now only producing a small part of their global output in South Africa and is headquartered outside the country that gave its birth is simply a fact of recent history.

    White and black South Africans show few signs of any kind of real integration and reconciliation. There is a great deal of overt racism and those of us who come from Zimbabwe still feel a racial tension that somehow never was a part of our life "back home".

    I listened to the cultured voice of the IMF representative in South Africa saying in a speech in Johannesburg that the South African policy of retaining a strong Rand was "entirely appropriate". What utter bull, the experience of every country that has achieved rapid growth in the past 50 years is that you must undervalue your local currency to achieve the kind of home grown investment and development that will transform the living standards of the majority. This kind of ideological nonsense, which favors the rich at the expense of the poor, is why when we finally find our feet in this Zanu PF mud hole, that we must be careful to maintain our independence of policy and development strategies and avoid being dictated to by the industrialized countries and the multilaterals.

    Well after our break away, it was back to the mud hole - what a relief to get back to empty roads and silent vacant farms. It was a bit of a shock to find bread at Z$25 000 and maize meal at Z$8 000 a kilo, but where else in the world does your home staff pick up your dirty clothes, wash them and iron them and repack your wardrobe? Where else are people with nothing, so cheerful and generous so caring and concerned? Where else can you walk into the customs and immigration and be greeted by your first name and welcomed home - even if they then try to stick you with a huge customs bill.

    As expected, the annual rate of inflation in September rose 100 per cent. Scary stuff and I remain very apprehensive about all those who are economic prisoners here and are on fixed incomes. If you know of anyone in this category - please keep your eyes open and help when you see signs of stress. If you have relatives at "home" and are not helping - then start doing so. There is no doubt now in my mind that thousands are going to die in the coming months. This is going to be our most "silent" spring season ever.

    As for the Senate debate in the MDC - I was just as confused as you were by what I heard. Hopefully the mature and sensible leaders that we have in the Party are sorting it out. I remain convinced that we are right not to participate and are glad that the majority who wrote to me after last weeks note agreed. But we need to make these decisions in the right way and then get back to the real fight, which is how to stop Zanu PF digging their own grave in that mud hole.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo, 17th October 2005

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  • Monday, October 17, 2005

    Cleanless cleanup stuck

    Three months ago the world watched in agony as the Zimbabwe's government and their goons in the police evicted thousands of urban citizens in the name of a cleanup. Homes, families and lives were shattered during the campaign, one of the most brutal of our time.

    Never in want of a defense for any of their actions, Mugabe & Co. promptly countered the operation's critics with accusations that they (the critics) only wanted to see Zimbabweans living in filth and shacks. "We are going to build them homes," declared the boisterous regime. To them, the excercise was about restoring a dignity, which they aren't prepared to admit was lost, to the people of Zimbabwe

    And they pretended to. But we knew this wasn't going anywhere.

    So the world watched bemused as the regime declared the end of the cleanup. At the end of the "cleanup," they announced the onset of a full slate of operations meant to "expedite" the construction of homes and restoration of order. I wrote,
    "Under operation garikai or live well, the government claims it will construct houses, micro, small and medium business facilities across the country by the end of August."
    A trifling. Not only did the end of August pass with no homes built, but so did September, and now October. Nothing, nada. Instead, there were a few Now the tacit admissions have started to seep through. First, this from Sunday's paper,
    "HUGE boulders at the construction sites of houses under Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle in Harare have hindered progress on the ambitious project, with the number of beneficiaries falling drastically.

    Construction engineers say it might take up to two years of blasting and clearing at Whitecliffe, Hopley Farm and Epworth before construction takes off on a full scale.

    The Operation’s chairperson, Colonel Callisto Gwanetsa, recommended allocation of alternative stands.

    Whitecliffe, which has the most boulders, has a target of 1 200 households but the usable land cannot accommodate them all.

    "The project has no outside infrastructure like water and sewer systems," Col. Gwanetsa said during a tour of one of the sites recently.

    "Activities like digging of water connection trenches and construction of a sewerage treatment plant, which are costly, will obviously prohibit construction of low cost houses."
    And in Monday's Herald,
    "LOCAL authorities should not deny private companies and individuals with their own resources, land to build houses, the Deputy Minister for Information and Publicity, Cde Bright Matonga, has said.

    Launching phase two of the ongoing Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle at the Mbizo 21construction site in Kwekwe on Friday, Cde Matonga said the country had abundant land, which should see the building of more houses.

    He urged local authorities to complement Government efforts in providing decent housing to the people.

    Cde Matonga said the first phase was a wholly funded Government programme, but the private sector had since realised its success and it was now willing to join hands with the Government.

    "The private sector is now chipping in with assistance for this noble project, unlike in the initial stages when some people had doubts. With this development, local authorities should make land available to all companies and individuals with money so that every Zimbabwean can have decent accommodation," he said.

    However, Cde Matonga advised authorities to plan carefully, where houses would be built."
    This was never about improving the people's lives.

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  • Thursday, October 13, 2005

    Senate controversy threatens to undo MDC

    Shortly after 4:15 p.m. yesterday Morgan Tsvangirai the MDC leader announced that his party's national executive had decided to boycott the senate elections.
    "The Senate idea is an expensive project we can ill-afford at a time when millions face starvation; when millions live in a shrinking economy and a hyper inflationary climate; when millions are out of work; when millions yearn for support against the HIV/Aids pandemic.

    As a serious political party, we felt that a compromise at this stage runs against our contract with the people.

    A compromise with the dictatorship has the effect of confusing our original promise, our message to the people. We strongly believe that the nation needs new Zimbabwe and a new beginning, given the amount of damage before us.

    Given our experience in the past six years, Council reaffirmed the party’s new thrust to turn the corner, to draw a line in the sand and to chart a new direction against the dictatorship. We are engaged in a full scale organizational programme to build people power and confidence to take on Zanu PF and the regime.

    We shall mount a national crusade against the Senate election as part of a comprehensive mission and a campaign for a people-driven, publicly endorsed national Constitution.

    Further, our party structures shall soon review and debate our presence in Parliament, in local government and in future elections to assess the impact and political necessity of such presence in line with the new thrust of building democratic resistance."
    Well and good.

    Except for the fact that merely hours afterwords Tsvangirai's spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi released this statement declaring,
    "After five hours of deliberations the MDC National Council being the supreme organ of the party between congresses resolved to take secret ballot of all its members present including the six members of the management committee in the resultant vote of 33 councilors in favour of participation while 31 voted against with 2 ballot papers deemed to have been spoilt.

    In the circumstances the National Council of the MDC resolved by a majority that the party would contest the senatorial election scheduled for 26 November 2005."
    So which will it be? Better yet, what are the stakes in the senate election for the MDC?

    I will address the latter first. If you read Eddie's post below regarding what the debate within the MDC is, you're already familiar with what I'm going to say. For those of you aren't familiar with the controversy, it really is quite simple. Sentiment about the senate is divided along provincial lines in the MDC. There are provinces within the party that think they will only gain more political leverage if they contest the elections. The Matebeleland and Manicaland provinces think they will win the senate seats.

    To these MDC members, senate elections offer a rare opportunity to seize power from ZANU-PF legitimately albeit on ZANU-PF's terms. This school of thought has lapsed into grandiose thinking; assuming their party will win enough seats to control the senate.

    Even if they don't win a majority of the senate seats, the elections are still lucrative to some in the party because they will give their party more voice. Take for example, the southern provinces of Matebeleland north and south that have labored long and hard due to state neglect. The maligning of the Ndebele (Zimbabwe's other major tribe) who are the primary residents in these provinces is a longheld open secret across the country.

    If the MDC can salvage senate seats in just these two provinces, the Ndebele will have gained the luxury of authentic representation--a far cry from Mugabe's Ndebele puppets who've done the Ndebele an irreparable disservice over the years. The alternative, not contesting the elections, will do nothing for these already underepresented people. Hence the serious push for the MDC to contest.

    Which takes us to the other question at hand, which one will it be is the MDC in or not. In light of the heavy stakes I've already outlined above, I think this might be the end of the MDC as we currently know it. If you read Tsvangirai's complete statement, you might have noticed what fate he said awaits rebellious party members who contest the elections; expulsion.

    So if you're a Ndebele MDC member, you face the choice of either turning down the party that has emanciapated you from oblivion for adding just one or two more voices to the growing chorus for fuller recognition and representation of your people, or you could choose the party and essentially condemn yourself to the deferance ZANU-PF has visited on you. Tough choice.

    Things don't look any better from the party's perspective. Giving up the Ndebele base will not be easy. Further, by denying the Ndebele the opportunity to seek further representation MDC risk coming across just as nonchalent about the plight of the Ndebele as ZANU-PF has proven to be. But then contesting in the elections, smacks of the political languidity and lack of creativity that I along with others have chastized the MDC for.

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  • Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    Eddie Cross on the Senate Debate

    The Senate Elections.
    The MDC will meet next week to agree on a position regarding the Senate elections now due for the 26th November 2005. We have been debating this for some weeks since the Parliament voted to adopt the required constitutional amendments to bring the Senate back into existence.

    Many have thought that we were dithering - but in fact we are a genuine democratic movement and what we have been doing is debating the issue quite vigorously amongst ourselves. Our leadership is divided on the issue - those who live in areas where we can win seats, want to run, others are opposed. I fall into the latter category. I have been opposed to fighting the Senate seats since the debate was initiated at a National Executive meeting last month.

    This is another tough decision for the MDC - we are after all, the only real democrats in Zimbabwe and fighting elections is the reason for our existence. In addition this represents democratic space and it is argued that we should be moving into this space even if we were opposed to the creation of the Senate in the first place.

    I will be away for the National Council meeting at which this decision will be taken and of course will fully support any decision taken - but I still feel we should boycott the election and urge all Zimbabweans to simply stay away from the polls. My reasons for thinking this way is as follows: -
    1. We have steadfastly apposed the piecemeal reform of the national constitution. We apposed this amendment from the start - we cannot now go into the contest to try and obtain Senate seats for MDC candidates.
    2. The formation of the Senate and this election process is irrelevant to the resolution of the political and economic crisis that now faces the country.

    3. The Ministry of Finance has asked for Z$250 billion to fund the election and to run the Senate for the remaining two months of 2005. This at a time when inflation and government spending is spiraling out of control and the State is unable to meet the essential needs of our people.

    4. The Senate creates yet another level of Government in an already cumbersome and top-heavy system. It does nothing to improve decision-making or to reduce expenditure - in fact it makes matters worse.

    5. All decisions will continue to be made by a small coterie of old men around Mugabe and the Senate will simply be a refuge for failed politicians.

    6. The real priorities of the country are to provide food, fuel, jobs, better health and education services and the full restoration of all our economic, political and human rights.

    Instead of this Senate election we should be demanding that: -

    a) Zanu PF accepts that they have failed the country, that they have no solutions to our crisis and cannot meet our needs as a nation.

    b) Instead of elections for a useless Senate, we should demand that Zanu comes to the table for national talks to resolve how we are going to overcome our real problems and to agree on a totally new Constitutional basis for the future.

    Aside from the above arguments lets look at the conditions under which this so called election will be held.
    They have already carefully manipulated the boundaries of all Senate seats - minimizing the influence of the urban population and ensuring control over the outcome in the majority of seats.

    They have disenfranchised hundred of thousands of existing voters through the constitutional amendments adopted at the same time as the creation of the Senate. They have also removed up to a quarter of the urban population under the guise of "Murambatsvina" and dumped them in the rural areas where they are totally dependent on the State for survival.

    All the mechanisms used to defraud the electorate in previous elections - the manipulated voters roll with millions of dead and missing voters, the control of the whole process by military and security agencies and the politically aligned Registrar Generals Office, are still in place.

    The restrictions on the media, the control of all State media and the majority of the private media are tighter than ever. The propaganda machine is in full swing and will be used to campaign against all opposition. In addition there is total control over all political activity on the ground including rallies, meetings, demonstrations and any other normal forms of freedom of expression.

    There is very little food in the country and what is available is totally controlled by the State and the security apparatus. This includes military control of the Grain Marketing Board. Food will be used as a political weapon and following "Murambatsvina" there can be few communities who do not now believe that any group voting against Zanu PF will be subjected to penalties, even starvation and the destruction of their homes and livelihood. Is it appreciated outside Zimbabwe that the destruction of the urban homes and small businesses is continuing unabated?

    Under these circumstances to ask the MDC support base to come out and campaign, to be beaten and identified for post election retribution and when all that has been done, to have the election stolen from them again, is just too much. We need to say to Zanu PF as a Nation that enough is enough - we are tired of your games. Come to the table and talk to all of us about how we want to be governed in the future and what we need to do to start a recovery in our economy. We will no longer dance to your tune.

    The world knows, as does Zanu PF, that in any free and fair election conducted under normal democratic rules, that the MDC would win nearly all seats in any election. Frankly I cannot see Zanu being safe in any part of the country. To go through what is an expensive and elaborate electoral farce just to be humiliated and then fail to resolve any of the real problems we face, is just not an option. We have more important work to do - like preparing for a post Zanu PF future that must surely be just around the corner.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo, 8th October 2005

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  • Monday, October 10, 2005

    ZANU dials up familiar pre-poll antics

    Zimbabweans woke up to the shocking news that their government has decided to pay out 36 billion (Zim) dollars to liberation war detainees and political prisoners on Saturday. This only 25 years after the war ended and only six since the war's veterans were awarded lumpsomes and lifelong payouts in 1999. Why now? We didn't have too look to far to find the real reason behind this new wave of irrational gratuities.

    On this page, The Herald's front page, the top story is the reiteration of senate election dates next month. Immediately after that comes the gratuity "approval" story. If this layout is anything to go by, it's clear they are buying votes ahead of yet another pivotal election for. Read this for more on the scam.

    This is not the first time the Mugabe regime has used it's gubenatorial muscle to siphon votes in a highly unsympathetic environment. Rewind six years. Shortly before ZANU-PF's shocking defeat in the referundum on the draft constitution, Mugabe, with the ground fast disappearing from beneath him, awarded the veterans of Zimbabwe's struggle shocking payouts, benefits, and a monthly pension. The draft constitution was of course rejected (mainly for lumping more power on the president), the MDC was formed, and in the run up to the 2000 elections it became apparent why a now desperate ZANU had chosen such a moment to placate the veterans movement.

    ZANU-PF turns to the liberation war hereos for votes.

    The lunacy of this is heightened by our country's tragic quality of life. Life expectation in Zimbabwe is hovering at or below 40. Question; if the war was fought 25 years ago how many said vets can be expected to be living today in such a low life expectancy environment? Truth be told while there might be a few old ones left (not everyone in the country has access to a Mugabe like Sino Malasyian medical team), many more "new" heroes are being forged into existence. With that ZANU ensures it can win elections.

    At least ZANU is doing something. The MDC is caught up in another futile stalemate about whether they should field candidates or not. What else is new? Don't even get me started on this one.

    Tsvangirai be warned the ides of November are nigh!

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  • Friday, October 07, 2005

    Change of guard...literally

    Zimonline reports that top Mugabe bodyguard Winston Changara is has been removed from his longtime assignment as Mugabe's shadow amidst unconfirmed allegations of sexual advances on the first lady. Read it here.
    "The controversy surrounding the demotion of President Robert Mugabe’s top bodyguard, Winston Changara, deepened with fresh revelations on Thursday that he was relieved of his duties after Mugabe’s wife Grace allegedly complained that the security man had indecently assaulted her.

    Sources told ZimOnline that Grace told Mugabe about three weeks before she was due to accompany the President on a trip to China last July that she was not going to board the same plane with Changara allegedly because the policeman had made advances on her and had also indecently assaulted her.

    It was not possible to get comment on the matter last night from Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba while the teetotaler Changara declined to talk about the issue referring ZimOnline to his superiors in the police."
    This is particularly interesting to yours truly for a couple of reasons. The first being that I have some personal connections to the Changara family. No, we're not related. They're at best family friends. I went to the same school with some of the children in that family. So you could say on that level, I'm concerned about what this development does to their family welfare.

    But second, and more importantly, this minor episode raises my eyebrows singularly because it confirms the unspoken suspicions that the Great Uncle's hitherto unfettered powers have dwindled considerably, especially at home. The first lady is, apparently, the catalyst behind Changara's sacking. So Robert Mugabe, the incorrigible, subjugated himself to the demands of someone other than himself, a frist in a really long time.

    I'm sure his cronies in the party are green with envy because they wish they had as much sway over their leader.

    Beyond the State House fences and gates, Mugabe has built a reputation for being unwavering and indomitable. He views the world from his own unique perspective, and does not accept any other way of seeing things. He projects said parochial perceptions on the nation, continent and world at every opportunity he gets. And has taken to ensuring the party is his exclusive domain of late.

    For an old man he has seized a lot of power for himself !

    But not within those high walls surrounding his mysterious mansion on Chancellor Avenue. By all appearances, the aged leader has lost control of those nearest and dearest to him at home. First there's George Charamba the presidential spokesman who's been on a crusade to single handedly reform ZBH the national broadcaster, Zimpapers publishers of government mouthpiece newspapers, and The Voice, ZANU-PF's official newsletter.

    Then you can't ignore the fact that if the first lady's allegations are true, Mr. Changara had become so comfortable he thought he was on par with his own boss in the bedroom! Even if untrue, the allegations are evidence that the guard had gained too much status at State House. Where there's smoke there's a fire.

    And then there's the first lady, whose pillow talking persuasions are clearly proving to more substantive than meager pleas for spending money and unwarranted shopping dispatches to Paris. The woman has some power over her man.

    If any of this is true, the picture looks very grim for Mugabe. Speculation has it that ZANU-PF's real powerbase is in the hands of retired army general Solomon Mujuru (a very close confidante) and an elite faction.

    Mugabe could well find himself isolated and powerless. Even worse, he might just become an effigy of their grandiose whims.

    Could the empire's collapse be starting from deep within its most sacred vaults?

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  • Tuesday, October 04, 2005


    This just in from Eddie Cross a top advisor in the MDC

    Living in a Lunatic Asylum.

    Yesterday we broke a milestone of sorts - the Zimbabwe dollar collapsed to 100,000 to 1 against the US dollar. Just three months ago it was about 25,000 to 1. A businessman in Harare told me that in his business, inflation had been 600 per cent in six months. There is no sign of any stopping this slide - if anything it is accelerating.

    We are weeks away from the traditional planting season and there is still no sign of significant land preparation or major movement of fertilizer and other inputs. Last year Mr. Mugabe confidently predicted a 2,4 million tonne harvest of maize - plus high levels of production of other crops including 160,000 tonnes of tobacco. We produced about 600,000 tonnes of maize and 70,000 tonnes of tobacco - half of it very poor quality.

    This past week the Minister responsible for Social Welfare quietly signed a letter urgently appealing to the international community for food to feed up to 5 million people until the next harvest. Over the weekend Mugabe stated, yet again, that Zimbabwe had enough food and did not need help. Astonishingly the donor community agreed to keep the formal request for food aid confidential - in deference to the government's sensitivity to the issue and for fear that if it was made public they might not be "allowed" to give Zimbabweans food!

    On May the 19th the Zimbabwe government launched "Murambatsvina" and in the subsequent three month period, with Khmer Rouge efficiency they destroyed some 300 000 homes and made 2,4 million people homeless and at the same time they destroyed up to 1 million small businesses and made 3 million people destitute.

    Last week the Minister responsible for Local Government and technically, Murambatsvina, wrote to donors asking them to fund the provision of tens of thousands of garden sheds. The purpose - to replace the shacks knocked down - many of which were in fact brick under asbestos or iron dwellings, fitted with electricity and water. The crowning feature of this letter was the suggestion that the government of Zimbabwe would nominate the supplier.

    So get this into your head - they destroy the homes of millions of people, destroy their livelihood and then ask donors to bring their hard earned money into the country where it will be converted at a quarter of its real value and then spent with a Zanu PF gravy train thug to give thousands of people a wooden shack - which would probably be "leased" to them by some corrupt official. The only sanity that accompanied this revelation was the laughter of the officials recounting the story to me.

    The fact that Chombo (the Minister in question) has the temerity to write such a letter in the first place is astonishing - even more amazing is the fact that he expected his request to receive serious attention. Oh did I tell you that he also asked for aid to fund the clean up of the total mess left in our townships by the campaign!

    But I am not at all bemused at these developments for, after all, this past weekend we saw the FAO and the United Nations spending millions of US dollars on a conference in Harare attended by 170 delegates from 50 countries to discuss "food safety". Mr. Mugabe was asked to open the conference - no doubt in recognition of the fact that he now has the world community feeding half his population, one third of his population in exile as economic and political refugees and has overseen the most precipitous decline in life expectancy and life quality in any country in the world in the past 50 years. No doubt the UN thinks that these achievements merit granting the Mugabe regime this recognition. Just like putting Cuba and other totalitarian States in charge of the Human Rights Commission of the UN. If it were not so tragic it would be vastly amusing.

    Then you have the specter of this smashed and abused country - like a mugged man lying in the street and being run over by the passing traffic - actually paying money to the IMF. Money taken from private schools and NGO's, food agencies and exporters. $50 000 here, a million there. Money critically required for food, drugs, fuel - all basic necessisities and the IMF has the audacity to welcome the payments! Shown the source of the funds they express shock and promise to investigate - but they still bank the cheques. I wrote to the Fund and said send the money back - we need the stuff more than you do to keep life and limb together - not even the courtesy of a reply.

    When will this nightmare end? I said to a friend that we live in a lunatic asylum where the lunatics are in charge and the sane are the inmates. Sometimes I think the UN is a bit like that as well. You can leave the UN - you can walk in the front door and out the back and ignore its lunatic activities but you cannot do that with your country. In fact right now, they are contemplating removing even our freedom to flee. We are locked in and must work things out for ourselves. It does not help however when the rest of the world accepts the lunatics who run our country as sane and sensible people. One day they will appreciate that by doing so they demean themselves and give credence to what would otherwise be a clear case of collective insanity.

    Thank goodness for market forces and the fact that no matter what the management of this asylum does - they cannot fool the trade. No matter what Mugabe and his cohorts do, the evidence of their failures are there in the relentless slide in the value of the currency. Like white water rafting, the rules in this game are simple, keep your life jacket tied tight and trust its buoyancy to get you to the surface. Face downstream and put your feet forward first to take any rocks or other obstacles. Enjoy the ride and get back into the raft as soon as conditions permit. Work together and help each other when conditions are really rough. The beauty of white water rafting is that you do not need to know how to swim - just how to float, the water eventually gets you where you want to go. For us - that is just around the bend.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo, 4th October 2005.

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  • Murambatsvina 2; cleanup or pre-election intimidation?

    By now you know the Zimbabwean government have continued their ill advised campaign against the informal market over the weekend when they arrested 15,000 people. Read about it here.

    I don't know about you, but it strikes me as odd that they'd effect this new terror on the people around the same time they announced dates for the senate elections. Was this latest raid an authentic follow up to the botched cleanup of a couple months ago. Has Harare's government not realized that they will never win the battle against the informal market with bad they've kept the formal economy?

    A quick word about the so-called "black/informal market." Ask any economist, they'll tell you the blackmarket provides for the exchange of goods and services which are not tradeable on the formal market. Things like cocaine, prostitution, fake name brand clothing etc. In real terms the "black market" is an extension of the formal market to cover goods that the powers that be won't allow on the market place.

    Question, how black is the black market if it has become the prime source for the exchange of essentials for peopl as is the case in Zimbabwe? Answer; its not very black anymore.

    This is one very saintly blackmarket.

    Back to the issue at hand. Could this have been instead a reminder to urban dwellers of just vulnerable they are? Is ZANU-PF, have learned this lesson from the the last elections, playing its' violent hand early. Imagine this, if you're a poor albeit hardworking urban dweller in Zimbabwe. Having just survived the cleanup and going through. Wouldn't it be front and center on your mind that if the senate elections go awry for ZANU-PF, you would be staring a very cruel retribution? I don't know, maybe that's just me.

    These are the times we live in.

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  • Monday, October 03, 2005

    Here we go...again

    Mugabe & Co. this weekend announced that they will hold Senate elections at the end of next month.

    So here we are again at the same place we were right before the March polls; only a few months, a drastic cleanup operation, and untold suffering removed from the last elections.

    Sadly, only one of Zimbabwe's political parties has evolved any since March. Yessir, it is clear beyond a doubt that ZANU-PF's dominance of Zimbabwean politics is not over quite yet. You see they gleaned something from their election experience. They know it's more important to be ZANU-PF in the polls than anything else.

    It is no secret that ZANU-PF has suffered a threatening split from within around the last polls. One only has to look at the debris left in the aftermath of the parliamentary polls to realise this. A former minister dead and several high ranking party officials arrested (including Mugabe's nephew) arrested. Many people including ministers and former henchmen sacked from either the government or party or both. This debacle has indeed afforded the Zimbabwean people, and certainly anyone who cares to look, a rare glance at the infant bickering that bedevils the party behind the tough front they put up.

    But they learnt a lesson. ZANU-PF strategists decided that while they remain a "democratic" and even more importantly a "patriotic" party, they don't have to embrace all of democracy's mechanisms. This time around ZANU-PF will not hold primaries. The official reason given, "As we are only dealing with 50 people, there is no need to involve the whole country in primary elections. We would rather seek consensus."

    The 66 seat senate will have 50 elected members. Of the remaining 16, 10 will come from the traditional chiefs electoral college, and six "special" interest appointments will be made the president himself.

    So in reality, the pragmatic ZANU-PF realized that they need to become essentially a party of one man's wishes because they are too many other competing interests. Mugabe is single handedly nominating all 66 candidates to the senate. Those nominations may all well be appointmentments, if the MDC befuddled in the same indecision they had prior to the parliamentaries ever decides not to contest the elections.

    The MDC on the other hand, is the same stunted growth party they were a few months back. After failing to out maneuver ZANU at the polls and in parliament, they've self relagated to playing ZANU-PF's second fiddle. If and when ZANU says there are going to be elections, they show and take their drenching. When ZANU-PF shows up in parliament, that's the only time the MDC exerts its futile influence on governance in Zimbabwe. And when ZANU-PF "cleans out" trash, the MDC is there to comment, but only after ZANU-PF has taken the first shot.

    MDC cannot make any moves of their own. They have no fresh outlook on the country's problems for themselves or their longsuffering supporters. This is a party that's stuck in limbo because they cannot self transform beyond the scope of their initial propensities. They have become the barren half of Zimbabwe's political union.

    Beware! The ides of November are nigh.

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