Zimbabwe Review

Reflections on Zimbabwe

Archive for June, 2007

Zuma motorcade and worrying signs of Zimbabwe trends

Posted by CM on June 29, 2007

This April 2007 report will sound familiar to any Zimbabwean motorist who has been scared off the road by presidential motorcade escorts. But it is not a report from Zimbabwe, nor of a presidential motorcade!

The speeding “blue-light” vehicle convoy, that angered many Kwazulu-Natal motorists using the N3 highway in April has been identified as that of former deputy president Jacob Zuma, The Witness newspaper reported.

According to the newspaper, its switchboard was flooded with calls from motorists who said they were pushed off the N3 on Sunday by a blue-light convoy. It reported that a Pietermaritzburg man, Faizel Mooideen, had a rifle pointed at him and his family by security officers who tried to push them out off a lane on the highway.

A woman, too scared to identify herself, said the convoy consisted of two black BMW X5s and a blue Range Rover and was apparently the same convoy that threatened Mooideen and his family. According to the woman, a group of guards from the convoy, while on a stopover at the Engen One Stop on the N3, aggressively pushed patrons out of their way while doing a security check of the area.

She then confirmed that Zuma, with security guards accompanying him, got out of one of the vehicles and made his way to the toilets. “Others witnessing the scene made comments like ‘Who does he think he is?’,” the woman was quoted as saying.

And the man does not even have an official position! The behaviour is not so much about security, but about arrogantly asserting power and intimidating citizens to show impunity to do so. We are very familiar with this in Zimbabwe.

If this is the way Zuma’s convoy behaves now, how would they treat the public should he ever become president of that country? I wish South Africa well, but I worry for it.

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Tony Hawkins on Zimbabwe’s “collapse”

Posted by CM on June 29, 2007

I am often disheartened by the perhaps understandably strongly ideology-tinged analysis that one increasingly is confronted with about Zimbabwean issues. There are many times I have longed for a little more dispassionate analysis of the issues from various experts and opinion makers. But as things deteriorate and the pressures mount, I often get the impression that there is now far more posturing than analysis that is taking place.

A refreshing exception is the recent interview between SW Radio Africa’s Violet Gonda and University of Zimbabwe economist Tony Hawkins. Though a long-time critic of the Mugabe government’s economic policies, here he answers the questions posed to him in a straightforward, clear way that leaves you more informed even if you don’t agree with everything he is saying.

Economist Tony Hawkins gives journalist Violet Gonda his assessment on the economic situation in Zimbabwe. US ambassador Christopher Dell predicts inflation will have reached 1.5 million percent by year-end and that it may result in an early exit for Robert Mugabe. Did the diplomat’s remarks spark the crisis last week? And while the political parties are talking about talks, observers say there is a real risk that the talks will be eclipsed by the economic collapse.

Violet Gonda: Last week the world’s press described the Zimbabwe dollar as collapsed, crashed, and plummeted. Is this true? What does this mean in practice?Tony Hawkins: Essentially it means that trade in the so called parallel market which is allegedly legal, I say allegedly because the Reserve Bank is the main dealer in this market and therefore it can hardly be illegal. But in that parallel market the exchange rate did dive last week, very sharply from about Z$200 000 to the United States dollars to various numbers as high as Z$ 400/450 000. However since that event we are told that the rate has stabilized somewhat and in fact even strengthened. So it appears there was a bit of over reaction or over shooting as we call it in the business.

Violet: But what caused that in the first place. What really is causing the crash?

Tony Hawkins: Well essentially it’s being caused by there being more sellers than buyers (of Zimdollars) . Nobody really wants to hold Zimbabwe dollars because Zimbabwe dollars are increasingly worthless as a result of the very high rates of inflation. We have inflation of – at the last count which was in May, of 4500% a year – and going up very sharply. Clearly nobody wants to hold the currency like that which is losing its value by the day by the hour and in that situation there has been a scramble for anything else.

Violet: What happens when retailers refuse to accept local currency, as is happening right now, you know even though there is a black market exchange rate of $420 000 to the pound?Tony Hawkins: Well I think that the story there is that if you are a retailer and you sell a product – let’s say you sell a box of cereal, bran flakes or something – for ZW$200 000, and you do not know when you sell it what it is going to cost you to buy a replacement box of cornflakes. It might be $400 000, it might be $500 000 and so on. So retailers are in this very difficult position of being concerned that they are going to sell what product they’ve got and end up with increasingly worthless dollars that they then have to use to try and buy a replacement 2,3,4 times the price at which they sold their product for.

Violet: How long the country can continue to run on these levels, especially when you hear that inflation is between 4500% and 9000%, and probably more?Tony Hawkins: There are countries that have gone on for a long time with hyperinflation on these sorts of levels and I think it is impossible for anybody to stand up and say it’s going to be three weeks or three months or three years or whatever figure you’d like to say. I think that the people who are making these kinds of statements – and we have had the outgoing United States Ambassador, we have had various Aid Agencies and NGOs talking about six months and so on. Why six months and not two months? Who knows?

But you have to ask the question. How do you define collapse? When does the economy collapse? What examples do we have of a collapsed economy? Did the DRC economy ever collapse? Did the economy of Somalia ever collapse and so on? The answer is that African economies tend to grind on at very low levels of activity – subsistence levels of activity for long periods of time. It’s only when you get civil unrest or some kind of move of that kind or the government itself decides to change, either because the president or the cabinet or whatever loses the support of their followers or because there is some kind of radical shift in policy. It’s only when those things happen that you get a change in the situation otherwise it can drag on.

While there is nothing new or earth-shaking in Hawkins’ answers, even their common-sense reasonableness has unfortunately become an endangered commodity in Zimbabwe’s heated atmosphere.

Predictions of “collapse”, what wild number to peg onto inflation or how many (or how few!) months Mugabe can hang on are simply a waste of time that either needlessly stress an already embattled population or raise cruelly unrealistic expectations. As Hawkins rightly asks, “who knows?”

We should save ourselves the extra stress of speculative games which do nothing for us and use the energy for more productive things.

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The media feeding frenzy on Zimbabwe

Posted by CM on June 29, 2007

Zimbabwe has so lost control over its international image that it is assumed nothing works in the country. What this means is that it is almost impossible now to put anything that takes place there into calm perspective. The very strong pro and con emotions that the symbolism of the name “Zimbabwe” arouse all over the world means that it is now often used to score ideological points, regardless of the truth or otherwise of the data being used as ammunition.

It has become very difficult now to read reports of Zimbabwe and separate fact from fiction, fact from opinion, analysis/opinion from out and out propaganda. Unfortunately, just as the actions of the symbolic “Mugabe” have taken on a self-fulfilling prophesy for the British media, so too have the shrillness of that media taken on a self-fulfilling prophecy for the Zimbabwean government. The war of attrition between the two foes becomes ever more bitter, making both look ridiculous as they goad each other to further extremes.

An example are the excerpts of the interview below, on the British website Cross Rhythms , entitled “A tragic murder in Zimbabwe.”
On Thursday 21st June, City Drive presenter Jonathan Bellamy interviewed Zimbabwean Robert MacDonald in response to the tragic news that on Sunday 10th June two members of his family had been murdered by soldiers when the minibus they were traveling in was stopped at a roadblock.

Jonathan : Robert, I just want to ask you a little bit about your background, cause at the moment apparently more people die in Zimbabwe than in Iraq, which sounds like a staggering statistic cause we get so much focus of what is happening in Iraq. Can you try to give us an overview of what life is like in Zimbabwe at the moment?

Robert : Well more people die in Zimbabwe than Iraq and the Dhafur regions put together. Life is a living hell in that country.

Jonathan : And this is all with Robert Mugabe’s administration. How do you view the administration then Mr MacDonald, living under it?

Robert : People are crying, we are free at last, we are free at last; but they didn’t know the hidden agenda of Robert Mugabe, and as the years went on he’s tightened his grip on the political situation in Zimbabwe by eliminating vast amounts of his opposition…

Now, we know things have deteriorated significantly in Zimbabwe over the years and are far from where we would like them to be. No one can deny Mugabe’s preparedness to ruthlessly trample over any opposition when he perceives it to be a real threat.

And that the death rate is high we all know. We have become accustomed to the sad frequency of death and funerals, whether or not the numbers are comparable to those in war-torn Iraq. But the high death rate is due to AIDS, and this “interview” so far very cleverly puts the blame directly at Mugabe’s door. Mugabe has many sins to answer for, and even with AIDS/stress/ hunger deaths, I suppose one could still stretch and attribute some of the blame to him, on the basis that if the country were not in crisis there would be more resources to treat people for longer, but that is reaching.

When an interview starts off on this sort of dishonest note, one can’t help wondering about the rest to follow.

Jonathan : Mr. MacDonald, I know that you yourself have gone through torture and beating. Would you be able to describe that and just explain the background to it as well?

Robert : Well I had a very profitable mixed farming ranch business in Zimbabwe and 40% of my profits were shared between the workers on the farm. It was highly profitable. One evening I was raided by the so-called war veterans and the CIO. I was dragged outside and tied to a tree, and they left me where and went to the village where my workers were and they herded the villagers into a house and set the house alight, and my co-workers perished in that fire. They came back and they started beating me and they started to have a wild party, slaughtering some of the cattle,
feasting, beating me every now and then. After three days with a broken arm and a broken leg and a broken nose, I was taken down to the river and thrown in and left there for the crocodiles to eat. I came too (
sic) and managed to crawl to a village three miles away to ask for help.

A truly horrific experience. We know many unspeakable things have indeed been perpetrated on citizens over the years. For a whole “village” to have perished in a fire like this, there will surely be plenty of at least anecdotal evidence of this atrocity when the time comes. As for McDonad’s claimed heroic escape, one must give him the benefit of the doubt…

Jonathan : For yourself Robert, you’re a Christian I believe aren’t you?

Robert : I am.

Jonathan : How, as a Christian, do you look back on what you’ve suffered at the hands of the hit squad, how do you focus and reconcile the experiences you’ve been through?

Robert : Well, it’s difficult you know. But when I think of what my Lord went through for me on Calvary, that He went all the way and died for me while I was a rotten sinner, I got nothing to hate. I don’t hate that man, I hate what he’s doing.

Hit squad? Many Zimbabweans have indeed been targeted for abuse by State agents, but I am confused by not being given the context in which MacDonald would be targeted by “the hit squad.” Without this information, it sounds fanciful for him to claim to have been the target of such a squad. The interviewer does not help clear up the confusion and my suspicions by leaving a lot of background information out, and by sounding like he knows more about his interviewee than he is telling his readers. My suspicious mind can’t help asking: informational interview on tragic events, or merely point-scoring anti-Mugabe propaganda?

Jonathan : I understand in the last couple of weeks since we put the article up on the
site, you’ve had some more sad and terrifying developments in your own family?
Can you explain what they are?

Robert : They were traveling in a mini-bus and they were stopped at a roadblock and everybody in the mini-bus was shot dead.

Jonathan : This is your sister-in-law and nephew?

Robert : That’s right. You see, the soldiers haven’t been paid for two years, and they pillage, they rape; they murder, they raid the farms wherever they can get a bit of food. They kill and take for themselves. You know there’s no law and order left in the country anymore.

Phew! I am sorry about his relatives’ deaths, but we have not yet reached a stage where bus-loads of travelers are shot-dead at roadblocks, even in lawless Zimbabwe! Does anyone know of a recent (June 2007) mass minibus death in Zimbabwe, even one attributed to something other than mass murder by the police or army, like perhaps a claimed accident? In today’s environment, would it be possible for news of such a massacre, on a public highway, to not get out into the world? Why is such a horrific claimed massacre dealt with so passingly in the interview? Why were the many other questions any other interviewer would want to know about such a thing not asked here?

Jonathan : How did you manage to escape from Zimbabwe? And what about the rest of your family?

Robert : It took me a month to cross the border. I swam across the Limpopo into South Africa where I was hospitalised for six months. My wife and my daughter were placed under house arrest in a town called Bulawayo, and she had been beaten several times and arrested. And then just before Christmas I managed to raise a bit of funds and she
escaped through the bushfelt (
sic) , through the jungle, and people helped her to swim across the crocodile infested Limpopo river.

Jonathan : Wow. Robert now that you are here in the UK and you can honestly speak out much more freely. What is your focus? Obviously you are doing this interview with us, you’re raising awareness. What would you want to encourage listeners in a response to what you’re sharing?

It is well documented that there are many Zimbabweans who have indeed sought opportunities in South Africa through the route mentioned above, but my suspicions about other parts of this interview make me sceptical about the veracity of MacDonald’s version of how he got out of the country. I don’t wish to be unkind, but the picture of him posted with the story is an additional reason for my doubts that he would be in a position to swim the crocodile-infested Limpopo! And why would he need to, or his wife for that matter?

He mentions being chased off his farm, but does not then give us the explanation for why he and his family would be additionally persecuted afterwards the way he claims they were. There have been reports of this sort of thing happening to senior MDC activists like Roy Bennett and his wife, who also gave the regime a torrid time by strongly resisting efforts to kick off their farm, raising the ire of the regime on two separate levels. Yet here we have no indication of what would cause the regime to take MacDonald and his wife as such serious threats that even after he “escaped,” his wife and daughter had to be placed under “house arrest.”

This “interview” has a lot of suspicious holes in it and stinks to me. Mugabe has made it very easy for his regime to be the bad guys by their destruction of Zimbabwe and their intemperate language on the world stage. There are countless ways in which his cruelties and failures can be criticised with years of document-able evidence. It should therefore not be necessary to use this kind of shoddy, unprofessional propaganda to make the point that things in Zimbabwe are far from how they should be.

There are some who are so blinded in their hatred of Mugabe for many reasons that they would say whether the points used to criticise/demonise him are true or not is immaterial. But then the kind of Zimbabwe media feeding frenzy that we see from sections of the British media, this being an example, does nothing for “raising awareness” of the Zimbabwe situation. If anything, it makes that media look even more shrill and emotional in their hatred of Mugabe, making people like myself question their credibility as much as I doubt Mugabe’s.

It must be possible to separate the abhorrence of a country’s rulers from character assassination of the country itself with lies and propaganda.

Chido Makunike

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Mugabe and the Anglos

Posted by CM on June 29, 2007

Featured in The Observer, Gambia :

Mugabe, The Anglos & Zimbabwe

by Dida Halake

This piece is a response to the vitriol that appeared in UK’s The Spectator magazine on May 19, 2007 titled “Shame on Mugabe’s Stooges.”

It was written by a former South African Boer called Rian Malan (the Boers established the Apartheid State). Much of the piece is given to nonsensical ranting against Mugabe and us Africans in general (because Zimbabwe has received the Chairmanship of the Commission on Sustainable Development at the UN thanks to the vote of the African Bloc).

I am not sure why the vitriol from this Boer got such prominence in UK, other than that Mugabe is Britain’s favourite bogeyman at the moment. Anyhow, The Spectator has given the piece prominence and it calls for a response from us Africans … Malan even dismisses the vital race issue in Southern Africa by saying “One understands the wounds of history but …”! No “buts” dear boy! Your like raped and plundered Africa, and even your pretentious clipped tones, “dear boy”, are still fed by the loot from that rape and plunder – as is your whole life-style in England and South Africa. But let us return to our hero, and your nemesis, Robert Mugabe.

Who is Robert Mugabe? When Malcolm X was accused of “reverse racism” by the United States’ middle-class anglo-protestants, his answer was simple : “Just like the Ford motor car, I am made in America.”

To know Mugabe and understand him we have to ask: “Who is Mugabe? What made him?” The answer that is accepted world-wide, except of course by the British & other Anglophiles who believe they have sole God-given possession of Truth, is that:-

• Mugabe is a product of the criminal 19th Century Cecil Rhodes conspiracy against the Ndebele and Shona people. Rhodes criminality was exposed and condemned, although the British Government subsequently honoured him with a knighthood;
• Mugabe is a product of the 20th century British colonial policy that disposed Africans of their land and made them slaves (or “squatters”) in their own countries, be it in Zimbabwe, South Africa or Kenya;
• Mugabe is a product of the illegal “white-state” of Rhodesia established in 1965 by the racist outlaw Ian Smith; an illegal state condemned by much of the world, although ironically but not surprisingly accepted and support by Britain, USA and Malan’s racist White South Africa. The history books tell us that “the British Foreign Secretary arrived with proposals so favourable to white Rhodesians that Ian Smith accepted them … one constitutional expert estimated the agreement meant that the earliest year by which majority rule was likely to be achieved was 2035.” (Meredith p. 320)
• Mugabe is a product of the 21st Century Anglo-American policy which says : “If you are not in agreement with whatever we do, then you are against us and we will destroy you – pure and simple.”

That, my dear Rian Malan, is Robert Mugabe : A “Marxist” terrorist demonised by the English and the Americans (The White-Anglo Tribe) but loved and admired as a “Freedom Fighter” by us black Africans and the rest of the Third World.

The controversy over Robert Mugabe In 1979 at the London Conference on Zimbabwe, which I watched nightly on TV news bulletins (I was then a student in Scotland) it was accepted that Mugabe’s ZANU guerrillas had put an end to Ian Smith’s statement “Not in a thousand years to black majority rule” in spectacularly heroic fashion. Mugabe strode to the Conference Hall like a victor, “a cold, austere figure bent on achieving revolution … threatened that Ian Smith and his ‘criminal gang’ would be tried and shot” (Merdith p.325).

We the young Africans in UK loved Mugabe just with the same fervour that the British
& Southern African whites like Blair and Malan despised him. The Rhodesians, the British and the Americans had tried to impose a black Anglican “moderate” called Bishop Muzorewa on the Zimbabwean people but relented when it became clear that there was only one person Zimbabwe wanted and that was Robert Mugabe.

The British and the Americans detested Mugabe from the outset because he was adamant that white rule and privilege must end at once. The British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the US President Ronald Reagan had called both Mandela and Mugabe “terrorists”. In the words of former Martin Luther King aide Andrew Young, the US representative at the talks, “The terrorists have more degrees on their side of the table than we have on our side.”

Mugabe’s people had a new attitude and it showed at the Conference. They were sure of their ground, cocky and unyielding. Nevertheless, Mugabe was forced to accept certain conditions – the most important of which was the entrenchment for some years of white interests in Zimbabwe (and agreeing to allow the “criminal” Ian Smith to walk away scot-free – and continue to live in the new Zimbabwe).

Mugabe more or less promised the British and the Americans that the whites would be left in possession of the lands that they had grabbed from the Africans by force – for a time.

That, to my mind, was a mistake and a recipe for future conflict. Mugabe should have started redistributing land to Africans straight away, but in an orderly manner, as happened in Kenya under Kenyatta. When years later Mugabe started to take land from whites to give to Africans, the British and the Americans reacted bitterly, feeling betrayed, and tried to come to their white cousins’ aid through vilification and demonisation of Mugabe and his regime. Until then, the British and the Americans had no argument with Mugabe.

The “Trouble with Mugabe” was therefore only because :
• He threatened land dispossession of Britain’s kith and kin (members f Blair’s Cabinet had family links to Rhodesia and South Africa);
• He threatened British & American business interests in Zimbabwe, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Lonhro Congloromete foremost;
• He indirectly threatened Britain’s white cousins and huge business interests in South Africa – where inspite of Mandela’s presidency whites still possessed all the best land which they had acquired through well-documented violence against Africans. Mugabe’s dispossession of whites in Zimbabwe was welcomed by Black Africans in South Africa, who looked to their own government for a similar solution to the land issue.

The British, and their American Anglo-cousins, set out on a huge propaganda offensive to isolate Mugabe and his Zimbabwe, helped in part by Mugabe’s megaphone denunciation of homosexuality – at a time when key members of Blair’s government were homosexuals and were passing a law to allow homosexual marriage in Britain (it is law now). They even allowed one of their former parliamentary candidates, a well-known homosexual activist”, to accost Mugabe on a visit to the UK by attempting a citizens’ arrest!” It does appear that the sexual proclivities of a few influential people in the Blair government influenced British national policy towards Mugabe and Zimbabwe.

**************

All very well as the sort of now standard fare in defense of Mugabe, especially by those who do not have to live under his rule!

The point is : at what point does one get over admiring somebody because he eloquently articulates past grievances, to demanding actual positive achievement from him? How long will “the British done us wrong” be enough justification to support someone whose main “skill” is to simply stoke the feelings of wounded-ness? When do we go from there to then judging that person by the quality and effectiveness of the person’s proposed remedies to problems, historical or current?

While many Africans seem willing to settle for wallowing in whatever satisfaction comes from feelings of victim-hood, the rest of the world is zooming ahead!

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The decline of Zimbabwe’s manufacturing

Posted by CM on June 29, 2007

It is understandable that the reports of the events in Zimbabwe that get the most exposure are those of the political and day to day economic struggles of ordinary people : abuse by police, the effects of the shocking inflation and so forth. As horrific as all these are, after change and normalization, time will heal these wounds, as difficult as it is for the people suffering the deprivations.

But some of the effects of the present mess that will be long-lasting and more difficult for the country to recover from are some of those that by their nature do not get as much attention. An example is the report about the decline of manufacturing featured in the Financial Gazette of June 28, 2007 :

Local manufacturers face extinction

Manufacturers of controlled commodities could easily be wiped off the ace of the domestic market unless something is done to correct price distortions that favour imported products.

Local products are fast losing ground to foreign ones, which can land locally at much more competitive prices. The trend has posed an imminent threat of more job losses, company closures and de-industrialisation of significant proportions unless swift action is taken to rid the market of price imperfections.

Except for bread, mealie-meal and sugar, — whose landed cost is higher than the retail price — consumers can enjoy huge savings by importing from any neighbouring country rather than buying locally. This trend cuts across all locally manufactured products surveyed, such as bath soap, cooking oil, washing soap and chicken among other things.
Their quality has deteriorated as well, due to sub-economic prices that are forcing manufacturers to cut corners in order to minimise losses.

Unfortunately, there is nothing new about this trend. It has been getting worse for several years now, and companies who have found a way to hang on in Zimbabwe over the time must be commended for their heroism.

The kind of de-industrialization that is subsequently taking place is very difficult to replace. Manufacturing capacity that Zimbabwe built up over decades is being frittered away in a few years. It was one thing to experience these problems hands on as a budding entrepreneur who saw his business initially grow in leaps and bounds and then simply fail to cope with all the economic distortions. It is quite another to have travelled a good part of Africa over the last couple of years to realise how rare on the continent that manufacturing capacity is, and how even now, Zimbabwe has enviable capacity.

But once it is gone, as it is going now, re-building it will be a long, tough slog. I have been surprised to visit capital cities where you almost cannot find anything at all, no matter how simple, that is built locally. Where the highest level of business to aspire to is to be an importer, because the idea of making anything simply never took hold in the economy or the national conciousness. Where whatever few exports there are of primary, raw materials because the country does not have the capacity to value-add. Being in such countries, of which there are unfortunately many in Africa, brings it home to you how difficult it is for these countries to move to the next rung of “development” with all these limitations.

And yet here is Zimbabwe, throwing all these advantages away, seemingly without a thought for tomorrow. Foreign brands get entrenched in the economy and sooner or later people forget that we ever had local equivalents. Even when things “normalise,” it will be very difficult for resuscitated local manufacturers to compete against the foreign brands, with vast socio-economic consequences for employment creation, general competitiveness, pride and so forth.

We will pay for our folly for a long time to come.

Chido Makunike

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Mugabe is wrong messenger delivering the right message

Posted by CM on June 21, 2007

by Kipkoech Komugor

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbawe was in Kenya recently to attend the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Summit which, as expected he (mis)used as a platform to rail at his traditional enemies Britain, America and all things white, hence imperial and undesirable.

All his admirers could do was punctuate President Mugabe’s amazing delivery in flawless English (!) with a hysterical “Right on, comrade!? The hysterics came from not a few colleagues of Mugabe’s, some of whom cannot be caught dead saying or doing the things Mugabe says and does.

It may sound odd, but Mugabe is a hero of sorts in some quarters, especially in very many State Houses in the wretched continent and other Third World nations. And it is not difficult to figure out why. Mugabe speaks for many a frustrated President or Prime Minister who, for being cursed with a yellow gut, cannot stand up to John Bull and Uncle Sam, the two nightmares of every leader of a puny African country that depends on every trickle that comes from the two bullies’ financial tap.

If for a moment one takes their mind off Morgan Tsvangirai’s horribly swollen face and focuses on Comrade Bob’s ranting, they might catch a whiff of sense somewhere in there. There are quite a few legitimate arguments that Mugabe tries to put across every time he chances upon an international forum like the Nairobi one. The standard reaction from his Western detractors, though, is to affect an air of boredom or horror and dismiss him as just another madman on the global marketplace who must never be listened to by people who still have all their cranial bolts and nuts on.

There was nothing new in what Mugabe said in Nairobi. It was not like he dropped a bombshell to the effect that Britain, America and all the other filthy rich nations of the West do not love us with all their hearts and soul. For we have known that for a long time, and not just because Comrade Bob’s age-mate, Uncle Dan (ex-President arap Moi), never wasted an opportunity to remind us that Mwafrika akuna mutu napenda wewe ( no one
loves you poor African) when he was still calling the shots around here.

Since shortly after the “flag independence,” we have known that every cent that our former colonial masters drop in our alms bowl is not an act of Christian charity but an investment that must accrue many times over. The Western powers are concerned about their interests- the interests of their taxpayers back home, the profits of their multinationals, the state of their armouries and their position on the world stage. All the
rest of us are seen as just but mere building blocks in their quest to build a set of stairs that reaches utopia.

It is the way of the world. It may not be fair but who said the world is a fair place? The desperate search for happiness and the ideal will early always involve stepping on another person’s shoulders to reach the goodies up there. It was the philosophy that informed slavery and colonialism. It is the philosophy that informs current wars and economic policies like the free market.

In the recent years, the Western powers have been padding our long-suffering shoulders with such tricks as “development aid” and “grants” which we eventually repay through the nose.

As Mugabe was in Nairobi ranting under the lights, every household in Zimbabwe was suffering a 20- yes twenty – hour power rationing. Zimbabweans get to experience the magic of electricity for only four hours a day. Inflation has just hit a ridiculously new height. At 3,714 per cent rate by the end of April, Zimbabwe is having an inflation rate
that sounds like the figure of a monthly wage of a lowly paid labourer in this country. Prices of some commodities have risen by more than 100 per cent in just a month. In the past year, prices increased 36-fold. It is a basket case if I ever heard of one.

One would have sympathised with the aging president and his long-suffering people if Big Bad Britain and her sidekicks alone were responsible for the big joke that Zimbabwe has turned into. The other real trouble with Zimbabwe apart from Tony Blair and Whitehall is no doubt Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

Deliberately shutting our eyes to the role that Mugabe has played in the current sorry state of Zimbabwe would be to excuse the acts of all the bumbling tyrants who have been helping the West ruin this continent for years. Many of the dictators conspired with the West to rob the continent blind and the global powers-that-be left them alone to do whatever they wished for being such good boys. Mugabe was just part of his group of good boys until he supposedly stumbled on some sense and realised the injustice of a tiny part of the population owning virtually all the land in Zimbabwe.

No matter what Mugabe says in mitigation, it can’t take away the stench of mismanagement and dictatorship that he has visited on his once proud country. It is people like Mugabe who keep “confirming” the colonialist’s assertion that the native can’t rule a 30-family manyatta.

It is people like Mugabe who must never be trusted with the job of arguing Africa’s case. For every time he opens his mouth to speak, Morgan Tsvangirai’s swollen face, the horror of 20 hours of darkness and 3,000 per cent inflation rate get in the way. That Africa is dying for people who can bravely talk for her cannot be gainsaid. But Mugabe and his kind are not what we are looking for.

Both Mugabe and his Western detractors are wrong. Yet they all use the suffering of the people of this continent as an alibi for their crimes. While Mugabe is styling himself a martyr for the African cause, the West is pretending to be superman saving us from the acts of such bad guys as Mugabe. No wonder there is such a great split in opinion on who exactly is evil between the two antagonists.

Our salvation lies neither in Comrade Bob nor John Bull and his sidekick Uncle Sam. It lies in good leaders who know what really is good for this continent and citizens who have the sense to elect such leaders.

Kenya Times

***********************

It is astonishing to that Mugabe still takes every opportunity to spout his rhetoric, seemingly totally oblivious to the reality that no matter how popular and or correct whatever point he is making, it is neutralised by the shameful state of the country he is presiding over.

Simply appearing anywhere as the president of a thriving, successful country, despite whatever odds he claims are standing in its way, would be a far more effective argument for his theories than any “flawless English” speechifying he could ever do. That his regime does not seem to realise this is further proof of just how far they are divorced from reality.

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What happened to the irrigated wheat for which electricity was reserved?

Posted by CM on June 21, 2007

Every year now for several years, around this time of year we have become accustomed to hearing an announcement of how much wheat Zimbabwe will have to import for baking bread, as the situation of the country no longer being able to grow enough of the cereal for its own consumption becomes “normal.”

This year is no exception, as the Herald tells us :

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has provided US$25 million to import 60,00 tonnes of wheat to improve bread supplies. he wheat, which is being imported from Argentina, started arriving in imbabwe early this week and will be distributed through Grain Marketing oard depots countrywide.

The imports would ensure uninterrupted wheat supply for the next three months. GMB had run out of stock, forcing bakers to import flour during the past two weeks.

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I seem to recall that not too many months ago there were official predictions that the wheat harvest looked promising! And wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that long power cuts were explained on the basis of electricity being “prioritised” for irrigation of the wheat crop?

It seems strange that the Herald should “forget” to provide this sort of context in its report on the need to import such large quantities of wheat. The paper may have given up any pretense of real journalism years ago, but now it is even failing in its propaganda function!

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Struggle for Zimbabwe freedom may not end with Mugabe’s exit as vultures circulate

Posted by CM on June 20, 2007

From The Southern African :

A common picture in the drought prone Savannah landscape of southern Africa is of a flock of vultures stalking a wounded or starving animal as it struggles against all odds to stay alive and avoid providing an easy meal for the lazy birds.

You get that feeling when you follow how the international community is preparing itself for the imminent demise of President Robert Mugabe’s hold on power in Zimbabwe. Mugabe is very much the politically and economically wounded animal and the vultures are readying themselves for sumptuous meal, that is, a nation free for investors and humanitarians to “assist” in economic recovery.

In this regard, donor countries have apparently drawn up a list of Zimbabwe’s needs, including a US$3 billion five-year economic rescue package to be released the moment Mugabe leaves office.

This is contained in a report championed by the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) whose package has already been broken down into :

· $150 million in food support in the first two years, $125 million in the first year;

· $500 million for land agrarian reform over five years;

· $325 million for health services and education;

· $550 million for infrastructure;

· $1.7 billion for various emergency aid programmes; and

· $1.3 billion for balance of payment support and budgetary support.

Business Report in South Africa reports that a report by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa), released by deputy executive director Ivor Jenkins, notes that a national economic and land reform programme would be necessary to lift Zimbabwe out of its economic crisis. This programme must be accompanied by the gradual lifting of sanctions and the generous injection of international relief aid and development assistance, says the Idasa report.

Rapid disbursements of development assistance, in the form of balance of payments and budget support, are also necessary.

Meanwhile, the UK department for international development (DFID) recently briefed a meeting of the British foreign and commonwealth office and officials from governments active in donor co-ordination in Harare, including Sweden, the European Commission, Australia, the US, the Netherlands, Canada, Norway, New Zealand and Germany.

In response to a DFID paper entitled Zimbabwe – Economic Recovery, focusing on macroeconomic stabilization in the country, participants said it was clear the country would need “hundreds of millions of US dollars per annum.”

This group of donor countries is reported to be “increasingly focused” on improving its readiness to play an effective and co-ordinated part in Zimbabwe’s recovery process.

The report says the devastated farming community is likely to require donor-funded compensation for evicted farmers, while the distribution of agricultural inputs and produce “must be market driven and involve the private sector.”

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“Donors” and well-meaning helpers, or vultures? Sure Zimbabwe will need lots of help to get back on its feet, but consider the neo-colonial arrogance of a group of European countries meeting, without the natives,  to decide what path reconstruction will take! And all this talk of millions of dollars in assistance is coming at a time when there is a growing debate on whether this model of simply throwing “aid” and debt at Africa is really the best way to get the continent moving forward. Does this sort of “assistance” benefit the recipients or the “donors” more?

If we are getting to the brink of change which will attract international help, I hope that it will be the kind of change in which these sorts of questions are asked before we throw the country willy nilly back into the clutches of a new dependency; hooked on expensive, non-beneficial loans to western countries for decades and generations.

I hope that we will be able to keep our wits about us and separate the widespread desire for Mugabe to go with caution about the motives and the knowledgeability of those who will suddenly come bearing seductive but possibly enslaving gifts. We have a continent-full of evidence of how the typical western prescriptions for how to get ahead have been disastrous for Africa.

I wish I could say I look around at the various forces that are lined up to offer themselves as the post-Mugabe future of Zimbabwe and say I have confidence that they will ask the right questions and do what is best for Zimbabwe, but I don’t. I don’t care for the ruinous Mugabe, but neither do I care for the neo-colonial alternatives that some quarters are too eagerly banding about.

The struggle for Zimbabwe’s freedom may not end with Mugabe’s over-due exit from the stage, but merely take another form.

Chido Makunike

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About the new Zim broadcasting station

Posted by CM on June 20, 2007

May 27 2007 in the Sunday Mail, Harare :

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings made a major breakthrough when it launched a short wave radio and television station which will broadcast to all corners of the world.

General manager of the new station, Voice of Zimbabwe/ TV Channel 104, Happison Muchechetere, said the test would run for three weeks during which time management will be fine tuning programming and receiving feedback from listeners from all over the world. He said while the station would initially begin with radio broadcasts, television broadcasts were expected to begin before the end of the year.


He said the test run had been highly successful and the station had received feedback not only from Zimbabwe but also from as far as Botswana and South Africa. He said the country’s first world station would broadcast on short wave band. Broadcasts are intended to reach target audiences as far afield as Australia, Europe and the United States.

He said Zimbabwe’s first world broadcasting services mandate would not be to spread propaganda, but to give a balanced account of events in the country through unbiased news reports, analysis and discussions.

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It will be interesting to listen to and view the content of this new government effort to win hearts and minds. But I find it painfully sad that the Mugabe government still hopes they can make any appreciable difference in how they are perceived through a station like this.

They have tried all sorts of public relations things over the years, with no success whatsoever. Secondly, the large and growing numbers of disaffected Zimbabweans running away from their country and with little positive to say about their rulers will counter any attempts at public relations and propaganda. Third, the clear, objectively measurable dimunition in the country’s prospects and state is the strongest counter to any positive message the government hopes to derive from this waste of time and resources.

The most effective “propaganda” would be be to simply show to the world that despite diplomatic isolation, being cut off from international credit and all the other factors, real and imagined, that the government claims it is up against, things are working for the benefit of the people. When those same people resoundingly say “hell, no, the country is a mess,” and you must resort to public brutality to contain their restlessness, what possible good can a radio or TV station do you?

I find it painfully, childishly naive for the Mugabe government to really believe that they can erase or hide all the ways in which Zimbabwe is no longer working prpoerly. What self-delusion.

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‘Mugabeism’ on the rise in South Africa too

Posted by CM on June 20, 2007

by Rhoda Kadalie

While the movie, The Last King of Scotland, was being shown around the country, our own cricket-loving survivor of the British empire, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, received a standing ovation and a few Oscars from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Mugabe recently demonstrated his hold over the club by using the full might of his repressive state to persecute his opposition, knowing full well that not one African leader would dare oppose him. He knows the quest for solidarity with brothers in arms overrides the quest for renewal. He knows his fellow liberation leaders will not let him down, even if he instructs his goons to clobber Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), to death. He knows that support for the MDC as an alternative government is anathema to African despots keen to preserve liberation movements as ruling parties.

Mugabe, clearly, more than anyone in the SADC and the Commonwealth, has a profound understanding of the mind of the African political leader, an issue that has baffled psychologists, social anthropologists and literary scholars alike since the demise of colonialism. He knows that African leaders, except a rare few, are unwilling to shake off the bonds of their own oppression and will use their psycho-political “wounded-ness” to extract loyalty from their followers long after liberation.

The inability to resolve the deep loss of dignity and wounded-ness wrought by colonisation, and in our case apartheid, leads to a destructive “acting out” when African political leaders assume positions of power. The seeds of this oppression are so deeply embedded in the victims’ psyche that unless they have the courage to resolve it, it leads to all kinds of antisocial behaviour, especially in the political arena, where clinging to power long after the sell-by date has become a permanent feature of the politics of the continent.

John Kane-Berman’s recent column was a pertinent reminder that Mugabe’s career as a human rights violator started the day he come into office. The pattern of abuse is clear and, lest we forget, the Fifth Brigade’s pogrom against the Matabele happened early in
Mugabe’s reign. So, SA’s fear of Mugabe is a recognition that “Mugabe” is on the rise here too. In condemning Mugabe, President Thabo Mbeki and the African National Congress (ANC) know they would be criticising their own propensity to do the same, especially with a populist contender such as Jacob Zuma waiting in the wings. The failure to deal with Mugabe is our failure to deal with our own internal Zimbabwe.

This dilemma is summed up no better than in a recent interview with the Financial Times, in which Mbeki acknowledged the intertwining histories of SA and Zimbabwe : “So we have this history in common … When things go wrong in Zimbabwe, we feel that. I am not talking of refugees coming here … I am talking of marching in step.”

Deep down, our political leaders know that our instruments of democracy are not sound enough to deal with a negotiated settlement that promised delivery of services as a quid pro quo for ANC rule. Under circumstances where it is easy to create a facade of well being through black economic empowerment, affirmative action and employment equity — with very little trickling down to the masses — the situation is potentially explosive for those who want to remain in power, with the poor and unemployed growing more and more restless by the day.

It is easy to amend the constitution to extend the term of office of the president — as happened in Uganda and other African countries, especially where opposition and mechanisms of accountability were weak. SA’s constitution cannot necessarily deal with a ruling party that has an overwhelming hold on executive power, where struggle credentials override merit and Parliament is secondary to the might of Luthuli House. It is quite possible to have all the instruments of democracy in place while in fact citizens remain excluded from real power and an equitable share of the state’s resources.

African leaders who invoke nationalist rhetoric about identity, race, renaissance, cultural pride, traditions, the renaming of streets, airports and towns as mobilising tools to keep the masses on board, pretend they do this in the interests of their followers and divert them from issues that matter.

In this context, talk of decolonising the mind is counterproductive and reminds one of the late Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera’s potent statement : “I don’t hate being black, I’m just tired of saying it’s beautiful.” The negation of previous influences, good or bad, does not recognise the impact the past has had in forming our psyche. Appeals to the African renaissance and essentialism that extol the virtues of black pride in our nationalist identities are fatal if we are unable to resolve our own internal Zimbabwes.

The presidential rhetoric in favour of Zimbabwe and the condemnation of sanctions is the beginning of a betrayal of our inner SA — a psychosocial condition for which there is a remedy : the promotion of a truly open society.

*Kadalie is a human rights activist based in Cape Town.

Business Day

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