Zimbabwe Review

Reflections on Zimbabwe

The folly of Zimbabwe ‘collapse’ predictions

Posted by CM on June 20, 2007

Except for the changing numbers, predictions such as the one below have been made in regards to Zimbabwe regularly since 2000 :

Zimbabwe ‘collapse in six months’

Zimbabwe will collapse within six months, possibly leading to a state of emergency, according to a briefing report for aid workers in the country. Rampant inflation will mean shops and services can no longer function and people would resort to barter, it said.

“The memorandum is talking about a situation where there is no functioning government or a total breakdown,” an unnamed aid worker told the UK Times.

Zimbabwe’s inflation is already 3,714% – the highest rate in the world. Business quotes were now valid for just one day or even one hour, said the report written by consultants and sent to workers at the United Nations and other aid agencies. Some firms were already partly paying their workers in food, rather than money, it said. Shops were doubling their prices twice a month, so they could purchase replacement goods.

If this continues, “doubling the current inflation for each of the seven remaining months of 2007 gives 512,000% thus the economic collapse is expected before the end of 2007,” said the report, according to the AP news agency.

How do you define the “collapse” of a country? For many Zimbabweans the “collapse” took place several years ago. For a few well-positioned Zimbabweans the present chaos presents them with vast opportunities and things have never been better.

If it was a question of voting on the issue, many would probably agree with the nebulous use of the word “collapse” here. And if it was a voting issue, there would long ago have been some kind of change. But it is not a voting issue, therefore predicting “collapse” (down to the month!) on the basis of what the inflation rate is, how soldiers are feeling the economic heat too, etc is largely a waste of time.

Is an inflation rate of 100% ten times “better” than one of 1000%, or does the relativity go out the window when you get to a certain point?

There is a measure of understandable wishful thinking in shallow reports like this, but they have been wrong or unhelpful for so many years that when another one like this one comes up I wonder what its point is.

For the anonymous NGOs mentioned and large parts of the British media a Zimbabwean “collapse,” however defined, may be a prospect to gleefully look forward to. But for Zimbabweans, apart from the concept of collapse being relative to one’s perch in the current situation, what is looked forward to is not NGO /BBC-egged on “collapse,” but ways to prevent it and move their country away from the brink.

Perhaps as an indication of how far removed the quoted sources are from the less pampered people around them, barter has been increasingly a means of trade as the currency has lost its value over the years. There is nothing new here.

Ironically for the wishers of “collapse, ” paying people in food, a “currency” arguably more valuable than Zimbabwean cash now, may actually forestall the much hoped-for collapse!

If “collapse” is inevitable or even desirable to creating a new Zimbabwean dispensation, it will happen in its own time. I make a distinction between wanting to get rid of the ruinous present rulers of my country, and cheering dubious crystal-ball gazers who seem to relish the prospect of absolute chaos.

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