Zimbabwe Review

Reflections on Zimbabwe

Still too early to write off “collapsed” Zimbabwe

Posted by CM on August 30, 2007

The situation in Zimbabwe is not good. It cannot and should not be sugar-coated. But much of what counts as news or analysis of the country’s difficulties are the wishes of collapse, rather than necessarily the inevitability of it. We have been reading about how the country is “on the brink of collapse” for close to eight years now, but it still functions, no matter how poorly.

“Collapse” is one of those ill-defined, calamitous-sounding words that can mean anything its user wants it to, making it even more difficult to understand what is meant by the loose, frequent use of it in regards to Zimbabwe.

Many things need overhaul in Zimbabwe and it is quite clear that while the regime of Mugabe has so far been amazingly tenacious and successful at holding on to power as the country deteriorates, managing the situation effectively has proved beyond them. Hatred of that regime runs deep amongst Zimbabweans at home and abroad, despite whatever pockets of genuine support it still enjoys.

But pointing out Mugabe’s many failures is not necessarily one and same as defining “collapse.” But don’t tell that to the Times of London or The Daily Telegraph: they know what they want to happen in Zimbabwe and their pick of stories and how they present them are to merely try to help the process along. Hence their frequent, almost affectionate, hopeful use of the “collapse” metaphor! Only time will tell if they will get their wish eventually.

Here’s an interesting thought provoker from South Africa’s Business Day of August 29:

Business Still Ticking Over in a Limping Country

by Viwe Tlaleane*

Our northern neighbour Zimbabwe is often caricatured in news columns and bulletins as a country tottering on the brink of collapse, but more than seven years into recession the country limps on.

Most businesses there, the bulk of which are still in foreign hands, have to date survived inflation levels of more than 5000%, the highest in the world. And as if the situation there is not grave enough, the Zimbabwean government last week tabled before parliament a draft law that would give blacks majority control of foreign-owned companies operating in that country. Could this be the final nail in the coffin of this supposedly moribund economy?

Probably not, as most big businesses operating in the country do not seem perturbed by the developments. They have seen and survived worse.

Old Mutual, the largest financial services group in Zimbabwe, said yesterday that it would comply with the law. And as a first step it agreed to dispose of 20% of its stake in Old Mutual Zimbabwe to staff. In complying with the law, it said it would structure an empowerment deal that would create value for shareholders and stability for clients.

Lonrho, another big player in Zimbabwe , is raising £100m to prop up its Zimbabwean operations. It says the problems in the country are temporary and not insurmountable.

Standard Bank last week said while trading in Zimbabwe was challenging, it was determined to keep its operations running.

There is a sizable number of British and American companies operating in Zimbabwe, and none of them appear to be packing their bags. What do they know that we don’t?

*edits The Bottom Line.

The bottom line? Millions of people across the world are saddened and horrified by Zimbabwe’s decline and the great hardships being experienced by its people. None feel this anguish more than Zimbabweans themselves, whether at home or scattered across the four corners of the world.

But in examining and lamenting the situation, let us keep our wits about us and keep a sense of proportion, lest we year after year make predictions that make us look ridiculous!

Chido Makunike


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