Friday, December 12, 2008


I am about to escape to the ‘Diaspora’ for four weeks. What will Zimbabwe be like when I return?

Today the street rate for the dollar moved from 40 million to 1 USD to 100 million to 1 USD. This follows the release of 100 million dollar notes, 200 million dollar notes and 500 million dollar notes into the banking system and the ‘cash withdrawal’ allowance being moved from 100 million to 500 million a week. This morning I listened to the ZBC news to hear the director of the National Incomes and Pricing Commission threatening businesses who either put up their prices or leave their shops open but the shelves empty, that they will first be prosecuted and then have their trading licences withdrawn.

Government just don’t get it. After years of inflation and the corresponding ability to track it, it should now be obvious to even the dullest of minds that inflation is directly related to un-earned money supply injected into the system.

The Reserve Bank Governor has told the trade unions that by the 12th of January – the day I plan to return to Zimbabwe – workers will be able to withdraw their entire salaries of hundreds of billions of dollars on production of their payslips at the bank. By the 12th of January they might actually need hundreds of trillions of dollars to buy one single $US but that too seems to escape the minds of our ‘learned helpless’ leadership.

While this economic idiocy prevails, other arms of the ZANU FP ‘government’ (we do not have a government right now of any kind but Mugabe and his cronies pretend that we have) have been abducting civil and opposition political activists and the latest stories emanating from the Maranke diamond fields suggest that hundreds of civilians seeking to extract the raw diamonds have been killed in cold blood by helicopter gun-ships strafing the area.

Western leaders are threatening invasion ‘to save the Zimbabwean people from cholera’, their threats actually being music to Mugabe’s ears. If anyone is going to threaten Zimbabwe with invasion it must be seen to be a real threat and everyone knows that it isn’t so why make these threats? More dull political minds it would seem. To stem the chance of invasion happening, Mugabe has told us all, that the Cholera epidemic is ‘completely under control’, and therefore invasion is unwarranted. Talk about the twilight zone – this beats most of all that has gone before.

But if there is justification for invasion it is the ongoing and escalating abduction of civil and political activists and the wholesale slaughter of people scratching an opportunity from diamond fields that have themselves been stolen by the government of Zimbabwe from their rightful owners.

Meanwhile the South African government and ruling ANC have jointly said that they are going to ‘persuade’ Mugabe to retire. Another joke, of course.

Oh, well, Next Year will be Better!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Crimes Against Humanity

Fifteen MDC activists were abducted six weeks ago from their homes in Banket, about 70km north of Harare. They are still missing, despite a Harare high court order for the police to produce them.

Jestina Mukoko, a human rights activist and head of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), was abducted from her home, in Norton, about 40km from Harare, before dawn last Wednesday. On Friday, Beatrice Mtetwa, a human rights lawyer, was unable to find a judge to hear an urgent application to instruct the police to produce Mukoko. Mtetwa was the lawyer who represented the family of activist Tonderai Ndira, who was abducted from his home in the Mabvuku Township southeast of Harare in May. His body was found a week later and a post mortem showed that he had been killed minutes after he was dragged out of his house and shoved into an unmarked vehicle

Today the police report they are not holding Mukoko while we are told that two other ZPP members were abducted at gunpoint yesterday afternoon.

The ZPP has spent the last 10 years documenting atrocities committed by government agencies and individuals, and identifying the perpetrators. The ZPP has been doing the investigative work that the Zimbabwe Republic Police should have been doing. The abductors are surely those who now fear that they will soon be prosecuted for their crimes and are doing whatever they can to eliminate the evidence.

Yet no-one really seems to care about these latest abductions and incarcerations. They equate with the worst crimes against humanity. While Europe and America speaks out about cholera they seem silent on these crimes. Mr Mbeki is particularly silent. Perhaps he too should be prosecuted for aiding and abetting these crimes against humanity? In police parlance he could be prosecuted as an accessory after the fact. Perhaps before the fact too.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

4th December

Events are moving along – so much so that my relatives (some of them!) have suggested it is time to pack our bags and get out. And go where, I ask myself? Mumbai perhaps? Baghdad? New York? Johannesburg?

But jokes aside, I realise today as I passed some (black) schoolgirls skipping – literally – along the road on their way to school, that the reason this is the ‘Twighlight’ Zone is because we live in several different Twighlight worlds here in Harare.

There is the world of Budiriro 2, Chitungwiza, Glen Norah, Dzivarasekwa and all the other ‘high density suburbs’ where life must indeed be hell. Where there is shit (literally) in the streets and corruption a way of life for all. I visited Budiriro a couple of weeks ago and last Sunday I was in Mabvuku where the rubbish is piled high in the streets and the residents draw water from wells that are surely unsanitary, where the talk of the day is ‘who died yesterday – from AIDS, from cholera, from having been beaten by the police or the army or both’.

Then there is the world of Greendale, Highlands, Borrowdale Brook and Mount Pleasant where life is difficult but not hell – not yet anyway. Where the residents took action years ago and installed generators, then boreholes and/or water tanks, where the talk today is about ‘what I paid today for a bowser of water, who won the Test match between the Springboks and England, or which member of the ZANU PF hierarchy was found looting something from somewhere’

There is another world that can be seen and heard – it is the world of Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings and ‘The Herald’, the latter being the ZANU PF daily press, where Mugabe and his cronies are still feted as heroes, where everything will be fixed tomorrow – and would have been fixed yesterday if it wasn’t for the western worlds ‘illegal economic sanctions’. But today for the first time there is a different tune. It is ‘please come and help us’. A plea from the useless Zimbabwe ‘Minister of Health’ (he’s not the Minister of Health, there is no Minister of anything right now) to the world aid community. We need 400 million for this and 500 million for that. Please give it to us.

And the aid community will help, of that there is no doubt. But please, whatever you do to help, don’t give any MONEY to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to re-distribute to the ‘needy ministries’. If you haven’t learned by now what the RBZ will do with it, you’ll never learn.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

2nd December 2008

“Mugabe's government has seized thousands of white-owned farms and redistributed the land to poor blacks”

This is a quotation from one of the world’s most respected news agencies, Reuters, in a document filed on Saturday the 28th November while quoting on a SADC Tribunal decision in support of 75 white farmers who challenged the validity of their land seizures. The italics are mine.

When is the real world going to wake up? The land has NOT been redistributed to poor blacks. The majority of the land has been looted by ZANU PF politicians, senior military, policemen and civil servants and now, having looted what they can including farmhouses, tractors and other agricultural implements, the land is either lying idle or if the farmhouse is still in any way intact, being used as a ‘weekend retreat’ for the new (very idle) rich.

On a journey from Harare to Chirundu late last month the only evidence of crop growing came from one large commercial farm near Karoi. Nearer Harare there are a few huts scattered about and a few attempts at land preparation done obviously by hand or at best, by ox drawn plough that will feed the crop grower for six months but nobody else.

Where once there were commercial farmers growing maize, tobacco, cotton, groundnuts, cattle and pigs, now there is NOTHING.

And yet, ZANU PF, as quoted by Didymus Mutasa, wants more land! It’s not the land they want, believe me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

26th November 2008

It is reported today that Mr Gideon Gono has been re-appointed for a further 5 year term as Governor of the Reserve Bank. This man is responsible more than any other for the complete destruction of the Zimbabwe dollar and the imminent complete destruction of the Zimbabwe Banking Industry – so why reward him with a further term? Most probably because he knows more about who in the ZANU PF hierarchy has been looting what remains of the economy and if he were to spill the beans there will be a lot of muck spread around. Be wary, Mr Gono, for there is only one way to keep your mouth shut for ever and there must be many guilty looters who would like to see it that way.

On another tack on the same kind of issue – money that is – I see today that Old Mutual has declared a dividend of 453 trillion Zimbabwe dollars per share but has been hampered in distributing the dividend because the ‘Zimbabwe Banking system cannot process the zero’s’. Others have been able to transact numbers in the quintillions so why not Old Mutual I wonder? As a matter of personal interest I own 400 Old Mutual shares. This makes my share of the proceeds 181.2 quadrillion Zimbabwe dollars. But there’s no reason to get excited. On the assumption that Old Mutual transacts my share into my account as they usually do, I can’t get my hands of any of it, so it is not money but only useless, worthless numbers. Like all the other money that I have in my bank account right now, all I can do is watch as it wastes away to nothing.

But a story more to the point is the ‘ongoing negotiations for an inclusive government’ that are said to be taking place in South Africa today – or was it yesterday? Who cares, really? Tsvangirayi and his MDC are being ‘persuaded’ by the Elders Group to join the Mugabe Government – well, so the media tells us. But while this is supposedly going on, Mugabe’s police force has ‘arrested’ some 12 MDC members some 14-16 days ago who have not been seen since their arrest and a High Court order to enforce the police to produce them before the courts has simply been ignored. Who in their right minds negotiates with anyone who performs such acts of indecent brutality against ordinary people? One can only assume that those arrested have been tortured to volunteer admissions that they are clandestinely ‘training terrorists’ in Botswana, as Mugabe would have the world believe. But the worst of this incident is that no-one seems to care – not the South African President or his government, not even the Elders Group who profess to be ‘concerned about the welfare of ordinary Zimbabweans’.

Monday, November 24, 2008

25th November 2008 – The River

I have been away fishing on the Zambesi River. We camped at Mhongwe some 30 kilometres south of Chirundu. The real delight of The River is not the fishing, although that too can at times be exciting, for there is nothing like landing a 7 pound Tiger Fish. No, the real delight is the complete isolation from the surreal world in Harare. No television or radio, no newspaper, no internet, no e-mail, no telephones of any kind. Only the serenity of the swiftly flowing water, wild Africa, good friends, good food, cold beer, lots of laughter, incredible sunsets and of course some good fishing thrown in for good measure.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday the 14th November 2008

This afternoon I visited Tendai (not his real name), an employee who suffered a stroke in March this year and has not been back to work since. I was accompanied by two of our staff. We drove some 40 kilometres to his home in Zengeza 2 and on arrival we were ushered into his home and treated like family. After washing our hands in the traditional manner, Mrs Tendai produced a coca-cola for each of us and some biscuits. Although this would not be seen as over generous in an English home, the generosity was not lost on me, as they have very little themselves in these dark days of cash shortages and shortages of all the basic needs.

Tendai was well recovered. He is 60 years old. His left leg which at one time was no more than an appendage, is now functioning and he can walk unaided for short distances. Unfortunately his left arm is still paralysed and he said that his eyesight was poor. While he can read large print, he cannot read the average book. He was offered an operation but the cost ran into hundreds of $US, which clearly is beyond his means and his company Medical Aid no longer covers operations of this magnitude.

The main purpose of our visit was to find out what Tendai wanted to do with his future. He has decided that he would like to take early retirement and we will now take the necessary steps to enable this to happen.

While we there Mrs Tendai showed us a booklet of photographs published by an Aid Agency where her son now works as a photographer. The photographs were all of people who had been beaten by government soldiers and policemen in the electioneering campaigns since March this year. The photographs were alarming. Almost all the photographs, of which there were probably 50 or more, showed the flayed buttocks of black men and women. Some of the beatings left some of the victims with little or no flesh at all, let alone skin.

As we drove back to the office, I could not reconcile in my mind why the Shona people should show extreme generosity and hospitality to me as a member of another race group while at the same time, their own brothers and sisters are carrying out acts of extreme brutality on their own people.

It took me back to my days as a white policeman when I policed the rural areas of what was Rhodesia. At every kraal, at every home, I was always welcomed, treated with generosity and kindness and frequently sent on my way with gifts of fruit and vegetables.

Yet around me a war was being waged by ZANLA guerrillas with the targets, in the main, being their own.

Africa is indeed an enigma that challenges the world and even those of us who have lived our entire lives here are frequently lost for understanding.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

12th November 2008

Mugabe’s political genius has never been in doubt! Mugabe has won yet another political victory, securing the support of the SADC in forming a government, despite his losses at the ballot box in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirayi is once again out in the cold.

Why is it that Africa continues to support a dictatorship that has brought nothing but misery and destruction to his people and his country and clearly will continue to do so?

How’s this for a scenario; SADC is largely controlled by Namibia, South Africa and Angola, the countries with power and a lot of money. Angola supplies 16% of the USA’s total oil imports. The DRC is once again in turmoil and Kabila, the long standing friend of Zimbabwe and Angola is in need of help to suppress the renewed uprising. Who was at the summit? None other than Kabila and the other agenda item at the summit was the DRC.

Who better than Mugabe to provide the much needed help? Mugabe has an army that has nothing much to do and Zimbabwe has no money to pay them for much longer, no food either. So Mugabe is needed to send his unemployed army up to the DRC where they will be used to support Kabila. Angola, with eyes like everyone else in the region on the mining riches of the DRC, will come up with the money to pay for Kabila’s war effort.

If Tsvangirayi is in power, even limited power in Zimbabwe, will Tsvangirayi be pliable enough to send the Zimbabwe National Army up to the DRC after the folly of the previous foray? Unlikely. But Mugabe, concerned already at how to keep the troops happy and off his back will support the idea to the hilt for now he has the ability to get the army off his front doorstep, get them well paid and the Zimbabwe Military hierarchy can get on with another looting spree in the DRC.

Monday, November 10, 2008

10th November 2008

I said it was ominous, and it was. Today we are told the talks have collapsed with all SADC members siding with Mugabe in trying to persuade the MDC to accept the ‘joint allocation of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ to both ZANU PF and MDC. Tsvangirayi has rejected the offer, and well he should. How mischievous, how ridiculous, how unworkable the joint allocation would be. Do the negotiators really believe that such a compromise would work in favour of the ordinary Zimbabwean people?

And the stock market has responded. Today the ‘Old Mutual Implied Rate’ (The Old Mutual Implied Rate ('OMIR') is a broad unofficial proxy for the value of the Zimbabwe Dollar to the US$ based on the relative values of shares on the London and Zimbabwe Stock Exchanges) has lost 3,278% value in one day. The year-on-year percentage loss is 8.9 sextillion. That gives the reader some idea of the real rate of inflation in this once God given, now God forsaken country. To you, the readers, the numbers are meaningless. They are to us as well. The Zimbabwe dollar has, this morning, ceased to exist except in the minds of the few.

What next? Watch this space!!!!

Friday, November 7, 2008

7th November 2008

The politicians continue to manoeuvre with Mugabe claiming that Tsvangirayi wants to have the Ministry of Home Affairs for the MDC so that he can launch a Savimbi like attack on the nation. What Edward Lear type nonsense will Mugabe dream up next? But the real problem is that some people will believe him.

In the meantime the stock market goes crazy with the market capitalisation breaking past the septillion mark (that’s 24 zeroes) while Old Mutual achieved a gain of 400%. My very modest investment in OM stocks ‘rallied’ from 46 quadrillion in the morning to 240 quadrillion in the afternoon. I wonder if Bill Gates is envious?

Pressure, we are told, is mounting on both Mugabe and Tsvangirai to ‘settle this weekend’. Sounds ominous rather than hopeful.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Today I tried to get some money out of my company account and pay it into my personal account. I started on the internet using my bank's internet banking system.

Step 1: Complete a transfer of funds from my company to my personal account
Bank Response: Sorry, this is not permitted in terms of the RBZ rules

Step 2: Set my personal account up as a ‘payee’ in my company account
Response: Accepted

Step 3: Make a bill payment to myself
Response: My ‘payee’ account does not appear in my list of payees. Ergo I cannot complete a bill payment.

Step 4: Set myself up as an employee and pay myself a ‘salary’
Response: Accepted.

Step 5: Pay myself a salary payment
Response: Sorry, this is not permitted in terms of the RBZ rules

Step 6: Get in my car and go to the bank
Response: Arrived safe and sound

Step 7: Ask to draw cash (new permissable value of $1 million =US$3 at today’s cash)
Response: Sorry, we have no cash left

Step 8: Make out cheque withdrawal form
Response: Sorry, we have run out of cheques

Step 9: Get in my car and drive over the nearest cliff
Response: Sorry, this is not permitted in terms of the RBZ rules

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yesterday the Zimbabwe stock market recorded the highest rate of change in one counter in one day. Tedco Limited, a retailer of household goods, achieved a net gain of twenty six million percent. This is probably because the shares have been lagging behind the general trend and a stock-holder actually wanted to sell them. The problem with other counters on the market is that nobody wants to sell!

This morning I listened to Barack Obama’s acceptance speech delivered in Chicago. Obama is most certainly a great orator reminiscent of Winston Churchill and John Kennedy and has the ability to inspire like no other that I have heard in all my life. He has given hope to millions of Americans – and probably millions of Africans too. But he will need to bear in mind that Africa does not need ‘more aid’ that ends up in the pockets of greedy politicians. Another story that hit the wires yesterday is that The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria deposited $12.3 million with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Of this, $7.3 million has simply disappeared. The Fund has asked the Zimbabwe Government to send the money back. It hasn’t been delivered. Another case of theft, it would seem.

What Africa does need is committed, accountable democratic leadership that can only come from a constitution that provides for it.
One of our staff told me that over the weekend the Parirenyatwa (formerly Salisbury General, later ‘Andrew Fleming’) and Harare Hospitals were both closed. The patients still there were ‘evicted’ and had to find relatives to come and take them home. The streets could be seen with the now almost ubiquitous ‘scotch carts’ that are used by entrepreneurs to carry goods. The scotch cart which varies in size and sophistication is hauled, not by an ox or a donkey, but by a man. If the load is heavy, several men. On Sunday the scotch carts and their haulers were seen carrying patients from the two hospitals.

We are also told that several fatal cases of cholera have occurred over the week in some of the ‘high density’ suburbs. The Minister (coincidentally Dr David Parirenyatwa) was reported yesterday on ZBC news to be ‘highly concerned about the cholera outbreak’. Today we are told that he has ‘put in place measures to control it’, but what measures we do not know.

The problem of course is the lack of water in the city, caused, not by the lack of water but by the lack of water treatment chemicals and limited pumping capacity as the aging water works degenerate. The hospitals have been closed because they have no water. The cholera is the result of un-potable wells sprouting up (or is it down) all over the high density suburbs as people do whatever they must do to find water to drink, to wash.

For us, tomorrow is a red-letter day. The water that we ordered a month ago from ‘Orca for Water’ is due to be delivered to our empty 5,000 litre storage tank – at a cost of US$60. We are the lucky ones. We have the tank and the US$60.
The worst example of today’s realty is that last night I went to collect Neville from the airport on his return from Malawi. Fortunately I did not have to park in the monopolistic car park, where on entry they do not advertise the hourly rate. Today I learned that the minimum charge for parking there is $500,000 – cash of course. My company is allowed to withdraw $10,000 cash a day. If I draw more, or try to draw more I, my company and my bank have committed an offence euphemistically called ‘economic sabotage’.

In order to park for an hour at the Airport parking I will have to queue 50 times over a period of 50 days to acquire the funds. I doubt that the parking attendant will allow me to pay in Zimbabwe's new national currency - fuel coupons.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Introduction to Zimbabwe 2008

This blog is about the Zimbabwe Twighlight Zone which has been the creation of a handful of people who think they have the right to rule forever. In Zimbabwe today a new and bizarre circumstance happens almost every day as inflation runs riot. Zimbabweans in business try to keep their businesses running. It is not easy. As each bizarre event occurs, this blogger will attempt to describe it.

It is hard to imagine what happens when inflation runs into trillions of percent per annum, billions of percent per month, millions of percent per week and sometimes hundreds of percent per day. Previous inflationary environments such as that in Yugoslavia have been the creation of more and more printed money. In Zimbabwe inflation started off that way but it is now the creation of a new inflationary phenomenon, electronic money - just numbers really, that our Reserve Bank (RBZ) manufactures each day. How long can it last?

I shall in the days to come, try and provide an insight.

Bear with me. I am a new blogger and I don't yet understand all the rules but one way to find out is to do it. If I err, forgive.