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.