Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Nestlé are in trouble again. Some months ago it was revealed to the world at large that Nestlé Zimbabwe was buying milk from ‘you-know-who’s wife, Grace. Nestlé’s head office is in Switzerland and Switzerland is a member of the EU so Nestlé was accused of breaking sanctions against the ZANU-PF regime. It wasn’t going to go away and Nestlé was required (legally required in terms of EU policies) to stop purchasing milk from Grace, a specified person on the EU sanctions list.

This should not really create a problem for Grace because Zimbabwe has their own Daribord which purchases milk from wherever it can. There is a shortage of milk countrywide due to the destruction of dairy farming – just like all other farming produce. So Grace can easily sell her milk to Daribord.

But you have to remember that this Zimbabwe.

Next event was for workers from Grace’s farm to dump their milk on Nestlé factory doorstep and demand payment. It didn’t happen so the police, last week, arrested the MD and FD. The FD is Farai Munetsi – I know him well as we used to do business together. They were released without charge but Nestlé believed that their operations and their staff had been threatened by the regime and their African head office in Kenya decided to ‘temporarily’ close the factory doors.

Now the ZANU PF politicians get involved and shout their usual abuse from the rooftops of Harare that Nestlé can ‘go to hell’ and the government will take over their factory.

What will happen next? Watch this space but expect it to be the African political will that will win. At the expense of course of some 200 Zimbabwean workers who work at Nestlé in Harare, and at the expense of the economy and at the expense of the Zimbabwean consumer.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Lull Before the Storm?

I see that it is three weeks since I last appended to this blog. Apart from when I was away on holiday this must constitute a record. The main reason is that life – politically and economically has become almost as boring here as it is in the United Kingdom, Canada or Australia. But for the record: -

Roy Bennet’s trial has been adjourned to the New Year – this after Peter Hitschmann was called to give evidence and surprisingly to the prosecutor, was not available. Not a surprise to anyone else of course. Conveniently, Bennet will not be a ‘free man’ until after the ZANU PF Congress and after the continuing negotiations with the MDC and now, the South African negotiating team.

Lawyer Mordecai Mahlangu who had the ‘nerve’ to write a letter to the AG telling him that Hitschmann had no evidence to give at Bennet’s trial is still, presumably, on remand. Hopefully out of custody.

The MDC driver accused of engineering the theft of rifles from the Army barracks is also still on remand, but he is definitely IN custody, the State having appealed against the High Court decision to grant him bail.

And the negotiations continue. Although this time the South Africans are said to be taking a harder line against Mugabe following their complete surprise that Mugabe has failed to implement several of the matters agreed to in January. Why oh why are they surprised? Nobody else is.

Is this the lull before the coming storm?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Where did this man go to Law School?

Events in the High Court yesterday read like something from the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Except that it is real and deadly serious.

Roy Bennet is on trial for his life – that’s the serious part of this. Bennet is charged with “possessing dangerous weapons for terrorism as well as inciting acts of insurgency”. The prosecutor is no less than the Attorney General, Johannes Tomana. Tomana is himself a target for change inasmuch as his appointment prior to the inception of the Government of National Unity is being challenged by the MDC as an act in breach of the agreement signed by Mugabe and Tsvangirayi. Tomana is alleged to be a ‘political appointee’ and this may well be the case for it seems he does not know some of the basic tenets of the law in Zimbabwe.

The entire case against Bennet, we have learned today, is hinged on the ‘confession’ of Peter Michael Hitschmann who was charged with terrorism some three years ago and ended up being gaoled for ‘illegal possession of firearms’ after the main charges would not stick when it was found by the court that his ‘confessions’ were made under duress. Hitschmann is now a free man and he has made it public that he was tortured in order for the police to extract a confession.

Notwithstanding, Tomana thinks he can get a conviction against Bennet by introducing Hitschmann’s confession before the court at Bennet’s trial.

In efforts to bring these ‘confessions’ before the court, Tomana used a policeman yesterday in an attempt to give hearsay evidence of Hitschmann’s confessions. Not surprisingly the judge disallowed the evidence to be presented.

In response Tomana told the court he could not immediately proceed with trial as he had prepared his case anticipating that Makone’s evidence would be accepted.

And this is the Attorney General! Where did he go to law school?

In the meantime a lawyer representing Hitschmann, Mordecai Mahlangu was arrested after writing a letter to Tomana, saying his client Peter Hitschmann had no evidence to offer in the treason trial against MDC Treasurer General Roy Bennett. This letter has been construed by Tomana as an attempt to defeat the course of justice! Mahlangu has since been in custody for over two weeks. How bizarre can things get?

Perhaps Tomana’s strategy was aimed at using the State Press who would dutifully report any hearsay evidence that he managed to get passed the judge and thus publicly ‘justify’ the arrest of Bennet. Once confessions are out in the public domain in Zimbabwe it matters not that the confession was obtained through torture. Like ‘Illegal Economic Sanctions’ the confessions would be reproduced ad infinitum – minus of course the ‘obtained under duress’ part – until the constant repetition would create a Zimbabwean ‘truth’.

Once again, ZANU PF is demonstrating it’s hold on power – and of course it’s total lack of sincerity.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Could this be the Penultimate Nail in the ZANU PF Coffin?

The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report tabled in Parliament earlier this month is the most damning evidence ever publicly produced of the ongoing kleptocracy that is Zimbabwe today. The staggering theft of public funds by ZANU PF ministers, military leaders and senior bureaucrats is shaking the ordinary people to the core. The theft of public funds is said to be ‘unbelievable’ in its enormity but in the realty of what Zimbabwe has become it is very believable. It simply goes hand in hand with the enormous theft of land, land improvements, growing crops and stock – including very recently some 8,000 crocodiles raised by a Chiredzi farmer – that has taken place in Zimbabwe in recent years. That it is being exposed to public scrutiny is what I find to be ‘unbelievable’ but perhaps the arrival of the MDC to Parliament has enabled this exposure to take place.

The report tells us that 10,277 youths were employed in the Ministry of Youth Development as so-called Ward Officers without nay authority. They were employed in the run up to and during the 2008 elections. It is crystal clear they were employed to ‘ensure victory’ for the ruling party in the usual way they do these things – holding night pungwes, beating up the local people, threatening death for voting ‘the wrong way’ and committing other like criminal acts. Mugabe and his coterie of thugs have never been more exposed for what they are.

But then the report tells of the brazen thefts of public property – generally motor vehicles ‘donated’ by the Reserve Bank Governor, the notorious Gideon Gono, to various ministries during the year under review. Some have simply not been accounted for by the ministries and departments concerned, others have been taken away by the drivers – mostly ministers in government, senior civil servants and military personnel. Add to that the theft of fuel where these same people entrusted with governing the country have been ‘allocated’ as much as 5,000 litres a month for fuel.

Now at last – well just perhaps – the people who continually like to defend Mugabe as a ‘hero of the liberation struggle’ will come to realise just what kind of heroes he and his cronies are – and have been all along.

South Africa should take note before they suffer the same fate. If you allow corruption to survive because it is ‘not really significant’, it just grows more heads like Medusa until it suffocates an entire nation of ordinary people.

The End is nigh? In a normal society one would think so. Zimbabwe is not a normal society.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Why is Africa not successful?

I learned something new today about the Psychology of Happiness and Success. There is an entire psychological school of thought devoted to this theory. The theory says:

1. If you are happy you are more likely to be successful than if you are unhappy
2. Optimists are more likely to be happy with their circumstances than pessimists.
3. Man is a social animal who is generally empathetic and will respond to the behaviour – good or bad, happy or unhappy, of others who surround him. As a proven statistic 85% of people will be influenced by the behaviour of those around them while the other 15% will not. We tried this in a brief experiment and it worked inasmuch as 85% of us were able to make the other 85% smile!

So beware of the company you keep and surround yourself with happy optimists.

The drift moved on to why is Africa not successful. Of all the continents, Africa has the highest misery index and the least success. It has been suggested by the School of Happiness and Success, no less, that the possible reason for Africa’s continuing failure is that as a people, they do not believe they can change things through their own behaviour. As in Zimbabwe, Africans tend to say ‘But what can we do?’ when faced with a government that leads them into a trillion percent inflation, bullies them, even kills them off one or more at a time and leads them into lives of misery, uncertainty and insecurity. And African governments, faced with failure to perform, blame outside influences – a la ‘Western Illegal Economic Sanctions’, droughts, world recessions, global warming caused by the West, etc, etc, etc.

But I wonder about this. The ordinary people are generally happy in the midst of some of the most appalling circumstances. Then there are some of the people who make a lot of decisions to help themselves and become successful beyond their wildest dreams – that is if you measure success by the amount of money in their bank balances or the numbers and size of the cars in their garages, their homes, whatever. Look at Phillip Chiyangwa, the senior members of the Army and Police, civil servants, judges, and ZANU PF politicians who now have several farms – each(!), plenty of expensive and luxurious motor cars and homes that would challenge Balmoral Castle (if not quite Buckingham Palace!) So given the right circumstances (power) they can be happy (successful) optimists – at the expense of course – of the ordinary people who are ‘fatalists’ if not pessimists.

Yet Africa as a continent and Zimbabwe as a country is getting poorer by the day so there is an ingredient missing amongst the successful Africans – perhaps it is empathy? They could be the 15% who you can’t make smile around the boardroom table?

Is this the psychological answer to Africa’s failure, I wonder?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Violence and Deceit

There are a lot of disturbing events taking place since the ‘disengagement’ of the MDC from fraternising (or whatever it is they have been doing) with ZANU PF. Tsvangirayi and his MDC still seem to think that SADC and/or Jacob Zuma will come to their rescue. This seems to be misplaced trust in people and organisations who have consistently shown their colours to be nailed to the Mugabe mast.

So Tsvangirayi is back in town and nothing’s changed – ZANU PF continue to flout the terms of the GNU at will and are now apparently, getting bolder in the face of SADC inaction. Over the weekend an MDC property was raided – the police – as usual – in search of non-existent firearms supposedly buried on the property.

Today I read that the residents of Chiweshe Communal Lands are being attacked by ‘militia’ beating up ordinary people and specifically teachers. This is Chiweshe’s punishment for voting MDC in the last elections. In previous attacks shortly after the election buttocks were being flayed – so much so that the flesh was torn from the bodies and several people were killed, some apparently through being forced to drink paraquat – a deadly herbicide, and others killed through the crushing of genitals. The residents of Chiweshe, after that kind of experience, are surely running scared today in fear of their lives. Who will help them? Not SADC that’s for sure.

Then there has been the arrest and detention of two of the leadership of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations at Victoria Falls while they were boarding a plane to return to Harare after the completion of the NANGO Summer School. They are accused of holding a political meeting without authority, an offence under the draconian POSA Act which should have been repealed as part of the GNU agreement.

What’s it all about? My guess it is part of a ZANU PF strategy to ensure that the MDC do NOT re-engage ZANU PF. There is nothing they would like more than the total collapse of the GNU. Any ZANU PF strategy is of course either deceitful or violent or both.

When will the MDC, SADC and the players in this unfolding scenario learn this one single ZANU PF principle?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I have been reading about the latest activities in Guinea in West Africa. I am deeply thankful that I live in Zimbabwe and not Guinea where they have experienced nothing but horror since the French abandoned them to their independence in 1958. Today, fifty-one years later, their self styled leader, Captain Moussa Camara who assumed power in a military coup as recently as December 2008 is celebrating his status with the usual African impunity and lack of caring for his people.

Yesterday we read and hear of violent public disorder and ‘Red Berets’ loyal to Camara running berserk with firearms murdering at least a hundred plus fleeing civilians and raping innocent women in broad daylight and in public view. Admittedly Zimbabwe has been almost there, but not quite and it seems unlikely that we will get to those depths. Or am I just another optimist in Africa?

What will African leaders do about this state of Guinean affairs? No doubt they will talk about it for a while and talk a lot, blame the French for colonising Guinea and the West for abandoning the ‘struggling masses’. Then they will allow events to unfold as Captain Camara directs, which you can be sure, will not be in the interests of the ordinary people of Guinea. Self respecting African Americans with roots in Guinea can be thankful their ancestors were removed as slaves.

Colonialism invariably gets the blame for everything. But colonialism was as inevitable to Africa as it was to Britain in the dark and middle ages, as it was to the Americas and Australasia and parts of Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries. While Britain, North America, Australasia and more recently India have grown into modern day economic giants and much of South America is not far behind, what went wrong in Africa? Perhaps it was that colonialism in Africa was never fully consummated? And when it came time for the ‘winds of change’ they blew like a hurricane across the continent. The colonials unashamedly and without hesitation washed their hands of any responsibility, fled the aftermath of their creations leaving a leadership gap of untold proportions and the inevitable agony and destruction to those they colonised.

How long will it take for Africa to rise from the ashes of their destruction? A long time for the destruction goes on without any sign of relief. Even South Africa is showing signs of following the recent Zimbabwean route to hell and Guinea, fifty-one years after independence, sinks lower into oblivion with each passing dictator.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Goebbels knew nothing

This morning I had my car radio on as I drove to work and found myself listening to the morning news. It all started off fairly typically with a reference to the fact that the ‘State President and head of government and commander of the armed forces, comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe while attending a summit yesterday on global warming at the United Nations and said that…………’ I was bored to tears but listened on.

Then in the midst of this ‘news’ bulletin the announcer told us that we were going to listen to some other reporter who would tell us about how the MDC created ‘Illegal Economic Sanctions’ against the Zimbabwean people. There was a pause, a deathly silence for about 15 seconds before a clear and audible voice told the listenership how an MDC Member of Parliament had now ‘admitted’ that an MDC conference in Nyanga several years ago was the brainchild behind the ‘dreaded and brutal’ ZDERA (Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act) that was enacted in the US State Congress to impose ‘illegal economic sanctions’ on Zimbabwe and thus lead the ordinary Zimbabwean people to economic destruction, while at the same time the MDC ‘retained the moral high ground’ by blaming ZANU PF for the problems that plunged Zimbabwe into the economic abyss between 2000 and 2009. This was, the speaker concluded, an act of economic sabotage aimed directly at the ordinary Zimbabwean people and was to be condemned from every quarter.

Even though I have been largely inured to the hostility of the ZANU PF propaganda machine, I was just a little shattered. I thought we had a Government of National Unity of some kind. How could this party political vitriol be emanating from the (unified) State broadcaster?

Later I picked up a copy of The Herald, the state propaganda daily news-sheet to see if there was anything in the print media on the subject. Nothing. But I did find a whole page attributed to Golden Guvamatanga (a pseudonym surely – perhaps for the notorious Gee-Gee?) that told the readership of the similarities between the MDC and the brutal and greedy Europeans who had recently been on a self-seeking glory trip to assess the damage caused by the illegal economic sanctions that they imposed on the poor people of Zimbabwe. The MDC, GG told us, were as greedy and avaricious as their European counterparts.

No wonder the MDC are unhappy with the skewed news coverage of the state press. And equally, no wonder that ZANU PF have resisted – and will continue resisting – the introduction of another national broadcaster and the revival of the Daily News.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Another deal in the offing?

Always interesting to see what I wrote this time last year! I wrote about the government propaganda machine and the view that ‘illegal economic sanctions’ were the crux of our economic crisis.

Not surprisingly, this morning I listened to ZBC and heard how the US Government was making preliminary moves to ‘lift illegal economic sanctions’ against Zimbabwe. Today’s report has something to do with Mugabe attending the United Nations in New York and he had some kind of meeting with some un-named US government official.

‘Illegal Economic Sanctions’ has been on the daily diet of all ZBC and ZTV listeners for well over a year now. The words Economic Sanctions cannot possibly be stated in the government propaganda media without the prefix ‘Illegal’. From hereon and to save valuable print, I will refer to them as IES. The IES, to remind the readership of this blog, are targeted sanctions against members of the ZANU PF hierarchy and clearly from the recent rants of that hierarchy, they are really hurting the individuals. We even had Mr Gono declaring that ‘if IES were lifted he would ‘consider’ resigning from his office at the Reserve Bank. All these thieves, for that is what they are, have ‘their’ money stashed away in Swiss and other banks locked up by the IES. The fact is that all ‘their’ money has been looted in one way or the other from the ordinary Zimbabwean people. But the thieves want it and they want it now. For them it will be an opportunity to escape and in so doing hopefully, avoid being arrested in Zimbabwe for their crimes against humanity. So the strategy now is to hold on to power at all costs until the IES are lifted and they can access their loot. The worst case scenario for the looters would be to not get their hands on their loot, not get out and end up being arrested for their crimes.

I wonder how this is going to pan out. You can be sure there is going to be a deal struck somewhere. You can be sure that there are a lot of people working on it right now from every angle. The thieves and their protectors (South Africa and SADC) from one side, the MDC and the western governments from the other. How can a deal be engineered in such away that nobody looses face and everybody gets what they want?

No doubt we will find out soon enough.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Mining Conference

Tomorrow there is a scheduled mining conference in Harare and the big mining houses from South Africa and the rest of the world are due to hear how Mugabe is quite happy for the mines to be re-opened and for new investment into platinum, gold and coal. His previously proposed law that Government must own 51% of all mines in Zimbabwe is about to be changed and new laws promulgated to enable investment to come ‘freely’

Watch out! Mugabe has a plan, you can be sure, to loot the new mines just as he looted the old ones and forced them to close. He is not on this new trip for any other reason.

Monday, August 31, 2009

No Light yet at the End of the Political Tunnel

Much water under the bridge since I last wrote on my blogsite. I have been in England and South Africa and now back home in Zimbabwe for the past three weeks. Believe it or not it is good to be back in Zimbabwe although there are still times when frustration with the politicians and what purports to be ‘government’ sends me into a state of stressful agitation. And the economy is very, very messy without a banking system that works and everyone, everywhere, short of the much needed US dollar. It is becoming very clear that without investment and without a banking system that enables the economy to resuscitate, there will be no worthwhile change. And neither investment nor a working banking system will come without political change.

The politicians – all of them – seemingly have little real interest in anything other than their own power and prestige. The new Mayor of Harare, former businessman Much Masunda saw fit to have himself inaugurated in August at a lavish function that must have cost the Harare residents several hundred thousand dollars (I remind you, real dollars) while the roads remain potholed, there is very little water to speak of, the sewerage systems are clogged and the street lights don’t work. Yet the Harare City Council is frisking residents of hundreds of thousands of dollars through rates and other taxes and still we receive no services in return. My Harare City water bill of $10 a month (minimum monthly charge) continues to arrive in my post box with amazing regularity, while water has not been delivered for over three years. If only they could deliver the water with the same enthusiasm as they deliver the bill.

On the national front, South African President Jacob Zuma has recently been in Harare and waxes lyrical about ‘progress being made by the national unity government’ and ‘the west must lift sanctions’ while Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings maintain a stranglehold on the air waves and there is no sign of an independent broadcaster or publisher in the offing. No ZANU PF offender has been brought to justice for crimes committed in the past 29 years, let alone the past year, while MDC political bigwigs are arrested weekly.

Sadly there is no sign of a light at the end of the tunnel. Until Zimbabweans themselves get tough, and light a fire at the other end, we won’t see one.

But I have learned on my travels that Zimbabwe’s politicians are little different from the rest of the world – all of them greedy and corrupt to a greater or lesser degree. I have also learned that the history of England (and probably Europe) is little different from the history of Africa. Only the dates are different. England went through a period of authoritarian rule that lasted from the dawn of humankind until the Industrial Revolution when the ordinary people changed the power game. Zimbabwe’s politicians are no different from the corrupt Kings and Queens of the English dark and Middle Ages. It is only that the world has changed since Henry VIII sat on the English throne and Africa has not. And Africa’s politicians – and people – have not yet realised that.

Zimbabwe (and Africa) will eventually move to democratic rule by their own choice, rather than having democracy thrust upon them. And it will probably happen a lot quicker than it took the English people.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Beatings – More of them

I am intrigued by stories of new ‘beatings’ popping up in the local and international press this week. The first which appeared on the 18th June is about police training and reported in The (ZANU PF) Herald: “Police trainers have been warned against recording videos of the force’s rigorous training sessions using their cellphones and selling the clips on the Internet. This habit is tantamount to selling out of one’s country and thereby derailing the efforts of the organisation to maintain its good image. Those who engage in such corrupt activities would be removed from the force”. So said that notorious policeman, Wayne Bvudzijena.

A day later the plot thickens. “Police are investigating the authenticity of a video clip circulating among members of the public depicting trainers beating up recruits as "part of training". The video clip shows more than 5 police trainers beating up recruits, mostly men, while saying that this was part of the training. In the video, the recruits are being beaten on the back one-at-a-time with sticks, while the others stand in a queue waiting for their turn. After assaulting one of the recruits, one of the trainers is heard saying, "This is now Syllabus E."

So I went to YouTube and had a look. Looked very authentic to me! No wonder the Commissioner and his cohorts are upset.

In Bulawayo on Wednesday the 17th June WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise) held a demonstration. It was not long before the marchers were attacked by the police and several of them beaten and arrested. Then on Thursday another demonstration in Harare received the same treatment. Not only were some of the marchers beaten, so were at least three journalists who were also arrested.

What is about this country and the norms that seem to have developed in policing? Are these societal norms a throwback to the days before colonialism and perhaps during that period? Did the Shona people beat their own who ‘transgressed’? Were ‘suspects’ and political rivals kidnapped and held incommunicado for weeks on end, beaten on the soles of their feet and buttocks? Were judicial orders ignored?

Why is nothing being done by the GNU to reverse this kind of treatment? Geoff Hill’s book “What Happens After Mugabe?” written some two years ago suggests that there is a groundswell of opinion from those Zimbabweans exiled in South Africa to seek ‘revenge’ when ‘the day of reckoning’ finally comes. There have been suggestions that Zimbabwe needs a period of ‘National Healing’ but no-one seems to want to do anything about it, and instead the beatings, the arrests, the threats go on.

Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan has been on a short visit and has made yet another damning report of the lack of civil liberties in Zimbabwe. In response Vice President Joice Mujuru told her that Zimbabweans had their own ways of resolving their differences, with government having already started a national healing programme.
What ‘National Healing Programme’ is she talking about? Probably the same one that has been talked about before but nothing, as usual, been done.

Let us remember what happened only last year, how over 100 members of the MDC were MURDERED in cold blood. What has been done about the perpetrators, most of who are known by name?

Nothing is being done. It is not nearly as high on the agenda as ‘seeking removal of illegal economic sanctions’ which is really ZANU PF’s desire to find more loot to loot. Both ZANU PF and MDC are culpable here.

The real tragedy of Zimbabwe is the cultural norms that developed during the Rhodesian Bush War – or as some call it, the Second Chimurenga. ZANLA and ZIPRA, the military wings of what is today ZANU PF, went off to China and Moscow and learned their new trade from Mao Tse Tung and Joseph Stalin. The majority of today’s leadership were only teenagers then, abducted from schools, taken away to Tanzania and ‘conscientised’ by the leadership in much the same form as the police recruits I saw being beaten on YouTube. They returned to Rhodesia with an AK 47 slung across their shoulders and dealt out mayhem and death in horrific circumstances to those they labelled ‘sell-outs’. I know. I saw the beaten and mutilated bodies in the 1970’s with my own eyes. No cellphone camera’s in those days to back me up, but believe me, my mind at the gruesome sights is as clear as any cellphone camera image can portray today.

ZANU PF brought this culture to Zimbabwe and imposed it first on the Matabele people in the early 1980’s. Later, when their power was threatened by the MDC and the white farmers who backed the MDC financially, they re-visited this culture on the MDC, the white farmers and ordinary Zimbabweans who got in the way.

And they still do it today – with the usual impunity, while screaming and shouting at Obama, Brown and the rest of the west to ‘lift illegal economic sanctions’.

When will they learn?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Delusional Charlatans?

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirayi is on walk-about in the West. He has recently met Barack Obama and what is clear about that meeting is Obama welcomed Tsvangirayi but he wasn’t about to welcome anyone else from the ‘wrong side of Zimbabwean history’. It is not absolutely clear why Tsvangirayi is on walk about. The Herald suggests he is doing it as a Mugabe emissary to ‘get the green light to lift illegal western economic sanctions’. MT himself says he is telling world leaders how far we have come – which is interpreted by most as not very far at all. And that’s a fact – not only from where the West is viewing things but from where we Zimbabweans are viewing them too. We still have little to show for ‘law and order’, farms are still being invaded, crops stolen while police claim that the thefts are ‘political’ and therefore beyond their attention, the media is far from free, The Herald and the broadcasting media are still consumed with ZANU PF’s versions of events and ‘free and fair elections’ seem to get further away from us with every passing moment.

What is abundantly clear is that ZANU PF is intent on using Tsvangirayi and the MDC as a means of remaining in power. And so far they are doing very well at it.

A more recent exciting news event reported everywhere else in the world but NOT in The Herald for some reason is the story of Tsvangirayi’s so called ‘niece’ attempting to claim a farm of her own. Dr Arikana Chihombori – a United States citizen has been telling the world her own version of how she has been attempting to secure a farm for herself from the Cremer’s in Chegutu. When the Cremer’s desisted from the latest invasion to their property they are now alleged to have called Dr Chihombori’s sister the K word and then set their dogs on her and an un-named ‘Lands Officer’. The Cremer’s deny the allegations and clearly there is no supporting evidence to these outrageous claims. No mauled sister, no ‘Lands Officer’, no independent witnesses and a report has never been made to the police. Should we be surprised? Dr Chihombori then made the mistake of getting herself interviewed by Zimbabwe Online during the course of which she presented herself as a delusional charlatan, claiming her original farm in the Wiltshire area was ‘burned to the ground by whites’ for no apparent reason. Wiltshire was originally a Purchase Area for black farmers way back in the 1960’s and remained that way until Independence in 1980. Today it should be a model farming area. I cannot comment whether it is or not. Dr Chihombori also claims relationships between herself and Jacob Zuma, Tsvangirayi, Grace Mugabe and a few others besides. There are some facts though. Dr Chihombori attended Jacob Zuma’s inauguration last month, she was ‘accompanying’ Morgan Tsvangirayi in some way inasmuch as she was photographed walking by his side and clearly she has made attempts to steal a farm in Chegutu.

Another apparent charlatan who may or may not be delusional is ZANU PF Senator Jamaya Muduvuri who it is reported is busy stealing his 5th farm from a French citizen on a farm in Kadoma. The farm is ‘protected’ (joke of course) by a bi-lateral trade agreement between Zimbabwe and the French government. Not satisfied with simply stealing the farm Senator Muduvuri is reported to be stealing the current crops of oranges, potatoes and maize while Ms Catherine Jouineau-Meredith is helpless to prevent it. The farm workers have been ‘forbidden’ to work by Muduvuri and to ensure that they don’t, they have been severely beaten. The police have refused to intervene on the usual excuse that the acts are ‘political’.

We trust the French government will do something to change this nauseous state of affairs. Or will they? So far they haven’t done much. Ho hum – Zimbabweans who care about a future for their children and grand-children won’t hold their breath.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Economic Sanctions

The ZANU PF regime seems to be obsessed with the ’illegal economic sanctions’ that have been applied to ‘the ordinary people of Zimbabwe’ and have ‘devastated the economy’. A headline in The Herald of Tuesday the 2nd June reads “Sanctions hit local British pensioners’ and goes on to report that ‘the Western imposed economic sanctions have hit pensioners hard prompting the British government to airlift the first 5 of 500 elderly citizens out of Zimbabwe’. No mention of the humungous efforts of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe printing press which is the real reason that pensions have been eroded. I should know. I am a pensioner whose pension has been eroded. Where once my pension was enough to send my son to private school in Matabeleland for a year, now it cannot buy me a beer. And the cause of all this? Inflation. And the cause of inflation? Printing money and even worse, creating electronic money, neither being backed by production.

The Comment on the Leader Page of the same issue relates to EU aid recently channelled into the country to enable some resuscitation of the sugar industry and informs us ‘the country has been reeling from Western imposed economic sanctions which have negatively impacted against all sectors of the economy and social strata’ and implies that once again it is Western imposed sanctions that have been the cause of the collapse of the sugar industry. No mention of devastating farm invasions that have all but ruined the entire agricultural economic base.

One has to ask whether the writers of this Goebbels like garbage actually believe it themselves. If you repeat a lie often enough and loud enough…….!

I wonder how History will record the events of the last 10 years in Zimbabwe.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The GG Saga Continues

Last week I lunched with some VIP’s who are ‘in the know’ with what goes on – and used to go on in Zimbabwe. I was told by one that GG used to have a large steel trunk in his office at the top of the RBZ where he would distribute USD to whoever was important enough to get passed his door, in whatever amounts were required. No records were kept of any of the transactions. This was made all the more simple because the RBZ controls the Zimbabwe Dollar printing press. The press would print large numbers of large denomination ZWD notes. Then there was a ‘second run’ where duplicate numbered notes were printed, and there was consequently no need to account for them at all.

These notes – the duplicates – were provided to the RBZ runners who fanned out to all ‘exchange centres’ at places like the bus terminus in Harare and Victoria Falls parking lot across the border from Zambia with bucket fulls of Zimbabwe dollars. They returned with briefcases full of USD which were handed over to GG to distribute as and when and to whom he felt like it.

On Saturday I was told by an NVIP (Not Very Important Person) that GG was on his bike. Then on Monday our octogenarian leader told the mourners at GG’s brother’s funeral that GG would serve out his term to 2013, that he was not a thief and he should not be branded as such. (What else do you call a person who takes money out of other people’s bank accounts and admits to doing it, I wonder?)

So GG’s future and the future of ordinary Zimbabweans is in the balance and on the basis of ‘who has the power’ it’s unlikely that he will go soon. My guess is that GG knows too much. There are probably only about two ways to keep his mouth shut.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Something Has to Break Soon – or does it?

It is difficult to believe that a week ago Zimbabwe held a ‘Media Conference’ to chart the way forward for a new and open approach to media management. Since then the editor and a sub-editor of the only surviving independent newspaper in the country have been arrested and detained overnight in the notorious and seriously filthy police cells at Harare Central police station. Their crime? Reporting on the facts of a court process where certain police and others officers have been named by the court as those involved in the ‘arrest’ of several political activists. It is public knowledge that these activists were abducted and hidden from the world at large, more specifically from their lawyers, for weeks and in some cases months while the police authorities denied any knowledge of their disappearance.

Then we have the arrest yesterday of a human rights lawyer on allegations of ‘obstructing the course of justice’ after he allegedly connived with a ‘junior’ High Court official to facilitate the rerelease on bail of a photo-journalist and other aide’s to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirayi. The junior aide has also been arrested and incarcerated with her child at Chikurubi maximum security prison. Like most of those arrested over the past twelve months for ‘treason’, ‘terrorism’ and other acts of ‘banditry’ we can expect that in the fullness of time either these people will never get to have their crimes heard in a court of law, or if by some miracle they do in, probably, twelve months from now they will be acquitted through ‘lack of evidence’

But when one reads that the first resolution of the media conference was that ‘illegal sanctions must be lifted in order to facilitate media freedom’ one realises what is going on here. It’s just another ZANU PF talk shop to attempt to justify their sheer stupidity.

Then this week we have the President welcoming a delegation from the ‘Democratic’ Peoples Republic of Korea where the President and later the Commissioner of Police, Augustine Chiuri explain to the delegation that the reason Zimbabwe is out with the begging bowl is because Western sponsored illegal sanctions have devastated the economy.

Inviting the DPRK to Zimbabwe at this time of supposed political reconciliation is naïve in the extreme. Many thousands of Zimbabweans suffered at the hands of the DPRK trained 5th Brigade in the 1980’s, thirty thousand Matabele were killed and are not here to remember anything, but others who survived have long memories of the atrocities perpetrated on themselves and their families. Not surprisingly there is a wave of anxiety from ordinary citizens and a demand that the DPRK delegation go home in a hurry. And just what does the President and his ZANU PF think the DPRK are going to bring to the economic regeneration of Zimbabwe? Not a lot when they cannot feed themselves either.

But Morgan Tsvangirai treads on, step by step, trying to create a new future with little action and far too many conciliatory words about his opponents and their continuing efforts to place road blocks in the path of progress. How long can he continue with this charade?

Something has to break soon. Or does it? After all, this is Zimbabwe where talk is cheap, action is little, plans are made but never implemented and the future takes care of itself while ordinary people suffer more instead of less.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More Reason for Gono to Go-now

The Gideon Gono battle goes on with Finance Minister Tendai Biti of the MDC anxious for his removal while Mugabe and his cohorts desperately want him to remain at the helm – presumably for two reasons. First because if he goes, a can of worms from the past may be opened. All sorts of horror stories will then emerge as to who has benefitted from his largesse and at what astronomical amounts. Second because if he goes, he will not be there in the near or distant future to continue with the largesse. The largesse has apparently evaporated for the present. I am told that the contractor who was painting Gono’s Borrowdale mansion has moved off the property due to lack of payment.

Last week the Zimbabwe Independent provided refreshing insight into further inappropriate activity of the Reserve Bank Governor. Five or so years ago The RBZ appropriated the assets of two banks – Trust Bank and Royal Bank and formed their own bank – the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG). Four years ago a judgement was handed down by the Supreme Court that the acquisition of the assets was an illegal act, yet nothing was ever done to repair the illegal damage. Now in the ‘New Zimbabwe’ the assets are to be returned to their rightful owners.

Gono has made a few statements of late attempting to justify his blatant theft of foreign currency from a number of accounts, his withholding of foreign exchange payouts to the mines and the farmers. He justifies his actions by claiming that in raiding the accounts (or withholding payments) he was ‘keeping the country afloat’. In fact all he did was to create the conditions for less and less production and economic activity in the pursuit of personal wealth and the distribution of wealth to other undeserving individuals. As I have said before, Gono and those who received the stolen property should be prosecuted in the criminal courts for theft and receiving respectively.

This last week CABS – a well known private financial institution has advertised that it will provide account holders with interest of up to 7% per annum on US dollars deposited for a fixed period of 90 days, lesser interest rates for dollars deposited for 60 days, 30 days and 7 days. I remarked on this to a friend whose response was quite simple. “As long as Gono is running the Reserve Bank, I’ll keep my money under my pillow in preference to leaving it anywhere where he might get his hands on it.”

No-one, it seems, trusts the man - not the international aid agencies, not the international governments and not the man in the street.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mugabe must Go

The Zimbabwe Government is broke. So we are told now by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirayi and his Finance Minister, Tendai Biti. The South African press pick this up as headline news. Where have they been all this time? Of course the Zimbabwe Government is broke. It has been broke for years. The only way it has survived so long has been the printing of ‘money’ and the raiding of Foreign Currency Accounts by Gideon Gono, the Reserve Bank Governor. What Gono has done over the years amounts to nothing more than straight theft. He – and the ZANU PF government should be prosecuted in the criminal courts for these criminal acts. But instead they are propped up by their fellow Africans in South Africa and yesterday listening to a news bulletin, I heard that President Banda of Zambia thinks that Mugabe is one of Africa’s greatest leaders. Banda may live to regret that statement, but then again, he may not as Africans in the region continue to support this despotic criminal who has deviously managed to retain his grip on power. But he wouldn’t be able to do it now, without the support of SADC. So SADC has become complicit in the continuing disaster that is Zimbabwe.

There are of course, more reasons why the government is broke. Zimbabwe still has an army of some 30,000 men and women who do nothing, but they do get paid $100 a month. Then there are the thousands of civil servants who do nothing – and in the last week we have heard that there are at least hundreds, probably thousands of ‘ghost’ workers who have been paid in the past and continue to receive their $100 a month. We have local government employees who do nothing – although some of them do manage to send out bills for water that is never supplied, vehicle tax for vehicles that travel on roads that are never repaired. This last week I had a puncture on my car. When I took the punctured wheel for repair, it was not a puncture at all, but a wheel rim that was damaged in four places from striking potholes on the city roads. Then we have the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings who want $100 for every television set that is owned – not that the TV sets are used for screening local television. So the attempts at ‘getting something for nothing’ which is a polite way of saying ‘looting’ continue.

All the while the demands on the west to provide aid to the country continue. If this is the sole approach to the problem Zimbabwe will remain a long term aid dependent economy. There is one way to get the Zimbabwe economy moving again and that is to re-establish production on the farms, then in industry. And these acts are within the direct control of the Zimbabwean people who are tasked with running the country. These acts should be conditions applied by all those who are being asked to provide aid that must be implemented before any aid of any kind is forthcoming. They are simple enough to do if the current government has the will. Regrettably, there is no will to do this as long as Mugabe remains in control. Zimbabweans know this – nearly all of them. But the South Africans, the Zambians and a few other African leaders still fail to see this simple truth.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Old Habits + New Technology

I accidentally found myself watching a TV presentation titled “An Inconvenient Truth” last night. It is hosted by former unsuccessful (American) presidential candidate, Al Gore who has a passion about Global Warming and the consequences. Part of his message is reminiscent of “State of Fear” but another part is about hope for the future. The numbers on carbon emissions and the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are positively and horrifically scary, but he also offers hope in that he believes that the problem of the near future can be averted if we change some old habits and act now. I commend anyone who hasn’t seen this ‘Inconvenient Truth’ to see it.

One major point of his presentation is that Old Habits together with New Technology creates a potential problem for mankind. Old Habits plus Old Technology is not a problem because people with old habits using old technology are not going to create a crisis for themselves or the world. But Old Habits plus New Technology is a potential problem because people with old habits using new technology may create conditions for potential chaos. So if we are going to use New Technology, says Gore, we have to change out of the old habits and generate some new ones.

My mind moves from global warming to the problems of Africa. Is this – old habits plus new technology (and systems for that matter) – the problem of Africa? Take the commuter omnibus driver in Johannesburg or Harare for example. The driver is using ‘old habits’ to drive a motorised omnibus (new technology). This explains to some degree why the commuter bus driver stops anywhere and everywhere that he sees the opportunity for a passenger to board or alight. His passengers (using old habits) stop – not at a safely placed bus stop – but at the nearest point of relief –invariably on a corner, invariably inconveniencing other motorists and frequently causing accidents. It explains the commuter omnibus drivers’ complete disregard for other motorists, for in the old world where the old habits worked, there weren’t any other travellers to be inconvenienced.

Now extrapolate this analogy to ‘Justice, Law and Order’ where in the old world the Chief dispensed justice as the Chief saw fit without recourse to some new fangled ‘Roman-Dutch Law’ with rules for everyone, lawyers, innocence until guilt proved and the like. A member of the tribe who transgressed was probably treated with some degree of leniency, while a non-member of the tribe who transgressed was simply put to death or expelled.

What about ‘freedom of the press’? Is this not just another new system (technology) that old habits find impossible to accept? And what about Democracy – yet another new system that Africa is trying to accept but cannot change the old habits?

Food for thought!

It’s Catch 22

It is becoming increasingly evident with each passing day that Mugabe and ZANU PF have some very clear objectives to achieve out of the GNU process. First they must retain all power and none of it be handed over to the MDC political machine. What semblance of power is to be ‘handed over’ is not to be handed over but is to be delegated and retrieved when the act of delegating has been fulfilled. The kind of power to be delegated is only that which will help the government ‘remove illegal sanctions’ and pump new money into the economy. The need for new money is because there is currently little or nothing left to loot, so the new money will be received in order for further systematic looting by individuals in the ZANU PF hierarchy. How else does one explain the continued protection of Gideon Gono as the RBZ Governor, the ‘retrieval’ of the Information and Telecommunications ministry from the MDC back into the ZANU PF stable?

Media freedom is to be curtailed at all costs. Justice, Law and Order, will only be allowed to continue ZANU PF style – that is – impunity for the ZANU PF hierarchy, imprisonment and all that goes with it – beatings, torture, solitary confinement, zero access by ‘criminals’ to lawyers for everyone else. In this regard, it is essential to retain the grip on the relevant ministries. It also explains why ZANU PF appointed the new Attorney General ahead of the formation of the GNU.

The plan also includes the subornation of the MDC legislators and eventually the disbandment of the MDC as a political opposition. How else does one explain the attempts at providing largesse in the form of motor vehicles through Gideon Gono?

One hopes that the two MDC factions and their leaders are aware of this – they probably are. But will that enable them to withstand the pressures? Is there any value in the MDC trying to continue with this charade? Would it be better to walk away now? If they did, who would be the next MDC leader to find himself either at the end of a fatal road accident or detained in the notorious Goromonzi police station cells? Thus the pressure to remain within the GNU is not just from the benefits of ZANU PF style largesse, but also the threat of ZANU PF style ‘persuasion’ if they don’t.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Progress or No Progress?

It is very difficult to judge the progress being made by the GNU. On the one hand we have a spluttering promise of a re-start to the economy. Well, not the economy really, but at least the banking system and to some extent mining and the production of beer. Steps are being taken to enable the banks to move money between them and their customers. But banking customers are, in general, still afraid of leaving a single USD in the bank for fear that they will not be able to retrieve it tomorrow. So individuals hang on to their cash and exchange cash for goods and services. Corporates are only just beginning to find a way to safeguard their money and exchange it. Armed robberies in Harare – and probably elsewhere in the country – are fast turning into ‘big business’ as thieves find US dollars stashed everywhere – in motor cars, in homes, under mattresses, in wallets and hand-bags and anywhere else that may be temporarily convenient. Some mines have made promises of returning to production and the breweries share price has doubled in the last week.

But not much else has changed. Mugabe, Tsvangirayi and Mutambara are at loggerheads over the stripping of power from the MDC Minister of Information, the continued farm invasions and the continued detention of MDC activists on spurious charges of ‘terrorism’. Mugabe will not swear in Roy Bennet as Deputy Minister of Agriculture apparently because his charges of ‘possession of arms of war’ must be cleared before such appointment. So to ensure that this is held back as long as possible, Bennet has now been remanded to the 1st of July. It’s a pity that the Zimbabwean public cannot bring charges of kidnapping and murder against the recent ZANU PF perpetrators of these acts which must include several senior civil servants and ZANU PF members of parliament. Even Mugabe is at risk to be prosecuted for ‘crimes against humanity’ so why Bennet should not be sworn in as Deputy Minister because of ‘pending charges that need to be cleared’ is yet another convenient smokescreen, so typical of the ZANU PF methodology of the recent past.

In the meantime two activists released on bail and currently in-patients in the Avenues Clinic where they are being treated for injuries sustained from torture have been re-arrested in the middle of the night by named police officers, while a further eight MDC activists kidnapped by the ZANU PF machine as far back as October last year are still missing. Clearly the chances are they are no longer alive and they are missing only because they cannot be produced before the courts, let alone the public.

Another stumbling block to the future is the award of cars to legislators by Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono from RBZ ‘quasi-fiscal’ activities. Most of the legislators from ZANU PF and both factions of the MDC were quick to accept the offer despite a policy decision from the MDC that the vehicles were not to be accepted. Greed is at work yet again. Various excuses are offered by the legislators who took delivery of the vehicles as to why they ‘need them to carry out their duties’ but Tendai Biti, the Minister of Finance has recently declared that the RBZ will not under any circumstances continue with their destabilising quasi-fiscal activities. Instead, says Biti, the vehicles must be handed over to the Parliamentary Pool where they can be sold to legislators who can be loaned the money to purchase them, as was the original policy of the now long distant past. In this way the economy is safeguarded from ‘RBZ abuse’. Now it is being suggested that other hand-outs of largesse to ‘new farmers’ which include tractors and other agricultural equipment, will also have to be returned to the RBZ and re-distributed in terms of sound economic policies. The ‘new farmers’ in the guise of ‘war veterans’ are up in arms about having to return their free handouts – probably because they have already sold them to someone else for fat wads of US dollars.

I wonder where this is all going to end. Will greed and corruption succeed or will Biti succeed? Place your bets here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Drug Addict

Zimbabwe limps along as if drug addicted. Addicted to an avarice perhaps unsurpassed in human history. Farms continue to be looted – not for anything other than the current crop on the land, the implements, the door frames and the window frames of the homestead. Earlier this week I spoke to a former farmer from Centenary. Yes, she had been back to the farm. All that she could identify was a hole in the ground that had once been the swimming pool. There wasn’t anything else to be seen but a track and seemingly virgin bush.

If the looters actually wanted to replace the farmer and farm, it would be greed alone. But they do not want to farm. They just want to loot and leave, move on to the next farm. Every farmer that is moved off the land is another nail in the Zimbabwean agricultural coffin and the return to production and the generation of wealth. So the greed must be combined with some other motive or, if not, then it is as irrational and mindless as it is greed and avarice.

You can be sure that the mindless morons who are chasing away the farmers are not the minds behind the campaign. So something else is at work here. The minds behind the campaign have to be the ZANU PF hierarchy of thieves and they are after something else. They are afraid – afraid of losing their privileged status, afraid of losing their power.

So we are drugged by greed, fear and the need for power. Add ‘stupidity’. And the GNU seems powerless to stop it. South Africans beware - it seems you are following close behind.

On another front yesterday we were told that ZIMRA (The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) was setting up toll roads with effect from the 20th April – just 7 days away and published their intent in the Government Gazette dated the 9th of April. They went as far as distributing a schedule of roads to be subject to the toll and the prices per mode of vehicle. All major roads were listed, all points of entry. A haulage vehicle travelling from Beit Bridge to Harare would have to pay a $20 toll at the point of entry and then negotiate four ‘toll points’ between Beit Bridge and Harare at $10 a toll. A total of $60 or R600.

Today we are told the whole exercise has been shelved pending the establishment of toll gates and just perhaps the training of the collectors and the provision of the other tools required to do the job.

The regulations say that ‘transit vehicles’ are exempt. I wonder how a collector is going to identify a ‘transit vehicle’, other than perhaps a haulage vehicle with a load manifest?

It is worth noting that the Toll Roads in South Africa are complimented by ‘alternative routes’ of a very high standard. Not so Zimbabwe where, if and when it happens, you can take the Toll Road or the Toll Road. There will be no alternative.

Yet all the years I have been here I have been paying my vehicle road tax and one can sure, so has everyone else. What has the government done with the money? The usual – it has been looted for personal gain while the roads have deteriorated into death traps.

At the end of the day there is perhaps no alternative than to implement the road tolls. The roads won’t be repaired from empty coffers. One can only hope that when it happens the collections are used for the purpose they are intended. In terms of recent Zimbabwean history, that seems unlikely.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Stop the Looting of the Zimbabwe Economy (Please?)

The new Government of National (Dis)Unity has been in South Africa again. This time begging for money. The South African government has been largely responsible for creating the semblance of government that Zimbabweans now have thrust upon them, so clearly they have some responsibility to act. Some other SADC countries can take some apportioned responsibility.

But SADC and the SA government are now joining ZANU PF and to some extent, Tsvangirayi’s MDC, screaming for financial help from the West and the end of Western ‘illegal economic sanctions’. This would seem to be because South Africa and SADC do not have the ability themselves to fund the restart of the Zimbabwe economy and they are looking to the West to do it for them.

It strikes me as unethical. What has happened in Zimbabwe is that ZANU PF leaders and many of their followers have taken it upon themselves to loot the Zimbabwean economy. They have done this systematically and with impunity and all for their own personal wealth. There are many examples of this. The farms are the extreme and obvious examples. A once rich agricultural economic base has been reduced to almost nothing. Another recent example is that of the Vice President, Joyce Mujuru and her reported attempts to sell tonnes of gold into the European market. The Reserve Bank has been selling silver and gold. Who has profited from this one wonders? Not the gold miners who are owed millions of dollars in unpaid bills. The diamond looting in Maranke has now been going on for months if not years. Who is profiting? The Reserve Bank in its most recent Monetary Policy Statement created a policy that allows individuals to export as much as US$ 250,000 in cash, no questions asked. Why was this ridiculously over-generous export allowance created and for whose personal benefit?

While ZANU PF, Zuma in South Africa and SADC are calling for an end to western economic sanctions the looting continues unabated. The remaining farms are once again being occupied by force, the Maranke diamonds are still being looted, the export allowance of US$ 250,00 cash per individual has not been rescinded.

Why should anyone fund ‘economic recovery’ without a commitment to at least stop the looting? I would like to think that the looters should be required to re-start the economy by returning their loot, but although that might be ethically correct, unfortunately in the politics of Africa, it is unlikely to happen.

But stop the looting now! And don’t expect financial help from others until there is a real commitment to future productive growth.

Friday, March 27, 2009

An Outside View

I have been away from Zimbabwe on a short trip that took me to Ghana and later, South Africa. I met some interesting people. I visited some interesting places. I read some interesting articles and a book – “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by an Afghan author, Khaled Hosseini. If you want to, look it up on the internet. It is hailed as an ‘instant classic’. But that‘s not my point. The characters in A Thousand Splendid Suns are Afghans in Afghanistan. Although the book is a novel, the setting is not. Between the book and the places I visited, I returned home to Zimbabwe knowing that I am a very lucky man to be living here. Although we have some tough times, and I realise that many of my black Zimbabwean counterparts have tougher times than I do, we are clearly a lot better off then the Afghans in Afghanistan, the majority of South Africans in South Africa and some of the Ghanaians in Ghana.

I met two former Zimbabweans now resident in South Africa but both enjoying opportunities to work outside their adopted country. Both told me that given ‘a return to normality’ in Zimbabwe and ‘an opportunity to use their skills’, they would be back home in no time.

And now I am back – home that is. Not much has changed. The current battering of the few remaining white farmers is seemingly chronic. The rationale for this ‘last loot’ mentality is not easily explained. That ‘The End’ (of the looting) is coming soon is evident to most of us. Why do a few misguided ‘chefs’ think they can steal for themselves a new place in the sun? It will not last much longer, that’s for sure. An agricultural land audit is coming sooner rather than later and some people who thought that they could get very rich quickly are going to be disappointed. But in the meantime there are a handful of very brave farmers who are taking yet another physical and psychological battering.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Everything is on target for the New Zimbabwe

I wrote this on Friday the 6th March before hearing about the death of Susan Tsvangirayi. I publish it today.

More than a week has gone by since I last wrote. Not a lot has happened. Roy Bennet is still languishing in the Mutare Prison. Jestina Mukoko has been freed on bail together with three other MDC activists. Part of the ‘deal’ to gain their freedom was that Mukoko and the other victims would refrain from pursuing the criminal acts of their captors through the courts.

Today we hear the Magistrate who first attempted to admit Roy Bennet to bail has himself been ‘arrested’. For what crime we have yet to hear.

The MDC has expressed ‘outrage’ at the continued detention of Bennet and their other activists. ZANU PF has not bothered to do anything other than that Chinamasa the Minister of (in)Justice has expressed his outrage at the UN for accusing Zimbabwe of ‘serious and systematic violations of human rights’. Chinamasa says we are no better or worse than ‘other states’ and we should not be singled out for special mention. It seems high time that Chinamasa became a victim of his own system so that he could appreciate what it is like to be kidnapped, incarcerated, beaten, tortured, made to lie with dead bodies in his cell and be grossly underfed by the system. Then denied bail because it seems like a good idea for someone at the time. He might feel a bit differently then.

But on a more positive note –perhaps – last night I met with an old and wise business acquaintance, highly placed in business and society in general in Zimbabwe, well respected by many for his business acumen and not known to be in any way corrupt. He smiled telling me that as he prophesied would happen when we last met in August last year we now had a new Prime Minister. I expressed my views that the new government was one of disunity rather than unity and that it would take a long time yet for an improved socio-economic environment to benefit the people. He said that I should not worry. Everything was on course. You know what it’s like when killing an old bull. It kicks and thrashes about, takes a long time, but it happens.

I added ‘eventually’.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Seven Deadly Sins

Greed, Sloth, Lust, Gluttony, Envy, Pride and Anger, these are the Seven Deadly Sins. They date back to the 6th Century when theologians attempted to find a conceptual framework that described man’s worst human traits and, per se, to attempt to persuade mankind to be less of a sinner.

Let he without sin, cast the first stone! I am not without sin and in consequence I hesitate. But someone has to put the Zimbabwean ‘thugocracy’ into context.

What has prompted the ZANU PF regime to act in the manner it has done over the past nine or more years – not forgetting the ‘gakurahundi’ that was driven against the Matabele people in the early 1980’s and the consequent killing of some thirty odd thousand of them? It is surely something to do with envy and greed, pride and anger and a lust, if not for human flesh, for power.

Today we are told that President Mugabe has once again urged the west to ‘drop illegal sanctions which have impacted negatively on the ordinary people of Zimbabwe’. How long does he think he can keep up this pretence that the ordinary people have suffered from sanctions? One thing is for sure, sanctions must be hurting him and his cronies for this demand to be raised again and again and again.

And we are also told by him that those who have been arrested for ‘plotting the overthrow of his government by force and other acts of banditry’ will remain in custody until their crimes have been heard by the courts of law and due process followed’. Fair enough. I like that. I guess all of the accused persons will like that too. But why have they not been brought before the courts before? Why have they been refused access to lawyers for so long? Why have they been refused medical attention? Why are they made to languish in faeces and urine infested cells? They are of course, like so many who have gone before, being punished before any conviction. And more to the point, why were they beaten, humiliated and tortured by their captors and will those same captors who are accused of such acts, be duly processed through the courts as well?

Then there are a whole lot of others, literally thousands and many of them in positions of high authority who should also be allowed due process through the courts of law.

One hopes so. Then we – and the remaining Mugabe praise singers who are currently preparing for his 85th birthday bash this coming weekend – will all learn the real truth of what has happened since ZANU PF took control of this once so beautiful and prosperous little country.

We all desperately need to know the truth.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Is there Change coming or not?

Jestina Mukoko and three other activists close to death from their incarceration in Zimbabwe's prisons have been admitted to a private hospital for treatment of their injuries and an opportunity to restore their health but little is being said publicly about their current state.

As for the rest, they remain in detention, including Roy Bennet. Not only Roy Bennet, but we are also told, ‘Jumbo’ Davidson who drove Bennet to the airport on Friday the 13th is reported to have been arrested and placed in police custody. Bennet has had one of his ‘crimes’ dropped – that of ‘attempting to leave the country illegally’ when it was proved that he presented himself to an immigration officer before his attempted departure. So why Davidson should be arrested for driving him to the airport is a complete mystery. Well, not a mystery really, it is yet another act of spite committed by spiteful people.

Now it is being suggested that the arrest of Roy Bennet and the continued detention of the MDC activists are being used as ‘bargaining chips’ for the new ‘inclusive government’ to provide a complete amnesty for crimes committed by the ZANU PF regime in the preceding 10 or more years. Bennet has reportedly said he will remain in detention and stand trial rather than that this should happen. Yet Morgan Tsvangirayi is reported to have told an audience yesterday, Sunday, that there is a ‘need for national reconciliation’ to heal the wounds of the past and go forward. What exactly does he mean? If he means ‘reconciliation’ of past differences then let it be, but if it means amnesty for some of the most horrific crimes that have ever been committed by man against man – and here I include the crimes of the holocaust – then it should never be. People who brutally kill, maim and torture other people because of their political differences, and are provided with impunity for their acts by a sitting government, must now stand trial in a Court of Law. If that does not happen, the crimes will happen again.

And we still have farm invasions taking place. In the last week some 40 farms are reported to have been invaded and the owners dispossessed of everything they own. The victims now are those who sought a SADC court to intervene in their plight – and the SADC court found in the farmers favour. Now those same farmers whom the SADC court found were entitled to remain on their farms, are being attacked by this same ZANU PF government who have yet to learn that life is changing.

Or is it that we who think that life is changing are yet to learn that it isn’t?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jestina Mukoko, Roy Bennet and the rest

Jestina Mukoko of the Zimbabwe Peace Project has now been incarcerated since December the 3rd 2008, and her condition is said to be life threatening, yet still the prison authorities will not bring her to open court or allow her to have private medical attention. A number of other MDC activists are also being held without bail.

To add to the impudence (is that the right word) of the ZANU PF clique, Roy Bennet, due to be sworn in as Deputy Minister of Agriculture, was arrested on Friday the 13th and whisked away to Mutare Police cells on spurious charges of ‘treason’, now reduced to ‘banditry’ and ‘sabotage’. Friday is the usual day for arrests like these to ensure the ‘guilty’ party remains in the police cells for the weekend. But to add insult to injury on Monday when Bennet is due to be remanded in the Mutare Magistrate’s Court, the Prosecutors (from Harare) fail to turn up. So Bennet is detained for a further 48 hours without warrant. It should be the prosecutors who should be charged with Contempt of Court and they should be the ones locked up in a police cell for 48 hours or more so they can find out what it is like to be treated, not like a common criminal, but worse than a common criminal.

But this is not all. A further 10 peaceful protestors were arrested on the 14th February in Bulawayo – seven women from WOZA and three men from Radio Dialogue. They too, were not brought to court on Monday.

It is almost unbelievable that these acts of ZANU PF treachery are taking place at the same time as the new Prime Minister is working his first day in office.

It has been suggested that Mugabe has lost control of his hard liners in the Army, the Police, the Prison Service and the CIO who are desperately trying to sabotage the new Government of National Unity. They know, one assumes, that not only are their jobs on the line, their lives are on the line for many of them have committed acts of inhumanity to their fellow man. It seems their current MO is to continue these acts in order to save themselves from The Hague.

What is really disturbing about all of this, and what has gone before, is that the South Africans – Mbeki and now Motlanthe, the majority of SADC and the AU think that Mugabe and his cronies should be in charge of the GNU. Have they no consciences either?

They have the power to sort this thuggery out. It is high time they used it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What do we do now?

Many of us have been wondering for months what it will be like when The End comes. Well, The End has come – not yet for Mugabe and his henchmen and sycophants but for The Economy. What a good time/bad time for Tsvangirayi to take up the position of Prime Minister.

The Economy is now in such a mess that no-one knows what to do next. The Reserve Bank tells us we must all pay our US$12,000 (to the RBZ of course) and get a FOLIWARS licence which allows us to trade in US dollars and then remit 5% of our USD turnover to the RBZ. And we – individuals and corporates – must all apply to our banks for an FCA (Foreign Currency Account).

Within a few short days of the original announcement we are told that we don’t have to pay the $12,000 – only 5% of our US dollar revenue to the RBZ.

Just why we should pay anything to the RBZ for the destruction of the Zimbabwe Dollar is beyond me. We didn’t destroy the Zimbabwe dollar, the RBZ did that all by itself.

The banks – all technically now insolvent because no-one is using the banking services and they have no assets left – are falling all over themselves to get customers to open FCA’s and re-start using their services. With indecent haste and greed, they are listing costs for these services out of all reality.

While all this is going on, in the background the utilities – Tel One, the phone company, ZESA, the electricity supply authority, and the various City Councils have started invoicing their clients in USD. A friend of mine received his invoice today – US$440 for the provision of a hardly used domestic phone service. No calls itemised on the bill. Whilst it is also rumoured that Zimbabwe Online – an ISP – received a phone bill for US$50,000 for the provision of services for 1 month. It is doubtful whether anyone in his right mind will pay for these services at these prices.

Tendai Biti, the new MDC Minister of Finance who is a man much hated by ZANU PF and RBZ Governor, Gideon Gono, has said that he wants the Zimbabwe Dollar to survive in preference to ‘Randising’ the economy. He has a lot of work to do to achieve that and much more needed right now is a means of paying for services, whether it be paying your labour, paying your suppliers, or paying your utility bills.

We also need to get the Stock Exchange, which hasn’t traded since mid-November last year, back into operation.

Will anyone ever be able to quantify the financial destruction that Robert Mugabe has managed to achieve since he took office in 1980?

Another story we hear today is that Mugabe has recently purchased himself a US$5 million luxury home in Hong Kong. We want the money back, please. It will keep the economy going for a month or two yet. And then we want the rest back too. All the money that Mugabe, Gono and RBZ have siphoned out of this country for their own personal greed at the expense of the ordinary people.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Promises, Promises

What is going on with the two political factions? Despite the inauguration of Tsvangirai yesterday as Prime Minister in the new GNU, 30 or more political activists, known for sure to have been beaten and tortured by their ZANU PF captors over their months of captivity, and some said to be near death as a result of their ordeal, are still being held, somewhere, incommunicado.

One would have thought that their release, or at the very least, their opportunity to be admitted to bail and their ability to seek and find medical help, would have been a pre-condition for the inauguration to take place. But perhaps it has been used by the ZANU PF authorities as a ‘deal’. Take the oath, Mr Tsvangirai, and we will release your activists.

Now Tsvangirai has promised ‘that the activists will be released immediately’. He has also promised the civil servants they will be paid in forex by the end of this month. Where’s the money coming from?

Oh dear, oh dear oh dear. I suspect he has been set up once again and in his naïveté he has fallen for it. ZANU PF (and Thabo Mbeki) must be laughing their heads off this morning.

I just hope I am wrong. The truth will out eventually. It always does.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Total Confusion

Last week we had the ‘budget’ which consisted of ‘vague statements of intent’. The detail was entirely lacking. What was interesting was that the ‘Acting Minister’ was proposing a complete ‘U’ turn on the Mugabenomics of before – now we will have property rights, (but no going back on the land policy which looted most of the agricultural land for and behalf of the ZANU PF hierarchy) a free market economy, disband the pricing commission, pay everyone in whatever currency they like.

Over the weekend we learned that Tsvangirayi and his party have ‘unanimously’ ‘accepted the deal’ and if things go according to plan, he will be our Prime Minister in less than two weeks time. (Of interest, Tendai Biti is now suing The Herald for half a million US Dollars for publishing ‘lies’ about his stated opposition to Tsvangirayi).

Yesterday Gideon Gono gave a Monetary Policy Statement to the nation. More promises of property rights, a free market economy, more Zimbabwe dollar notes as he knocks off another twelve zero’s from the currency and blames everyone but himself and ZANU PF for the ‘disastrous economy’ that we now have. As usual, The West, the IMF and ‘colonialism’ come in for a bashing.

Everyone and anyone can now trade in US dollars – provided of course they obtain a licence from the Reserve Bank at a cost of $US 12,000 per annum in Harare. The biggest retailer in the city has to pay $US 12,000, as does the corner shop that sells knitting needles. Hawkers get away with a ‘one-off’ US$25 licence’. (The solution is of course to buy a hawkers licence and set up shop in front of your retail shop). Smaller towns get away with lower licence fees. Once again, just where these $US are supposed to appear from is a mystery and that the scheme is ‘highly inflationary’ is a given to everyone but Gono himself. He (and government) are simply trying to bring in the $US to pay the civil service.

Those of us who live in the ‘low density’ suburbs will be charged for local government services in $US; those in the high density suburbs will be charged in Zimbabwe dollars. But this pre-supposes that everyone living in the low density suburbs has access to $US and an FCA account with the bank.

The MPS runs into 200 pages – more statements of intent – not much on the ‘how’ it will be done. It is a most depressing document, the first 25 pages of which are devoted to telling the long suffering public that Gono is a hero; everyone else is a villain. He decries ‘corruption’ yet he is at the forefront of it all.

What was a mess before is now a complete mess. The banks haven’t a clue what they must do to make things ‘work’. Neither does the business community. No doubt it will be some weeks before we can see the light of the monetary day. By then there will have to be some retractions, some changes, and probably some ‘no going back’ statements.

And where does Tsvangirayi and his MDC fit into all this? The ‘activists’ are still being held in captivity – somewhere. A story I heard today is that some Non Governmental organisations are still being harassed by the CIO and have had to close their doors to ensure that staff are not ‘kidnapped’. If Tsvangirayi wants to win some political capital he needs to act very, very soon or his credibility will be gone in a flash and a blur.

He needs to get his people freed from captivity, he needs to get rid of Gono very, very quickly and establish a monetary environment that creates opportunity and investment and then, somehow, he must restore law and order.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Looming ‘Budget’

Tomorrow the ‘Acting Minister of Finance’, Patrick Chinamasa, is going to present his ‘budget’ to Zimbabwe. This is going to be very interesting. The teachers are holding out for the $US, the railway workers have been on strike for the past couple of weeks holding out for their $US, one assumes that Army and the Police have also been promised the currency of their dreams as well as every worker and manager who is not receiving them right now.

Tsvangirayi is being set up by the ZANU PF electronic and print media for the kill with his un-named ‘insiders’ telling us that Tsvangirayi and the majority of his inner circle have agreed to take part in the GNU while his deputy, lawyer Tendai Biti is the deviant holding out for better offers from Mugabe. The whole piece is most probably a pack of lies dreamt up by ZANU PF propagandists such that when Tsvangirayi eventually comes out with his ‘no deal’ he will be accused of his usual dithering and pandering to the west.

The real problem Tsvangirayi faces is what can he sell to his supporters and what can he not sell to them? At a lunch today the black members of the group suggested that Tsvangirayi will lose any legitimacy he has with his supporters if he goes into the GNU while one white member of the group felt very strongly that Tsvangirai must accept the deal, warts and all.

The ‘budget’ and what it can and cannot deliver is now the key to the next step in our Zimbabwean saga. Chinamasa, who probably can’t multiply 2 x 2, ably assisted by the RBZ, is said to be coming up with a ‘new deal for the civil service’ where they will be paid in $US promissory notes that will be exchangeable for goods (and services?) at licenced US dollar trading outlets. Who will accept these fake notes, for that is what they will be? Will the civil servants accept them in good faith? If they do will the licensed traders, who have to import almost everything they sell using real US dollars or real SA Rand, readily accept them?

Not likely given the recent track record of the government and their promises of ‘more money for the worker’

And where and how are all these mythical US dollars going to appear from? Of interest perhaps is that my government pension was paid into my account on the 23rd of January and was paid in Zimbabwe dollars (what a surprise!) and has increased from 2.5 billion in December to 3.4 trillion in January. Today the street is trading at between 4 and 40 trillion to 1 US dollar!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What Happens Now?

The ‘Talks’ came and went without agreement from Tsvangirayi. Clearly he is the one holding out for a better deal, while Mugabe, it is reported, has made several (minor) concessions.

In the meantime schools are still closed, the banks are collapsing with alarming rapidity as they cease to do business, the soldiers don’t have their US dollars. Neither do the teachers and policemen or the many other civil servants. Tel-One, the monopoly telephone provider issued statements to customers in ridiculous amounts of US dollars but then had to relent when it was pointed out to them that the majority of their customers don’t have access to US dollars. They itemised telephone line rental at USD 20 a line but failed to provide any tariffs and had the cheek to demand payment in advance for ‘next month’.

There are expectations from everyone that they should be ‘paid in US dollars’, be they individuals, corporates, parastatals or central and local government authorities. The fact is that what USD is around is in cash! They are not traded through the banking system, one cannot write cheques in USD. There is a very limited supply of US dollars that circulates amongst the ‘haves’, the ‘haves’ being licensed traders and unlicensed traders in the informal economy. The expectation that ‘everyone must have them’ is misguided in the extreme.

To make matters worse for all of the ‘have-nots’, the Zimbabwe dollar has moved from 2.5 trillion to 1 USD to 10 trillion to 1 USD in the past 24 hours!

Could it be that ‘government’ has been stalling on the schools issue, the payment of teachers, soldiers and policemen on the misguided belief that Tsvangirayi will agree to taking part in the ‘GNU’ and suddenly the fiscus will be awash with all the US dollars it needs to pay everyone? But it hasn’t happened and it is unlikely to happen in the near future.

In the meantime Barak Obama has been sworn in as the new US President and some remarks in his acceptance speech were clearly aimed at Mugabe and Zimbabwe.

“To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist. To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.”

Mind you, it will take a long time for these words to sink into the sick psyche of ZANU PF and their leader. They still believe with all their hearts and minds that they are on the right side of history.

Until then………!

Monday, January 19, 2009

“Good Faith”

As a prelude to ‘more talks with Tsvangirayi’ scheduled for today the Mugabe "Government" (a reminder - we do not officially have any kind of government in Zimbabwe) has arrested more ‘MDC Activists’ allegedly bent on ‘treason, sabotage or terrorism’ – or perhaps all three and today I read a report that suggests that if Tsvangirayi does not come into Mugabe’s version of an ‘inclusive government’ he too will be arrested for ‘treason’.

Mugabe thinks Tsvangirayi should ‘join the inclusive government and we can sort out the detail later’. This must be some kind of Mugabe joke. Mugabe and ZANU PF have NEVER EVER made a statement in good faith or committed an act of good faith. ‘Good faith’ does not exist in their internal psyche. Margaret Thatcher should have learned that in 1979-80 and a whole host of people in between then and now, but clearly very few people have learned it. Certainly not Thabo Mbeki, but then ‘Good Faith’ may not exist in his psyche either. Today he has a chance to prove it or not.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Return

I’m back!

While I’ve been away Jestina Mukoko has been found in police custody. So much for the word of the police that they did not know of her whereabouts. Other activists have been found. So called ‘confessions’ have been made by several activists but one of the activists has spilled the beans with the detail as to how it was all done through severe torture and manipulation.

Observance of human rights is deteriorating rapidly and everyone in the security and judicial services seems to be involved one way of the other. But who cares about human rights in Zimbabwe? Nobody it seems.

On the economic front when I left The Zimdollar cash rate was trading at 100 million to 1 USD. Today it is trading at 100 BILLION to 1 USD. The cheque rate, the OMIR rate and whatever other rates exist at are beyond my calculating ability. To try and explain just how bad things are, today I found that a deposit of 144 quadrillion had been paid electronically into my personal account. On investigation I discovered this was a dividend from Old Mutual. At the cash rate this is valued at just over $US4, 000. At the ‘cheque rate’ it is probably valued at $US4.

I made an attempt to see just how much cash I could draw. On being told that the windfall was a dividend payment to me personally, the bank teller said I could draw one trillion. But then she said she did not have any cash to give me. From my company account (if they had the cash) I could draw 50 million. What use this is to anyone is a mystery.

I went to another branch of my bank. They had some cash. They let me have all of it with a smile and ‘this is your lucky day’. I walked out with 120 billion in five notes. I went into the city and did some business. My car was cheerfully ‘watched over’ by a street kid. When I came back I gave him one of the 20 billion dollar notes. He took it but clearly what he really wanted to see was either US dollars or SA Rand.

The schools have been refused permission to re-open, mainly because the government doesn’t know what to do. The excuse is that the Grade 7 results are ‘not yet available’ but schools may re-open on the 26th January. You can bet the Grade 7 results won’t be available then either. The teachers have refused to mark them until they get paid a proper salary. The teachers, we are told, want 2.5 thousand USD a month.

Private schools then said they would re-open in spite of the ‘rule’ from the Ministry of Education. Government responded by threatening the private school authorities with arrest and imprisonment if they flouted the rule. Two schools opened. Heritage school at Borrowdale Brook and St Georges College next door to the President’s residence. Heritage was promptly invaded by soldiers who sent everyone home with the comment: - “Until we get paid in USD you will not re-open the school’. St George’s authorities told government that they answered to The Vatican, not to the Zimbabwe government and were allowed to remain open. What a fiasco.

More on soldiers, hot rumour has it that the entire company at Cranborne Barracks tore up their payslips in front of their officers yesterday.

Government is said to have approached the SA Government asking to be included in the South African Rand Monetary zone. SA has said yes, no problem, but we will control the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, not you. So what next?

On the ZBC one can hear diatribes of hate against the MDC, The British, and now for good measure because it is popular thing to do, the Israelis.

Is it really near the end? How can the RBZ and Mugabe wriggle out of this latest economic crisis? So far they have been innovative but every decision they have made has failed to see the long term consequences of their decisions, starting of course, with the unbudgeted payout to war veterans in September 1998.

Watch this space!