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.