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.

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