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 na├»ve 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.