Thursday, December 23, 2010

How do you create an Entrepreneur?

Muagabe wants to know. Mr Mugabe stated recently that he could not understand why black Zimbabweans were not acting like entrepreneurs in the mining industry. He told his audience that he had questioned a number of holders of EPO’s (Exclusive Prospecting Orders) as to why they were registering their claims and he was concerned that all that he spoke to were whites (or foreigners). Why are black Zimbabeans not registering mining prospecting claims?

The answer is so simple; if you promote the oppoprtunity for people to steal farms, mines and business, they will take the easy route and steal them. Why bother being an entrepreneur and starting new business, mining ventures, farming operations, if there is a much easier way?

You want entrepreneurs? Make the conditions right for them and they will appear, as some did in the early eighties and nineties.

Monday, December 13, 2010


There is a considerable amount of world-wide controversy over the revelations by Wiki-Leaks and their impact on such things as ‘freedom of the press’, ‘the right to know’ and the manipulation of people, governments and business.

There have been a lot of leaks relating to Zimbabwe. I wonder if those responsible for the leaks are aware that they have put many lives in Zimbabwe at risk – anyone named as having spoken to the Americans for any reason is a marked man now. There are even serious suggestions being made here that Morgan Tsvangirayi should be arrested for ‘treason’ because he has spoken to the Americans.

There are perhaps other people in other countries whose lives have been put at risk. The Americans have suggested that their troops have been put at risk. Those advocating freedom of information would do well to understand this.

Things are not always as simple as they seem.


I have spent a week in Ghana. There are differences and similarities between Ghana and Zimbabwe. Let’s start with the differences. Electricity flows most of the time. We experienced one power cut which lasted less than 15 minutes. The main roads are in excellent condition, but they run through every little village there is between Accra and Tarkwa – a 7 hour journey. And there are dozens of little villages. As one approaches there is a speed limit of 50 k’s an hour which everyone obeys – probably because there are policemen with speed guns in 9 out of 10 of the villages. The off-roads some of which we took to ‘save time’ are in a shocking state but to be fair, it rains every day in Ghana – well – on the coastal belt where we travelled – not just light showers either. Off the road and outside the villages is mainly jungle. But we did pass several rubber and coconut plantations.

The people are friendly, polite, respectful but not deferential. There is evidence everywhere of racial tolerance and the blacks and whites that I met seemed to get on very well with each other. One could these days say much the same of Zimbabwe until ZANU PF enters the picture.

At the mine, people I met were God fearing Christians who give thanks to their maker several times a day. The supervisors who had recently completed training were enthusiastic, energetic, confident and able. They understand the concept of business and profit. I would be very surprised to hear that the mine-workers in Ghana had gone on strike like their counterparts in South Africa. It would be against their personal code of conduct.

The mine has plenty of facilities for the 4,000 odd people that work there. There is a clubhouse, tennis courts, squash courts, gymnasium, swimming pool and well-manicured golf course yet no-one seems to use them. I wanted to swim and discovered that before I was allowed to swim I had to take a ‘swimming test’ which comprised swimming two lengths of the 20 metre pool, treading water for two minutes and recovering the licencers keys from the bottom of the 10 foot deep pool. After I had completed the tests successfully I was awarded a ‘Certificate of Competency’. There was a security guard at the pool who demanded to see my ‘licence’ before I was allowed in.

I listened briefly to two radio broadcasts from the Ghanaian Parliament. I heard members of the ruling party and the opposition exchanging banter, with plenty of good humour mixed with serious debate. Unlike Zimbabwe where the parliamentarians exchange insults.

There is hope for Africa yet.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Will there, won’t there be an election early next year?

The media is awash with stories about the forthcoming election. Mugabe started it all by announcing that he was ‘sick and tired’ of the GNU and he wants an election sooner rather than later, with or without a new constitution. Is he politicking? Yes, of course. He’s testing the water. He’s testing the ZANU PF water and the MDC water to see how they respond to this initiative.

This weekend we heard that Mnangagwa, the erstwhile sometimes quoted to be ‘next ZANU PF president’ tells his audience that ‘we will not allow the MDC to win an election’. He bases this on the idea that to do so would be to negate the work of the freedom fighters who won independence in 1980 and who wanted to see a rich and successful Zimbabwe. In short, he is saying that if the MDC win, then there will be a coup of some kind.

I took an on-line read of the Zimbabwean newspaper published daily in the UK. Published there because it cannot be published here, although frequently I have seen it being sold on the streets of Harare. They have several stories of speculative interest. The first is that the police have been instructed that the 4th of December is the day when fresh violence will be directed at MDC supporters and that they will not, under any circumstances, investigate these incidents when they occur. A second is that ZANU PF is targeting the Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti of the MDC, and will soon accuse him of corruption and theft of monies from the national exchequer. He will then be arrested and incarcerated until shortly before the elections when he will be released for lack of evidence. This will ensure that the MDC is pre-occupied with his arrest and detention and efforts to secure his release, in similar circumstances to the arrests some years ago of Morgan Tsvangirayi for ‘Treason’.

Hmmmm! It will be interesting to see whether these forecasts have any substance. But they do sound so typical of ZANU PF election strategy.

Golden Parachutes Zimbabwe Style

For several years I have watched in amazement as Zimbabwean Chief Executives of under-performing companies are sent off into the sunset with magnificent ‘packages’. This week we have the best of them all. Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) has been under-performing for years. In truth, ZESA has been responsible for a large slice of the collapsed economy through its inability to provide power to agriculture, commerce and industry. Gold and Asbestos mines have closed due to flooding due to lack of power to pump out water from the workings; factories have closed due to lack of power to run machinery. Irrigated crops have not been grown because of the inability to pump water. And ordinary homes are subject to load shedding of mammoth proportions. In 1994 ZESA employed 2,500 people. By 2010 they were employing 8,500 people. Preventive maintenance that used to be done in the old (Rhodesia) days does not happen anymore. A short ride, walk or drive around the suburbs will reveal hundreds of trees infringing on the power lines. Close to where I Iive there are power lines dragging on the ground that have been that way for as long as I can remember. Business has had to invest in emergency generating capacity, import millions of litres of petrol and diesel to run them. When I asked John Robertson, the economist, how much had been spent on ‘emergency’ power supplies his response was ‘enough to build another power station’.

So with this kind of history, it is natural to blame the Chief Executive. I mean who else is responsible? This week the CEO of ZESA was awarded a $2 million exit package for his contribution to the nation! That’s 14 million Rand. There are few pople working in ZESA who will earn that kind of money in a lifetime. And where’s the money coming from? Where else but the consumer. It is not right – it is evil.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Democracy In Africa? Never in a thousand years!

There have been many reports of late about the Constitutional Outreach Programme (COPAC) that started off with what was called ‘The Kariba Draft’. The Kariba Draft was the brainchild of ZANU PF some years ago when they crafted what they believed should be a new constitution for Zimbabwe while on a weekend at Kariba.

The Kariba Draft, designed to keep ZANU PF in power for ever, was rejected by the MDC and as a consequence COPAC was dreamed up, whereby ‘the people’ would be ‘consulted’.

But ZANU PF acted predictably and the COPAC process has been abused, ZANU PF sent in their cadres (a euphemism really for ‘terrorists’) to every planned COPAC meeting to ensure that the people being consulted would only tell the assessors what they are ‘permitted’ (by ZANU PF) to say. Should we be surprised?

Nelson Chamisa, the MDC Party Spokesman has now described the operation as having been done ‘nicodemously’ which they should have known long ago, is the only way ZANU PF operates.

I am reminded of the Pearce Commission meeting at Birchenough Bridge in 1972 when ‘the people’ were being consulted on the Pearce Commission proposals. I was there. Clearly trouble was expected, but in the end, there was none as the people performed exactly as was required.

The Pearce Commissioners made a speech to the gathered thousands from Mutema Tribal Trust Lands which was dutifully interpreted by an interpreter while the crowd, squatting on the ground, shuffled impatiently. Clearly no-one was really listening. They were waiting for the ‘vote’ that was to come. In the background were the ‘heavies’ watching over the crowd. They were easily identifiable. This was in the days before the war had taken hold. The heavies were not terrorists with heavy machine guns. They were ‘nationalists’ supporting the cause of the then ZANU, predecessor to today’s ZANU PF. They knew what had to be done. The Pearce Proposals had to be rejected and to ensure that happened, they spent weeks indoctrinating the local people, telling them what to say and what not say with threats of death if they misbehaved. We knew that. The Rhodesian Government knew that. But the pretence at ‘consultation’ had to take place because the Brits demanded it.

After a long speech in the sweltering sun, the Commissioner in Charge asked for a vote: “Who is in favour of these proposals”, he asked? I watched as several hands stretched up tentatively while the owners looked around furtively to see if this was the OK thing to do. It wasn’t. The heavies at the back screamed ‘No, no, no, no’. The upstretched hands shot down again.

“And who is against these proposals”, asked the commissioner?

The hands went up as directed and shouts of ‘No, no, no, no, no” reverberated round the grounds.

And in this way the Pearce Commission published its report that ‘Africans overwhelmingly rejected the proposals’ That’s how Africa operates. You’d think that a few people round here would know. Morgan Tsvangirayi for one, Jacob Zuma for another. Democracy does not exist in Africa. The rulers rule by fear and now by the barrel of the ubiquitous AK 47. Not by consent. Never by consent – never in a thousand years. Could it possibly be that I could be proved wrong?

Corruption in the Business Sector

This week I have read about the impending collapse of three of Zimbabwe’s better known companies. All on the same day. Lobels Bakeries – Lobels Bread being a household name in this country for as long as I can remember – has gone to the wall. The company was handed over to ‘The Workers’ about 18 months or so ago and the word at the beginning of the week was that the equipment was old and uncompetitive with the production methods of today. Later in the week we learn that an audit report discovered some $7.5 million has been misappropriated by top management, siphoned out of the company by way of fictitious ‘suppliers’ of flour.

Another household name for as long as I can remember is ’Kingston’s Stationers’. Now Kingston’s Holdings. The company was bought shortly after independence by ZANU PF but when the ZANU PF ‘business’ wheels were falling off it was transformed into a ‘parastatal’. Monday we are told that 1.7 million has been siphoned off by top management. Once again, fraudulent ‘suppliers’ have been paid for goods that were never supplied. The board is busy taking the accused to court.

Next on the list is ZUPCO – ‘Zimbabwe United Passenger Company’. The company provided the only bus fleet in the old Rhodesia and has been wading through crocodiles for the past twenty years as old rolling stock gradually fell into disrepair, was replaced briefly by new omnibuses funded by government that soon went the same way. Their last attempt at rejuvenation was to purchase a fleet of busses from China with the name of FAW – which the locals soon dubbed ‘For a Week (Only)’ as that was the life of the average machine. Now ZUPCO has been advised to lay off 400 staff but in the labour environment in Zimbabwe today this means in effect, bankruptcy. Air Zimbabwe knows all about this having attempted to lay off 500 staff earlier this year only to find the arbitration courts refused to permit and AZ had to take them all back. AZ has experienced a pilot’s strike for the past three weeks, the pilots claiming that they have not been paid their allowances since February 2009. That appears to be resolved for the time being with the pilots returning to work having been made various promises. And the rumour mill has it that AZ is in the market for 2 new Airbus A600 machines with pilots currently under training. If true, there must be some kind of nefarious deal taking place here.

To round off the week’s business review we are told that Sable Chemicals owes ZESA – the electricity supply authority – over 22 million dollars. ZESA saw fit to cut them off only to be told by government to re-instate their supply. We are told ‘on good authority’ that government owes Sable over 14 million – presumably for the supply of fertiliser handed out to ‘new farmers’.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In a Lawless State

You can get away with theft: -

Christopher Tande, founder of Time Bank says information was stolen from the bank when it was under curatorship, prejudicing the financial institution of $30 mln. The bank also claimed that the financial institution’s central computer system was tampered with.

Placed under curatorship by the RBZ in October 2006 the bank was subsequently deregistered after the curatorship, a decision the bank management successfully challenged in the Administrative Court last year and the bank is expected to re-open in October.

Tande accused the police of dragging their feet on the 2 cases involving the theft and break-ins at the bank. The letter was copied to senior police officers, the Attorney-General’s Office, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission. Key data, including sealed envelopes containing security codes and a register of the password holders were stolen during the break-ins while the suspected perpetrators have not been brought to justice.

Tande alleged that while police had turned a blind eye to the break-ins and theft, counter charges by suspects in the cases were allegedly being treated with “great zeal” You can guess to which political party the peretrators belong and where they are employed.

And you can also get away with murder: -

AG Johannes Tomana has ignored a document detailing 197 politically-related murders submitted to him by PM Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party. Tomana said he did not take the report seriously because his office was the wrong one to submit such a document to.

The MDC sent a list in October last year of “unreported” murder cases which were committed between April and December 2008 to Tomana asking him to ensure that the cases were prosecuted. According to the MDC, reports were made to the police, but references were not given to the complainants.

So what does one do in Zimbabwe to get the authorities to investigate reported murders?

Friday, August 6, 2010

To Hell with the West

There has been a public political spat going on this week. Last Sunday Sabina Mugabe was buried at Heroes Acre, Sabina being the late 80 year old sister of Robert and thus being automatically declared a Public Hero – this also to the chagrin of the MDC who believe that as ‘senior’ partners in the GNU they should be consulted on who should or should not be declared a Public Hero – and they weren’t.

Nonetheless as is Mugabe’s wont, he chose to politicise the occasion by slamming the already much maligned Western Bloc for refusing to lift ‘economic sanctions’. “To hell, to hell, to hell with them” declared Mugabe.

Of course this was a Public occasion and all the diplomats, including western diplomats, had been invited to attend and pay their respects. The Americans, the Greeks, the Germans and the EU Charge d’Affairs waited until the end of Mugabe’s speech, then walked out of the ceremony. Not surprising really. America is the largest donor to Zimbabwe. Germany follows close behind and the EU , despite being a primary donor of aid has been the instigator of ‘sanctions’ against Mugabe and his clique of thieves.

But not to be outdone, the Foreign Affairs minister – Simbarashe Mubengegwe, chose to summon the ambassadors to his offices to give them a dressing down for being ‘disrespectful’. What could be more disrespectful than choosing the burial ceremony as a time to publicly humiliate those paying their last respects to a woman who, some years ago, stole a farm in the Norton area because she liked the farmhouse?

On another note, Temba Mliswa is still in jail!

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Chicken Comes Home to Roost?

It’s worth extracting a verbatim report from Zimbabwe’s Herald on the recent fate of Temba Mliswa. I remember well Temba Mliswa all those years ago now when he was full of hate speech for the whites in Zimbabwe and how he effectively destroyed national rugby in the late nineties. Now his former political friends have turned against him and his future is uncertain:

“Police have charged a ZANU PF politician with defrauding two white farmers of more than US$20 million worth of property including tractors, vehicles, cows and bulls in a case that gives a rare glimpse into how members of President Robert Mugabe’s party looted white farms.

The government has never prosecuted ZANU PF politicians for pillaging white-owned farms and the charges against Temba Mliswa – a member of the party’s Mashonaland provincial executive until his recent suspension – appear a result of his public clash with powerful Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri.

Mliswa, a close relative of ZANU PF politburo member and Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa, last week attacked Chihuri in newspapers, labelling the police chief one of the most corrupt men as the two wrangled over shares in a white-owned car firm that the police say Mliswa attempted to acquire fraudulently.

Mliswa was last week arrested over the car firm shares said to be worth around US$1 million. He was released on Monday only to be arrested the same day on fresh charges of fraud allegedly committed between 2004 and 2006, the height of Mugabe’s chaotic farm redistribution programme that saw white farmers losing land, equipment and nearly everything else they owned to ZANU PF politicians and members of the security forces.

And the latest charge sheet prepared by the police against Mliswa is the clearest example yet of how Mugabe’s allies helped themselves to farms and property without paying a single cent all in the name of restoring land to poor blacks from whom it was allegedly stolen by white settlers.

According to the police, Mliswa, who returns to court today for his continuing bail application, sometime in 2004 approached Jacobs Van De Merwe, whose Orib Park Farm in Karoi had been listed for compulsory acquisition by the government, and told the farmer that he could help sell his movable property and equipment on a 10 percent commission.

Mliswa – a former fitness trainer but now a wealthy businessman and farmer – went on to sell the property that included 104 cows, four bulls, three heavy vehicles, a cold-room, three tractors, one hammer mill, an assortment of irrigation equipment and generators.

He allegedly raised ZW$19 488 500 and a further US$3 644 058 from the sale and converted the cash to his personal use. In the second case said to have been committed in 2006, the politician is alleged to have approached Nick Van Ransburg, a former manager at Dunlop Range Farm near Kwekwe town, and promised to help protect his equipment from seizure but on condition that the two entered an agreement of sale.

But according to the police as soon as the agreement of sale was signed Mliswa went on to grab 300 head of cattle worth US$900 000 and farm equipment which included bulldozers, tractors, lorries, graders, pick-up tracks all valued at US$20 000 million.

He sold the property and kept the proceeds, the police charge. Mliswa’s lawyer, Charles Chinyama was not immediately available for comment on the matter but in a letter to Chihuri shown to ZimOnline, the lawyer accused the police of bringing charges against his client in instalments. “We notice that the police are bringing all allegations by way of instalments against our client,” said the letter dated July 6, and addressed to Chihuri. “In the interest of finality of litigation, please can we kindly request through your good offices to have the outstanding charges brought to court at once this week.”

Mliswa faces a long jail term if convicted of fraud. But it remains unclear whether a bench staffed by several judges who received former white farms and other property from the government would want to imprison the politician and in the process set what clearly amounts to a very dangerous precedent for all people who benefited from land seizures.

In addition critics say the veteran leader’s cronies in ZANU PF and the security establishment – and not ordinary peasants – benefited the most from farm seizures with some of them ending up with as many as six farms each against the government’s stated one-man-one-farm policy.”

That was all yesterday’s news. Today, Friday the 9th July there is more to report. Mliswa’s was yesterday released on $400.00 bail – a paltry sum in view of the loot he has apparently acquired. But believe it or not he was yesterday immediately re-arrested a third time and charged with a further 30 counts of fraud!

So now he is facing 70+ counts of fraud, all involving the theft of farm implements, stock and probably crops.

Interesting also to note that Tom Beattie, friend and farmer from Chegutu is today reported to be using the courts to try and regain $850,000 worth of farm implements stolen from him by ZANU PF Deputy Minister Bright Matonga with the Minister of Land Reform and resettlement being the second respondent.

Hmmmmmmm. All very interesting.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Big Business!

I visited an old friend yesterday who runs a steel wholesaling and retailing business. He was full of his usual good-cheer and optimism and what was staggering was how he has turned the business around in recent months. My friend – I’ll call him Brian – went off to Australia some years ago but retained his Zimbabwe steel business. Last year he returned to Zimbabwe and found his business in a state of near collapse. He fired his long-standing manager (and friend) and set about re-structuring the business. He took the obvious step of cutting back the staff complement and finding better ways of sourcing his stock (from South Africa). Today he makes CASH over the counter sales of over half a million US dollars a month. He employs 16 people in Harare and Bulawayo. His business is thriving. He has to be one of the few but it was an encouraging visit that things can still be done and done well in Zimbabwe.

The (Almost) Last Resort

There is not really much to write about these days. The glamour of the GNU has worn off, the excitement of having real money to spend instead of worthless bundles of Zimbabwe dollar notes is no longer exciting – in fact it is all a bit depressing because there is far too little money around. Mugabe and his ZANU PF are firmly in control of the future and Tsvangirayi is being hammered at every opportunity.

His attempt to sign a BIPPA with the South Koreans has given George Charamba – a ZANU PF civil servant – an opportunity to lambast him for daring to assume that he could sign a BIPPA with anyone. For me, it is not clear that Tsvangirayi did sign a BIPPA with South Korea. What I think happened is that he organised some trade relationships with them and The Herald reported that he had signed a BIPPA. Thus followed all sorts of further speculation on what he might or might not have done. Tsvangirayi and his press spokespeople are saying nothing, mainly because whatever the MDC say, is construed as ‘Treason’ by someone in ZANU PF.

I am reading a book called ‘The Last Resort’ by Douglas Rogers who was at school with my sons here in Zimbabwe. Rogers is a journalist in the USA today. He writes well about the life of his parents, Lyn and Ros Rogers who hail from Mutare. Lyn Rogers was a lawyer (well known to a good friend of mine) and on retirement he purchased a farm the Harare side of Christmas Pass which he turned into a back-packers lodge and called it ‘Drifters’.

In 2000 when ‘the trouble’ started, Douglas living then in the UK was concerned about is parents’ welfare and future so he came back several times to see how they were getting on. In those periods he met a lot of diverse people from both sides of the Zimbabwe political spectrum and he had many interesting experiences. He writes well. His book is both hilarious and tragic. Mostly it rings of truth and it is first hand and it is a valuable history of the country between 2000 and 2009.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chicanery and Mr Chikane

Life moves along here in Zimbabwe but nothing changes. It was reported yesterday that Senator Ian Kay was arrested (again). This time for being in possession of expired drugs. The drugs we are told are vitamin supplements that were supplied to him by an NGO. Whether they are ‘expired’ or ‘past their sell by date’ is not clear. But it is bitterly cold here again and no doubt Ian had a cold night in the Marondera cells. Ian Kay is an MDC Senator and has experienced the physical wrath of ZANU PF before, having been severely beaten a few years ago and none of the perpetrators ever brought to court. The ZANU PF war against the MDC, it would seem is once again clearly being waged with the usual vigour that precedes any election. Are we to have elections sooner rather than later?

The Kimberley Process has had their man in Africa here in Zimbabwe, Mr Abbey Chikane. Stories emanating from the Zimbabwe Independent and the overseas press suggest that Mr Chikane has become another of ‘Mugabe’s Wives’ who does as he is told. During his investigations into whether or not Zimbabwe’s Chiadzwa diamond fields are behaving as they should in terms of the KP rules, Chikane was provided with a document by a local civic group leader, Farai Maguwu which is said to have originated with the Zimbabwe National Army. In next to no time the CIO went to Maguwu’s house to arrest him. Maguwu jumped out of the back window and escaped but his relatives were not so lucky. They were arrested, beaten and tortured in an attempt to get them to reveal Maguwu’s whereabouts. Maguwu gave himself up to prevent further abuse of his relatives. Now he is in jail charged with giving false information to Chikane. Chikane explains it all. He was handed a ‘Top Secret’ document from a compromised source so he immediately handed it over to the Zimbabwe National Army as being in possession of the document could have resulted in his arrest. Now Chikane tells the world that the Zimbabwe National Army, formerly accused of murdering hundreds of peasants in an around the Chiadzwa diamond fields, are the appropriate body to ‘guard’ the diamond fields to prevent illegal dealing in diamonds, and the Chiadzwa diamond authorities are adhering to the KP rules. Who really believes this chicanery, I wonder?

Friday, May 14, 2010

How to Destroy an Economy

In one of the e-news offerings that I receive I read with interest how Shabanie Asbestos Mine is to sue the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) for several million US dollars.

Shabanie Mine was originally owned by (I think) Turner & Newell. In the early days of Zimbabwean Independence the mine and other T & N Assets were bought by SMM Holdings – an empire created by a Zimbabwean business mogul, Mutumwa Mawere. Mawere fell foul of the ZANU PF ‘authorities’ and he found his empire ceded to the Zimbabwe Government. The government took over management of the empire including Shabanie Mine.

In recent months the mine has been flooded. The reason? ZESA cut off their electricity for non-payment of the bills which one must assume, ran into millions of dollars. Certainly hundreds of thousands. One has to also presume that ZESA gave warning that if the bills were not paid, electricity supply would be terminated.

The mine is flooded, the bills have not yet been paid. ZESA will not provide ‘free’ electricity any more. So the government now wants to sue ZESA!

Will that bring the mine back into operation? What about the workers – several hundred are now out of work?

And government wants 51% of your business!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A-loot-a Continua

It’s a long time since I made a contribution to this diary/blog and clinical psychologists will tell you that is a possible sign of depression. That may be true to some extent because I am depressed about Zimbabwe’s future as a result of recent events. Well, statements actually, nothing has really happened. But the real problem is that I have been far too busy. At home we have had friends from Botswana staying for a few days and a son home from England for two weeks. It was supposed to be two weeks but his flight from London was held up due to the Icelandic volcano so in the end it was only 10 days. At work I have been busier than ever. So much so that I have even had to cancel my golf on two occasions. Now that is depressing.

But what about Zimbabwe’s economics and politics? A total quagmire. ZANU PF and Robert Mugabe seem hell-bent on total self destruction. Not of themselves of course, but the economy and the people with it are seemingly heading right down the tubes. The statements being bandied about on ‘indigenisation’ are really quite frightening from an economic perspective. It is common knowledge that what Zimbabwe needs most to succeed (apart from a strong and intelligent government) is investment. It is also common knowledge amongst those people who can think that what Zimbabweans (black and white) need most is jobs. Yet there are no jobs to be had, most organisations are overstaffed, there is no new investment of any kind and every statement that government makes on indigenisation of business drives yet another nail into the investment coffin. Who in their right minds will invest in Zimbabwe in the fore-knowledge that government intends to take 51% of the business with the motive being nothing more than unadulterated greed. A friend tells me that the cause of this idiocy is because the people making the greedy decisions have never had to work a day in their lives. Everything they have acquired has been ‘taken’ either from brain challenged donors, or by theft.

The current difficulty that government has with the 51% is that somewhere along the line they have realised that simply taking 51% is not really ethical, even in an African context. So they intend to pay for the 51%. To enable this, the latest intention is to impose a ‘heavy tax levy’ on business – already in intensive care. Yesterday the state mouthpiece suggests that not only should business be taxed to raise the funds to have themselves put out of business, but so should the ordinary tax-payer contribute to this fund.

How ludicrous can things get? How more Alice in Wonderland? Here are the people who need jobs being taxed out of their very existence in order to raise funds to ‘purchase’ foreign owned business enterprises so that they too – like everything else ZANU PF touches, may be slowly killed off into extinction.

I am reminded of the well documented story of the Army general who ‘acquired’ a farm in the Marondera district at the onset of the farm invasions. He proceeded to sell all the farm equipment – tractors, ploughs, harvesters, irrigation equipment and even the door and window frames of the homestead before moving onto his next ‘acquired’ farm and doing the same again. Not yet satisfied with his new found illegal wealth he moved on to a third farm and did the same. This is exactly what ZANU PF is doing to business trying to disguise their greed with ‘legislation’.

Two more event of the past few weeks. Jane Mutasa – a serious and senior member of ZANU PF – was arrested several weeks ago on suspicion of fraud having allegedly defrauded Telecel – a company of which she was a director – of some $750,000. A week or so ago the Attorney General declined to prosecute on the spurious grounds of ‘lack of evidence’. Telecel Zimbabwe decided they would institute a private prosecution but that too was spiked by the AG. The AG is Johannes Tomana – one of the disputed appointments made by ZANU PF and in conflict with the spirit of the Government of National Unity bartered by South African president Jacob Zuma. It is now only too clear why ZANU PF refuse to budge on this appointment.

The second event is that the Zimbabwe Republic Police through their ‘Commissioner-General’, Augustine Chiuri – who by the way has now been commissioner for over twenty years – had the gall to apply for a mining licence for the police force to mine diamonds in the disputed Chiadzwa mining fields. Yet another example of the greedy motives of everyone who has anything to do with ZANU PF. To make it all even worse, the Minister of Mines has, apparently, granted the licence.

Oh, yes, and a concluding thought. What are the Morgan Tsvangirayi and the MDC doing about all this mayhem? Precisely nothing – other than fraternising with the ZANU PF enemy it would seem.

(“The politicians don't just want your money. They want your soul. They want you to be worn down by taxes until you are dependent and helpless. When you subsidize poverty and failure, you get more of both” – James Dale Davidson, National Taxpayers Union)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

South Africa and Zimbabwe – where to now?

It has been a momentous fortnight for South Africa with the murder of Eugene Terre’blanche following the weeks of hype surrounding Julius Malema and his ‘Shoot the Boer’ song. Coincidentally Malema was in Zimbabwe over Easter, seeking solidarity with ZANU PF youths and Mugabe. Conspicuously he ignored the opposition MDC and has subsequently told the world that the ANC supports ZANU PF, not the Government of National Unity and not Tsvangirayi and his party.

Malema apparently didn’t say too much or make too many friends while he was here but he did congratulate Mugabe on his ‘nationalisation’ of the farms and his new policy of nationalising business, which is, apparently, exactly what Africa needs to secure their African future. He also criticised the South African judiciary, complaining it was too ‘white’ to be relevant to Africa’s needs.

“There is nothing worse than active ignorance”. So said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German dramatist, novelist, poet, and scientist. Malema is clearly actively ignorant. Unfortunately he is not alone in this.

What is the reality of the Zimbabwe he thinks meets the needs of the people?

Thirty years ago Zimbabwe was described as the Jewel of Africa. Today it is a failed state. The state enterprises responsible for the supply of essential services cannot do so. The electricity supply authority can no longer supply power. Business must of necessity have its own power supply. The water authorities can no longer provide water. Business must provide its own boreholes or other sources of water. The state fixed line telecommunications authority can no longer provide a reliable telephone service and there are no competitors allowed. Business must provide alternatives. The roads are potholed and dangerous, the street lights no longer work, the street lamp posts are rusted hulks, the traffic lights no longer work, there is no waste removal service, the fire department cannot provide a service. The Health Ministry can no longer provide a health service (The British Government by the way is paying the salaries and wages of the Zimbabwe government health staff). Education has collapsed. The criminal justice system is abused by the ruling party to suit their own ends and there is no law and order. People who are simply suspected of being opposition supporters are victimised and harassed, yet ZANU PF supporters get away with, literally, murder. Life expectancy has been reduced to 35 years. The farms are unable to produce anything near the food requirements of the country. Those farms that were ‘distributed’ were not distributed to ‘landless blacks’ but to ZANU PF chefs many of whom simply pillaged the machinery and buildings and moved on to the next farm to do the same. A drive through the country reveals hundreds of thousands of hectares of land now derelict and overgrown. Where once there were crops or cattle there are now weeds. Less than 10% of the population is employed and out of 100,000 school leavers last year, none are able to find work inside the country.

What all this states quite clearly is that the ordinary Zimbabwean is today far worse off than he was in 1980, not better. The gap is not marginal, it is massive. Some might suggest that the ordinary Zimbabweans are better off because they can have a say in the future of the country, but that is not true. In 2008 Zimbabweans voted Mugabe and his ZANU PF out of office, but they are still here, holding the power and denying the Zimbabweans right to a better future.

The actively ignorant need to know that none of this degeneration has had anything to do with sanctions of any kind. It has all been brought about by Mugabe and his ZANU PF warlords. As if this was not enough over 30,000 black Zimbabweans have been systematically murdered and many others beaten half to death in the name of material greed and an unparalleled lust for power. I have seen the photographs of the flayed buttocks of people simply suspected of supporting the opposition. They are horrifying.

This is what Malema says he wants for South Africa. What about the rest of the South Africans? What do they want? If South Africa runs true to African form, they won’t be getting what they want; only the rich and powerful will get what they want at the expense of ordinary people, the great majority of whom are the very people Malema espouses to want to look after. Malema, like Mugabe, doesn’t give a damn about the ordinary people. It is only about power and material wealth for the leadership.

Nothing would please Mugabe more than to see South Africa follow his road to ruin. But perhaps, just perhaps, Malema has done South Africa (and Zimbabwe) a great favour by a timely exposure of the ANC Youth League intentions for the future. Zimbabwe never had that forewarning. When Mugabe initiated his violent ‘land reform’ programme it came as a shock. South Africans are forewarned, and forewarned is forearmed.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thursday has Been and Gone

Today is Monday and Thursday – the day Zimbabweans were promised there would be some ‘announcements’ has been and gone.

A summary of today’s news following the weekend is puzzling. While Tendai Biti of the MDC has promised a relaxation of the media laws and that new newspapers will be licenced ‘soon’, Mugabe has a completely different stance. Mugabe tells us that there is no agreement with the MDC over outstanding issues – and there won’t be any until ‘illegal sanctions are removed’ by the British, the Europeans and the Americans. As for the removal of Gono (Reserve Bank) and Tomana (Attorney General) – they are going nowhere says Mugabe. On indigenisation Mugabe waxes lyrical in his demand that this must happen sooner rather than later and any black person who opposes it, must by definition be ‘ashamed of his race’ and have ‘backward mentality of subservience’ to whites.

But there are other signals around: The Harare City Council has proposed the arrest of ZANU PF big businessman, Phillip Chiyangwa for the shady deals he entered into with a previous city council administration and that Minister Chombo has been equally corrupt. Now this could set a cat amongst the pigeons! At present the likely losers will be the MDC dominated Harare City Council, because ZANU PF always has their way on such issues.

Then we have Morgan Tsvangirayi being, apparently, taken to task by his own party for his alleged public support for the removal of sanctions and is being asked to backtrack on such statements. The State Press, which is the one to bring this development to light, naturally blames Eddie Cross and Roy Bennet (the alleged ‘Hawks’ in the MDC) for making these demands of Tsvangirayi. I wonder whether Tsvangirayi ever made a public statement supporting the removal of sanctions. Was it perhaps a State Press concoction?

Then to really add some fuel to the Zimbabwean fire, we are told that South Africa’s vocal ANC Youth Leader, Julius Malema, is due to arrive in the country on Friday to lend his support to ‘Zimbabwean Youth’s’. What a circus that will be.

Another item for digestion is that Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and black empowerment activists on Friday ‘stormed’ out of a meeting with white entrepreneurs over what they termed “racist and backward” comments made by economist Professor Tony Hawkins when he likened the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act to apartheid law! It’s very clear who the real racists are in this debate, but don’t bet on it that too many other people in and outside Zimbabwe will be able to openly say so. And don’t bet on it either that the meeting was solely comprised of ‘white entrepreneurs’. You can be sure there were more blacks than whites at this meeting.

Then we have Mines minister Obert Mpofu allegedly on a property-buying spree which has attracted the interest of a parliamentary committee investigating the plunder of the controversial Chiadzwa diamond fields. The parliamentary portfolio committee on Mines and Energy is trying to establish how the minister allegedly acquired at least 27 properties in Victoria Falls alone over the last few months. And what of Mpofu himself? He has today apparently cancelled ACR’s prospecting licence in the Chiadzwa diamond fields, while the High Court says such cancellation has no legal force or effect. But what the hell? Where does legality have any place in the ‘New Zimbabwe’ anyway?

On the face of it, Jacob Zuma’s recent visit to Zimbabwe was a complete and utter waste of time. One wonders how Zuma will react to today’s public statements following his earlier enthusiasm that everything should be resolved by the end of March!

Life once more is getting very interesting round here, and the link of political events to ZANU PF greed is overwhelming. One cannot help but wonder if Zuma, like his predecessor Mbeki, has been bought. He has a chance now to disprove it. But don’t hold your breath.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Economic Malaise

I had some interesting meetings yesterday with various people – a respected economist, a labour consultant, a businessman. I heard the following ‘facts’ about the Zimbabwean economy as of yesterday: -

1. Zimbabwe’s formal employment level is now less than it was in 1970 while the population has doubled.
2. 2008 was a very bad year for exports. 2009, after US dollarisation of the economy was worse.
3. Cash held by the banks in Zimbabwe is one-fifth of the cash held in Botswana’s banks. Botswana’s population is less than half of Zimbabwe’s population
4. Most businesses are over-staffed with the wrong skills. Retrenchment should be an option to save the business, but in Zimbabwe retrenchment packages are so huge, that retrenchment is not a business option for the employer. A retrenchment package in South Africa is likely to be in the region of two weeks salary. In Zimbabwe it is more likely to be two years salary.
5. The ZCTU is currently trying to get legislation introduced whereby people are paid according to their family needs – the more dependents, the bigger the wage.
6. We already have a situation where an employee can be off work for almost a year, and still get paid even if he doesn’t report for work for one single day of that year. In the case of pregnant women the situation is even worse for the employer.
7. A school leaver in Zimbabwe today has absolutely no chance whatever of securing employment in Zimbabwe and will, of necessity, have to look elsewhere, unless he wants to work for the Chinese (see below).
8. A Chinese company has a contract to lay hundreds of kilometres of fibre optic cable throughout the country. The trenches are being dug manually. The manual labourers are being paid 50 US cents per day – i.e. $10.00 per month. A 20 kg bag of mealie-meal costs between $10 and $13. (I have seen the trench diggers around and about Harare)

I also spent a little time yesterday pricing some computer peripherals. An auxiliary keyboard which retails at R100.00 in South Africa, retails at $65 (R490) in Harare. A 250 gigabyte external hard drive retails in South Africa for R500.00. In Harare it retails for $250. (R1,875). I shall have to make another plan!

There are also several stories circulating that Jacob Zuma has been ‘tough’ with Mugabe and ZANU PF and some announcements are expected on Thursday (tomorrow) that will give evidence of this. In particular the recently promulgated Indigenisation Act is due for a major re-think. Hmmmmmm! I have grave doubts. While there may be some ‘announcements’ the evidence of the past shows that Mugabe and ZANU PF are terrified of losing face on anything significant and we have already heard many ‘no going back’ statements on the Indigenisation of Business. And then there is the lie factor: when it suits their power needs, there is vast difference between what Mugabe and ZANU PF says and what Mugabe and ZANU PF does.

Don’t believe that the economy in Zimbabwe is getting better. It isn’t. It’s getting worse.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

State of Fear

“It is when power is wedded to chronic fear that it becomes formidable” – Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind

Another interesting view of the world was written by well known American author, Michael Crighton (who I believe recently died). His book, State of Fear, was about global warming. A novel, State of Fear criticised the current world view on how we are allegedly creating our own destruction through the creation of greenhouse gases which are leading to global warming and the rising of the seas which will swamp many islands and create havoc with anyone and everyone living near the current shorelines of the world. Crighton provides substantial evidence, and quotes his sources, that the current world view is simply a propaganda war by world governments to keep their citizens in a state of fear that will make them more pliable and easier to ‘manage’.

In Zimbabwe, Mugabe is determined to keep his citizens, particularly those who may oppose him, in a state of fear. Hence, the recent promulgation of the law to indigenise ‘foreign’ businesses. ‘Foreign’ in the context of Zimbabwe means ‘controlled by whites’. All businesses in Zimbabwe are staffed, largely, by black people, the majority of whom are most certainly anti ZANU PF, so they too are in a state of fear because they know that their businesses stand to lose, their jobs are in jeopardy and few people have any illusions today about what happened to half a million farm workers when the farms were seized. Neither do they have any illusions that the farm seizures led to the destruction of agriculture and a large slice of the economy.

Mugabe will us the Indigenisation Act as and when it suits him to remind everyone who is in control and what will happen if that control should be threatened by a free and fair vote. It is simply a means of keeping the population in a constant state of fear.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pillars of the Earth

I have been in South Africa again and it is some time since I contributed to this diary. South Africa is always an experience of value giving me time to read, digest, evaluate and think about the present and the future of Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular.

Have you read “Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follet? If not I commend it and the sequel, “World Without End”. They are both novels, the former set in 12th Century England and the latter two centuries later. What is staggering to me about “Pillars of the Earth” is the similarity between 12th century England and 21st century Zimbabwe. The central characters in Pillars of the Earth are ordinary people trying to make a life for themselves amidst the medieval political and social minefields of the English aristocracy where the enriched and powerful Kings and Queens, Lords and Earls and some Bishops and Priors make the life of the serfs a complete and utter misery. The enriched upper class are almost without exception, arrogant, greedy, treacherous, lustful and devious. They use their positions only to increase their power and their riches and for them, murder, rape and torture of the struggling lower class are not crimes, only methods to achieve their personal gains.

Transport this political and social system to most of Africa in the 21st Century and nothing has changed – only the players. There is perhaps another difference – outside Africa there is another world that has moved on to democratic principles of government and where information moves literally at the speed of light. This difference should make a difference to Africa – but will it? A look at Liberia and Haiti tells us otherwise.

I managed to learn a few other things. In South Africa there is constant talk of how it might or might not degenerate into another failed African state and the comparison is always Zimbabwe. Some South Africans have no illusions about their future political and economic prospects. The one difference is that in South Africa the future will be created by the ‘Generation Xers’ – the Julius Malema’s of their world. Julius Malema is a 30 something hothead youth leader within the ANC who has a congenital hatred of the white South Africans. His hatred for whites is only less of a motivational driver than his hunger for power, which if he gets it, he will clearly use to ‘deal with’ his opponents in the same manner that Mugabe deals with his opponents. But in Zimbabwe it is the youth who offer hope for the future. In Zimbabwe the youth are well educated and have personally witnessed the destruction wrought by authoritarian misrule.

Does anyone ever learn anything from history?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fascism Re-Visited

Yesterday the Zimbabwe High Court ruled against the SADC Tribunal judgement that ruled in favour of white farmers who were being subjected to the violent loss of their land and homes. Justice Bharat Patel, a good friend of mine from my squash playing days, said “enforcing the tribunal’s ruling would be against Zimbabwe’s domestic laws and agrarian policies”, noting that “the greater public good must prevail".

I am reminded of Hitler and his Nazi party’s attempts to exterminate the Jews. It was Nazi government policy to exterminate the Jews based on their misguided perception of “the greater public good”. Apartheid was also a government policy of a previous South African government. Hmmmmmm! The Zimbabwean judgement is not a good sign at all. Not for Zimbabwe and not for my friend Bharat when The End does come.

The trial of Roy Bennet continues. Peter Hitschmann, his alleged co conspirator and star state witness has made a total mockery of the state case. The state is now asking the court to admit ‘emails downloaded from Hitschmann’s computer’ to be admitted as evidence of direct communication between he and Bennet. To ‘prove’ that the e-mails were legitimately printed from Hitschmann’s laptop, a typist gave evidence that she printed them. But Hitschmann says he doesn’t own the laptop or the hard drive from which the emails were printed. Clearly the email ‘evidence’ is an attempted stitch up, not unlike the stitch up “evidence” presented at Morgan Tsvangirayi’s treason trial a few years ago. ZANU PF’s deviousness knows no bounds.

But the judge has suspended his ruling on the matter until next Wednesday, a whole week away. What more does poor Roy Bennet have to put up with? The continued delays in making various rulings are surely nothing more than attempts to delay the inevitable judgement that will have to be made eventually.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Military Junta in Control of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is now being ‘governed’ by a Military Junta. Of that there is no doubt whatsoever. Whether Mugabe is in charge of the Junta is academic. A friend who lectures at the almost defunct University of Zimbabwe tells me that one of his MBA students told him last Saturday that “Most countries in the world have an army; In Zimbabwe the army has a country.” He could not have been more accurate in his description.

In recent weeks, starting just before Christmas, the ‘war’ against white farmers intensified and dozens of the 350 odd remaining farmers have been booted off the land.

In the meantime an NGO in South Africa, Africom, has initiated legal procedures to sue the Zimbabwe Government for the return of assets stripped from South African nationals (who are supposedly protected) by a Bi-lateral International Protection Agreement (BIPPA) between Zimbabwe and South Africa. Africom cite the SADC court ruling that Zimbabwe’s expropriation of farms was ‘racist and illegal’ and ordered the Zimbabwe Government to return ‘stolen’ farms and allow those farmers remaining on the land to remain. The response by the South African courts to Africom’s proceedings has been positive and it is today suggested that Zimbabwe’s assets in South Africa may be expropriated to help pay compensation.

The response to this from one Temba Mliswa – a notorious ZANU PF racist thug – is that the Zimbabwe Government intends to ‘kick all white farmers out of the country’ and to do this the military are enforcing the removal of the few remaining farmers from the land they are occupying. Court orders are ‘mere pieces of paper’ and nothing will prevent Zimbabwe from doing what it likes, says Mliswa and his ZANU PF cronies.

To add to this, we are recently told that a retired army general is seeking to quash a ruling that he be required to vacate Fangundu Farm which is occupied by an organisation whose shareholders are Malaysian and Dutch and equally ‘protected’ by a BIPPA between the respective governments. The retired general has in the meantime stripped the farm of bananas to his own account.

These acts are not supported by Prime Minister Tsvangirayi and his MDC counterparts and they have spoken out against them, but no-one is interested.

Ergo, Zimbabwe is run by a Military Junta.

Meanwhile SADC representatives, including Joseph Kabila, President of the DRC, are speaking up about ‘tremendous progress being made by the parties that makes up Zimbabwe’s government of National Unity’ towards finalising an agreement of their current disputes.

Utter rubbish! Who do they think they are fooling? Perhaps they are fooling themselves, just like ZANU PF has been doing for years.

But let’s not get excited. This is not new. It is largely how Africa governs Africa and is why Africans in general remain poor and get ever poorer while Africa’s rich elite get ever richer.

And it is unlikely to change for a long, long time.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Economic Collapse?

The saga of NestlĂ© has been amicably resolved. So says the Zimbabwe Government and Nestle but the problems are probably not yet over. A commentary in today’s Herald goes on and on about ‘illegal sanctions’, the wicked west and uses the NestlĂ© story as ‘evidence’ of the connivance of the wicked west and the MDC.

In the meantime three stories today suggest we have some serious economic problems looming large. The first is that the Redcliff Municipality has collapsed through unpaid rates and mismanagement of funds. Ziscosteel owes the Municipality millions while the Municipality in turn owes Ziscosteel millions for the supply of water while Ziscosteel owes the Kwekwe Municipality millions for the supply of the same water that it supplies to the Municipality of Redcliff. Other funds that have been paid to the Municipality are ‘missing’ and the municipal ‘workers’ – probably a misnomer – have not been paid for several months. ZESA and TelOne have disconnected supplies to the Municipality due to unpaid bills while companies operating in Redcliff have refused to pay their rates citing ‘viability problems’

The second story is that Zimbabwe’s 90,000 teachers are threatening not to return to work at the beginning of the school term unless the government agrees to pay each and every one of them $600 a month. This will translate to 50% of the Government’s entire monthly tax revenue.

And the third is that workers in the banking sector have won a 30% increases in salary backdated to the third quarter of 2009. The banking sector is already crippled. This will send them to the wall – not all of them but most of them.

How will Zimbabwe move forward, I wonder. All this while farm invasions continue on what is left of the agricultural sector, law and order remains dodgy and freedom of the press and electronic media is nowhere in sight.

Ah well, perhaps the auction today of diamonds from the Maranke fields, stolen by government a year or more ago, will pay all the bills.