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?