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)