Friday, August 26, 2011

Of Indigenisation and Sudden Death

I have been away and back again. My wife and I spent time in the UK and in Crete. It was an awesome holiday and I use the word awesome in its proper context. I learned so much from my son who has learned that a fulfilling life is far better than a pot of money, but he has also learned that you need enough money to enjoy a fulfilling life. Crete was an experience for an African like me with so little experience of how other people live and work.

Of course everyone we met wanted to know how we still managed to live in Zimbabwe. Travel always broadens the mind and enables one to think about life in a far better perspective. The answer is that compared with other countries of this world, Zimbabwe is quite acceptable as a life for me and my wife, though it may not be for many others – particularly the poor black people who are subjected to hateful, spiteful and terrifying acts committed on them by the few highly privileged people who believe that Zimbabwe belongs to them and them alone.

The worst of life for us is the electricity load shedding which is frustrating in its randomness and maddening in its frequency. If it was equally shared between all it would be less irritating and less maddening. Last week our home was subjected to eighty-six and a half hours of load shedding while others I know were not subjected to a single minute. It all depends, it seems, on who lives in your street or zone that might be considered a ‘VIP’.

We learned this last week when Rex Nhongo alias Solomon Mujuru was found burned to death in his farmhouse in Beatrice when the authorities reported that he should have electricity because he had a direct line into the local substation. Rex Nhongo was a guerrilla who at the onset of independence was given the job of commander of the Army. I met him once – summoned to tell him about a management programme that we were running. He wanted to enrol his senior officers. I told him that the programme was for commerce and industry, not the military. He responded by telling me that that was exactly why he wanted his officers to attend because there was no more need for a massive army in the peace that reigned in the country and his officers needed to leave the army and get out into commerce and industry. We ended up training 30 of his officers – some of whom are still in the Army at very senior level, some of whom are in business and many of whom have long since died.

There are hundreds of questions about Nhongo’s death. Was he murdered? The few facts that we know suggest that this is very likely, but the burning question is who would have done it. He was a threat to some people in the ZANU PF hierarchy, principally because he was a ‘dove’ and the ‘hawks’ are trying hard to reign supreme. But he was also involved in diamond mining and there is a red-hot story – a true one at that – that his partner was killed in a road accident the week before. And we all know the diamond finds in this country in the last couple of years have spawned a breed of unparalleled selfish and greedy people.
As for the rest of the politics – it meanders on and on. Saviour Kasukewere – who would appear to be Zimbabwe’s answer to South Africa’s Julius Malema, is very busy stirring the indigenisation pot, demanding that the three remaining international banks submit their indigenisation plans within seven days or they will be forfeited to the state. Gideon Gono, for all his miscalculations of the now hardly remembered years of hyper-inflation, is aware of what such an act will do to the teetering economy and is trying to regain him in. But will he? Will the international banks call Kasukewere’s bluff? The International banks have little to lose but the people who work for them here have everything to lose and the depositors will be jittery at best, in panic mode at worst.

While this bumbles along Jacob Zuma is said to be getting very tired of Zimbabwe politics. Aren’t we all!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


It’s been some time since I appended to this blog. Not much going on really other than the usual squabbling amongst the political and business community. The courts here do magnificent business. There is always someone trying to sue someone else or some organisation trying to sue another on spurious and doubtful evidence.

Today I see that the MDC (M), led – or perhaps no longer led – by one Arthur Mutambara who was (or perhaps still is) the Deputy Prime Minister in the Government of National (dis)Unity, is in disarray. Two weeks ago they held a ‘national congress’ and Mutambara was ousted by Welshman Ncube in what is reported as a democratic vote. Mutambara, a rocket-scientist we are told, is prone to making idiotic statements from time to time and his fall from grace is not at all surprising.

But of course there is an opposing ‘faction’! In Zimbabwe there is always at least one opposing faction and in this case the opposing faction claims that the election of Welshman Ncube was ‘unconstitutional’. In Zimbabwe, as we are frequently learning, anything is unconstitutional if a particular person with a modicum of power asnd influence disagrees with something that has happened. Therefore it can be constitutional to take another man’s land and personal property if it suits the people in power and it is unconstitutional if it does not suit those people in power – or in some cases, those people who perceive that they have power.

In 1887 J Theodore Bent, a respected archaeologist of the time came to what was about to become Southern Rhodesia and he investigated the origins and history of the Great Zimbabwe Ruins near Masvingo. During his travels he came across the Shona people who lived in the area of the ruins. One of his descriptions of the people was that ‘they are always squabbling amongst themselves all of the time’. Nothing, it seems, changes.

In the coming weeks I will try and document the current squabbles. If nothing else it should make some light hearted reading. Of course there are times when it might be far from light hearted. Some of the current squabbles include: -

1. Grace Mugabe is suing the Standard newspaper for $20 million because the Standard reported on a Wikileaks report that inferred Grace was making millions from corrupt diamond dealing
2. Various people are squabbling over the rights of ownership to SMM Holdings formerly owned by Mutumwa Mawere. He was ousted in a government sponsored coup several years ago, through his ‘specification’. Now he is back, de-specified and rattling his sabres while the government ably led by the Minister of Justice (oxymoron if ever there was one) Patrick Chinamasa who claims that Mawere never owned SMM Holdings.
3. Maize has been slashed in Harare by, some claim, members of the Harare City Council on orders from the Harare City Council. In the old Rhodesian days it was an offence to cultivate stream banks and I presume the legislation is still on the statute books. Stream bank cultivation seriously degrades the soil and destroys streams and stream banks. If maize is being slashed by ‘authorities’ I assume it is on the basis that the maize has been cultivated in stream banks (I see evidence of this all around the city). Now there is a squabble going on as to the ‘rights’ to slash the maize and to identify who is really accountable. With a proviso of course that whoever is accountable is acting against the good will of the people. Nowhere in the accounts to date has anyone mentioned ‘stream bank cultivation’, probably because no one is aware of the need to prohibit the practice for the betterment of future generations.
4. Last weekend several ‘warvets’ invaded some 20 properties around Lake Chivero, the warvets claiming their rights to ownership for ‘the people’ and senior members of ZANU PF. One couple known to me were held hostage for most of the weekend not being allowed to leave the property or for anyone else to enter it – other than fellow warvets. By Monday someone was brave enough to contact the police who, surprisingly, intervened. Now there is a squabble going on as to who was responsible. ZANU PF ‘apologised’ through the Deputy President but Minister Chombo denied any ZANU PF involvement.

Enough for now.

Entrepreneurship ZANU PF style

Here’s an interesting excerpt from News Day

"Zanu-PF Harare province has vowed to get rid of foreigners operating in the city centre and replace them with party supporters ahead of possible elections. Zanu PF Harare district coordinating chairman Jaison Pasadi had a meeting with Christopher Zvobgo the city’s acting town clerk last week to lecture him on the need to override the by-laws and “empower the people”. During the meeting, Pasadi was said to have stressed that there was no turning back on utilising open spaces, particularly along Park Street and taking over shops run by foreigners in Harare and handing them over to locals. Pasadi confirmed meeting with Zvobgo and his party’s intention to seize foreign-owned premises to hand them over to Zanu PF supporters. Pasadi said the party was targeting open spaces and shops occupied by foreigners in the city to give to “deserving people”. “It starts from the grassroots and as Zimbabweans, we can penetrate into those shops,” said Pasadi. “We are not talking of factories only but we are also talking of shops so that people can sell their goods from those shops. These foreigners are selling cell phones but can’t we also do the same and have our people selling cell phones?” he said. “We cannot talk of empowering our people when we don’t have somewhere to run our business from. Which country in Africa has foreigners flooding the capital city? We want that to be corrected as a matter of urgency.” Sources reported Pasadi said Zanu PF was not happy that people were finding it difficult to get space to operate from while foreign traders flooded the city. He is also reported to have told Zvobgo the move to take over shops run by foreign nationals had the backing of senior party officials – NewsDay, Monday January"

Who are the ‘foreigners’ referred to here? The Chinese and Nigerians!! It’s not only South Africa where xenophobia is on the rise.

Here is yet another reason why Mugabe is unable to create the conditions for entrepreneurship.