Zimbabwe in 2004
In 1999 we all thought we were in for a short sharp fight. Confidence
ability to defeat Zanu PF at the polls was high and we thought our case
do so was sound. We were prepared for victory and when we won the
in March 2000 we thought the stage was set for a victory in the June
elections. It was not to be and I do not want to dwell on that here.
to look back on the past year - four years after those heady days when
planned with great confidence for a new MDC led government.
2004 has been tough, very tough, on all of us. The statistics tell a
deal but are not the whole picture. Our total economic output slipped
the 6th consecutive year and is now only 60 per cent of what it was in
Exports fell to half of earlier heights, employment to the lowest level
since 1960. Life expectancy collapsed to just 35 years - down a year
every year that Mugabe has been State President. The only thing that
increased was human flight and the death rate, both of which are now at
record levels and reducing the population of the country by hundreds of
thousands every year.
In every sector we saw a further decline in economic activity. In
agriculture the wet season was about normal - certainly unusually long,
starting in October 2003 and ending in April 2004. But it did not help
every sector showed further declines in output. Tobacco slipped to half
we need to stay in the market, maize production was barely 600 000
and Mugabe lied about the crop size. All other sectors showed decline -
those dominated by small-scale growers in the Communal areas. As a
consequence we now have to import food on a scale we have not seen for
decades and food prices have risen dramatically. With falling incomes
rapidly declining monetary values the ordinary Zimbabwean has been
into a crisis that is worse than at any time in our history.
In industry we have seen activity fall by 40 per cent in four years and
shows no sign of any slow down in the downwards spiral. Factory
a daily occurrence and the roads in our industrial sites no longer
with thousands of workers at 5 PM each day. With each company closure
have seen a hemorrhage of skills and experience that will be very
to replace. Four years ago we employed 300 000 workers in industry,
generated 25 per cent of GDP and were a threat to the industry of our
neighbors. Today we are just a shadow of what we were.
In the mining sector, 2004 saw some recovery - the Zimbabwean group
took over the assets of BHP in the platinum industry turned the venture
round and made a profit and then sold out to Implats in South Africa.
American stopped disinvesting and started to put money on the table -
platinum, chrome and diamonds all benefited. The gold industry started
recover with new pricing policies and foreign mining giants said they
seriously looking at the Zimbabwe treasure trove of base minerals and
precious metals. Then the dead hand of Zanu PF entered the fray and
the whole scene has gone cold. Investment plans have been frozen and
exploration and negotiation activity stopped.
In tourism we all felt that 2003 was the bottom of the roller coaster -
that year only 20 per cent of our normal flow of tourists visited the
country. In fact tour operators tell me the fall in 2004 has been
with many operators not handling a single foreign tourist in 12 months.
Hotels have closed down and operators scaled back their operations -
back to a care and maintenance level. Visiting our Parks is something
vast swathes of empty wild life reserve. Park lodges empty and staff
It's great for us Zimbabweans to have the place to ourselves but we
maintain these areas without a steady flow of tourists.
In the service sector it has been a torrid year. 40 per cent of all
commercial banks have collapsed with combined losses of over Z$2
(US$350 million). The railways now operate at such a low level that
gross revenue does not cover their salary bill each month. Our Post and
Telecommunications sector has been on strike for 4 months and the only
response by the authorities has been to fire the offending workers - in
violation of our own labor laws. Increases in service costs from water
electricity to postage and telephone rates have soared to the point
many are simply unable to pay. Water quality in all the cities has
deteriorated, as have all municipal services - despite huge increases
In education we now have a minority of girl children in school for the
time in 20 years. Attendance at school has fallen to about 75 per cent
all school age children at primary schools and when they do go, the
of education is so poor in State schools that most will leave school
functionally literate or numerate. Hospitals are simply mortuaries
people die and are then treated as so much garbage to be disposed of.
Stories of bodies piled high in cold rooms abound. Even in the private
sector we have had to fight for the continued existence of private
and the maintenance of standards in private hospitals and clinics. Some
these battles were won this year - but at great cost.
In the political arena we have also slipped backwards. We have never
isolated diplomatically since the end of sanctions in 1980. We remain
excluded from all the multilateral organisations and the Commonwealth.
are an embarrassment to the AU and the SADC. We have hindered the
of negotiations with the EU for southern African states. We have
the control of the media and all normal democratic activity. We
abuse human rights and freedoms on a scale not even seen in the bad old
of Ian Smith. We are in the process of closing down all the NGO's that
played such an important part in our lives in the past decade - keeping
flame of democracy and human and political rights alight.
And in the face of all this failure we are subjected to a circus called
Zanu PF Congress at the year-end where the whole farce of "everything
normal" and "we are on the road to recovery" is played out. The scenes
frivolity and jubilation, of drinking and dining will remain with us
long time. These were the kleptocrats at play, living it up and
their survival as a ruling elite despite chronic failure and disgrace.
they are quite confident that they will win the March 2005
elections! It is an astonishing display of confidence in the Stalinist
dictum "it is not who votes that counts, but he who counts the vote."
Is 2005 going to be any better - no, I think not and we must gear
up to handle this situation. At least we will go into the elections -
when they are held, with no illusions. I do not want to go through that
again - it took me 6 months to pick myself off the floor after 2002.
one thing I am certain, in the end right will win. History tells us
eventually every despotic regime comes to the end - it may be violent
Rumania, or simply a collapse at midnight like East Germany. But the
led government is simply no longer sustainable and has a shrinking
friends to help it out when needed.
In 2004 we made huge strides in building understanding of the Zimbabwe
crisis and its human and political origins. In Africa we can now
claim a majority of countries who no longer see Mugabe as he likes to
display himself but simply as a liberation hero who has lost his way
should go. They have thrown everything they have at us and we are still
standing - and remember that he who is left standing at the end is the
winner! When we win, putting Zimbabwe back on its feet will take time
will also be exciting and rewarding. Like white water rafting - trust
life jacket, not your ability to swim. Just make sure it is tied tight
relax and enjoy the ride.
Bulawayo 23rd December 2004