Nothing to loose
I have just been into the largest wholesaler in Bulawayo. We are quite
buyers and the staff greeted me cheerfully. Then I collected a trolley
started to walk through the company premises - I came out in a state of
shock. Whole rows of shelving were absolutely empty - to the roof.
no soap powder, no bath soaps, no cooking oil, no fats, no sugar and no
maize meal, no flour and no rice, no milk products of any kind and no
We walked out empty handed and I said to the floor manager that I was
shocked - he simply nodded his head and said, "what can we do?"
find this situation very scary.
We need 36 000 tonnes of basic food imports a week, these will cost
US$20 million. One of my friends sat in a fuel queue yesterday for 13
to get a tank of petrol. Most garages have queues outside their
even if they have no fuel. It has never been so bad as now. To top this
serious situation we have started to experience load shedding by the
controlled electricity utility.
When we had an economy to speak of, we used about 5,5 million liters of
petroleum fuels a day - I would guess that today we use about 3 million
liters. Even that will cost about US$700 000 a day - or nearly US$5
a week - so just for the basics we need US$25 million a week. In fact
earn about that from our exports each week but that leaves no margin
Yesterday I saw the new Chinese fighter jets fly over - we have just
US$400 million on these plus some Mig 23's, attack helicopters and
vehicles. Most of it from China. We have also just purchased two
passenger jets for regional routes to augment the three remaining
still flying for Air Zimbabwe.
These ill-advised purchases have flattened our foreign exchange
in fact I hear that we have sold 25 tonnes of gold forward (US$500
and we have also sold our tobacco production forward. The main problem
these transactions is that we no longer can produce 25 tonnes of gold
year and we have produced a very small and inferior tobacco crop.
Last year Gideon Gono was the local hero when he succeeded in herding
local foreign exchange resources into the coffers of the Reserve Bank
doing so he has effectively spelled the death of the export industries
fed the system. His hope of harnessing the US$75 million a month that
back to local families from Zimbabweans working abroad has flopped
after handling a mere US$45 million in the past year, receipts are now
The election results and the aftermath have not helped - we remain
completely isolated, people have no faith in the future, capital flight
accelerating and the parallel market has taken off into the
The fact that the Reserve Bank was going to devalue by nearly 100 per
was leaked last week and there is a sudden frosty silence in that
The first month of sales on the tobacco floors - always an important
in Zimbabwe, has yielded prices in Zimbabwe dollars below last years.
simply puts paid to any hopes of a tobacco led recovery this year, or
The reaction of President Mugabe to these shocking facts was to hold a
"Silver Jubilee" celebration, which costs billions. Undertake a
spree for the air force in a country where we have no external or
threats and a vague promise by a muted Gono that a "recovery plan" is
prepared. Oh yes - they fired the poor GM of the Grain Marketing Board
kept that idiot Made (Minister of Agriculture) in an enlarged Cabinet.
We have had confirmation from official sources that the maize crop now
reaped is a disaster - our estimate of about 400 000 tonnes seems about
right. There is a flurry of activity going on to try and get a wheat
into the ground before the 15th of May but it is unlikely they will get
than the 50 000 tonnes or so they grew last year. So we are now faced
severe famine and no foreign resources with which to buy the food and
products we need. In fact, if we had the resources we could hardly move
volume given the parlous state of our infrastructure.
Official UN sources estimate that we have nearly 6 million people who
food aid - donors are feeding about 1 million people at present -
children. This leaves 5 million people at risk of starvation out of a
population of 11 million. The rest of us will simply have to fend for
ourselves - faced with rising prices, shortages and other problems. It
to me that South Africa will have to step in and pick up the pieces, as
is very largely responsible for this sorry state of affairs.
The big question is what do we do about this situation. The one thing
sticks out a mile is that Zanu has no solutions and we simply cannot
things stand as they are. The MDC has put its own plans into action and
this stage they are saying: -
1. The MDC does not accept the results of the election.
2. The MDC now accepts that neither democracy nor the legal system here
offer any way forward at present.
3. The MDC demands the resignation of the new government and the
of an interim administration to begin to resolve the immediate crisis
situation we are in.
4. The MDC demands the convening of a constitutional conference
all civic groups to draft a new constitution for the country with fresh
elections to be held under the new constitution and under the
the international community.
To back up these demands a broad coalition of civic groups is being
and will be charged with taking mass action against the new government.
MDC will employ all forms of political action required to support the
efforts by civil society to rescue the country from the grip of a
self-seeking elite that simply refuses to allow the people to select
government of their choice. It will call on the armed forces to support
initiative in the broader interests of the country and its people.
The Ministry of Defense has stated that it will "crush" any mass action
launched by the opposition or civic society. On Monday last week
took to the streets in Bulawayo after a football match on Independence
it took the Police and the Army 7 hours to stop the rioting. To local
observers the policemen involved had little heart for the activity they
involved in - next time it will be worse.
Bulawayo, 26th April 2005