The Implosion Begins
In 1997 the Zimbabwe economy was reasonably stable - showed real growth
rates on average of about 5 per cent per annum and a healthy balance of
payments situation. Exchange rates were about 12 to 1 against the US
and there was only a limited parallel market for foreign exchange.
Then came the fateful decisions to enter the war in the Congo on the
Kabila (Senior) and his Tutsi allies and the decision to pay the
the Zimbabwe civil war some US$350 million in unbudgeted reparations.
Together these two decisions began the tumble from the heights held in
Since then the economy has shrunk by over 50 per cent, exports by two
and living standards have retreated to levels last seen in the mid
half a century ago. Life expectancies have declined from a high of 59
on average in 1990, to less than 34 years today. No other country in
history has seen such a collapse in its economic fortunes in peacetime.
But despite the collapse, Zimbabwe has looked remarkably "normal".
has filled our streets, our supermarkets have been reasonably stocked
most goods available - albeit at rather high prices. Life went on,
tightened their belts and made do with less, rallied round to help
less fortunate and to the outsider, things did not look so bad. In fact
visitors from war torn parts of the continent repeatedly said that we
much better to them after the mayhem of the Sudan, Somalia and the
Not much comfort in the comparison, but it is true - we looked better.
It is only when you get under the surface here that the real cost of
past 7 years of economic regression really shows. And to get the facts
not easy. Take a photo of a queue for bread, or sugar, or maize meal or
and you will find yourself in detention and your equipment confiscated.
a statement you cannot substantiate and you will find yourself in Court
facing a heavy fine or imprisonment. Hard facts from reliable sources
impossible to come by and official government statistics tell you only
they want you to know.
But the real situation - human and economic is not hard to see. Cities
surrounded by sprawling cemeteries, millions in flight from economic
depravation and moving to anywhere where life is a little bit better.
Statistics on child and maternal mortality that make the hair stand up
the back of your neck. The aching poverty that is evident everywhere -
people in rags, the sense of despondency and the almost total absence
hope and vision.
Three weeks ago President Mbeki of South Africa moved to prop up the
Zimbabwe regime and to try and prevent any further collapse. He warned
did so that if South Africa did not help, that there was a very real
that Zimbabwe would collapse to the detriment of the entire region.
us who live here ask ourselves how much more of this punishment can we
We as a nation have "turned the other cheek" for so long - how much
can we put up with this state of affairs?
Well we may be about to find out. On Friday last week, Mugabe rejected
South African offer of emergency funding - because it was conditional.
knows full well that any concessions to South Africa will signal the
Zanu PF and the end of his own presidency and probably his own flight
exile for the rest of his life. He never was going to give in easily or
rational argument - he is not that sort of a character.
I told a South African journalist who was stunned by this rejection
South Africa had to understand what they were up against and that if
wanted to get the attention of Mr. Mugabe, they would have to hit him
with a big stick!
And so the threatened implosion of the Zimbabwe economy begins. You
buy fuel for local currency anywhere; most basic necessities are in
supply. Our money, already virtually worthless, has halved in value in
month. Inflation in July was 47 per cent - month on month - over 2000
cent per annum. Exchange rates in parallel markets have collapsed by at
least 50 per cent in the past few weeks.
People cannot handle such conditions anymore - it is now beyond the
of our hard pressed community and businesses. In a statement last week,
instead of addressing the fundamental problems in the economy, the
of Finance simply made things worse. He raised tax rates dramatically -
were already among the most highly taxed people on earth, he widened
of those items we can now buy and trade freely to include wheat and
a desperate attempt to plug holes in the market place - this will
increase demand for foreign exchange on the parallel market and drive
costs for everything else. In a vain attempt to halt inflation he
ceiling on wage increments of 120 per cent per annum - an impossible
to maintain in our hyper inflationary environment.
At the same time the Minister continued to spout the fiction that the
Zimbabwean economy is on the mend and that there will be growth in
That is just a sick joke. By my calculations every sector of the
in retreat - agriculture, mining, industry, tourism. None show any
recovery, in fact conditions are now much worse than they were this
last year and I project even worse production data for agriculture even
we have a good or above average wet season.
Mugabe has in the past fortnight rejected offers of assistance from
Africa, rejected the UN report on operation "Murambatsvina" which they
euphemistically call "Operation Restore Order". He has rejected the AU
initiative to kick-start the process of national reconciliation and
and he has firmly ruled out any talks with the Movement for Democratic
Quite frankly I am delighted with this hard line position. Our worst
nightmare would be Mugabe working with Mbeki instead of against him in
resolution of our crisis. At least with the hard line position being
y the Zimbabwe regime we can decide our future on the basis of
rather than compromise. When the time comes, we can toss out the entire
structures of Zanu PF, start afresh and purge our society of all those
have been responsible for our sad situation. In the meantime hold onto
life jacket - the next few months are going to be very tough.
Bulawayo, 19th August 2005