Starving our Children
A billboard next to the road last week had printed on it the statement
"Government pay's the IMF another US$15 million". I do not know what
takes us to - we must be approaching the total of US$150 million paid
IMF since Mugabe famously raided corporate FCA's (Foreign Currency
to steal US$120 million last August to pay the IMF and stick one in the
for Thabo Mbeki.
The stated purpose of these payments is to prevent the IMF Board
to kick us out of that funny club of nations that sends its Ministers
Finance and Governors of Reserve Banks to Washington for a hugely
bash twice a year. For some reason that eludes me, President Mbeki
lose sleep over the possibility of our expulsion from this the most
capitalist club in the world. Mugabe killing thousands of his people by
proxy makes no impact at all - but lose our membership of the IMF Club
that would be a disaster!
I find this whole thing rather nauseous - like the head of a family in
starving village, throwing food over the fence to baboons waiting on
outside, while the children of the village die of hunger, malnutrition
disease. Too stark an image? Just think of what we could have done with
money over the past 5 months - we could have bought enough food and raw
materials to resolve all the shortages of basic foods in the country.
could have imported enough liquid fuels to overcome the persistent fuel
shortages that are crippling our public transport system and pushing
transports costs through the ceiling. We could have satisfied the needs
all our hospitals for disinfectants, cleaning materials, drugs and
Instead we go on paying this money to the IMF - they do not want the
they do not need the money, it does not change our status as a country
threat of its membership because we are not servicing anyone's debt -
of all the IMF and its sister institutions of the World Bank and the
Development Bank. What the IMF and the WB want is clear signs that we
coming to our senses, restoring our democratic credentials and the
rights of our people. Then and only then, will they consider an
package of economic reforms designed to stop the hemorrhaging of the
Zimbabwe economy and even then they would require an extended period of
national discipline and management before they finally gave us the
light and restored our rights as a member.
When we first paid that initial sum to the Fund I wrote to a staff
who watches Zimbabwe from Washington and said they should refuse to
the cheque - send it back I argued, we need it more than you at this
people will die because these funds are being paid to you. Needless to
never got a reply and now they are here yet again with a small team to
assess our situation and to investigate where these funds are coming
It is bizarre to say the least.
And what will they find in Zimbabwe. They will find a country much
than when they were here just six months ago. The media is more
than six months ago; the economy is still shrinking, exports still
and food production, despite a wonderful wet season, set to decline. We
still have no freedom - we cannot meet without police permission, we
talk freely on the streets or on the phone, we cannot demonstrate
fear that the armed forces will use live ammunition on us. We cannot
for the leadership of our choice. Since they were last here three more
democratically elected mayors have been kicked out of their offices and
replaced by Zanu PF hacks and lackeys.
Our hospitals are worse than they were six months ago, our schools are
sliding down hill in every department. Hundreds of thousands of
have been withdrawn from school because they cannot afford the fees.
government is more corrupt and less competent than it was six months
if anything, economic and monetary policy is in an even bigger mess
when they were here last year.
There is not a shred of evidence that the Fund is about to start
get out of our crisis, all that will emerge from this visit will be
depressing analysis saying that Zimbabwe continues its downward slide
spheres including governance. The IMF Board will read the staff report
a deep sigh of resignation and frustration and decide to keep us in
for another six months and then get on with other business.
We do not have that luxury. I have just listened to an interview with
Gibson of "Passion" fame. I have long been an admirer of Mr. Gibson
made that marvelous film on Robert the Bruce - one of my own personal
ancestors. Mel said, "Pain always precedes change". If that is true
surely we will see change this year.
We certainly cannot take much more of this - inflation at over 1000 per
per annum (it has been at this level for the past four months), this
week in Bulawayo we have had no maize meal - the primary staple food of
people and I see no signs of a resumption of deliveries. If anything
fuel situation is worse and this past week local bus drivers went on
to protest low fares. The great majority of people simply can no longer
afford even the basic necessities of life.
I think it is time we all agreed "no more, we have had enough!" The
restructuring of the MDC after the leadership split is nearly complete
what is emerging as the "new" MDC is certainly determined that this
the year we see change. The MDC road map remains the same - a new,
constitution, and a transitional government followed by fresh
elections under international supervision.
We are now working on how to start this process and will in February
with our civil society partners to debate the strategies we are going
use. Zanu PF is nervous and quite rightly so, they, like us, sense the
national mood is changing. The General commanding the Army said this
week that he does not want to use the army to shoot hungry, angry
What he has to worry about is what happens when his army joins the
their demand for change.
Bulawayo, 28th January 2006.