Getting it all wrong
In business we call it a learning curve. It is supposed to happen to
who are in business and to enable people to cope with their jobs more
adequately as they learn the ropes. In Zimbabwe the government does not
follow these precepts - in fact if there is a curve it is negative,
Just this month we have seen the following really serious breeches of
sense in Zimbabwe.
The government paid off its outstanding arrears to one of the funds of
IMF. In doing so they spent US$209 million, enough money to pay for our
essential food imports for 9 months, or our fuel imports for 10 months
our electricity imports for two years or our requirements for all
drugs for 4 years.
What did we get for this effort? Absolutely nothing! The IMF issued a
statement last week saying that while the payments meant that we were
longer a candidate for expulsion we still owed the fund many millions
dollars against other obligations and would still be suspended in terms
our voting and access rights at the IMF. They would not even re-open
office in Harare.
As a direct consequence of this act by the Zimbabwe regime, we have had
virtually no maize meal in our shops for over a month. The World Food
Programme is feeding about 5 million people every day now, but this
leaves 6 million people without their basic staple food. This is a
catastrophe in any sense of the word. The Presidents remark that
can eat potatoes or rice is just an insult, both are three times as
expensive as maize meal and not nearly as satisfying to the Zimbabwean
palate. We also now have to sit in the dark for several hours every
day or so as we suffer "load shedding". Fuel now costs nearly Z$200 000
litre and is in short supply everywhere. As for essential drugs - just
and find these in our pharmacies and hospitals.
We owe external creditors US$5 000 million. Paying US$209 million to
is 0,04 percent of our liabilities. By paying the IMF we avoided
but so what? It changes nothing on the ground and just exacerbates our
humanitarian and economic crisis. If we were expelled we would have
only the second country in the history of the IMF to be so, but if we
put our house in order and brought back the policies we need to
get back on our feet, they would have come back in within months and
membership would have been restored - together with all our rights as a
Then we found out that to make the last payment to the Fund the Reserve
simply printed local currency and bought hard currency on the street
from exporters. In doing so they pushed the parallel market up to $220
to one US dollar at one stage last week with it falling back to 200 000
now. That is it lost half its value in about 10 days.
Bread today is selling at Z$60 000 to Z$70 000 a loaf, flour
bakeries have been reduced to 30 per cent of normal and prices again
increased by 25 per cent this week. Eggs are now approaching Z$250 000
dozen, beef is Z$400 000 a kilo and when I went to the dentist week for
tooth to be pulled I came away Z$13 million poorer! We gave a lift to
last week to a railway pensioner who gets Z$38 000 a month to live on.
Looking at the parallel market prices for hard currencies it is now
clear that for the first time we are really into hyperinflation. The
on my graph of market prices is now exponential in every sense of the
On Sunday night the President (who has 6 University degrees - including
and economics) told a local journalist "we will print money to meet our
essential needs". This makes it clear that they have no intention of
any of the things that are needed to affect a recovery in the economy
curb inflationary pressures. By doing so the regime has committed us to
massive inflation and it is anyone's guess as to where we are now
Even the IMF thinks our official inflation numbers are being
the rate for January was a laughable 18 per cent, month on month - in
in our factory our prices are now most certainly rising by at least 50
cent a month.
Parliament has opened and closed until March - with nothing either
or done about the national economic and political crisis we are in at
present. In fact the President said in the long rambling interview on
night that there "is no crisis in Zimbabwe that warrants intervention."
Behind the high security walls of his home that may be true - it's
not true for the rest of us.
A member of my own staff this past week lost two members of his family
tuberculosis - and you know what that means. In fact the one was a
about 40 years old who had her house destroyed in the Murambatsvina
and as a result lost her sole source of income. She never recovered.
one of millions who continue to be homeless and without an income as a
result of this campaign. I still have 10 families living in a company
workshop - only one has found accommodation in 9 months. The UN has
condemned the government for this inhuman action - but nothing else has
Tony Blair was in the region ten days ago. Flew from a summit of G8
in Moscow to Pretoria where he spent the whole weekend with the
South Africa and others in a luxury lodge just outside the City. On
night he was interviewed on South African television - an exclusive. He
a very glamorous TV presenter talked for 40 minutes - about everything
except the tragedy 500 kilometers to the north of where they were
Not one word, not a single question - it must have been by prior
That means either they did something about the Zimbabwe crisis that
or they did nothing and like the United Nations, the African Union and
SADC, they chose to simply ignore the problem. I rather think they did
about us and did discuss what to do next and agreed not to talk about
public. But I have yet to see or hear of any new initiative that might,
might, turn our situation around. In the meantime time is running out.
My dentist said to me "I am scared of the potential for violence". I
that could only be prevented by giving the people a reason to think
their problems will be addressed in a comprehensive fashion and in the
Bulawayo, 23rd February 2006.