Statistics and Strategy

A friend sent me a table yesterday that sets out the statistical situation as derived from the Governments own figures of our economic performance since 1996. Why 1996? Because that was the year in which our exports peaked and our GDP reached US$8,5 billion. The stats from that year onwards simply nose dive.

Gross Domestic Product (the usual measure of total economic output of a country) has declined by almost 50 per cent. Income per capita has fallen from US$830 per person to US$358 - a drop of nearly 60 per cent. Our GDP is now nearly 20 per cent below the level of our GDP in 1980 - after 16 years of mandatory sanctions and 8 years of civil war. Our GDP per capita now classifies us as a nation of very poor people. If the average GDP per capita is at that level and we still have some very wealthy people - goodness only knows what the incomes of the bottom third of our population have become.

On Tuesday our beloved State President told the nation that he was expecting growth of 1 to 2 per cent in 2006 and stated that this was due to a recovery in agriculture. Well, the real news is that the figures issued by his own Ministry of Finance and the Reserve Bank point to another year - the 7th in a row, when the economy will decline by over 5 per cent. Every sector is down on last year - including agriculture and we have just had the most perfect farming season I can recall.

Pretty dismal reading. Of course these are just the stark economic facts - they say nothing about the rampant corruption, the erosion of living standards and the total destruction of all forms of savings leaving pensioners in dire straits. Can this go on - yes it can and if it does the consequences will be catastrophic. Increasing movement of people across borders, rising levels of internal displacement and a rapid decline in population due to increased mortality and emigration.

There are three options -
1. Leave things as they are, drift along and accept that there is little we can do about the situation. Yesterday in the British Parliament Tony Blair basically said just that - there was 'little they could do to influence matters'.
2. Go the Mbeki route - engineer Mugabe's early retirement, adopt amendment number 19 to the Lancaster House constitution and allow Parliament to appoint his successor, extend the life of this government to 2010 and create a fictional 'government of national unity' with some international (UN?) support.
3. Go down the road chosen by the MDC - throw everything we have into a short non-violent struggle to force Zanu to accept they have failed and cannot get us back on the road to the future. Get them into a national conference and there thrash out what to do about all our problems and set up a transitional government that will take us to elections as soon as possible so that the people can chose who will lead us out of the hole we are in at present.

Quite clearly option one is simply suicide - we cannot go on as we have been. To do so would reduce Zimbabwe to an impoverished backwater with a few million people living at a level of about US$100 per annum and virtually no future for anyone except a tiny political minority who lived in great (feudal) wealth. Do not say it cannot happen - it is happening in many countries and the global community simply does not have the will (they have the means and the resources) to do anything about matters until a real Sierra Leone or Rwanda type situation happens.

I fume when I see the pictures of educated African refugees in Europe, holding sit ins in Churches and marching on the streets to protest their situation. They should be home in Somalia, in the Sudan fighting for their rights as citizens and demanding performance from their leaders. By fleeing the continent they not only bring shame on all of us who live in Africa, but they make the situation in their countries more hopeless. Stay and fight - for democracy, for human rights, for political rights, for jobs and prosperity. These things do not come easily or cheap.

Option two is being hatched as I write - but very soon its architects will run into Robert Mugabe who is simply demanding that he be allowed to complete his current term and is saying to anyone who will listen - 'I am ready to do four more years'. It is a non-starter and thank goodness (or Robert) because that solution would leave the Zimbabwean populace in the hands of the same corrupt despotic collection of clowns that have been responsible for the mess we are in now. It would do nothing to restore the rule of law; it would not restore our basic freedoms and would not be either legal or democratic.

So we are thrown back onto our own resources and courage. Everyone I speak to says that we (Zimbabweans) do not have what it takes to topple this dictatorship. This is not Bosnia, the Philippines or Russia - Zimbabweans are simply too passive and compliant to do what is required. One such commentator said to me today - you would be better off launching the struggle in South Africa where you have two or three million very angry Zimbabweans. Sure - that might be true; it is also true that if those angry young men came back - we could probably sort out the mafia here in short order. But that is not going to happen.

We have two more rallies this weekend - one in Mutare and another in Harare. I am going to both because I want to see and sense the mood of the people. My own view is that Zimbabweans are ready to do what is needed and we need not fear the armed forces - they are as fed up as we are. A business executive told me yesterday that these situations are often like an eggshell - hard and impervious, until it cracks. Then it just splinters and falls apart.

We are about to hit this egg hard - the egghead is nervous and worried. He might well be because he has no certainly that when this situation cracks open, that he will be able to protect himself from a very angry and frustrated people. Remember East Germany just before the wall came down - tough, strong and invincible, until the egg cracked and then there was nowhere to go.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 2oth April 2006