A Winter of Discontent
The Beginning of Winter
The 15th of May is generally regarded as the start of winter here in
Zimbabwe. In Matabeleland we can expect frost any time from this date
right now the weather is just out of this world - clear blue skies,
mornings and brilliant moonlit nights. Most people do not appreciate
on the highveld of Africa often have days when the temperature will
well below zero - frozen bird baths and garden hoses. But apart from
bears little resemblance to winter in the north.
For Zanu PF this past week has shown many signs that this is going to
long winter for them. Perhaps their last winter?
First they suddenly postponed the publication of the inflation data for
April. We all knew why - as expected, it went over the barrier of 1000
cent per annum. In fact in April the month on month inflation was 21
cent. Most of us think that the real inflation rate is much higher, I
if they are still using the controlled prices for goods that are
be under price control for example?
Then suddenly interest rates fell dramatically in the markets - on
they were over 300 per cent per annum, Friday it was difficult to place
money at any interest - the overnight rate was a paltry 5 per cent.
a sure indication that government is not borrowing money to meet its
obligations - it is just printing it. If that is true, then we have
seen the start of the inflation storm - very rough weather ahead.
We then heard from the SADC Secretariat in Gaborone. The 'melt down in
Zimbabwe' was 'damaging the prospects' of a whole raft of SADC
a Customs Union, a standardized currency for the region, harmonized
inflation and macro economic policies among others. Where have these
been all these years - I would have thought that these were prima facie
implications of Mugabe's policies and that the region should have
that a long time ago.
Botswana has a foot and mouth outbreak in the border area next to
and is vaccinating 100 000 head of cattle and closing of a significant
of the country for the delivery of cattle for slaughter at its export
factory in Lobatse in the south west of the country. The problem came
Zimbabwe where discipline and control in the cattle industry has been
by lawlessness and theft. Can anyone imagine any other sort of outcome
such a situation?
Just 6 weeks ago I was told a story by a businessman who operates in
Beitbridge. He said that a group of about 60 adults and a few children
to cross the Limpopo below the bridge. During the crossing a woman with
baby was washed downstream and lost - her baby was snatched from her as
was washed away and carried to safety on the South African side. There
debate ensured - what to do? The mother was no doubt dead - drowned in
river, which was in flood. They were on their way to an uncertain
South African slums and shanties, they still faced the threat of being
and deported by the South African army or police. Eventually it was
decided - the baby was thrown back into the river to meet the same fate
its mother. I have no reason to doubt this story - its source was a
man who has lived in the area all his life. What it reveals is the
desperation of people in Zimbabwe as they seek to flee the hardships of
collapsing economy and a repressive regime.
With hundreds of thousands of people fleeing south, the South African
authorities are just starting to appreciate what the implications are
their own country. Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals who are in
country illegally have become the backbone of a criminal element that
700 murders in South Africa last year. Armed robberies and hijackings
endemic. Men with families displaced and starving in Zimbabwe will kill
for your cell phone if this is what it takes to make a few Rand to send
home. Men who will callously throw a baby into the Limpopo and then
into South Africa are capable of anything.
The current Secretary General of the UN also gave Zanu PF no comfort.
major interview with the Observer in the UK he said that he was ashamed
much of the leadership in Africa. He also said that there was no longer
safe hiding place for leaders who commit atrocities and genocide
the world. He called on Africans to put their house in order and give
continent some hope for the future.
This past week we were ranked as number 5 in the list of least free
countries in the world. Every week we seem to break new ground - the
life expectancy in Africa among other accolades for Zanu PF rule.
Finally, the worst nightmare of Zanu PF is starting to happen. The
are just beginning to make their demands known. Every day there are
demonstrations - students, women from WOZA, the members of the NCA.
arrested and they promptly go back onto the street. Next Saturday the
Churches across the whole country are going to march in a series of
to remembers and stand in unity with those displaced by Murambatsvina
2005. You will recall that Zanu PF launched this campaign on the 18th
2005 - just in time to catch the coldest time of the year. Hundreds of
thousands have died in the past year - victims of a calculated
designed purely to protect the regime from the consequences of their
Civil rights leaders are now calling for a massive combined effort to
our people out on the streets to demand that those in power step aside
allow others to take over and get the country back on its feet. Again
of the UN stepped in - he is engaged in an urgent exercise the media
claimed, to persuade Mr. Mugabe that it is time to go - and then to
a transition back to sanity very similar to the one being demanded by
The regime is still brash and arrogant on the surface. Underneath they
simply terrified. It was fascinating to read Jonathan Moyo's
other day that in every election since 2000, the Zanu PF leadership has
terrified of a defeat. I can well recall the discussions at the airport
Harare with the late President Kabila in 2002, when we were right in
middle of the presidential elections. They were talking about what to
Zanu was defeated. Well this time its for real - no rigging this time
just a straight fight - a small frightened band of aging ogres against
rest of us. I once said to Ian Smith in 1973 that he couldn't win a war
against his own people and the rest of the world. This is still true.
14th May 2006