Swirls in the Water.
A few years ago I spent a marvelous time on the Chobe River flood
the boundary between Namibia and Botswana. For those of you who do not
the area, the Zambezi River runs down the western border of Zambia for
several hundred kilometers and then hits a basalt ridge where it backs
and spills over into the flood plains on either side of the river
huge seasonal wetlands.
In the south, these wet lands drain into the Chobe River and then back
the Zambezi River at Kazungula. This gives the river its May flood that
makes a visit to the Victoria Falls so spectacular. When this process
underway from April to July, the waters of the flood plains drain into
gullies that are kept open by Hippos and these run for up to 30 to 40
kilometers into the Chobe River.
We spent a wonderful day on the flood plains with a local guide armed
light fishing gear. We went up to the head of a system of drainage
and then drifted down with the current. As we did so our guide showed
to cast our lures into spots on the edge of the channels where a swirl
indicated the presence of Tiger fish. These were hunting the smaller
emerging from the reed beds where they had lived for the past few
The results were spectacular - about every third cast saw a fish rise
strike and of these we landed about one in three. We fished all day in
wonderful surroundings, lush swampland as far as you could see,
clear blue skies and a temperature of about 25 c. Not much game but we
to watch for Hippo and Crocodiles.
Swirls in the water. That is what we have seen all week in southern
Brief statements from South African leaders about the crisis in
statements from the UN in Geneva and New York. Tantalizing stuff, but
does it all mean? It probably points to political Tiger fish hunting
prey in Zimbabwean waters.
There is no doubt in my mind that Thabo Mbeki has tried hard in the
months to achieve a break through on the Zimbabwe crisis. He failed
of two things - he was not prepared to use his power against Mugabe
and secondly, Mugabe simply refused to accept a deal that would leave
open to subsequent threats. Hurt, Mbeki has retreated from the field
now supporting an initiative by Kofi Annan.
This is a welcome development quite frankly, because Mbeki always had
ulterior motive in seeking a resolution to the Zimbabwe crisis. He
solution that would help him deal with the stresses and strains within
own political alliance in the ANC. This took little account of either
issue of real democratic practice or of the need to protect human and
political rights in Zimbabwe. The Mbeki solution would have also left
segments of the present regime in charge of the post Mugabe situation
never saw much chance of those people being able to resolve the many
difficult problems that Mugabe will leave behind him when he finally
Kofi Annan seems to have chosen his bait carefully - he has loaded his
with a Murambatsvina and the whole issue of democratic governance,
rights and the need for change. In respect to the latter his position
much more principled - he has stated that the UN road map follows a
route to the MDC road map, a transitional government, followed by a new
constitution and then fresh elections under international supervision.
The great advantages of such a road map is that it allows for the
reconstruction and rehabilitation to start as soon as a transitional
administration is in place. It also gives the people of Zimbabwe the
to determine how they will be governed in the form of a new people
constitution and it also then allows the people to decide who will take
I have no doubt about the outcome of such a transition and am sure that
would put new leadership in charge here. Zanu also has no doubts about
and for that reason they will fight like a two-kilo river bred Tiger
prevent being hauled out of the water and forced to face change. You
almost feel the tension in State House as all this is going on and our
Tiger fish are warily watching that lure on the surface with its offer
relief to the constant struggle below.
The conditions on the flood plains do not last for long and when the
are over and the wetlands revert to dry land, time runs out for the
the delta and they must retreat into the main river systems to breed
survive until the next wet season. Time is running out for Mugabe – he
the growing threat of a street revolt that will eventually force change
retreat and flight while his own administration is simply running out
They are buying maize at the GMB for Rand 1250 per tonne (Z$56 million
dollars at market currency rates) and Z$31 million dollars locally.
selling it for Z$600 000 a tonne – a direct subsidy of between Z$37 and
million dollars a tonne after meeting all GMB costs. To compound their
difficulties they are also now faced with corrupt managers selling
maize to others who then promptly sell it back to the GMB as local
taking a huge profit on the turn. A single truckload handled in this
will yield a profit of nearly a billion dollars – even in local
that is a rich reward.
At ZESA – the local power utility, they are buying power at a cost of
8 US cents per unit and selling it for one or two cents – another
going down the tubes with trillions in debts growing daily. The
Railways now has gross revenues that will not even pay net staff
and it too is simply sinking in debt.
Prices soar on a daily basis – firms last week suspended trading, as
simply did not know what to charge for goods. Fuel prices rose 50 per
in a week. Market determined exchange rates collapsed to new lows of 48
to 1 against the Rand and 300 000 to 1 against the US dollar. Bowing to
reality, the Reserve Bank issued a new Z$100 000 bearer bond to ease
critical cash shortages.
Nearly all productive activity is slowly grinding to a halt – if you
that is an exaggeration just visit a few industrial firms in any City
Zimbabwe. They are shells of their former selves. Both the decline in
forms of economic activity and the rapid rise in prices, show no signs
slowing down. South African leaders this week admitted that they feared
expected continued rapid melt down in Zimbabwe if urgent steps were not
taken soon. I agree.
Bulawayo, 3rd June 2006