Those Pesky Steers
It would seem that South Africa is having a few problems with Zanu PF.
have the gate to the holding pen open, plenty of herdsmen with all the
necessary - but the one group of steers is very shy and frightened.
the gate and know a little about what lies ahead, but shy away from
commitment just when we thought they were in the process of accepting
Although nothing is being said by anyone connected to the process, it
that the planned talks for this past weekend were postponed at the last
minute and that Zanu PF only submitted their position paper to the
African team on Monday - a month after it was formally requested. It
our team 5 days - this clearly shows who is ready to talk and who is
But I cannot see South Africa, as the supervisor in this particular
exercise, allowing these steers much more leeway. I suspect the whip is
about to crack again. Rumor has it that the postponed talks will start
The situation has been clarified further in recent days. We had the
fascinating visit to South Africa by Tony Blair. He clearly set out the
position of the international community. He stated that something had
done about Zimbabwe. He then pointed out that something was being done
the SADC States themselves. South Africa was coordinating the effort
international community stood by ready to move at short notice to help
Zimbabweans rebuild their country once a more representative government
in place and doing the 'right things'.
I thought he was very clear, at UNISA he made another statement on our
situation that showed they are thinking this through. He told business
leaders and academics that the Zimbabwe crisis is costing South Africa
percent of its potential GDP. I have held that view for some time and
defended an estimate close to that at a discussion in Cape Town last
What I said also was that no developing State with the poverty problems
South Africa could afford to forgo such growth for very long. What a
difference that sort of additional growth would make to South Africa.
What most foreign observers fail to see is that if you take Zimbabwe
South Africa, and perhaps Swaziland, out of the SADC you are left with
region that is growing at the same frantic pace as the Asian Tigers.
will see growth of some 30 per cent this year - even though it is
oil, it is still an achievement and if only the government could be
persuaded to stop stealing a third of all that new wealth, the people
start being better off!
There are other imperatives driving this situation and which make me
confident that this time something is going to happen. They are: -
The first point is that the economic implosion in Zimbabwe is reaching
critical point. Right now I estimate that prices are about doubling
week. This could be seen on the local stock market where despite 54 per
growth in equity prices in one week, they fell back in USD terms by 10
cent during the week. Despite undertakings to business and labour
there is no sign of any fundamental changes in the policies being
by the Ministry of Finance or the Reserve Bank. Therefore I see no
possibility of this slide into financial chaos being halted or
When prices start doubling every day, business will come to a halt,
will stop going to work, the army and the police will join the rest of
and with guns in their hands anything could happen. I am not talking
situation that is months away - its now weeks. In April prices
one month, in May they went up by 200 per cent, right now I estimate
are doubling weekly. July is not far away! Someone said to me that the
good thing about such a situation is that it does not last long. The
question is what will happen when that situation becomes a reality?
The second point is that the floodtide of refugees going to South
accelerating. We have a long porous border with South Africa and
and even Mozambique. There is no way they can halt this tidal wave. I
told that in many schools there are now so few teachers left that they
barely function. Many children have also left school for economic
that the impact is not as great as might otherwise be expected - but
that the thousands of civil servants, soldiers, policemen, nurses and
doctors and you get the picture.
I laughed out loud the other day when the SABC said - with all
that they had 70 000 refugees in South Africa. The reality is that they
become the main destination for economic and political refugees from
States in the world. By the end of this winter I have no doubt that
million Zimbabweans will be living in South Africa - under terrible
conditions and desperate to make money from any means to live on and
home. The implications are frightening.
The third point that I make is that South Africa and regional leaders
now decided to take action. In a statement issued this week, Mr. Mbeki
stated that in what remains of his Presidency he wants to resolve the
Zimbabwe crisis as a top priority. He has also accepted that he cannot
control the outcome of such a process, but he can make the process
That is all we really ask - we will then decide what to do about our
leadership and our policies.
I encounter skeptism and hopelessness every day. But for the above
think we are going to see change - dramatic change shortly. I think
track approach of the SADC is right - politics and economics are the
this team. If they can pull together we can get this field ploughed.
Bulawayo, 7th June 2007