The worlds biggest closing down sale

I do not know how to describe what this collection of goons are doing but it is the worlds biggest closing down sale! I have now been raided 7 times and on each occasion they have demanded that we write down our prices to new low levels. I have yet to determine the full extent of our losses but they now run into the billions. My main concern now is just how on earth do we pay our staff at the month end? They are equally concerned!

I have heard many explanations of this exercise, termed 'Good Governance' by the regime in its normal exemplary manner. One was that this is a knee jerk reaction to the statement by Christopher Dell, the US Ambassador to Harare on the 18th June 2007 to the effect that we are headed for 1,5 million percent inflation and the collapse of the regime in short order. Another is that they were shocked by outcome of their own exercise to draw foreign exchange from the market that week and the resulting collapse of the local currency and the massive surge in inflation that followed and this is a desperate effort to halt inflation.

Yet another, well informed source said it was well planned, the people involved trained and is a deliberate attempt to further reduce urban populations and the support base of the MDC in the towns in the form of small and large-scale business. This hypothesis was based on the Murambatsvina exercise two years ago when they destroyed 300 000 homes in informal settlements and hundreds of thousands of small non-formal businesses. This resulted in both an upsurge in human flight and movements back to the rural areas - both targets of the policy and in the view of the regime, highly successful.

Now, forced to face elections in March 2008, they have assessed the situation and decided that more surgery is required. So smash the remnants of the formal economy and at the same time give the people cheap goods as a reward for their complicity. The possible outcome is now clear, the majority of what is left of the modern economy is being systematically destroyed and most companies affected will almost certainly close their doors with dramatic job losses, huge suffering and the flight of much of our present urban population to South Africa and elsewhere.

They then feel that with all food supplies in their hands and most of the remnants of the economy under their control, they can direct how people will vote in the next election and be sure that they will comply. This hypothesis is validated by the actions taken last week to introduce new controls on the importation of food and 'groceries' for resale. As for the flight of millions to South Africa it has been clear for some time that the regime here is making no efforts at all to curb illegal border crossing into any of our neighbors territory.

If permitted, this demonic, ruthless but clever operation will result in the Zimbabwean population declining to less than 7 million this winter, the potential voting population to perhaps 2 million; 80 per cent of them poor, impoverished and totally dependent on regime controlled handouts and charity. Like peasants everywhere, the majority will be dependent on the regime for work, food, shelter and even clothing - the basics of life, as such they would not dare act in defiance.

Zanu PF will, under this scenario, then call an election early - as soon as the human flight and controls are in place and effective on the ground. In this election they will make every pretense to show that it is 'free and fair' even allowing some international and regional observers. The people will vote under supervision with the threat that districts that vote MDC and known MDC activists will face instant reprisals that will leave them without food and all other means of survival. They might even control remittances from abroad.

The people behind this strategy are very clever in an evil sort of way. They have become wealthy beyond their imaginations; they have no shortages, can take holidays abroad (if they are not under sanctions and even if they are, there are plenty of places that will gladly take their dollars) and have the systems of control and coercion in their hands without legal or moral constraints. They are totally determined to protect this power and privilege at any cost.

Their main threat is not from the MDC or the people, but from within. Therefore they reserve their most harsh action for those individuals who dare to break away from the power group and in recent weeks we have seen a resurgence of political killings of senior Army officers who have dared to ask questions about what is happening and what they are asked to do. They do not give a hoot about the interests of the region or the people, they think the former can be manipulated, do not have the will to stand up to them and may even be compliant. The latter, they regard as just fodder for the machine they are creating.

The operation itself tells us a great deal about this regime. It is now, effectively a military Junta. The Joint Operations Command is totally in charge and the civilian State is simply being brushed aside and forced to watch as decisions are taken (outside of Cabinet) and implemented. We have documentary evidence of this.

It also confirms that the rule of law has now been totally abandoned and the Courts sidelined and access the legal redress made impossible. There is nothing legal about what they are doing; it would never stand up in a Court of Law in any normal society. The rights of property owners (no matter what sort of property) are being flagrantly violated with business capital being wiped out in a dramatic and fatal way. Interestingly they are not discriminating in this operation, foreign or local, Zanu PF or MDC, Asian, indigenous black or white, they are simply sweeping the board. This shows that they feel they no longer need these alternative pillars of political support - the armed forces and their own systems and tentacles are enough to do what they want.

Do regional leaders understand the terrible price they will pay for this gross abuse of power and privilege in Zimbabwe? What on earth are they doing to stop this madness? Not a great deal at present and there are four possible outcomes of their inaction.

1. We will collapse in a heap and the military will formalize their role in our society.
2. The so-called reformers in Zanu PF will take over, expel Mugabe from power and form a new government that will declare a state of emergency and govern.
3. Mugabe will call a snap election late this year and will try to win by manipulation.
4. The SADC initiative will be put back on course by South African power and we will stagger under reserve engines to an election in March 2008 that will produce a new government to pick up the pieces.
It is reported to me that Zanu PF Members of Parliament have jokingly stated to MDC colleagues 'we know you will win the elections, and we are making sure there is nothing left for you to eat!' This might well be a scorched earth strategy - or the scorched earth idea might simply be a fall back position if SADC does intervene. Whatever, time is running out for all of us!

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 19th July 2007