The Price of Tyranny

While we often discuss the human costs of the Mugabe regime, we neglect the costs in material terms. For this country the price of his tyranny has been huge. Our GDP is now hovering about US4 billion, exports around US$1,5 billion and our national debt has soared to over US$8 billion. Despite our pariah state the international community still pours in over US$600 million a year in aid - all of it in grant form.

If we add up the total losses to Zimbabwe over the past 10 years they would exceed US$100 billion - a big price to pay for the ego of one man and his gang of thieves. On the issue of the corrupt diversion of state resources, the magnitude of the costs we have borne are equally enormous.

People in the west have little idea of the sums that are stolen from countries like Zimbabwe and the extent of the wealth being accumulated by the privileged few in power. In many countries control of the Reserve Bank and the State simply signals an opportunity to plunder both for the benefit of a tiny minority. So Mabuto accumulated wealth equal at one time to the total debt of the Congo. The corrupt Marxist regime in Angola is known to be taking a cut on virtually all business transactions and a large slice of all oil revenues - now running at several billion dollars a month.

The various military and civilian leaders of Nigeria in the past have stolen up to a billion US dollars a month from their countries. You cannot spend such sums and stories of Nigerians arriving in foreign cities with suitcases of money abound. When these crime magnates die, the secrets of their wealth dies with them and much of the illicit gains go into the hidden balance sheets of global business. A Swedish businessman told me once that he loved doing business with the 'socialists' of Africa - nowhere else could you make the margins that were available in those countries. He was complaining at the time about the private sector driven economy here in the 80’s.

Just to drive this point home in recent weeks and months, this regime has been plundering the resources that are left here - especially those that can be moved abroad. When we finally get into the vaults at the Reserve Bank we will find them empty.

As far as the region is concerned the cost of tyranny in Zimbabwe is more difficult to estimate. Some time ago Tony Blair visited South Africa and at UNISA he made a speech in which he estimated that the contagion effects of the Zimbabwe crisis was costing South Africa 2 per cent of its GDP per annum. It may in fact be more.

If we just take tourism - we are turning away about 2 million visitors each year from regional tourism centers. That is worth several billion dollars a year in foreign earnings to the region and at least 250 000 jobs. The total cost of the crisis at, say. 2 per cent of regional GDP is now at least US$8 billion a year - twice the actual GDP of Zimbabwe.

But there is another cost - shown vividly on television in the past few days, as South Africa has seen xenophobic violence break out in the townships of Gauteng. Mobs of axe and panga wielding people are attacking foreigners whom they perceive (probably correctly) as robbing them of jobs and other opportunities in South Africa. This was a further crisis that was just waiting to happen.

With over 3 million Zimbabweans in South Africa already, the flood tide of refugees from Zimbabwe in the past year has been a step too far. The South African government is worried and astonished at the extent and degree of violence. Dire threats and allegations that someone sinister must be behind the outbreaks are being made.

But in fact the truth is that their social systems can only take so much pressure before they break down and we may well be seeing such an event right now. Not good news for Mbeki who was meeting with the international business council in Durban yesterday. He faced the key investors in South Africa with images of the violence and mayhem on the Rand fresh in everyone’ s minds, with his own problems at home and abroad and the threat of a messy transition in 2009 to a new leadership, it was not an easy gathering.

I have argued for years that the greatest threat of the crisis in Zimbabwe was not here, but in South Africa where despite the disparity in size, we are capable of destabilizing that country very effectively. Both for Africa and the world community, that is a much bigger problem and one that merits close attention and speedy action. Mbeki is responsible for the failure in both respects and now reaps the whirlwind.

We launched our run off campaign yesterday in Bulawayo with 20 000 people in the White City Stadium. Although it was cold and windy and we had only got one day to organise, the turnout was massive and very pleasing. We eventually got a High Court Judge to rule on Friday at 15.30 hrs, that we could go ahead and in fact it turned out to be the right decision. The police had cited three reasons for not granting us permission - personnel, the sensitive situation and the threat of violence. In all three respects the police were wrong - we had 5 policemen outside the stadium at a roadblock, there was no violence and the mood was festive.

Chamisa mocked the threat that Zanu would 'go back to war' if they lost - he asked just whom would they fight? Who was the enemy? He drew lots of laughs from the crowd and explained that Morgan could not be present for of a number of reasons. The acting President, Ms. Khupe spoke at length about the run off and said that this was the burial service for Zanu PF. She said Zanu had died on the 29th March and all that was left was to bury them in a deep hole with a concrete slab over the top to ensure they did not resurrect.

The MDC then fed all 20 000 people with lunch and afterwards they departed for their homes. Quite an achievement in a country that is starving and a testimony to the organisations capacity. The next six weeks are going to be busy as we campaign and then vote yet again. But this is our kind of fight and on this territory we have the advantage and the right weapons.

A group from the intelligence and police raided my sons Church yesterday. They searched for 'weapons of war'. He gave them each a Bible and said - 'this is our only weapon and it brings life, not death'. On the 27th June we in southern Africa are going to discover the same truth about our votes - used wisely and protected, they will bring new life to Zimbabwe and the entire region.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo 19th May 2008