The Need for a Deal that will Work
All the debates taking place regarding the SADC sponsored talks to bring
about an agreement to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe center on the issue of
political power. In fact that may be the most important issue to some, but
its not the main issue at all. The main point of the talks is to secure a
workable solution to our economic, political and social crisis.
The basic facts that underlie the crisis is that we have a military Junta
running the country that cannot be overthrown by violence or armed
insurrection, the political leadership has lost control of the State to this
Junta and is now totally discredited, was in fact defeated at the last
election but refuses to leave office, spurred on by the Junta.
The regime has totally mismanaged the economy and now it teeters on the edge
of disintegration and collapse. This morning the RTGS rate for the local
currency was hovering about 5000 to 1USD. This dramatic collapse in a few
days points to a number of other forces at work - the flight of capital, the
reckless creation of money by the Reserve Bank and the severe shortage of
cash with which to make daily transactions.
The collapse of the dollar by 700 per cent since the new currency was issued
a month ago, means that while there might have been enough cash to meet
needs at that time, the availability of cash notes has simply been decimated
by inflation - I would guess that we probably only have the equivalent of
US$5 million in cash in circulation in new notes - a drop in the ocean when
we probably need US$3 billion. When you think that the new currency cost us
Euro 35 million to print - now it has a face value of only US$5 million and
next week probably half that again.
Our economy is literally teetering on the edge of collapse - the major
retail stores are empty and unable to finance their operations. Parastatals
cannot pay their staff let alone other costs. The urban councils are without
fuel, chemicals, spares and tyres for vehicles. Their administrations are no
longer able to produce accounts or manage their finances. The basic needs of
life are not available or unaffordable - the great majority of the
population is seriously considering flight to the nearest country they can
go to under any conditions.
The government must be in dire straights - they can create money by simply
passing credits from the Reserve Bank to local financial institutions that
will then pay out salaries to the civil service and the armed forces - if
they can get in the door of a bank and then along a queue perhaps 500 to a
1000 people long. When they get there they are paid out in small amounts
(maximum Z$500 worth US10 cents today) and in coins, old bank notes and
The parallel market - always an immediate and accurate indicator of real
market conditions will no longer accept the old currencies for their deals -
only the new notes and these are now as scarce as hen's teeth. In December
the regime is committed to withdrawing the old notes from circulation - and
then what? No wonder Gono wants to retire when his contract comes up for
renewal in November.
And then there is the social and humanitarian crisis. Half our population
has no food and no means of earning a living. They must be given their
entire requirements for survival. Our hospitals and clinics are run down and
dirty, they have no drugs and no blankets and few staff. If you are admitted
to a State run facility you must provide everything you need, even food and
any medical supplies you might require.
Our State run schools have just opened - 70 000 teachers short of their
establishment. Hostels have no food, students no books or writing materials.
Teachers cannot even pay for transport to school. Buildings are dilapidated
and in most school rooms there are no lights. Children come to school hungry
and cannot study because they simply do not get enough food at home.
I was at a meeting of our City Council yesterday - the head of the Cities
medical services told us she couldn't dig graves fast enough to bury the
dead. She said they could not get labour to clean the streets or handle
waste or dig graves. This situation is repeated across the whole country -
the City Engineer said they have 4 days chlorine left in stock, after that,
we drink unpurified water, 1,3 million people at risk.
We have the shortest life expectancy in the world, the highest ratio of
orphans to population in the world, staggering infant and maternal mortality
rates. In a country where we once had one of the fastest growing populations
in the world - our death rates from all causes is now so high that our
population is shrinking rapidly. In line with this, our economy has also
shrunk - every year since 1998 and will decline again this year by at least
10 per cent.
So what we need is not power sharing - that is the least of our worries, its
simply a government that will work and start to get the country stable and
onto the pathway to recovery. For that we need the following: -
A return to a democratic government that is accountable to the people.
New leadership that is honest, capable and caring.
A government team that will work together and put the country first.
A basic agreement to bring about these conditions that is acceptable to our
development partners who are essential to the stabilisation and recovery
Today the SADC leadership is in Lusaka at the funeral of the late President
of Zambia. Mbeki will almost certainly use this occasion to get a consensus
on what is the next step in the SADC/Zimbabwe process. He then travels to
Harare to hold talks with the three principals and will try to get agreement
on a final deal. Any agreement that does not meet the simple criteria listed
above will simply not work. It will not be worth the paper it is written on.
Mbeki must know this; it may not be acceptable to the Mugabe group or to
Mutambara but it is the only way forward.
Bulawayo, 3rd September 2008