Despair and Despondency
An immediate outcome of the meeting last Monday was nationwide despair and
despondency. On the street, the people have virtually given up any hope that
the political process will deliver a solution. At the same time they are not
looking elsewhere, just thinking about moving on to another country where
sanity might prevail.
It is the possibility of flight that has changed the character of African
conflict. Its implications are yet to be fully understood or appraised. When
failed by their leaders at home, increasingly Africans are simply packing
their bags. I saw a study this past week where a think tank in the UK
estimated that remittances from the UK to Zimbabwe alone, could be running
at over US$1 billion a year. If this is true, it puts a new dimension on
this issue - it shows that the actual Zimbabwe origin population in the UK
is much bigger than estimated and that they are sending much more money home
than we ever imagined.
This would explain where all the foreign currency that keeps this country
going, is coming from. It explains why many more people are not actually
dying from the present crisis in terms of hunger, malnutrition and neglect.
It also explains why the regime in Harare prints money to buy foreign
currency on the street in such quantities and then uses the resulting hard
cash to buy luxury items and food or to send abroad to secret bank accounts.
The total population of Zimbabwe is certainly now down to below 9 million.
An astonishing figure when you know that it should have been close to double
that had conditions remained the same as had existed at the time of
independence in 1980. Some of the decline can be explained by millions of
deaths due to the deteriorating situation here, but even more by the flight
of millions as economic refugees. The most popular destinations being South
Africa and the UK followed by the USA and Canada and then Australia and New
Zealand. And I am not talking about white African migrants.
I am convinced that the authorities in South Africa have little
understanding of the implications of this massive human migration. Half of
the population of Somalia and the Sudan has left their homeland. Millions of
Congolese are on the move and if this migration is not slowed down, it has
the potential to drown the social and economic systems of South Africa.
There is the upside in terms of skills and experience with thousands of
migrants now occupying key roles in their destination countries. I
personally know of men and women who have quickly assumed top positions in
their new homelands. The problem is that this just reinforces the collapse
of the societies they are fleeing and makes recovery and growth more
difficult to sustain.
So when the SADC leadership gather outside Pretoria on Monday, a great deal
is at stake. It's not just about power sharing. It's about acting decisively
to bring to an end a political and economic crisis that has plagued the
region for over two decades. The fact that SADC clearly backed the position
of the Mugabe regime at last weeks meeting in the face of overwhelming
evidence and rationale, is a real indictment of African leadership. They
were not even acting in defence of their own interests, let alone the
interests of the long-suffering Zimbabwe people.
As for the Zanu PF and the Junta in Harare, they continued to behave as if
it was business as usual. There was no change in the propaganda that pours
out of the Ministry of Information via the print and electronic media; there
was no let up in the spurious allegations about the MDC sponsoring
terrorism. Those abducted and disappeared in recent attacks were still not
seen or heard from and we fear the worst. Those being charged with treason
are still in custody. Food is being interfered with and directed on the
basis of political affiliation, agricultural farm invasions and the theft of
private property continue in the face of the SADC Legal Tribunal rulings.
One of the most bizarre aspect of the past week was the leaking of a paper
prepared by Gono, the illegally appointed Governor of the Reserve Bank,
where he sets out plans to adopt the Rand as an anchor currency and suggests
that mineral and other high value exports could generate up to US$1,2
billion a MONTH. His figures and rationale show no understanding of the
scale of the crisis we are in or the remedies required. The astonishing
thing is that this buffoon is actually taken seriously in Zanu PF circles. I
am sure the officials in government departments do not give this sort of
rubbish any credence - but they are not directing our affairs. Another of
his astonishing ideas is a 30 per cent export tax!
In the meantime, Rome burns. Cholera infections (official only) are now
nearly 50 000 with reported deaths at over 3000. Aids deaths continue at
about 3000 a week, human flight at whatever figure you want to estimate -
but not less than 25 000 a week. Deaths from TB, malaria, child deaths and
death of women in childbirth run at another 1000 or so a week. It is a
silent genocide and Graca Machel said it best this past week when she
slammed SADC leadership for standing by and doing nothing, in fact making
the situation worse by not acting to support democracy, the rule of law and
all international standards of human and political rights.
One of the worst centers for cholera and the town with the highest death
toll (18 per cent of all infected) is Chegutu, about 100 kilometers from
Harare to the south. This past week a fellow MP told me that he went to the
local hospital to try and get an impression of what was going on. All he
found was an empty shell - every thing that could be moved had been stolen,
there were no staff on duty and the complex was abandoned.
Another colleague stood up in Parliament and said he had just visited a
relative in the local Prison. He detailed conditions in both the remand
section and in the main prison itself. Hundreds of prisoners ill with
cholera, little or no treatment available, dead bodies left in the cells for
days and food rations down to 25 per cent of 'normal'. It was a chilling
statement and was received in complete silence by the House.
Bulawayo, January 24th 2009