Progress Report

MDC has been inside the tent for 10 days - it was only Friday the week before last when the Ministers were finally sworn in and they started work last Monday. By now they have found their new cars (that did not take long!) and their offices - some do not even now have a permanent office or support staff, but they are operating.

As is to be expected, some of the Ministers hit the ground running, others were more hesitant and unsure of themselves. Some mistakes have been made and some progress achieved - not as much as we may have wanted, but some. Certainly the atmosphere has improved a bit although Mugabe does his best to knock us all down from time to time.

There have been some notable achievements in this short space of time. The Ministry of Finance has affected some reforms and the public service has received hard currency allowances. More will be paid this week. Teachers are back at work and I think most medical establishments are also working - to varying degrees, but they are open. Food supplies in the commercial markets are more or less in free supply and as a result prices have started to decline - some by a significant margin.

In areas receiving food aid there has been a notable reduction in political interference and a sharp increase in food distribution. In fact in February a remarkable 75 per cent of the total population will have received food from the aid agencies. I think this is the highest percentage of a national population in receipt of food aid anywhere and at any time - not even Ethiopia during the famine in that country, reached this level of need across the whole country.

There has been a serious explosion at the only functioning fertilizer plant in the country at Sable Chemicals - this uses 30 per cent of our national power consumption and as a result we have had no power cuts for a week. It's not because the MDC Minister concerned has waved a magic wand - it's just that we have more electricity to go around now that the plant is out of action. I have argued for some time that we should have in fact closed the plant down and used the electricity for other purposes.

Water supplies have gone back to the urban councils where they belong and the Councils are slowly picking up the pieces and trying to rectify matters. Water supplies in Harare are now up to 50 per cent of needs - from 30 per cent and quite a bit of investment is taking place. Sewerage and solid waste disposal is still a problem and will be for a long time but a team of consultants is visiting all towns and cities to investigate what needs to be done and is making recommendations to the Councils.

We have made some progress in the field of media reform - the Zanu PF Minister has been tasked with this responsibility and as a start, to stop political interference with the State controlled media. After an encouraging start the State media resumed its delinquent practices and more action is now required - perhaps a bit of surgery.

It is tragic that in those areas where the SADC has responsibility, only very patchy progress has been made. Although they signed the Global Political Agreement on the 15th September last year and then supported the adoption of constitutional reform in February with the President signing the new legislation into law on the 15th, the old regime shows little sign that they intend either to honor their part of this deal or to work with us on the many urgent problems that need to be addressed.

The National Security Council Act is yet to be signed into law, the basic tenants of the GPA are yet to find expression in the way the State operates and every possible obstacle is being put in the way of progress. The abductees remain mostly in detention or missing, farm invasions have intensified and segments of the administration are simply refusing to reform or to act when instructed to do so by the new Ministers.

At the same time, a secret criminal cabal has been established - working downwards from the Presidents Office to remote police stations and army barracks. The paymaster is Gono and the principle role players are senior Cabinet Ministers assisted by a number of senior civil servants. It is difficult to determine just what they want to achieve but it would appear that they have a number of objectives.

They want to prevent any substantive aid coming to the country in the belief that this will then discredit the MDC in the eyes of the majority. They want to try and force us to quit the transitional government by holding our people in detention on false charges and allegations, they want to frustrate any new reforms that might usher in a period of media freedom and a more open society. They want to skew the upcoming debate on the constitution and electoral reform; they want to protect their key players in the administration and to sustain their activities by using state resources.

This past week we saw an open challenge to the authority of the Prime Minister when the administration unilaterally announced the appointment of Permanent Secretaries to head ministries. Tsvangirai immediately repudiated the action and rescinded the appointments. A subdued Mugabe conceded they had exceeded their mandate and violated the GPA by doing so. The Prime Minster will now handle all those appointments properly today. On Friday we obtained information of an attempt to shift responsibility for the telephone system from the MDC Minister responsible to a Zanu PF Minister. This was confronted and prevented.

Despite the fact that all farm invasions are illegal after the signing of the GPA and despite instructions to the contrary by the Prime Minister, the President stated that they would continue and the Chief Magistrate ordered the Courts to ignore binding legal agreements in regional Courts. Farmers with cows in milk, fruit on trees and crops in the ground have been told to leave their farms and homes at 24 hours notice. If they refused they were jailed and in many cases beaten. Private assets and homes are being occupied illegally and assets looted. Clearly this criminal activity will have to be addressed - but who is the policeman in all this - surely SADC and in particular, the South African government.

So here we are - still no action on the key issues that the SADC leadership said should be resolved by the new government - governors are not yet appointed, the Attorney General and the Reserve Bank Governor - all appointed in violation of the GPA have not had their positions reviewed and agreed, the National Security Council is yet to be constituted and begin operations. The Prime Minister is yet to be allowed to function in accordance with the GPA and the new constitutional provisions. Illegal detentions have continued and the farm invasions intensified.

On top of all this, regional governments are yet to come to the assistance of the new administration. When approached for help they disingenuously argued that we 'Must settle our debts and they will give us help to do so!'. We owe over US$5 billion to our creditors - have done little or nothing to settle these debts for over 15 years and now - as we take over a bankrupt and devastated State, regional governments sit on their hands!

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 2nd March 2009