The Propensity to Self Destruct

I looked through a list of one of the more recent line-ups of the Zanu PF government and found that in the list of 58 or so Ministers were 17 PhD graduates, many from prestigious Universities in Europe and the USA. Mugabe himself is no slouch, he works out, drinks very little and eats sparingly. He has 6 University degrees in valuable skills such as law and economics and is clearly above average in intelligence. Why then the propensity to self-destruct?

They know what is required to run a modern economy; we have lots of examples of economic reform programmes adopted with great fanfare and then fudged and abandoned. They did a lot of good things in the early 80ís and yet they have these blind spots. How could they ever have imagined they would get away with Gukurahundi? Murambatsvina? How could they expect to be able to destroy the commercial agricultural system and still feed the country and keep the economy on its feet? But they did, clearly, because that is just what they have done and have expected to be absolved of all wrongdoing, if not by the deluded West then by their colleagues on the African Continent.

Now, in front of the whole world they sign up to an African brokered deal after 18 months of tortuous negotiations and then, even before the ink is dry, they are violating the agreement in fundamental ways and expecting to get away with these violations. The list of violations grows every day. Farm invasions, theft of private property, illegal detentions, false allegations against neighboring States and agreement partners, abductions, murder, torture, illegal appointments, failure to implement agreed reforms and now manipulation of ministerial mandates.

Last winter, 95 per cent of the wheat crop was grown by the traditional large-scale commercial farmers, 5 per cent by the so-called 'new' farmers. Last summer 97 per cent of the tobacco crop was grown by a handful of remaining large-scale growers, the same can be said of milk, pigs, poultry and fruit. Yet the secretive cabal that runs the security and legal apparatus of the transitional government under Zanu PF tutelage is, as I write, destroying every last vestige of what was a decade ago, the most productive agricultural community in Africa. In doing so they are using violence, theft and extra legal methods that defy logic and any sense of justice.

We are now just 30 days from the date by which winter crops of wheat and barley should be planted. I can predict now, with absolute certainty, that the winter crops will be half or less of those planted last winter. April is the start of the new crop cycle for tobacco and if things remain as they are, this country, which at one time ranked with Brazil and the United States as a producer and exporter of quality flue cured tobacco, will cease to be a significant player. The industry is about to collapse totally. Tobacco firms will close their processing plants and the largest auctions floors in the world will become warehouses for food aid.

Our economy which just ten years ago sustained a population of 15 million and supported an education system that was the pride of Africa together with a health system that was able to deal with all but the most complex cases, is down to being unable to support even the most basic of services. In January total tax collections were equal to US$4 million, less than 2 per cent of what we needed to run the country. Yet the men and women who did this to us give no sign that they acknowledge their failures or even that they were in any way responsible for our total collapse. The irony of the fact that they have participated in the past in forums that have yielded principled statements on human and political rights, signed up to agreements guaranteeing those rights and giving verbal accent to them on many occasions, then violated those same principles with impunity in the pursuit of power, seems to be lost on them. They spent most of their lives demanding democracy and equal rights only to brush both principles aside when challenged at the ballot box. When faced with limited and targeted sanctions by the very people who supported their struggle for justice in the 60ís and 70ís with mandatory UN sanctions against Smith, they cry foul.

They had become one of the most corrupt and greedy administrations in the world and yet they demand to be trusted with others funds and allowed to do as they please with aid. They flaunt their wealth before an impoverished nation where just a month ago, 75 per cent of the entire population had to be fed by foreign donors because the government could not do so or be trusted to do so if empowered. Yet these people, show no shame, no understanding or even awareness of what damage they have done, not just to the people and nation of Zimbabwe, but to the entire continent as we all bear the consequences of the failures of leadership in Africa. Especially when that leadership should know better, because of their own history, their education and experience and the relative sophistication of the society they managed.

I am afraid this propensity to self-destruct is a mystery to me. Many would assign a racial connotation to the failure - certainly Ian Smith would crow that he had been right about 'them' not being 'ready' to run their own affairs. Who could argue with him? That is the real tragedy of this situation; do they understand that? I see no sign that they do at present yet it is so painfully obvious to any informed observer.

I know that countries only learn from mistakes and that if you read European history about 500 years ago you will see the same failures, the same shortcomings and destruction. Nevertheless we live in hope that education, culture and communications together with centuries of experience and reform would enable us to avoid these pitfalls. To stand on others shoulders instead of falling into the same holes in the road they left behind. But somehow Zanu PF seems incapable of this and seems incapable of reform itself.

Hundreds of people are writing and calling me every day to say that MDC is being sucked into the Zanu PF morass and will suffer the same fate if it does 'nothing'. I will admit that if we do not make progress on rectifying the many transgressions of the GPA and very soon, that the whole caboodle could come tumbling down. Right now this failure is holding back progress on all fronts and even though international donors have doubled their aid to the country in the first quarter of this year, both patience and time is running out.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 12th April 2009