The Economic Situation

Just how bad the situation is in the economy is not hard to see. Banks are empty - no clients and often just one teller on duty. Wholesalers are slowly getting back on their feet but stocks are pathetic and staff few and far between. The streets are empty of traffic and in town you can park anywhere.

In the largest supermarket in my home district 20 till points stand empty - only one was working. You do not have to book for a meal as most establishments are half empty. People do not have the money to entertain. Most factories are slowly starting to resume production but exporters are feeling the pinch as costs rise and export customers feel the global recession.

Several days a week we face power cuts, the water situation is hardly better and the roads are in a terrible state. Prices are coming down but cash is in short supply and low incomes inhibit personal spending on everything except the basics. Food is freely available but at a price and only in hard currency. Two thirds of the population are on food aid from a variety of organisations funded by the international community.

Hotels are running at about 30 per cent occupancy - mostly foreign, as local tourism has dried up. Investors are wary of the changes, fearing a collapse of the new government and a reversal to the old ways and Gono delinquency. He still struts the stage pretending to be a key player and this unnerves all business people except the corrupt cabal that is trying to hang onto what is left of their power and influence. Not even our neighbours trust us to handle their money - the US$30 million sent to Zimbabwe by South Africa in December just vanished - we could have told them that would happen but they were not listening.

While the international community have responded rapidly to the needs of the new government - raising their input by 100 per cent in the first quarter of this year to over US$100 million per month, the region has responded in a pathetic and halfhearted way. We asked them for US$1,5 billion in lines of credit and for US$500 million in essential budget support. After two months we have had pledged US$30 million in aid from South Africa and US$70 million in a line of credit from Botswana. Since we are in this top heavy, cumbersome marriage of convenience largely at the instigation of the region, we really thought they would feel some responsibility for making it work.

Instead they have sat on the sidelines for 7 months while Mugabe procrastinated and when he finally agreed to share power with the MDC, we were forced to accept a lopsided deal which bore little regard to our respective political strengths. Even then they have stood back and watched as Mugabe has simply refused to keep his side of the bargain. Two months into the transitional government and not a single significant problem has been resolved.

No wonder the world watches Africa and despairs. Who can blame them when we cannot manage a simple exercise such as this one and do not put our own money where our mouth is. SADC compounds the problem when they stridently call for 'sanctions to be lifted' and for the international community to dig deeply into their overburdened fiscal reserves to find huge sums for our economic recovery. In doing so they give the international community no recognition for their ongoing grant aid to Zimbabwe - now standing at nearly 5 billion dollars since 2000 in the face of insults and widespread flaunting of all the rules of good governance and respect for human rights and the rule of law.

The GPA promised media freedom - what has Mugabe delivered - a slight shift in the character of State propaganda? They are still jamming international radio broadcasts, still banning the BBC and CNN still harassing and imprisoning local journalists.

The GPA promised a halt to the farm invasions and respect for the rule law. Instead we have a rush of fresh invasions, more violence and intimidation. The theft of private assets and crops and a total disregard for the highest legal opinion in the SADC.

The GPA promised a halt to political violence, respect for our freedoms of assembly and association. Instead we have the continued detention of MDC activists, banned meetings and harassment of MPís and local leadership.

The GPA promised that all major decisions and appointments would be carried out on a consensual basis and all that we have seen are repeated attempts by Mugabe to make decisions and appointments without consultation and agreement.

The GPA promised equity in government with a slight majority to the MDC in respect for its victory in the polls in March 2008. Instead Mugabe insists on maintaining control of almost all key government functions and not a single State institution has seen its leadership reformed to reflect the new reality.

Under these circumstances can anyone blame everyone for being sceptical about this transitional arrangement? What hope on earth has this got to yield a decent election in 2011, an election that will be respected by the international community? Who can blame the major bilateral and multilateral financial agencies for their caution and reluctance to come to the party when it is clear that once there they will simply be abused and used?

Who can blame the business community - here and abroad, for being cautious about coming in and helping our recovery with their own money? We have no right to expect to be trusted and until that changes there can be no progress. If Zanu PF cannot see that and accept that so long as they behave like a rogue elephant, they will be treated as such and with every justification. The main problem for everyone is that the innocent and the guilty suffer in this situation and the innocent in this deal can do very little about protecting their essential interests.

Today is Independence Day, Zimbabweans have very little to celebrate after 29 years of poor and corrupt government and now on top of all that, inept regional leadership.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 18th April 2009