The First 100 Days
It may be difficult to believe but on Monday next week, the MDC would have
been in government for 100 days. On Tuesday the Prime Minister will address
Parliament and on Wednesday he will launch the next 100 day programme at the
International Conference Centre in Harare.
The day before that he will address Parliament for the second time and give
the country an overview of what has been/has not been achieved in the first
quarter of the two year Transitional Government. I expect the next election
will be about June 2011 and we have therefore 10 quarters of this
arrangement of which the first has come and gone.
I was a part of the 'transition team' established by Morgan Tsvangirai in
January 2008 when it was expected that we would win the March election. As
everyone knows we did win but were again denied the right to rule because of
fraud and the regional community. So when we eventually did get a deal -
over the dead body of the South African President, it was a rather nasty
compromise that tied us to Zanu PF in a close embrace that is not
appreciated by either Party.
Secretly each of the two Parties looks over the shoulder of the other
towards the 2011 election and thinks only of what they have to do to win.
For Zanu PF it is quite simple - hold onto what they have left and no
compromise on anything that might ease their grip on the electoral process.
So they have spent the past three months simply stonewalling the MDC in all
the critical areas linked to the electoral process. They have no wish to
demonstrate who plays the best cricket, they feel they just have to
filibuster the MDC until they get to the point where they can go into an
election where the same mix they have used to win and hold onto power for 30
years can be brought into play. First prize for them is the collapse of the
GNU, second prize is a flawed election that they can win in 2011.
These areas of conflict have become labelled by Tendai Biti as the 'toxic
issues', described as such because of their potential to destroy the GNU and
undermine the success of the transitional government.
On the part of the MDC we have sought to make the deal work and to try and
get the situation in the country back to normal - whatever that is! So you
have seen the Prime Minister leaning over backwards to accept his Zanu PF
colleagues as such and to work with and not against the President. While we
have stuck with the demand that the GNU be fulfilled in full and in spirit,
Zanu PF has simple refused to back down on any issue that might threaten
their hold on what remains of their State power.
This has made for an uneasy relationship and an uneven record of achievement
and failure. We had worked hard on the issue of macro economic stabilisation
and on our future relationship with the multilateral institutions before the
new government was formed. Because of this we were able to agree and adopt
Sterp within two weeks. This stopped world record inflation in its tracks.
We amended the exchange control regime and lifted certain regulations and
adjusted import conditions. The results were startling; food came into free
supply, market conditions recovered and after a couple of weeks, prices
began to fall.
We went out on a limb and decided to halt all quasi fiscal activity and take
the fiscal crunch with cold turkey. We paid the civil service in hard
currency and told all Ministries they could only spend what they had in the
under the mattress. In four weeks we produced a new budget, tore up the old
one and slashed government expenditure by two thirds.
The patient survived - but only just. People found they could buy things,
workers could get on a bus to work, had real money in their hands, not piles
of useless paper. Business found that the huge sums of money they had in
their accounts were actually just paper and when the cyclone of change had
swept through, they had virtually nothing left. Banks had no customers,
building societies no bonds.
Everybody found themselves on the floor, bruised and battered but alive and
we all watched the sun rise slowly over the dawn horizon of a new day.
Cyclone Gono was gone, but the evidence of its passage was everywhere.
So now we pick over the rubble and try to rebuild our lives. Food is in free
supply, but expensive, the emergency services are feeding the really needy
and health services are meeting basic needs. Clean water is scarce and
shelter is still a problem even though our population was sharply reduced by
We still face major threats and problems. Pirates and gangs of criminals
roam the countryside looting what remains and exploiting the chaos and lack
of legal norms and institutions. The authorities are slow to respond and
have little capacity to protect the rights of the population. The previous
government was destroyed by the cyclone because they failed to prepare for
its arrival and passage. It will be two years before we get a chance to
elect a new government; in the meantime we have a weak and inadequate
administration that is only partly functional.
At the Victoria Falls retreat four weeks ago we took what comprises our
temporary government and asked them to map out the future and develop a 100
day programme to start our long road back from disaster. On Wednesday the
results of that process will be published, warts and all and government
Ministers will then be judged on how they perform against their own
We survived! But at what a cost and many are now asking 'would we be better
off dead or living elsewhere'? Things are tough, very tough. Prisoners and
long term patients in State hospitals are dying of hunger. Child mortality
remains high and human flight to other countries remains at unacceptable
levels. Our population and our economy are still in sharp decline.
Given the world crisis and the political problems surrounding aid flows, we
are going to have to rebuild the country using our own resources and
efforts. This may be healthier in the long term but it will take longer. In
the meantime the most important priority of the people is to determine how
to keep the pirates and thieves out of the next government to be elected in
2011. If we can and do, then we can pick up the pace of recovery and look
forward to better days and a real future.
Bulawayo, 4th May 2009