Unequally Yoked

Some time back, Morgan Tsvangirai said that the transitional government in Zimbabwe was like a marriage between a donkey and a horse. I joked that such a union would produce sterile offspring. At a rally in Matabeleland the other day I said that this analogy might also apply to a weird couple tied together in a yoke and trying to pull Zimbabwe out of the deep hole it is in.

If you take that analogy one step further and ask yourself how this crazy set up can actually work, it will become clear to you that such a union will be largely dysfunctional, barely productive and if it is going to pull us out of the hole we are in, it will need help. This is especially so since it is clear that Zanu PF are still digging the hole deeper even while they pretend to help pull on the outside of the hole.

Zanu PF is digging the hole deeper by continuing to destroy what is left of our agriculture, legal and judicial system and is continuing to loot those State institutions they still control. At the edge of the hole, the donkey is barely pulling. It stands there with its head down and makes no effort to help the horse pull the chains that link them to the country in the hole.

How deep that hole is was illustrated for me this week when I had lunch with an investment fund manager from London in Harare . He gave me a report that stated that based on official exchange rates, the GDP in Zimbabwe in 1997 was nearly 10 billion US dollars. Last year their calculation put our GDP at 2 billion dollars. Over the same period little Botswana next door took its real GDP from US$7 billion to US$14 billion. Seven times the GDP of Zimbabwe with only 15 per cent of its population.

This explains the extreme difficulties we are in - can you imagine an entire country living on barely survival income levels? That is where we have come from. This same visitor told me that they were impressed with the progress made since the new government took charge. They showed me the sales of beer by a local manufacturer - clear beer up from 34 to 76 in January - April and opaque beer up from 65 in December rising to 249 in April. I have long believed in the beer index as a measure of relative income, so this is very encouraging.

By the way, two other measures for you - maize deliveries to official markets - 110 per cent in 2000 down to 5 per cent in 2008. Manufacturing output indicators down from 110 per cent in 1998 to 15 per cent in 2008.

But then we all knew that - just did not appreciate how low we had got last year. I am satisfied that if we had not signed that deal in September, we would have done the unthinkable and seen a total collapse of the economy and all services. Getting back from that would have been tough - it may not have been recoverable. At least now we are holding the situation and are no longer going backwards; a gradual recovery is underway. It may not actually be so gradual; I think our growth this year will actually be quite strong.

But back to the horse and the donkey. A few things about this couple - first they do not like each other. Second they are not compatible, there is no ways they are going to become a couple in the modern sense of the word. They are obliged to work together but when the work day is over, they go their different ways. Also there is no way that the people watching this struggle can ever confuse the donkey with the horse. They are quite different and will remain so.

They were hitched to these chains by regional governments led by South Africa . Some in this group wanted to protect the donkey and to try and turn it into a horse. Others saw this as a chance for the horse to stop the rot and get itself into a position where it might just be able, by sheer determination and with the help of others to actually pull the country back over the edge. Once the rescue had taken place they could then unhitch the weird pair and take a breather while a better team is put together to take the country along the path that lies ahead.

Morgan is in a tough situation, while he is tied to this donkey in this yoke he has no choice but to work with her. If you have ever ploughed with a pair of animals in a yoke, you know that it is important to have two evenly matched animals. If you do not have a matched pair, the resulting exercise is a nightmare for all who are involved. The plough goes all over the place and is very difficult to hold steady.

When you want to train a young ox for this task, you yoke him to an older, bigger ox that can then be relied upon to make up for the inexperience of the other and is strong enough to hold the line when the younger animal strays. This is not possible with a horse and a donkey - the horse is much taller, stronger but the donkey is stubborn and all decisions by the pair must be consensual.

What makes it really tough for Morgan is that there is little to be gained from kicking the donkey while she is in the yoke. He just has to make the most of it while the situation continues - and keep his mind on what has to be done to pull the country out of the hole in the next 15 months.

Is he getting enough help? That is the key question right now. I happen to think so and feel that the recent trip to the US and Europe was all part of that and will be very helpful. The recent actions by the Chinese government will also help. They received the Zanu PF delegation in Beijing as just that - a political party delegation. They came home empty handed. Made went to Iran and I am sure he came back with little but comfort. On the other hand the Chinese went out of their way to demonstrate their support for Morgan - a massive, low interest loan negotiated and signed off while the Zanu PF Team was out of the country.

Mr. Mugabe went to Libya to attend the AU summit this week. The only thing that came out that made the news was a decision to defy international law and refuse to execute an arrest warrant out against the President of Sudan. The local State run rag (the Herald) headlined the fact that Mugabe was to meet the American Under Secretary of State for Africa on the sidelines of the UA summit. Not quite Obama, but a step in that direction. However, it did not turn out so good; he objected to some remarks by the US official and stormed out of the meeting - no help for him there!

Eddie Cross
Harare , 4th July 2009