The Neutron Bomb Effect

Some years ago nuclear bomb technology was refined in the form of the development of a neutron bomb. I am not sure of the details but I understand that this device was designed to be detonated some distance above the earth's surface and in the aftermath, neutron rays would kill the people in the target area, but leave the buildings standing.

To some extent the impact of 30 years of Zanu PF control of government here has had a similar effect. While on the surface the country has changed little, in fact the productive economy which previously drove the creation of wealth and funded the rest, has been destroyed as surely as if we had been subjected to a neutron bomb strike. Factories lie idle and empty, farms desolate and overgrown, mines closed and water logged, villages and small towns silent and sullen, full of urban refugees who subsist on informal subsistence activities.

On their watch, the economy collapsed to a fraction of what it had been a decade earlier, incomes crashed and poverty, hunger and unemployment became rampant. Inflation rose to 230 million percent and up to 70 per cent of the population subsisted on international aid. We became a basket case, a candidate for that exclusive club, the club of failed States.

The Global Political Agreement halted the erosion of our national capacity, restored macro economic stability and slowed the wholesale transfer of resources from the productive sector to a tiny politically connected elite. Abandoning the local currency and adopting the US currency closed down the Reserve Bank that the old regime had insisted remain in charge of monetary policy, the origin of many of our problems. They refused to fire Governor Gono so we just ring fenced him and passed by.

But all that did was to stop the leaks, it did nothing to repair the damage to our productive sectors or create any new activity to replace that destroyed by the neutron bomb of Zanu PF's making. In fact the side effects of the neutron bomb continue to be felt. Zanu thugs continue to disrupt agriculture, pockets of productive, properly managed agriculture are invaded and destroyed. As a result agricultural output continues to decline in aggregate even though some sectors show small signs of recovery.

In recent weeks the attacks on tourist infrastructure and some mining ventures have started, tourism is not recovering significantly despite the changes. Industry is sliding inexorably into an abyss and thousands of jobs are being lost every month. Even the mining sector, in the context of a global boom in commodity prices and high demand for every product we have in the ground, is nearly moribund - only the determined actions of a few brave (foolish?) people keep FDI running at a trickle and mining output rising.

Our infrastructure has made no progress - we still have outages of 8 hours a day for power, shortages and intermittent interruption of water supplies and our railways struggle to operate at 10 per cent of capacity. Our airline loses 50 cents in every dollar generated and will shortly collapse in a heap. Our roads resemble a patchwork quilt of tar and potholes and the bush crowds in from the sides of the road.

Just to make sure that the economy does not start to recover, Zanu PF has launched a strike against renewed confidence in the form of indigenisation, which threatens every medium, sized business. Confidence is at an all time low and all Banks watch their liquidity anxiously to ensure that they can cover immediate and essential needs, no one plans ahead.

The GPA process is paralysed, no progress is being made to the constitution drafting exercise and politically motivated violence again stalks the land. In place of the rule of law, the Zanu PF uses its residual power and influence to subvert the law and to use it as a political weapon. Reports of torture and the abuse of the media abound, international skeptics watch the political circus and argue that the restrictions they have in place on individuals responsible for the mayhem and abuse should remain in force, perhaps even be extended.

In recent days the Zanu PF has tried hard to provoke the MDC into withdrawing from the GPA. What they forget is that the GPA is our game plan, we conceived it in 2006 and we have been pursuing it consistently over the past 5 years. We are not about to abandon a good strategy just when it's about to yield real dividends. The actions of Zanu in these circumstances simply smacks of panic and with good cause.

Had they worked with us and not against us inside the GPA they might have slowly restored their credibility. But they have not done so. They show no interest or concern about the welfare of the majority and absolutely no willingness to admit failure and try to remedy what they have done. They really leave us with no alternative but to eventually cast them aside so that we can finally start putting the country back to work.

That is a sad indictment for an organisation that started out as a political party dedicated to the liberation and emancipation of the people of this country. Sad for a Party that had the respect and support of the great majority but who now have only their fear and distrust. Sad for a man like Mr. Mugabe who dedicated his whole life to the ideals of the struggle only to fall ignominiously at the final hurdle. He lived to bring freedom and self-determination.

Zanu's memorial will be similar to the Holocaust memorial in Berlin - a clutter of stark naked concrete structures without life. It will take new leadership to bring life back into the stricken state of Zimbabwe and Zanu seems determined that it will be over their dead body. Well so be it - but make no mistake it is their own choice.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo 14th March 2011