Marvelous Zimbabwe

For all our troubles this is a great place to live and raise children. I was attending a birthday party for my grandson who has just turned 8, he had invited 29 little boys of his own age (no girls) and they had a 'Pirate Party' organized by my daughter. Those boys had a great evening and some stayed over to sleep in tents on the lawn.

One of the parents, sitting on the stoep coined the phrase 'marvelous Zimbabwe' as it was a beautiful evening, blue skies, about 25 c and no humidity. Nearby the national cricket team was busy beating Bangladesh in a 5 days test at the Harare Sports Club - a great Dutch style complex of green grass and bars in the center of town, next to the magnificent Royal Harare Golf Course. I recalled meeting a businessman in London who said to me (we had just won the ICC Trophy) 'there is nothing wrong with a country that can play first class cricket!' In a way he had a point.

My one nephew is coaching the Zimbabwe team, another is coaching the English team and he has transformed that team since he took charge. My grandson attends a local private school where for $4000 a year he is getting a world-class education without government subsidy. Our private schools are really first class, somehow the kids come out of those schools well rounded, achievers and hard working.

At Independence people who were leaving the country said to me that their great fears were health and education - I said that if that was the case, we should stay and make sure that our needs were met in both areas through private enterprise. The private schools that have mushroomed in the country since then have fully supported my views. Last week I got confirmation of the same for health services. My wife had a severe pain in her stomach and we suspected an ulcer. My daughter suggested we try a new facility near where we stay in Harare when I am there for Parliament.

She went to this new private clinic and when I got home from Parliament she said that I should accompany her to see this place. We arrived at nearly 6 pm and it was humming. She saw a doctor in 5 minutes and was referred to a specialist after some tests and scan. Fast, efficient, courteous, modern equipment, beautiful surroundings - world class in every sense and our medical aid paid for it in full, there were no charges. It was black funded, managed and staffed with only one of the doctors who were white on the staff. Once again, the private sector at work.

Then there is our medical aid societies - we belong to one, totally local, pay $50 a month and in return get $60 000 of emergency medical insurance cover, ambulance and air ambulance services on call 24 hours a day, cover for doctors visits, dentist and optician services and if the service we require is not available locally - access to the best in South Africa. When I had a stent inserted in the back of my brain three years ago it was at a private hospital in South Africa, local specialists but they held a videoconference with a specialist in Texas and Paris while I was on the operating table. Medical aid costs as little as $6 a month and gives you various stages of cover. It is just amazing - no government involvement, private capital, private investment and management, all world class, all African.

Marvelous Zimbabwe does it again and again. We have yet to fix the main problem, but that is work in progress. It may look a mess right now but we are working on this in our own way and gradually a new society is emerging. Near to where we live in Harare is a new supermarket, the 'Bridge'. I want to tell you that not many people anywhere in the world would have access to a store of such modern and sophisticated design. Itís new, itís locally designed and constructed, locally managed and owned and itís world class. Can we do it? Yes we can and are, and all those skeptics out there who thought otherwise must come and take a look.

We have the best climate in the world, do not have earthquakes or tornados and are so far out of the mainstream of world financial affairs that we do not matter and Wall Street is a curiosity. Our Polo Crosse team just came second in the World Championship - all dispossessed farmers who decided that while the farm situation is being sorted out, they would play Polo. Now we watch the Yoboís of London and Liverpool trash their cities and burn their future while the Police seem totally incapable.

We have made sacrifices by staying in Zimbabwe and joining in the fight for a better world for our grandchildren to live in but it has been worth every thing and more and the fact that we are in fact winning is just a bonsela. Just come and sit on the sidelines of a school rugby match and watch the new generation setting the standards for a new world. They play hard and they work hard, they are the kind of kids that will make us all proud.

Just to return briefly to the global financial crisis. The public debt of China is 150 per cent of their GDP - the same or worse than Greece, in the USA its nearing 100 per cent of GDP - ours is about 90 per cent. It is all a question of perception and confidence, smoke and mirrors. The US Congress did nobody any good quibbling over an issue that was clear from the start. The private sector may be doing marvelous things in Zimbabwe, but let me tell you, no country can afford to take on the markets. If you do dumb things you pay the price and the first black President of the USA is not in anyway responsible for the loss of confidence in the US financial system. That lies squarely with the House and the Senate and I hope they are duly warned.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 10th August 2011