Managing a State after it has been destroyed by a Neutron Bomb
Mankind has engineered many dreadful weapons. A Hydrogen Bomb that was tested and resulted in such a massive reaction that it was hurriedly canned as being unmanageable. The Atomic Bomb that was dropped on Japan and literally flattened two large cities in seconds with hundreds of thousands of casualties and then the Neutron Bomb that is designed to destroy life but not buildings and infrastructure.
This nasty piece of work is exploded (like many other weapons of this nature) not on impact on the ground, but in the air. It then radiates neutrons downwards and kills every living thing, leaving only bricks and mortar and concrete behind. Zanu PF rule in the 28 years that they governed Zimbabwe and especially in the Gono era up to 2008; was in effect a form of neutron bomb. They destroyed everything that this country had built up over a century of hard work and enterprise.
When we woke up in February 2009, after the bomb had been dropped on us, we had nothing left. Our bank accounts were empty, our shops empty, our factories and farms silent and our jobs destroyed – but we still had our physical infrastructure and beautiful cities and homes, our wide roads and dams and our people – the remnant that had elected to stay and see the attack through, about 60 per cent of those who should have been here had Zanu PF not taken power in 1980. 7 million people were casualties – three million deaths and 4 million now refugees in other countries.
Sound stark, too dramatic? Not at all, that is exactly what happened and when we went into the Transitional Government to try and pick up the pieces and tried to get things back together again, it was just as if we were like the German people emerging from their cellars the morning after a massive allied bombing raid. Squinting their eyes in the sunshine and gawking at the destruction, only in our case we had been hit by a weapon that destroyed the economy and not the buildings.
On the morning after the Zanu Holocaust our total cash reserves were 60 US cents per capita. In our first month in Government we collected in taxes from all sources, $20 million dollars and out of that meager sum we paid our Civil Servants, MP’s, Ministers, Judges $50 each and we were grateful. To make that payment, Tendai Biti had to ask the leading companies in the private sector to lend him the cash because when payday came, even though the taxes were starting to arrive, we did not have the cash, our Reserve Bank was $1,3 billion dollars in the red and totally broke and our banks could not make any sort of contribution.
It took Germany a decade before they were really able to feed their people properly, get their smashed industries opened and infrastructure repaired. To help them do that, the United States mounted the largest aid programme the world had ever seen under the Marshal Plan. The same exercise was carried out in Japan after Hiroshima by another US General who found himself acting as a Governor.
We did not have the same support. The leading western Nations had formed the “Fishmonger Group” of countries (the G8 minus Russia, no help from China) and they put up nearly a billion dollars in aid – half of it to feed 7 million people while we were trying to find our feet. There was no budget support, no World Bank loans, no balance of payments support from the IMF; we were very much on our own.
In those circumstances I think Tendai Biti has done an extraordinary job. He has not missed one payroll. Ask any businessman and he will tell you that meeting the payroll is one of the cardinal responsibilities of management and the toughest call. On the 25th of the month, every month, you have to have the cash in the bank to pay your employees. In his case 250 000 men and women, many of whom were part of the neutron bomb attack and responsible for the devastation, many were ghost workers on an inflated and politically corrupted payroll and more that 65 000 were in the armed forces and security services – all committed to supporting the failed Zanu PF regime. Yet he has, faithfully and without discrimination, paid them all, on time at the end of every month and making sure that at least 60 per cent of all his funds are committed to this purpose.
It is in this context that the demand by the Civil Service (spurred on by Zanu PF who have no responsibilities for the financial affairs of the country except to being responsible for their destruction) for salaries that are double what they are today, is simply irresponsible. The reality is that the cost of our payroll for the Civil Service has risen from $12,5 million per month in 2009, to $200 million a month, an increase of 16 times in the past three years. This has been made possible by a Ministry of Finance, under Tendai’s leadership, that has rebuilt the tax system so that this year it is expected to yield an astonishing $4 billion – not far short of the total GDP of the country under the last year of Zanu PF control.
Out in the private sector, things are not so good. The Reserve Bank, under leadership that we have not been allowed to get rid of, remains a ruin – not physically, but operationally, totally discredited, mistrusted and financially broken. The commercial banks are in dire straits – the indigenous banks who have tried to respond to demands and have funded new farmers, are stressed and right now everyone is fearful of failures. The internationally controlled banks are sound, but under political pressure from the Zanu PF regime that pulled the trigger on the neutron bomb that wiped out their local reserves, to support the failing banks.
Out in the wider economy, every institution, every industry that remains under the control and supervision of the Zanu PF, remains a ruin. Air Zimbabwe, after 80 years of outstanding service is bankrupt and grounded. The railways, once the employer of 30 000 workers and moving millions of tonnes of product on a monthly basis, is barely able to run 8 trains a day and carry 10 per cent of its capacity. The mining industry, despite record world prices and demand, huge resources and global interest in investment, is riddled with corruption, political interference and bullying and State inspired and controlled criminal activity.
The armed forces remain feared and destructive. Supporting the suppression of all basic human rights and using force and intimidation to try and coerce the people into supporting a failed regime. In the ongoing struggle they are prepared to undermine and corrupt the whole democratic process to protect their interests and hold on to what power they have left under the GPA. Agriculture remains a shattered shell, unable to even supply one quarter of what we need and holding millions of people down in abject poverty.
Harare 29th January 2012