Reflections

Sometimes I think we live in a mad house where the inmates have taken over and are in charge. I listen to the debates in Parliament and to the Minister of Finance as he tries to explain why we are in crisis without disclosing the truth. Trying to explain how a mythical “overdraft” of $200 million provided by a rather moth eaten financial institution called Afreximbank, based in Egypt is going to solve all our problems.

I went into the website of the Bank which has a credit rating of “B” and total capital of $5 billion but could find no mention of their extensive lending to Zimbabwe in recent months. In fact the large deals being concluded with the Bank (total $1,7 billion so far) do not appear, much smaller deals seem to take precedence. How a sum of $200 million is going to instill confidence in the issue of Bond Notes when they are finally floated in our market is a mystery to me.

Then we have been subjected to a number of televised functions designed to show that our President is fit and well and perfectly capable of managing our affairs. In these sorry tales, I see a very old man stumbling when he is asked to walk, needing assistance to climb a step, dozing off in a meeting and looking unsure as to where he is meant to sit, losing his way when his papers are not totally in order and in sequence.

When he does get to speak, he pours scorn on all his enemies and critics. He makes threats and demands unquestioning loyalty. He only acknowledges the cheers of the faithful ignorant. There is no recognition of the very real problems that the people face every day – how to make a living, finding the cash with which to buy what you need, queues at banks, the cost of medical services and school fees, the failure to pay salaries at all or on time, the failure to pay pensions.

He seems totally divorced from reality, holding onto the past because he has no future, terrified that if he lets go, the whole of his life’s work will disintegrate. All true, an accurate assessment of his situation and now inevitable. If Robert Gabriel Mugabe is going to rescue anything from his past, it is going to be up to his old friends, friends from his generation, who have to do that for him or else he is going to be washed away by the tide of time.

If we are on the cusp of change in Zimbabwe, a similar situation prevails in South Africa where the long awaited local Government elections are about to be concluded. Some years ago a good friend of mine in Johannesburg, Allister Sparks, a commentator on all things to do with the Country of his birth, told me that in his view, these elections would change the face of South Africa. I was rather bemused by that as these were not national Assembly or Presidential elections, but elections to local authorities.

However the Constitution of South Africa has devolved power away from central government to the local authorities who now spend a significant proportion of the national budget and are responsible for the services that are so critical for the quality of life of ordinary citizens. The result is an election where 200 political parties are vigorously contesting for control of the Councils in their particular nodes of influence in South Africa.

The ANC, which has enjoyed majority support in almost all areas of South Africa, has found itself on the back foot and having to pull out all the stops in an effort to claw themselves back into the game. Even so, it looks as if they will lose control in many areas and the implications for the national elections, now just a few years away is going to be massive. Allister predicts the beginning of a new era of coalition politics which he argues is going to have a profound impact on how the country is governed.

Just as here in Zimbabwe, the consequences of this contest is bound to impact on the Presidency and it seems difficult to accept that after next week, it will be business as usual for the ANC and South Africa.

Then there are the Presidential elections in the United States which will pit Donald Chump against Hillary Rodham Clinton. I still cannot understand how the Republicans ended up with Chump as their candidate, but they did and now there will be a price to pay. The United States is many things but the fundamentals are well known and recognised. Americans work hard, they have some of the most productive and innovative minds in the World, and the American economy is still, far and away the most powerful in history.

The US dollar is the currency of choice of the whole globe and over 70 per cent of all cash in the world is expressed in this currency. America, despite all that it has done in recent years, still has a sound economy that makes jobs for its people and is probably under borrowed in real terms, especially when you recognise that their debt is expressed in their own currency, a huge advantage.

The reach of such a country and its potential to impact on the situations in virtually every corner of the globe is enormous and who becomes the President of the country is of concern to everyone. I have said before and remain convinced that Chump’s nomination means that Hillary is a shoe in. It is going to be a fight – all elections are, but I simply cannot see Redneck USA being able to carry their champion across the line.

When she was Secretary of State to Obama (and we are going to miss those marvelous speeches) she was caught up in that most complex part of the world, the Middle East and North Africa. I had an occasion to hear her speak to a think tank in Washington on the Arab Spring and was stunned by the easy grasp of that complex world she exhibited. She is a formidable woman whichever way you look at her. This is a tough, intelligent political figure, not to be underestimated.

I am not surprised that both China and Russia are apprehensive about her Presidency. In fact, suddenly the world of geopolitics is changing and we have three very tough women in charge of three important States – the USA, UK and Germany. When Mrs. May went to Germany it was clear that those two formed an instant bond. I was impressed with her swift assumption of control in London, her clear vision of what was needed and obvious quiet but deep faith. These three women will bring much more than their gender to the most powerful countries in the world.

As far as my own country, going through a deep crisis and once again needing friends and allies abroad to find the resources to bring stability and recovery to Zimbabwe and then to help nurture our economy onto a new plane of growth and stability that will once again allow us to function as a ordinary State in Africa and the world, the changes are all good. These are tough women, leaders of principle and in a strange way, with an interest and concern in our situation that we do not deserve.

On reflection, suddenly my world seems much more hopeful than it was just a month ago.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo 31st July 2016