Spring in Zimbabwe
Despite the long dry season (no rain now for 6 months) and the rising temperatures which will exceed 40 degrees Celsius in many parts of the country, the trees are leading the way in declaring that the seasons are changing again. The Msasa trees are coming out with new foliage and this year has been quite spectacular – deep purple to light green and everything in between. The colors are so delicate and when the sun shines through the foliage it is very beautiful. The leaves are shiny with a covering of natural oils designed to limit moisture loss by evaporation.
This year the flowering trees have been abundant and the first trees to come through – the Bohemia and Dombeya as well as the Knob Thorn are now being followed by others and sometimes the colors are almost florescent. To me this is an indication that the trees and shrubs can sense that this year, the rains will be much better than last year. It seems to work but I have no idea how it can happen.
That is not true of our body politic – the stock market continues to wallow in utter misery. There is almost no investment taking place and nearly all Banks and financial institutions are totally preoccupied with how to stay afloat from a liquidity perspective. Sales are shrinking and capital flight continues unabated. The move from the formal trading systems to informal is actually accelerating as foreign exchange through the banking system dries up.
As far as the State sector is concerned the problems persist, revenues are continuing to shrink and we will be lucky to see total revenues reaching $3,4 billion. The use of phantom money for local transactions continues and even accelerates. The attempt by the Minister of Finance to do something about staff costs – even though they were modest and unlikely to make a significant impact on the problem, have been swept aside by the President who seems to have no idea about just how serious the situation is.
It shows just how low public confidence has gone that people here see no possibility of change. When we were locked in a civil war between 1972 and 1980 and were operating under universal, mandatory UN sponsored sanctions, it was the sight of farmers plouging their lands and preparing for another cropping season that signaled to us that we had hope, there was a future. Now all we see in the rural areas is dry burnt veld. I have never experienced a time when Zimbabweans of all persuasion simply see no chance of a better, brighter future.
Some three weeks ago I wrote a weekly letter where I detailed the bizarre activities of the President – his flight from Swaziland at midnight, his unscheduled arrival in Dubai the following day and said that in my view he could not come back from this. Indeed he has not recovered from this trip and even his strongest supporters in the Party are saying that he must retire. He is becoming the subject of ridicule in the country and abroad.
But everyone asks who will push him into retirement – if it is not done by international or regional pressure then the street might do so and that would be both violent and humiliating for the man who was once so dominant in our affairs and in Africa. The key question is just where is the leadership of regional States when it is needed most? Khama has at least come out and stated the obvious and called for Mr. Mugabe to retire.
Our Church leadership has also come off the benches on the sidelines and joined the fray – some calling this week for the President to retire and hand over to new leaders who can take the country forward. The main denominations have asked to see the President and even the Pope is reputed to be sending out someone to try and talk sense into him. But in the court of public opinion, none of this is seen as going to work and the depression continues and even deepens.
A country that has no vision dies and that is precisely the problem at this moment and time in Zimbabwe. All that we can see is not the new leaves and flowers in the trees, just the stark, bare, dry ground and the veld scorched by wild fires. The heat of the sun suggests that all we can expect is more of the same.
But the reality is that the seasons do change – every year and we can rely and plan on that basis. When we were at our lowest in the war and I really thought that Ian Smith would lead us into an Armageddon, we had the intervention of Henry Kissinger – only now do we appreciate how amazing that was at the time - the Secretary of State for the most powerful country in the world taking the time to visit the region and deal with our delinquent leadership.
Even then it was the South Africans who held the key to the future and it was pressure on South Africa to deal with Ian Smith and force his removal from effective leadership that was needed. After that meeting Smith played no further significant role in the affairs of the country or in the resolution of the war.
In Burma or Myanmar as it is now known, there seemed to be no solution to the continued control of an unelected Military Junta who had ruled the country for decades. Then suddenly the Chinese withdrew their support and protection of the Junta and in secret talks a road map to democratic elections was agreed and then implemented. The result: new leadership and fundamental change.
In Zimbabwe the problem is that no one sees any prospect of any sort of international intervention. South Africa is totally preoccupied with its own problems and exhibits very little appetite for any sort of intervention in our affairs. The international Community, caught up in the Middle East and in the global migration crisis, is also preoccupied and a silly little State like Zimbabwe with an annual turnover of a small town, is really not worth the time of day, especially as we are not killing each other – at least not yet.
We have short memories and it must be recalled that when we were at our lowest in 2007/2008 that the President of South Africa intervened in our affairs and very effectively. He steered the negotiations held behind closed doors and oversaw the emergence of a new Government in 2009 that had a good chance of implementing the required reforms needed to restore our future. He was kicked out of office just two days after swearing in the new Government and his successor did not follow through and the effort failed.
Now we are back to square one and see nothing that might bring change. Surely that is precisely where the dry arid bushveld in Zimbabwe finds itself – no sign of rain, just relentless heat. Yet the trees dredge up the resources they need for revival from deep underground and the result is splashes of color and new growth. That is what we need to do right now, dig deep and carry on, in fact go beyond that – prepare for the new days and the new season that is surely coming. Not sure how or where from, but it is coming.
Harare, Zimbabwe, 24th September 2016