The winter of our discontent

BULAWAYO - May 15 is generally regarded as the start of winter in Zimbabwe. In Matabeleland we can expect frost any time from this date and right now the weather is just out of this world - clear blue skies, crisp mornings and brilliant moonlit nights. Most people do not appreciate

that we on the highveld of Africa often have days when the temperature will drop to well below zero – frozen bird baths and garden hoses. But apart from that it bears little resemblance to winter in the north.
For Zanu (PF) this past week has shown many signs that this is going to be a long winter for them. Perhaps their last winter?
First they suddenly postponed the publication of the inflation data for April. We all knew why – as expected, it went over the barrier of 1000 per cent per annum. In fact in April the month on month inflation was 21 per cent. Most of us think that the real inflation rate is much higher, I wonder if they are still using the controlled prices for goods that are supposed to be under price control for example?
Then interest rates fell dramatically in the markets – on Monday they were over 300 per cent per annum, by Friday it was difficult to place money at any interest – the overnight rate was a paltry 5 per cent. This is a sure indication that government is not borrowing money to meet its obligations – it is just printing it. If that is true, then we have only seen the start of the inflation storm – very rough weather ahead.
We then heard from the SADC Secretariat in Gaborone. The “melt down in Zimbabwe” was “damaging the prospects” of a whole raft of SADC initiatives – a Customs Union, a standardized currency for the region, harmonized inflation and macro economic policies among others. Where have these guys been all these years? I would have thought that these were prima facie implications of Mugabe’s policies and that the region should have recognized that a long time ago.
Botswana has a foot and mouth outbreak in the border with Zimbabwe and is vaccinating 100 000 head of cattle and closing of a significant part of the country for the delivery of cattle for slaughter at its export factory in Lobatse. The problem came from Zimbabwe where discipline and control in the cattle industry has been eroded by lawlessness and theft.
With hundreds of thousands fleeing south, the South African authorities are just starting to appreciate what the implications are for their own country. Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals who are in the country illegally have become the backbone of a criminal element that saw 18 700 murders in South Africa last year. Armed robberies and hijackings are endemic. Men with families displaced and starving in Zimbabwe will kill you for your cell phone if this is what it takes to make a few Rand to send home.
The current Secretary General of the UN has given Zanu (PF) no comfort. In a major interview with the Observer in the UK recently he said that he was ashamed of much of the leadership in Africa. He also said that there was no longer any safe hiding place for leaders who commit atrocities and genocide anywhere in the world. He called on Africans to put their house in order and give the continent some hope for the future.
Finally, the worst nightmare of Zanu (PF) is starting to happen. The people are just beginning to make their demands known. Every day there are demonstrations – students, women from WOZA, the members of the NCA. Many are arrested and they promptly go back onto the street. Next Saturday the Churches across the whole country are going to march in a series of parades to remembers and stand in unity with those displaced by Murambatsvina in 2005. You will recall that Zanu PF launched this campaign on May 18, 2005 – just in time to catch the coldest time of the year. Hundreds of thousands have died in the past year – victims of a calculated political act designed purely to protect the regime from the consequences of their own misgovernance.
Civil rights leaders are now calling for a massive combined effort to get our people out on the streets to demand that those in power step aside and allow others to take over and get the country back on its feet. Again the SG of the UN stepped in – he is engaged in an urgent exercise the media claimed, to persuade Mugabe that it is time to go – and then to arrange a transition back to sanity very similar to the one being demanded by the MDC.
The regime is still brash and arrogant on the surface. Underneath they are simply terrified. It was fascinating to read Jonathan Moyo’s disclosures the other day that in every election since 2000, the Zanu (PF) leadership has been terrified of a defeat. I can well recall the discussions at the airport in Harare with the late President Kabila in 2002, when we were right in the middle of the presidential elections. They were talking about what to do if Zanu was defeated. Well this time it’s for real – no rigging this time round, just a straight fight – a small frightened band of aging ogres against the rest of us. I once said to Ian Smith in 1973 that he couldn’t win a war against his own people and the rest of the world. This is still true.

War vets - long past 'sell-by' date
Killing the golden goose - through incompetence and greed

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