Mugabe has continued to breathe fire and brimstone against the private
sector. After signing the Indigenisation Bill into law, he went on to
threaten all remaining British companies with expropriation of their assets
and to force all companies to freeze their prices at some arbitrary date in
February. The Indigenisation Act provides for all foreign owned companies to
sell 51 per cent of their equity to indigenous businesspersons, 25 per cent
to the State for no cost and 26 per cent to be paid from future dividends.
51 percent means the loss of control over the appointment of management and
the determination of policy. For every dollar invested, investors get 49
cents of value and no control. No company, local or foreign owned, will
accept such a draconian measure. Most firms would rather just windup and
These statements and measures have simply frozen private sector activity in
its tracks. No investment is taking place nor any maintenance and
development. The entire business community is now simply waiting for the
outcome of the election. Even the many companies owned by previous
supporters of Zanu PF are now sitting back and watching events. They know
the present situation is so dire that change is inevitable.
On the food front the regime had placed huge orders with Malawi and Zambia –
Malawi actually offered to sell us maize on credit, Zambia also offered
terms. Now Malawi, after delivering part of the order, has discovered that
they overestimated their crop and has hurriedly shut down the operation. I
hope they have been paid. I suspect that Zambia is in the same position and
is also now “going slow” on deliveries.
This coupled to the global tight market for basic foods, wheat, maize and
soybeans means much higher prices and longer supply positions. We have run
out of food. Beef is Z$100 million per kilo; milk is Z$40 million plus per
litre. If you can find it, maize meal is costing Z$80 to Z$120 million
dollars for 10 kilos. On top of this there is a real physical shortage of
basic foods of all kinds. Fresh vegetables are scarce and expensive.
One interesting aspect of this food situation is that what Zanu PF had
counted on, as being an electoral asset – the ability to control and direct
basic food supplies on a patronage or political affinity basis, has in fact
become a liability. Hungry people, who cannot find food for their families
or simply cannot afford the very high prices, are angry people.
Signs of accelerated decay are all around us – schools closed early and will
be closed for 6 weeks, many have less than half their establishment of
teachers and of those, half or more are just out of school themselves and
are untrained. The roads are in dire straights and grass verges have not
been cut for months, small trees are growing on the verges in many areas.
Sewerage systems are not being maintained and water quality and availability
to all urban areas has declined, despite full dams and reservoirs. Health
services are incapable of dealing with even routine needs.
The flood of refugees continues to pour out of Zimbabwe into neighboring
States – mainly South Africa. There, Xenophobia and economic tensions
between migrants and local populations are giving rise to violence and
On the electoral front Mugabe is in a state of panic. What is all this “red
card” business he plaintively asked, at a rally on Sunday in Bulawayo
attended by a small crowd dominated by school kids. He is looking his age
and has to be assisted to walk and climb stairs. An increasingly defiant
population is ignoring his demands and threats.
The authorities continue to do what they can to intimidate activists – they
are arrested and beaten for putting up posters, doing door-to-door
campaigns. Meetings are routinely banned or the organizers arrested for
holding an “illegal gathering”. I ran over the time limit for one of my
meetings and in the morning I got a phone call to say – do not do it again!
On Friday we brought in a helicopter to help Morgan carry out the remaining
flurry of rallies – 15 rallies were planned for three days – the aircraft
moving a small group quickly from one rural venue to another. We cleared his
first day’s programme in Harare but Bulawayo refused to accept that and the
aircraft stayed on the ground – 4 rallies were missed, including a large
gathering at Victoria Falls. We then cleared a flight plan for 10 rallies in
Manicaland and the Mashonaland East.
The aircraft flew to Harare; a small group who were helping with the
operation – planning the refueling stops and so on, met the pilot on the
ground. The pilot asked me “just keep me out of jail”. I joked with him that
he should not worry – we (MDC) fed prisoners quite well and he would get
legal help and then free medical assistance if he was beaten!
At six on the first morning of the new programme he was arrested together
with the volunteer group and is still in custody as I write! The second
round has had to be aborted unless Morgan can try and do some of the
meetings by road. 15 rallies, probably 70 000 people, denied the chance to
see and hear their next President. Hey, welcome to the Democratic Republic
of Zimbabwe! Police even visited the elderly widow in Bulawayo who had given
him a bed for two nights yesterday!
So goes the count down – three days to go, 72 hours to freedom!
Bulawayo, 26th March 2008Post published in: Opinions