The Current Situation

The Current Situation

So much going on it's difficult to keep track.

On the economic front things go from bad to worse. Inflation continues to
escalate and now stands at something over 400 000 percent. Prices are
changing daily, even by the hour. Quotations are valid for a few hours, you
pay when you take delivery. I heard of someone who was at lunch and while
they were eating, the price went up!

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

close down.

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!

Eddie Cross

Bulawayo, 26th March 2008

Post published in: Opinions

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