When all else fails – there is Faith and Integrity

The past week has been quite momentous – the coup in Mali by the Military with a Captain declaring himself as being in charge, the runoff election in Senegal and the subsequent dignified acceptance of defeat by President Wade and finally the shock death of the President of Malawi. In Mali tribal rebels have taken control of part of the country and declared their “independence”, in the Sudan the north is again violating the security and rights of the south.

In South Africa, Malema and his close associates finally overstepped the mark and were shut out of the ANC. Although not saying or doing much in the public sphere, Zuma again demonstrating that he is not to be taken lightly. Prophesies from Nigeria and a popular pastor in Harare that today (Good Friday) was to be a “Day of Judgment” and that an elderly President would die – certainly sold newspapers. Perhaps the death of the President of Malawi (78 years old) will assuage the Nigerian prophecy – although many here immediately pointed to the declining health and stamina of our President.

In Zimbabwe we have slipped into winter, this morning started with those deep blue skies and a chilly breeze. We still have green grass, but it has started to turn brown and dry. For me April and May are the magic months in this country, clean air, green grass, dry days and mild temperatures.

We can look back on the wet season and asses our position going into winter; have we got enough water? Will the grass take us through to the next season? What can we grow this winter? Here in the south of the country we have had a poor season – perhaps 360 mls of rain with less further south, but the northern Provinces have had a good season – in Harare they have had about 1200 mls and although the northern farming districts have had adequate rainfall, they have been drier than last year – good for tobacco but bad for the food crops.

Our rain came in three months – nearly 90 per cent up to mid December so we have grass, but surface water is scarce and Bulawayo will have to ration water for another year. Zambia, the Congo and Angola have all had a wet year and this is reflected in high water levels on the Zambezi River and the fact that we had to open a sluice gate on Kariba early this year.

My own assessment is that we have only grown about 650 000 tonnes of maize – meaning that we will have to import slightly more than last year. We thought we had stocks but the GMB has somehow lost or sold the majority of the maize in the stockpile and a recent survey only revealed about 120 000 tonnes of maize in silos – a great deal has been damaged by poor storage management and silo burn.

The cotton crop looks OK but will not exceed 250 000 tonnes while the tobacco crop will decline to about 115 000 tonnes – well down on expectations. All other agricultural products will see either static production or similar declines and that includes the meat and dairy sectors. Sugar is not expected to grow significantly and the only major new development is the Lowveld ethanol project where a company has established 10 000 hectares of sugar on defunct ARDA Estates and will be able to produce 10 million litres of ethanol fuel a month by June this year.

Winter crops will again be dismal with both wheat and barley output at low levels despite the existence of adequate stored water on the former commercial farms. Farm invasions and disruptions continue throughout the country despite calls for stability and support and there are no signs that agriculture is on the recovery path three years after the formation of the Transitional Government.

In other spheres the economic and political stalemate that grips the country continues to take its toll. Industrial output stagnates and we are still losing productive capacity and output. Our clothing and textile sector – once one of the engines of our industrial sector have all but collapsed. The ESSAR deal, signed a year ago, has yet to be consummated as different branches of Government squabble over the details.

The mining industry is in turmoil over continued efforts by Zanu PF to implement their indigenisation and asset grab exercise. Huge investments are being held up by fears that they will not be able to manage or control their investments and that shares will not be paid for in the normal way. Contracts signed are being violated and property rights threatened. The diamond industry continues to be largely controlled by mafia styled individuals and organisations and there is no accountability or transparency in what they are doing.

In the urban areas life for the majority continues to be hard and most incomes do not cover basic needs. Government controlled agencies like the Police, the VID, ZINWA, the EMA and service sector Parastatals seem to be hell bent on raising money in any way that they can – so last week a friend of mine travelled to Beitbridge and back from Harare and went through 57 Police roadblocks in 1200 kilometers – an average of one every 22 kilometers. We remain one of the most heavily taxed countries in the world with Zimra proudly stating that their collection reached 34 per cent of GDP last year.

At a recent water and sanitation summit the Prime Minister was told that the situation was an emergency – 40 per cent of the urban population in the country was not able to access clean water, 90 per cent of sewerage was being released into open waterways untreated. Roads are potholed and deteriorating, electricity restrictions are worse than ever and going to get worse.

And while all of this goes on our political leaders behave as if they have all the time in the world – Zuma says he is coming but he shows no sign of doing so. Regional leaders agree to send in their own observers to support the efforts of JOMIC in curbing violence and intimidation, but fail to do so without any explanation. The Prime Minister calls a Council of Ministers meeting to clear up the mess of indigenisation and get an agreement on a common position and the entire Zanu PF side of Government, boycott the meeting. Zanu PF calls for an election but continue to hold up the essential reforms that will pave the way for an election – reforms that have been agreed by all parties and thereby delaying the whole process.

That leaves everyone confused and struggling to understand exactly where we are going as a country. There is widespread apprehension over elections with people anticipating violence and intimidation on a large scale, yet everyone knows that the only way forward is to clear up the issue of just who is in charge. Who calls the shots?

That leaves most of us with just faith and integrity – faith in the country and its people and a belief that eventually things will work out for all of us. It is after all just faith that has enabled us to turn from violence to faith as a means for change. Integrity in that it is only as we each seek to work out what to do in this situation and to apply integrity in all its forms that we will be able in our own individual spheres of interest, contribute to the future we all want for our country.

All too often in Africa it’s been violence and corruption that have been the driving forces of change and development – and the results have almost always been a disaster. When Zimbabwe is eventually at peace with itself and is able to show its potential to the world, one of the most important lessons we will carry with us will be the example of our faith in face of hardship and trial and our integrity in the face of greed and corruption.

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