10 January 2014

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Zealots Will Be Waiting Back Home

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The Zimbabwe Independent carried a report last week that "a nine-member high-powered delegation of captains of industry had taken it upon itself to engage the European Union in an attempt to rescue the economy which is teetering on the brink of collapse... "

Sources privy to the development told the Independent that the delegation which includes representatives from the banking, telecoms, mining and agricultural sectors would be travelling to Brussels on January 26.

The meetings would be facilitated by EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell'Aricia.

The business leaders include former CZI president and Nestlé Zimbabwe boss Kumbirai Katsande, current CZI president Charles Msipa, Econet boss Douglas Mboweni, Chamber of Mines president and Zimplats CEO Alex Mhembere, and Bankers Association of Zimbabwe president George Guvamatanga, among others.

It will be interesting to see how European investors respond to this initiative which is business-driven. Although the state media has tried to tell its readers that there has been a significant flow of foreign funds onto the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, it may be a bit early to pop the champagne corks.

CZI president Charles Msipa told the Herald recently that about 50% of his members were no longer producing, preferring to import finished products for resale locally.

Spoilt for choice

Foreign investors have plenty of choices of where to go in the region, and Zimbabwe is not top of the list! We also need to make a distinction between 2013 and a watershed year such as 2009.

What the European business leaders will want to know is what guarantees are there of a fixed business climate and clarity on the indigenisation issue. Our leaders can't of course answer these without being a tad dishonest. Once back home they will have to face the Mugabe zealots.

Telling it like it is

It was useful to have Simba Makoni's analysis last week. As a former Finance minister he probably knows twice as much about formulating a budget as the rest of the cabinet put together.

Patrick Chinamasa in his budget address announced that informal traders, small-scale miners, and small-scale farmers will anchor the new economy.

Makoni replied in a Daily News interview: "This new economy is characterised by market stalls in every open space in the urban areas and small crammed and darkly lit shops selling vegetables, trinkets, used clothes and other wares."

"The country is one big supermarket for products from other countries.

"Power and water supplies are worse than they were 12 months ago."

Two national referral hospitals were reported to have run for weeks without piped water, Makoni said. In the last quarter of 2013 there were warnings of typhoid and other disease outbreaks signalling further collapse of health services, he said.

"We hear loud declarations of zero tolerance of corruption but despite warnings of tough action nothing is being done to demonstrate zero tolerance. On the contrary everything that's done shows maximum tolerance."

Severe food shortages continue in almost all parts of the country, he said. While acknowledging the food crisis and making statements that no Zimbabwean will die of hunger, the government has yet to unveil concrete plans to save lives. Worst of all, he said, there were no plans to revive agricultural production.

Inconvenient truth

Muckraker was intrigued by the way Herald columnists have been manipulating events at Nelson Mandela's funeral at the FNB stadium early last month. President Mugabe's arrival at the stadium was greeted with "wild applause" we were told by one zealot.

Anybody present will know this was not the case. Mugabe got polite applause. It was US President Barack Obama who got the wild applause. Everybody saw and noted this except Zimbabwe's state-run press.

They also omitted the handshake between Obama and Raúl Castro. It didn't fit their spin.

Ahead of wrong curve

Anybody seeking an explanation for all this need look no further than the assertion by the Herald's Ranga Nyamurundira that Zimbabwe is 13 years ahead of South Africa!

Ahead in what? Corruption and misgovernance perhaps?

Nyamurundira who tells us he is a lawyer and empowerment consultant quotes Thabo Mbeki who defined South Africa in 1998 as constituting two nations, one rich, the other poor.

What Mbeki forgot to mention was that the concept of two nations was borrowed from Conservative statesman and author Benjamin Disraeli who used it for the title of his book, the Two Nations. When asked who constituted the two nations of his title, Disraeli's character remarked: "Why, the rich and the poor."

While on the subject of Mbeki, it is extraordinary that SABC continues to promote itself as "the voice of the African renaissance".

Has anybody asked them how this fits into events in South Sudan, Nigeria, Mali and the Central African Republic?

Vigilance the key

Thanks to Wits media and law professor Dario Milo for reminding us of the importance of challenging the Promotion of Access to Information Act which was in the news last year and remains cogent.

The High Court in Pretoria ruled that the report by justices Sisi Khampepe and Dikgang Moseneke on Zimbabwe's 2002 elections be made public.

Judge Joseph Raulinga said none of the presidency's grounds for refusal could be sustained and that the report was in the public interest. The presidency has appealed against the decision and the case will be heard this year.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Milo quotes Nelson Mandela's 1994 address to the International Press Institute Congress in Cape Town where he spoke of the importance of media freedom in terms no judge has been able to match.

"It is only such a free press that can temper the appetite of any government to amass power at the expense of the citizen," Mandela said.

"We should be vigilant," Milo wrote in support of Mandela's assertion, "and keep testing restrictions on media freedom against the rationales for that freedom so eloquently articulated by Mandela nearly 20 years ago."

Hot potato

Meanwhile Zambian President Michael Sata's bid to create a climate of intolerance to dissent mirroring its southern neighbour continues unabated.

In 2012 civil society organisations warned of "dire consequences for the country" as Sata increasingly copied the leadership style of President Robert Mugabe.

"Those in power must also stop emulating the Mugabe-type of leadership, which is aimed at harassing and intimidating political opponents," read the statement from the Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (Saccord).

"It is disheartening to slowly realise that those in power here now have taken up bad lessons from Mugabe's leadership, which took that country to near hell."

It seems Saccord's warning was not heeded as this week Zambian police arrested and charged an opposition leader Frank Bwalya with defamation after he compared the president to a potato, a Bemba euphemism used to describe someone who does not listen to advice.

Bwalya faces a maximum jail term of five years if he is convicted. Another opposition leader Elias Chipimo said the phrase "chumbu mushololwa" was not an insult.

"It describes a person who lacks flexibility and who like a potato will only break when you try to change their fixed ideas," Chipimo said.

"President Sata is the same old man who was on all radio stations defaming former presidents (Rupiah) Banda and (Levy) Mwanawasa and nobody arrested him," said Eric Chanda, secretary-general of Bwalya's party Alliance for a Better Zambia.

Zambia is becoming a classic case of Animal Farm.

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